Father, son & Scotland: A postcard from Craighead Links

By Ron Bellamy | Golf, Scotland |

On the morning of the fifth day, an unexpected and wonderful surprise.

On this day, Saturday, April 27, we had a 2:50 p.m. tee time at Cruden Bay, about a two-hour drive, and had played the demanding Machrihanish Golf Club the day before and driven about five hours after that.

So, what did we do with our morning? Well, set out in search of more golf to play.

After a homemade pancake breakfast at Cleveden House, we drove a short distance to Anstruther, which has, by reputation, a wonderful nine-hole course on the North Sea south of St. Andrews. A local tournament was taking place, but one of the golfers thought we’d be able to slip out in a gap between groups and pay afterward.

As we were gearing up, however, a woman came out of the pro shop to tell us, very nicely, that the course was closed until late afternoon, and that “it’s not worth my life” to let us play.

So I suggested, on this beautiful morning, that we check out the nearby Crail Golfing Society’s Balcomie Links, an Old Tom Morris course (1895) that I had played in 2016, to show Jason the great view of the North Sea out to the Isle of May.

Golfers on the 10th hole of Craighead Links at Crail.

It was clear that it was a busy, good-weather Saturday morning there, so playing nine at Balcomie was not going  to be an option. I went into the pro shop and recognized the friendly assistant pro Blaine Newnham and I had interviewed about Balcomie three years earlier.

In fact, David Snodgrass had given me perhaps the best quote of the trip three years ago, his advice on playing the early holes at Balcomie along the sea: “You have the whole of Scotland on your left-hand side, don’t go right.”

David, a great ambassador for the Crail Golfing Society, remembered the article, and when I mentioned that we’d been unable to play Anstruther, immediately offered to try to get us out on the back nine at Balcomie’s sister course, Craighead Links, a 1998 course designed by Gil Hanse before he became a rock star in the world of golf course architecture.

We didn’t have to be asked twice. The course, laid out above Balcomie, has been used for qualifying for the Open Championship, and there are stone walls and, from the nine we played, fantastic views of the sea.

I don’t remember this swing; I will always remember Craighead Links/photo by Jason Bellamy

Wrote James W. Finegan:

“In order to produce a genuinely natural course, Hanse moved little earth, accepting the gently sloping terrain much as he found it. The 18 is laid out high above the sea and for the most part, at a bit remove from it, as is the case with Muirfield. Indeed, the similarity in appearance to the great East Lothian course is unmistakable, with the fairways here also framed by thigh-high golden-beige native fescues.”

What a treat to play on a warm sunny morning. Jason had a great birdie on the par 3 No. 13 hole, and we loved every step.

And, it was only just noon, and we still had Cruden Bay to go that day.

My “we’re playing beautiful Craighead Links and going to Cruden Bay in the afternoon” smile.

Next: Cruden Bay Golf Club.

 

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