Just a bit off the beaten path in a picturesque old town along the water — though only about 15 miles from St Andrews — lies The Golf House Club at Elie, a quaint course played across classic links terrain. The game has been played at Elie since the 15th century and you can tell with the rich history seen in the clubhouse, starting with the row of old lockers lining the walls of the main entrance.
It’s not a course that will wow you or awe you the way some other gems in Scotland will, like North Berwick or Royal Dornoch (my two favorites), but it will certainly charm the heck out of you and want you coming back for more. In short, Elie was a fair and fun test, not to mention memorable.
Elie is pure golf — the way it’s supposed to be played, with the greens and the tees nearly touching each other. At times, beware of golfers on the other side of the green in an adjacent tee box hitting to another part of the golf course (though I was very impressed with the etiquette of all the members and visitors). While there were several sizable hills, it was a very walkable track. After all, I barely broke a sweat and I’m not used to looking after my clubs and walking because I’m a spoiled American golfer.
The most memorable part of the course is by far the greens — many of which slope severely from front to back, making it very difficult to stop close to the pin or even hold the green, as I found for most of the front nine. You generally want to hit one less club or hit a low, controlled bump-and-run into the green, but those can be touch to judge if you’re not used to playing that shot from 150 yards out. It’s still enjoyable to attempt it, though.
There were quite a few blind tee shots, where you were hitting over a hill and had to be wary of the sneaky pot bunkers guarding the fairways, but generally, it was rather generous off the tee. At one point, I was yelling at my ball to get into the bunker — because A) I’m crazy; and B) I just wanted the practice for our big writer’s match on Tuesday, where 10 of Team America’s media members will be pitted against 10 of Europe’s scribes.
But I digress.
I had the pleasure of playing with two female (yes, women!!!) members, Joan and Gillian. Well, sort of. You see, I couldn’t actually play with them because Gillian had to turn in a score for her handicap and Joan had to keep her score, so for some weird rule in Scotland, a third party can’t play with that two-ball. So, instead, I had a nice walk alone playing the first two holes and then somehow just kept hitting into them the rest of the remaining 16 holes. It all worked out, which was really nice because they were delightful company and able to direct me around the course and provide me with local knowledge.
I loved the charming signs on the course like these…
There were tons of well-behaved dogs roaming around the course with the golfing owners. Wish we saw more of that in the States.
Here was my shot of the day — a long par-3, where I need to hit driver, because it was playing into the wind…
Another very intriguing part of the club was the periscope attached to the starter’s hut. Yes, really, a periscope! Ken, the very kind and helpful starter, can spy on the golfers all around the course. He gave me a peek afterward.
It was just an all-around lovely day, especially going straight to the golf course after taking a sleepless redeye flight from NYC. Speaking of which, I’m exhausted and need to rest up for Carnoustie tomorrow morning. From everything I’ve heard, it’s going to rip me a new one.
Here are more pictures from the course. It was a shame it was a hazy day, so it wasn’t exactly ideal for photos, but I did my best. Trust me, it’s worth the trip out to Elie for a splendid day on the links — and you also feel a little bit like you went back at least a few decades in time (but not in a bad way), which made the experience even more special.
For more information on holidaying in Scotland go to: www.visitscotland.com
More information about the Ryder Cup can be found at: www.visitscotland.com/golf