Great Golf Course on TV This Week: Kingsbarns

The British Women’s Open is on this week, and it’s being held on one of my favorite courses: Kingsbarns, in St. Andrews. The Golf Channel’s coverage so far seems to be limited to putts, commercials, and talking heads, but occasionally the camera drifts past a few holes, on its way from the leaderboard back to the commentators’ booth. I’ve played Kingsbarns only once, and that was thirteen years ago, but I still often think about it, and I want to go back.

Kingsbarns looks like a links course but is actually an optical illusion. It was carved (by an American! in 2000!) from a featureless swath of seaside pastureland—but despite its lack of an ancient pedigree it’s a terrific course and it’s unusually fun to play. In addition, the clubhouse is the right scale (small), and it has a good bar with the most amazing panoramic windows, plus leather chairs you could sleep all night in.

During my single round, in 2004, we were held up on every shot by a painfully slow group ahead of us. On the suggestion of our bus driver, we complained in the bar and were given all our drinks for free (then left a tip that was big enough to cover pretty much the entire tab). That night, we ate at a restaurant recommended by the same driver, who had overruled the recommendation of our caddies. The suspicion on the trip was that the driver was receiving kickbacks from the restaurants he took us to, although I was inclined to trust him, having eaten in a few caddie-recommended pubs over the years. Here’s the Kingsbarns clubhouse:

Reader’s Trip Report: Midnight at the Grave of Old Tom Morris

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In July, Adam Sachs and Mark Cohen, readers in Kansas City, celebrated their sons’ bar mitzvahs by taking them to Scotland to watch the British Open and play golf at Cruden Bay, Kingsbarns and Luffness. Here are the boys, both thirteen years old, at the Old Course at St. Andrews—Elliott Cohen on the left, Phinney Sachs on the right:

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And here are Mark and Adam, setting an example:

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They saw Tom Watson, who during his heyday was known in Kansas City as the Fourth Franchise, and the boys learned that the Scots know nothing about making pizza:

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Adam writes:

“Because the Old Course is close to everything in St. Andrews, we couldn’t help running into players, caddies, journalists and golf-industry hangers-on. The boys got John Daly’s autograph, twice. On Tuesday, at Kingsbarns, which is one of the most enjoyable courses I’ve ever played, we were held up by the French pro Victor Dubuisson, who was two groups ahead of us. He ended up missing the cut, so maybe he should have been practicing on the Old Course instead. Tom Lehman’s sons were between us and him, and we all spent a lot of time standing around. On Friday night, I saw Darren Clarke, who also missed the cut. He was leaning against a wall outside a bar, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer, and when I called to the boys to come back and meet ‘a real Ryder Cup hero’ he chatted with us and signed their golf flags.

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“On Saturday night, we ran into Jim Nantz, who was in St. Andrews as a spectator only (the U.S. broadcast was on ESPN).

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“At midnight, we joined him and a group of his friends for a misty walk to the graves of Old and Young Tom Morris. The cemetery gate was locked, so Phinney and Elliott had to help Nantz, Mark, me, and all the other old guys get over the fence.

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Afterward, we went to the bar at the Dunvegan Hotel, around the corner from the 18th green. On the way, Phinney asked Nantz if he would record a voice-mail message for his cell phone. He did:

Nantz told Phinney that Phil Mickelson had asked him to do the same thing, and that Mickelson reciprocated by recording one for him.”

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The Cohens and Sachses went back to the cemetery during the daytime, when the gate was unlocked. There was lots of death in the Morris family:

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Among the trip’s many other highlights was golf at Cruden Bay. That’s where Adam took this photo of Phinney and Elliott:

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Cruden Bay is one of my favorite courses, too. I ate dinner in the clubhouse there after a late-afternoon round a few years ago, and I heard the waitress ask someone at the table behind me, “Would you like pineapple with it, or a fried egg?” I didn’t dare turn around to see what “it” was. But, like all four Cohens and Sachses, I love the course!

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