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Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife

I was lucky enough to be invited to The Kingsbarns Trade Day, representing Golfbreaks. After returning from visiting a friend in sunny Mallorca, I arrived back the previous evening and then it was a quick dash to beautiful Fife to play arguably one of the best courses in world golf.

04 June 2024 Words by Alan Tait 7 minute read Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife

The “trade day” is effectively an invite from the team at Kingsbarns to all the leading tour operators,  get them along and remind us all just how good the Kingsbarns experience is. It’s also a nice show of gratitude from Kingsbarns to the tour operators for the visiting golfers that the tour ops bring them from every corner of the globe. In other words, “it’s just a brilliant freebie for us all”!! I talked in my recent blog about the Cabot Highlands Castle Stuart “golf experience”, and the Kingsbarns experience is right up there with the best of them. Again and very similar to Castle Stuart, it’s a relatively new course having opened in 2000, however I’d love to know how many hundreds of thousands of golfers have played over this famous links in the last 24 years!

On the outskirts of St Andrews, Kingsbarns is only a 90 minute drive from Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh and is just shy of 2 hours from the country’s biggest city Glasgow. There’s numerous ways you can go to get there, I’ve driven all the routes and the time usually works out the same regardless which way you go. I usually go the A915 which will take you close to other Scottish gems like Leven Links and Lundin Links, and from there you have a couple of options with one being passing the gates of the entrance to Dumbarnie Links. Dumbarnie another wonderful golf experience which you can add to your bucket list. Look out for a Taity blog coming from there soon!

Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife

Kingsbarns kindly allowed us to bring a partner to the trade day, and my big pal Jim Killens was beside himself when I invited him to join me. The big man loves his golf and although he’s a member of Dullatur GC near Glasgow, he’s also a member of nearby Crail Golfing Society ( another fabulous Scottish golf venue ) and I knew how much he’d love the day. Alas, Jim had to call off pretty much last minute due to feeling ill which was a real shame. Another time big chap. I was due to tee off at 1030 and on the off chance I called another pal Ramon McDermott. Although born in Ireland Ramon has lived in Edinburgh for many years and just like Jim, is a bit of a golf enthusiast! I text him at 0820 when I was already on route to see if he wanted to join me. Never did I think 1 he would be free, and 2 probably wouldn’t be able to organize himself to get there in time. However I got the thumbs emoji back and he was on his way. I suppose if you get the chance to play Kingsbarns and get spoiled all day, you’re pretty much going to get there somehow and some way!

The set up at Kingsbarns is absolutely first class. It’s a lovely entrance drive into the club and there’s always someone there to meet and greet, and always a warm Scottish welcome. The clubhouse is beautiful and sits perched above the 18th green with stunning views overlooking the course and out towards The North Sea. I’ve been lucky enough to play Kingsbarns on many occasions and the staff in the clubhouse are always superb. Smiley, engaging, welcoming and friendly are just a few words how I’d describe them. After the customary bacon roll and cup of tea, I left the clubhouse to head to the range for a wee warm up. Walking past the car park to access the range, I could hear what I can only describe as a panting and heavy breathing going on somewhere. “What’s going on here I thought”?? I turned around and there was Ramon walking towards me with shirt tail hanging out, sweat everywhere, and half his clubs hanging out his bag! “I can’t believe you’ve made it in such quick time”, I said to him. His response was, “Aye, but I might not have a driving licence to get me back home though”! Good effort that man! The practice session was cut short, and I took him in to the club for his deserved bacon roll!

Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife


Alan Hogg is the CEO at Kingsbarns and does a fantastic job at the helm. However it's his wife Audrey does all the hard work and runs a great operation with the team ( sorry big man 😊) !! We checked in with Audrey at the meet and greet area at the back of the 1st tee, where we were gifted with 2 beautiful personalized Kingsbarns holdalls. I felt a wee bit sorry for Ramon as his bagtag had “Jim Killens” on it. However, and with the beauty of technology the bagtag was changed to Ramon’s name within 30 seconds.

Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife


We met our playing partners on the 1st tee and were lucky to spend the next few hours in the company of two lovely chaps in Graham Campbell and Conor McCloskey. The friendly 1st tee starter gave us a welcome goody bag which every visitor gets, and we were away.

The 1st at Kingsbarns is a nice opening tee shot, in the respect it’s not overly intimidating and there’s plenty of room for your opening shot. There’s some gorse bushes down the left but plenty room on the right if you need to bail out slightly before you to play up to a raised green. Need to make sure you take one extra club though or the ball will just run back towards you off the slope at the front of the green. At 323 yards from the black championship tee, it’s not the toughest or longest opening hole in the world which helps settle any early nerves, but can play completely different with even a 15-20mph wind. It is however a tricky 1st green and undulates in many different ways. 4 is a lovely score to start with and 5 no disaster.

Holes 2 and 3 you’ll play with the North Sea on your right before you turn around to play the next 9 in the opposite direction. The 2nd hole is a cracking little downhill par 3 and as well as the North Sea, the mouth of the Firth of Tay lies beyond the green with the world famous Carnoustie on the far shore. The 3rd is a generous par 5 with the fairway all sloping from left to right. So bang one up the left and you’ll gain an extra few yards as your ball will bound on to the middle of the fairway off the slope. Conor hit his second shot which in fairness wasn’t the best, but where his ball ended up in the bunker oh my goodness! I’ve never witnessed anything like that in all my years of playing. The bunkers had just recently been revetted and his ball had got stuck on one of the ledges. To be fair I couldn’t stop laughing but being the nice chap I am I told him to drop it out free of charge, as it was just a fun day. I also didn’t want Conor destroying the greenkeeper’s great work!

Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife


One of the best views is playing the tricky par 3 9th with a beautiful backdrop of some trees and the sea to your left. Also to your left is the 15th green which is unquestionably one of Kingsbarns signature holes ( more of that shortly ).

The par 5 9th heads back towards the clubhouse. Another great hole with a wide fairway, but the approach with your 2nd or 3rd shot can be tricky and be sure to get your yardage right. The green has a centre top tier sloping away severely to the front and back, and beware of the hidden gorse behind the green.

The Dunhill Links takes place in Scotland every year, where the world’s best golfers assemble to compete in a pro am format over Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and The Old Course St Andrews. Incredibly in 2003, Ryder Cup star Lee Westwood holed his 2nd shot at the 9th to record an albatross 2! Have a look at where he hit it from and imagine yourself holing out a 4 iron from there!

Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife

The Kingsbarns halfway house, “The Bunker Bar” is always a welcome sight ( as is any halfway house lol ) and were met by another lovely member of staff offering us hot / cold drinks and snacks. A good time to put your feet up for 5 minutes and reflect on the front 9.

The 12th hole at Kingsbarns is undoubtedly one of the best par 5’s you’ll ever play. From a high tee and with the waves crashing on to the rocks all the way down the left side, it’s as dramatic as it is beautiful. A sweeping dog-leg right to left to an enormous but narrow green cleverly guarded with bunkers, at 606 yards from the back tees it’s a an absolute beast. But it’s a “beauty and a beast”, (see what I did there 😉)…

Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife


The aforementioned 15th is another world class hole. A par 3 which sees you hit directly over the North Sea and the rocks, to another very tricky green. Most will bail out to the left to try and take the water out of play a little bit, but that then leaves you a devilishly tricky up and down to try and save your par. 4 is absolutely no disaster here and the priority is to keep that wee white ball dry. Visitors will normally play off the green tees at 161 yards for this hole, which helps. The big boys play it at 212 yards and it’s a different animal from back on that black tee! A truly great hole. Turning for home after the 12th you’ll play the last 6 with the sea on your right, with the exception of 18 when you turn around for one last time. 

18 is a tough par 4. Tee shot takes you to hopefully the top of the hill on the fairway when it’s then downhill after that, but then back up to a raised green. There’s a burn about 20 yards short of the green and the amount of balls that end up in there is unbelievable. I can’t stress enough how much club you have to take for your approach shot. Whatever you are thinking, take at least one possibly 2 clubs more. Anything short at all will run back down into a watery grave and there’s plenty of room at the back of the green, so take Taity’s advice. No prizes for being short!

Albeit it was a beautiful sunny day in the Kingdom of Fife, it was getting chilly and was looking forward to a nice bowl of chowder and a pint. Chowder being a great thick soup consisting of fresh Scottish seafood and vegetables. A meal in itself! Ramon and I shook hands with Conor and Graham on 18, and we all commented how much we had enjoyed the game and how lucky we were to be experiencing Kingsbarns. An amazing way to spend a Friday on the beautiful east coast of Scotland.

Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife


The chowder didn’t disappoint, nor did the rest of the food and the amazing staff who were there again to make us all feel warm and welcome. The clubhouse makes you feel like you could sit there all day enjoying the hospitality and the amazing views, but it was time to head home. Ramon did make it home and fortunately still had his driving licence after all!

Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife


Kingsbarns has been slightly criticized over the years because of the green fee prices. Yes it’s expensive, but you’re not going to play it every week and for many golfers it is just a “one off bucket list job”. So for those who are privileged enough to experience it, get yourself a tee time and go and enjoy it. You’ll love every minute. And remember folks it’s not just the green fee you are paying for, it’s the “experience”, the welcome, the practice facilities, the quality of food and the service, the clubhouse, the condition of the course and the course itself. Kingsbarns ticks every box you can think of. Just ask the thousands of golfers who come from all over the world every year to experience it…