The more I think about it, the more I believe Gull Lake View Resort’s Stoatin Brae to be a first-rate golf course. It makes two important departures from the norms of modern golf course architecture that even the relatively uninterested would do well to note. I’ve already written about the first one: its unusually low Rating and Slope, which are radical expressions of its playable design.
The second: its non-returning nines. The fact that the Scott family, who own the resort, did not insist on the ninth green returning to the clubhouse enabled a quartet of Tom Doak’s talented Renaissance Golf Design colleagues to use Stoatin Brae’s hilltop, dual-identity land to create a wandering out-and-back journey that echoes one of the pleasures of The Old Course: heading away from the streets of St. Andrews proper, meandering through the crook-shaped middle section of the routing and then marching back to town.
Stoatin Brae has more changes of direction over the course of its 18 holes than the ancient Scottish links, but its own mid-round interlude functions similarly. After an opening nine on gently rolling land that is exquisite for golf, there is a transition to more challenging terrain for the first five and a half holes of the inward nine. Then, things mellow out again as the golfer makes a three-hole beeline for the clubhouse. Had Don Placek, Eric Iverson, Brian Schneider and Brian Slawnik been forced to go out across the oblong property to that backcountry section twice, the overall feel of playing the course would have paled in comparison to the charming three-act journey the course now comprises.