Kingsbarns is one of the St. Andrews golf courses that must be played while on Scotland golf vacations. (Courtesy of Kingsbarns Golf Links)
Nothing increases interest in Scotland golf vacations quite like the hosting of the British Open on St. Andrews' Old Course, which is exactly what's happening tomorrow.
If you, too, think this could get you going (or going back) to the Home of Golf, you should know there are a bunch of "kick yourself" courses less than 30 minutes away from the Old Course, everybody's first choice.
"Kick yourself" courses are those that cause the aforementioned action if you fail to play them when you have the chance.
Here are my top five among St. Andrews golf courses, listed by approximate time (in minutes) from the Old Course:
2 minutes - After the Old Course, the next "must play" member of the Links Trust septet is the Castle Course, quite frankly because David McLay Kidd of Bandon Dunes fame was allowed to fully express his design ideas here, too. Some of those ideas (i.e., rough-covered fairway moundings and severe greens) have been toned down, taking some of the frustration out of what is an exciting experience.
4 minutes - Just two miles inland from here, you'll find the parkland-style Duke's Course, which is part of the Old Course Hotel. The layout was designed by five-time British Open champion Peter Thompson in 1995, but revised by Pete Dye's former associate, Tim Liddy. The Duke's Course is big golf - 7,512 yards from the championship tees (there are four other sets), broad fairways, large greens, and sweeping vistas of town and sea.
10 minutes - Just south of St. Andrews is Kingsbarns Golf Links, created by two Californians: Kyle Phillips and Mark Parsinen. And I do mean created. Aside from the setting beside the North Sea, Mother Nature had essentially no hand in this natural-looking links course, complete with dunes of various sizes, wrinkled fairways, a plethora of humps, hillocks and hollows, and cunning rough-cloaked mesas.
24 minutes - Continuing down the coast, you'll come to Crail Golfing Society. If its Balcomie Links is true, holiday golf, its sister course, Craighead Links is true championship golf. Like Kingsbarns, it is the work of an American, Gil Hanse, and its look is similar to the mighty Muirfield: it sits high above the sea, with fairways framed by thigh-high, golden-beige native fescue. This par-71 layout is studded with outstanding holes, particularly in the final cluster.
25 minutes - On a southwest diagonal from the Old Course (and conveniently connected to it by the A915 road) is Lundin Golf Club, dating back to 1868. It features one of the best opening holes you will ever experience, and the fun doesn't stop there. In fact, for pure excitement and entertainment, no course in Scotland eclipses Lundin.
There you have it: the five St. Andrews golf courses (within 30 minutes of the Old Course) you must not miss while on Scotland golf vacations.
Here's one more tip: the epic Carnoustie Golf Links (seven-time host of the British Open) can often be included in this group. Despite being 45 miles north of the Old Course, and often taking at least as many minutes to reach, the trip can be done in 30 minutes at the right time of day, namely, after 8:30 am or before 4:30 pm.
Fair warming: even if you make the effort to play Carnoustie (lovingly nicknamed "Car-nasty") on your St. Andrews, Scotland golf vacation, you may still get a kick in the rump.
The course itself will see to that.
Is your top-5 list of courses to play in St. Andrews (after the Old Course and within 30 minutes of it) different than mine? Please share your comments below.