My day at Ladybank was pretty much settled after a slightly pushed hybrid into the wind on the par 3 10th, where I started my round Friday. I was looking forward to playing a highly rated Scottish parkland course to see how it stacked up against some of the Connecticut courses I have played that were designed by UK designers (e.g. Willie Park). Off that initial shot, my ball wound up on the far side of the greenside bunker, on the upslope (photo attached). The sand was the deepest and darkest I have ever played, a mud brown that was offputting. I left the first shot in the bunker, skyed the next one over the green and started my mediocre round with a double bogey.
Those brown bunkers are in great evidence at Ladybank, nasty buggers that guard virtually all of the greens and some of the fairways. My playing partner for the day, Mario from north of Quebec City, joined me for the second nine and my cautions about the bunkers may have intimidated him on his first play from the sand. He didn't take much sand in the greenside bunker and wound up 10 yards beyond the green. Most of my plays from the sand during the day were chunks.
Ladybank is a handsome course with a few really interesting holes. I especially liked the three doglegs and the par 3s, despite my tussle with #10. There is a repetitive nature to the bunkering in that most of them are more or less the same size; after playing the two linkslike courses at Crail, it was a bit of a surprise not to find any round pot bunkers at Ladybank (at least none that were apparent). Only the 9th hole, one of the doglegs, was absent any bunkers guarding the green. Instead, a large ridge of deep grass spanned the fairway 75 yards from the green. It was one of my favorite holes of the day, in large measure because it was unique to the layout.
Like Crail Balcomie Links, Ladybank is the handiwork of Old Tom Morris...sort of. Morris laid out the first six holes in 1879, a half dozen years before Crail Balcomie opened. I am not sure which six holes he laid out, or if they have survived in more or less their original form, but if they did, it is hard to detect the hand of the same architect at both courses. Of course, the landforms -- one pure links land the other park land -- determine the layout of the course according to the master architects. In retrospect, you shouldn't expect to see any similarities at all.
One side note: From the pro shop member at the desk to the staff working out on the course to wait staff in the clubhouse restaurant -- great baguette sandwich, by the way -- to even the golfers waiting to go to the first tee, everyone at Ladybank could not have been nicer. In fact you could say that about every course I have played in this golf crazy nation.