I attended a wedding over the weekend and met a fellow who has played virtually every top 10 golf course in America, except for Augusta National, and has played most of the great ones overseas as well. When we compared notes on our trips to Scotland -- me once, him multiple times -- I was impressed and happy to hear that he had played the golf course at Scotscraig, about 30 minutes north of St. Andrews, in the blue collar town of Tayport. Like me, he was struck by the simple elegance of the course and the incredibly warm reception of its members and staff. The club has had 190 years to practice -- it is the 13th oldest links in the world -- and it shows.
However, I was shocked when I asked my new golf aficionado friend if he had played either of the terrific courses at the Crail Golfing Society, a mere nine miles south of St. Andrews. He looked at me in puzzlement. He had not heard of Crail.
Sand, sea, a club that was formed a couple of years before the French Revolution: What more could you ask for in Scottish golf than Crail Balcomie Links?
Crail's Balcomie and Craighead Links may be the best-kept secrets in Scottish golf. I have written about Balcomie here before [click to read the review from last summer]. The course may lack the age of the Old Course at St. Andrews -- Crail Golfing Society is only the 7th oldest club in the world (circa 1786) -- but the Old Tom Morris layout does provide splendid views of the Firth of Forth. At St. Andrews' Old Course, you see the water from the practice green but hardly ever again.
Crail Golfing Society offers a limited number of lifetime memberships for overseas golfers that includes four rounds per year on each of the two Crail courses; and half price golf at the aforementioned Scotscraig, at Lundin Golf Club (played it, loved it) and at the well-regarded parkland course, Ladybank. You can also sign up eight friends annually to play Crail at a nominal rate (regular green fees are about $75 during summer months). Trust me, your friends will thank you.
For a copy of the brochure describing the overseas golf membership, click here or go to http://www.crailgolfingsociety.co.uk.
The sod-faced bunkers could make you sad-faced should your ball come to rest in one at Scotscraig.