Four Famous Links I’d Love to Replay Without Wind, Rain or Hail

Kingsbarns Golf Links near St. Andrews. (Image: Kingsbarns Golf Links)

One of the links I have unfinished business with is Kingsbarns, an acclaimed Kyle Phillips design near St. Andrews, Scotland. (Image: Kingsbarns Golf Links)

Like most golf visitors to Scotland and Ireland, I’ve had my share of aborted and miserably drenched rounds. Four renowned links I dream of replaying under sunny skies.

(Last updated December 2020.)

Even now it hurts to think about the day a decade or so ago when torrential rain and near gale-force winds cut short my round at Glashedy Links in Ireland. Like most golfers who have played the great links of Scotland and Ireland, I’ve had my share of aborted and miserably drenched rounds at courses I had long dreamed of playing—and to which I have yet to make my return. Here, the four links I’d most like to revisit. This time, may it please the golf gods, in balmy temperatures and under fair skies.

Kingsbarns Golf Links

I still vividly remember the sight of dozens of golfers trudging across the sodden fairways to the clubhouse at Kingsbarns after we decided virtually en masse that enough was enough. From what I managed to see through the downpour and intermittent hail, this acclaimed Kyle Phillips design near St. Andrews is every bit as good as advertised. I can’t wait to get back and finally play the signature par-five 12th hole, a 606-yard beast aptly named ‘Orrdeal’ that plays from an elevated tee to a fairway that twists along the rocky coastline.  A Visit Scotland poll of 3,000 golfers rated this the best par five in all of Scotland, which says a lot considering the competition.

Jubilee Course, St. Andrews Links Trust

I saw enough of the “Jube,” as locals affectionately call it, to know that this magnificent links is second only to the Old Course as a must-play in St. Andrews. Redesigned in 1988 by Donald Steele, the Jubilee Course, with its confounding greens and testing par fours, is rightly feared as the most difficult of the courses operated by the St. Andrews Links Trust. But no one can say it isn’t a fair and constantly thrilling test of golf. Each hole unfolds logically, almost organically, and is possessed of a personality entirely its own.

Balcomie Links, Crail Golfing Society

My playing partner finally managed to drag me off this Old Tom Morris design midway through a round played in teeming rain. But we left in awe of a links regarded since 1895 as one of the jewels of Scottish golf. Starting from a wildly elevated first tee, golfers encounter rocky bays, greens perched atop vertical cliffs, and par fours that twist around sandy strands at the most easterly corner of the Kingdom of Fife, a short drive from St. Andrews. Spectacular ocean views are on offer throughout a hilltop property that is also home to Craighead Links, a Gil Hanse design opened in 1988. But it is old Balcomie that draws the crowds.

Glashedy Links, Ballyliffin Golf Club

The Irish sky was angry that October day, my friends. Dressed in downy layers and waterproofs against the sleet and cold, I manfully slogged through most of a round at a design by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock I had eagerly anticipated playing since its launch in 1995. Named for imposing Glashedy Rock that sits offshore, Ireland’s most northerly links confronts golfers with cavernous revetted bunkers, tiered and sloping greens, and fairways that snake through massive dunes. Sweeping views of the Atlantic and heather-clad hills complete an ideal setting that includes a strong second course, the Old Links, as well as Pat Ruddy-designed Pollan Links, a nine-hole par-three course that opened to acclaim in the summer of 2020. Next visit I’m determined to make a full day of it and—fingers crossed—play every hole on the property.