Mickey Walker: The magic of Kingsbarns
When I heard that the Ricoh Women’s British Open was to be played at Kingsbarns in 2017 I was delighted! Having heard so much about the course from everyone who had played it, when the Ricoh was played on the Old Course at St Andrews for the first time in 2007, I took the opportunity to see for myself what everyone was in raptures about.
My experience was magical despite playing nowhere near my best golf. The course design – by the American architects Kyle Phillips and Mark Parsinen, was memorable, as were the stunning views along the 1.8 miles of North Sea coastline that the course is built on where golfers have views of the sea from 16 of the 18 holes. And the condition of the course outstanding.
I loved the simple yet totally practical clubhouse with views of the course and the difficult par-four 18th. In fact you can probably tell already, that I loved everything about my experience!
What a treat the top women golfers in the world have awaiting them during the first week of August when they will compete for one of the five women’s Majors. Of course many of the players like me took the opportunity to play at Kingsbarns when they were in St Andrews in 2007 and/or 2013 for the Ricoh.
In fact in 2013 the Final Qualifying was played at Kingsbarns. The then 17-year-old Xiyu Lin shot a women’s course record of 65.
Whilst writing about Kingsbarns and its course designer – Kyle Phillips, I was also excited about the recent announcement that the Scottish Open will played on the Dundonald Links course, also designed by Phillips, in the week prior to the Ricoh.
This will be a joint sanctioned event between the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA of America and will have a substantially increased prize fund of £1.5m. So golf fans and especially Scottish fans will have back-to-back weeks of the opportunity to see the best female golfers on the planet.
Kingsbarns was officially opened on July 17 2000 and, just over a year later, along with Carnoustie, was added to St Andrews to host the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Proof, if indeed it was needed, that Kingsbarns was almost instantly recognised as one of the very elite Scottish links courses.
Because of the impact with which Kingsbarns made when it was, and its rise to prominence since then, it would be wrong to describe it as one of the undiscovered gems of British links golf, however there are some other courses which, although they are well known and have hosted many big tournaments, haven’t yet been considered as potential venues for the Women’s British Open.
Two such courses which I would like to see host the Ricoh would be the East Course at Saunton in Devon and Royal Porthcawl in Mid Glamorgan in Wales. To me, these two courses epitomise everything that is challenging yet fair about links golf.
Whilst I appreciate that there are lots of things to be considered when choosing championship venues these days, not least the location, so perhaps Saunton and Royal Porthcawl would fall at the first hurdle but, as far as having the right credentials purely based on the suitability of the courses, they would be high up on my list.
When it comes to having great golf courses on which to play Majors, for such a small country the British Isles has an abundance of world-class courses.
One thing is certain though and that is the suitability for Kingsbarns to host the 2017 Open. It was an inspired choice and I can’t wait to see how the best women golfers in the world cope with it.
Of course, like all links courses, so much will depend on the weather that the players encounter, the golfer in me hopes that the wind will blow for at least some of the time!
THE AWARDS KEEP COMING…
Since opening in 2000 Kingsbarns has won award after award, most recently jumping 10 places to be ranked the eighth best course in the world outside the USA. For the second successive year it won the title of ‘Scotland’s Best Golf Experience’ from Scottish Golf Tourism. Given that it was up against contenders such as Carnoustie, Gleneagles and Castle Stuart, that is some accolade.
Lady Golfer’s consulting editor captained Europe in the first four Solheim Cups. She regularly appears on Sky Sports as an expert summariser