The Duke’s Course in St. Andrews is the only heathland course in the area and is considered by many to be one of the finest of its kind in the UK. The property is owned by the Kohler corporation who owns the Old Course Hotel adjacent to the famous course of the same name. With tee time access to the Old Course is so limited, they decided to construct their own Championship standard golf course to cope with the demand from guests. The course was designed by the legendary Australian golfer Peter Thompson and opened in July 1995. It has since had some adjustments, notably the addition of five completely new holes by golf course architect and eminent understudy to Pete Dye, Tim Liddy in 2006.
Situated a couple of miles from the center of St. Andrews in the Mount Melville Estate overlooking the town and the Fife countryside, the Duke’s has matured into a fabulous heathland course to the extent that it hosted the 2014 International European Amateur Championships, one of the ‘Majors’ of amateur golf.
The course has been described as ‘wild’ by its original designer. Thompson’s philosophy is that any heathland course needs to have something raw and natural about it and at the Duke’s Course he certainly created that. Many of the bunkers and sand areas, of which there is quite a number have a disheveled and untouched look about them which is very in keeping with the land. They are not as punishing as the ‘bearded’ bunkers that are infamous at the likes of Royal Co. Down, but they do provide much of the character of the Duke’s.
After a reasonably straightforward opening stretch, the Duke’s comes into its own at the Par four, 5th hole, “Beeches,” where tactical play comes to the fore. A tee shot of between 180 and 220 yards is required to find the landing area between the two sets of fairway traps. From there, it is a reasonably short iron to the putting surface; however, anything short will feedback to the front of the green. Anything long will leave a devilish pitch shot back down the green which could end up in the same location. Two well-placed shots could, however, open up a great birdie opportunity. The next is a superb 596yard Par five called “Badgers,” after the badger sets to be found down the left side of this risk and reward hole. The bigger hitters can find this green in two, but for most, it is a three-shot play into the prevailing breeze.
There is a lot to like about the Duke’s Course which a regular recipient of industry awards and recognition for the quality of its service and golf course. Its proximity to the town of St. Andrews and the fact that you can avail of a shuttle service if staying at the Old Course Hotel, making it a great addition to the St. Andrews offering on your Scottish golf trip.