The reason it has taken so long for me to play these courses, despite several trips to St. Andrews, and probably why despite their many qualities it is so frustrating to not be able to really highly recommend these two excellent layouts, is that there are so many other strong candidates when you are visiting the Home of Golf.
Whilst both the Torrance and Kittocks courses at this 36 hole complex may at times look like a genuine links, and even occasionally play like one, they simply aren’t and for international visitors especially they want the real deal if they are crossing an ocean to visit St. Andrews.
It’s therefore difficult to say if this busy corner of Fife location helps or hinders play at the Fairmont but regardless, and if taken in isolation, there is a lot to admire about both tracks at this modern hotel and spa resort which is located just a little further long the coast towards Crail than the Castle Course, which has similar characteristics, is.
The “Torrance” (originally designed by Sam Torrance and opened in 2001) plays to a maximum of 7,230 yards and is a par 72. The front-nine wends its way around the massive hotel on the front nine before exploring holes bordered by long, wispy grass through shallow dunes on the inward half.
The opening holes have a burn and pond which comes into play and we see some large greens with some tasty run-offs. As you might expect after recently holding the tour event the putting surfaces were absolutely immaculate.
It’s easy to see why the European Tour chose this course of the two for their event. It is set up perfectly for elite professional golf, it is very fair and has a consistent feel to it although the plunging 16th does give us a delightful and different vista to the remainder of the course.
The “Kittocks” (par 71, 7,192 yards, opened in 2002 and designed by Bruce Devlin) takes us on a much more interesting routing, initially inland before we descend to the coast via the strong par-five 5th and short 6th. But it isn’t until the 7th the full beauty of the clifftop location is upon us with another downhill hole that has shades of Castle Stuart about it and shares a double green with the 10th.
We stay close to the shore for the next three holes before the mighty 11th takes us up and away from the cliff edge. However, we do return once again to the sea via the plunging 15th with the 16th and 17th alongside it before the 18th takes us back to the clubhouse. The 17th and 18th were actually pinched from the Torrance course when the Kittocks (previously the Devlin) was redesigned in 2009.
The Kittocks is certainly the prettier of the two layouts and the stone-walls we see several times throughout the round add more memorability
Comparisons are often made between the two courses and it really is splitting hairs; both are a strong test of golf. With multiple sets of tees on both courses choosing the right one can determine just how much of a test it will be!
I’ve often heard people say that there isn’t much difference between the two courses in terms of style and they simply merge together but I didn’t find that to be case. Although located adjacent to each other and at times the holes tangle with each other there is a significantly different feel to each.
If pressed I’d have to go for the Torrance as the better course from a playing perspective but the location, variety and character of the Kittocks make it a very close run thing. I think I’d split my rounds 50:50.
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.