It is quickly maturing into a satisfactory venue and one which I expect will continue to improve over the coming years. There are a few really nice holes and the contouring on some of the greens is very good too.
My first and only previous visit to Normanton was almost 20 years ago, just after the course had opened. At that time, like many new layouts, it was very open and appeared at first glance quite unremarkable. However, following my most recent round here in late-May 2013 I went away thinking that the course had bedded down well, most of the holes were relatively secluded from one another and it was an enjoyable test of golf. The sapling trees have matured and now define several of the holes.
The routing off the course is impressive and takes you on an interesting journey around the property. The front nine works anti-clockwise around the perimeter of the course with the back nine enclosed within the centre of the land. It means that the wind comes out of a slightly different direction on most holes, especially the first nine.
The opening hole is a fine risk-reward hole but I can't help feeling it would be better suited coming later in the round. The second is a short par three with water waiting for anybody too bold and to the left. In fact there is quite a lot of water hazards throughout the course, some more in play than others.
Holes three and four climb to the highest point of the course, in the form of a par five and a par three, before you gradually descend via a series of four par fours to the lowest spot on the estate.
The fifth is the first of two driveable holes with the eighth being the other. I'm not a fan of either but in-between are two of the best holes on the course. The sixth is a sweeping hole with bunkers glaring at you in the middle and right of the fairway and a brook down the left hand side which encourages you to try and bite off as much as you dare to leave a shorter approach. The next is a strong hole and at 435 yards is the longest two-shotter on the scorecard. It is also the hardest with two semi-hidden ponds on either side of the fairway at driving distance which also narrows here requiring a drive threaded between tall trees or a layup short leaving a much longer second to a green well-guarded by a bunker at the front right.
Other highlights on the course include the dog-leg 11th, the undulating green on the 12th and the 18th provides a fine finish with an angled drive over water before the hole turns to the left and climbs uphill to a superb three-tiered green.
I was a little apprehensive about playing here after my initial visit but following this months round I hope it won't be another 20 years before I play here again.
There is something about Elie that puts you under a spell. It is a truly magical links that, after just one round, has won a place in my heart and mind forever.
There’s very little that hasn’t been written about the golfing mecca that is St. Andrews.