A hugely impressive course with visually stunning bunkering

The Dukes

The Dukes Golf Club

Date Reviewed
October 25, 2015
Reviewed by Ed Battye
The Duke’s course, owned and managed by the iconic Old Course Hotel, sits high in the countryside above the famous golfing town of St. Andrews and enjoys spectacular views across Fife’s beautiful coastline.

You may wonder how and why the Duke’s course came into existence. Let’s face it there’s been plenty of good golf to be had in and around St. Andrews for centuries.

Well, not even the five-star Old Course Hotel, situated adjacent to the legendary Road Hole, is able to provide their guests with unlimited guaranteed tee times on the Old Lady so in order to provide their clients with high quality golf, and an alternative to the many links in the area, they simply built their own course!

Five-time Open Champion Peter Thomson laid out the original course that opened in 1995 before it was revised and renovated, along with five completely new holes in 2006. Over the past 20 years it has matured favourably and now displays many of the hallmarks of the great English heathland courses. It’s not quite on the same level as the truly wonderful courses to the south-west of London but as far as non-links courses in Scotland go this is right up there with the very best.

The Duke’s is visually stunning and has a real championship feel to it. This is golf on a big scale and there is a modern feel to it although to say it is only twenty years old the course has bedded down extremely well and belies its age.

The flexibility and playability of The Duke's is also impressive. From the very forward tees it has a yardage of 5,215 with four further options that stretch it to over 7,500 yards. Yes, that’s right a whopping 7,512 yards from the back ‘black’ tees! And you are invited to play from wherever you feel suits your game the best. This really does make it a viable option for all abilities of player and also comes as no surprise that it recently held the International European Amateur Championship, one of the four majors in the world of amateur golf. You could easily envisage a top professional event being played here.

Regardless of which tees you play from The Duke’s will provide a challenge and with the plentiful bunkers and spots of gorse the layout is as demanding as it is beautiful. I enjoyed a round here in late-October with majestic Autumnal colours on full show and when the course played extremely well for the time of year.

The Duke’s is a course with a number of stand-out holes and these are mainly thanks to some significant changes in elevation that feature throughout the round. The rises and falls in the terrain as you work your way around the vast property allow for some stunning bunkering that frame each hole wonderfully. The green sites at many of the holes, especially those played uphill, are exceptional and really give the course an extra dimension.

The bunkering is worthy of special mention. It may not to be everybody’s taste but there is no denying that it is eye-catching, bold and visually striking. There are lots of them too which add to the challenge but more often than not they are in the right places to provide strategy and interest to each hole.

The run of holes from the seventh to the 11th is excellent but there is plenty of good golf before then. I particularly enjoyed the first and fifth in the opening third of the course but the strongest stretch starts with an elevated drive at the seventh where hugging the bunker on the inside of the dog-leg will give you the shortest route to the green. This is followed by a stunning par-three, played slightly uphill with some extremely attractive bunkers.

For the most part you are asked to hit a fade on the front nine as it works clockwise around the west side of the estate and this is certainly the case at the ninth, another fine hole, before you approach a green that sits in the shadow of the imposing and luxurious clubhouse.

In contrast you are mostly required to work the ball from right-to-left on the back nine as it loops in the opposite direction. The tenth is a wonderful driving hole where shaping your ball round the corner will give you a shorter approach whilst the next (640 yards from the back tees!) is a monster but also a fine hole - although I’m not sure it needs the ditch running across the entire fairway 60 yards shy of the green!

The 13th was one of my favourite holes on the course with a downhill drive to a green protected by a deep bunker – the view from this tee is magnificent and provides a fantastic backdrop to the hole. This is certainly a moment to pause and enjoy the vista.

Meanwhile the uphill par-four 15th and downhill par-three 16th are another two holes right out of the top drawer. Again the gradient in terrain and superb bunkering bring these holes to life. And the climax to the round doesn’t disappoint either with a rock solid 18th hole, which in a similar manner to the ninth, climbs back up the hill to a particularly well-guarded green.

The putting surfaces have just the right amount of movement in them for the style of course and you can be left with plenty of interesting recovery shots if you miss the green in the wrong place.

Away from the golf course there is a well-furnished clubhouse and if your game ends as a tie you could always play-off on the pool table in the locker-room!

It’s undeniable that golfers heading to this part of the world are in the main on the lookout for links golf, and rightly so as the Grey Auld Town is the undisputed Home of Golf, but adding a round or two at The Duke’s to your itinerary would be a very wise choice. It’s a welcome addition to the region and certainly enhances St Andrew’s standing as the leading golf destination in the world.

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