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|The brand-new 15th starts off the Duke's redone closing stretch. (Brandon Tucker/GolfPublisher.com)|
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - Looming in the hills of Craigtoun Park, well above the seaside town of St. Andrews, is the kind of Scotland golf course you would never expect the birthplace of golf to hold.
This anomaly among the many traditional links of St. Andrews is the Duke's Course, and it is one more feather in the cap that makes up the world's greatest golf town.
The new Duke's Course goes its own direction in historic St. Andrews. It's new, built in 1996 and far from the coastline, where the six Links Trust courses, including the Old Course, sit, along with the two Fairmont St. Andrews links two miles up the road: the Torrance and Devlin. They also (gasp!) have buggies for hire. The bump-and-run game isn't very effective due to soggier inland soil, much to the dismay of some locals. And as of 2005 it's now owned by an American.
Herb Kohler, known in America as the heir to the Kohler plumbing empire in Wisconsin and the one who founded Whistling Straits on the coast of Lake Michigan - which has quickly become one of America's top major championship venues and five star resorts - spread his wings and bought the Old Course Hotel. The Old Course doesn't offer guaranteed tee times to guests of the hotel however, so Kohler purchased the Duke's course instead.
But it wasn't up to the high standards of Kohler - whose four courses in Wisconsin are all world-class Pete Dye designs - three of which ranked among America's Top 50 public golf courses this year. The original Peter Thomson design at the Duke's needed an upgrade to be included in the same company.
"The Kohler Company felt there was more the site could yield in terms of interest and the golf experience," said Andy Campbell, the course's golf and landscape manager. "They felt there was more there than was being shown. It was 'pretty good,' but it wasn't 'special'."
Kohler brought in architect Tim Liddy, who worked under Pete Dye at Whistling Straits to give the Duke's a facelift. They rebuilt or added 116 bunkers - giving them a wild, flared-out style. They also completely rebuilt the final four holes to offer a more spectacular finish.
They also added length - and plenty of it. The championship tees play a mighty 7,512 yards. Add a stiff Scottish breeze into the round and you're in for a long day. But four shorter sets will let you choose how bad of a beating you want.
The Duke's Course features certain traditional aspects as well, like a rock wall and burn on the par-5 11th hole. It also winds through beautiful Scottish countryside with barns and the cries of sheep in the distance.
The par-4 7th hole is one of the best - no need remodeling this gem. It starts from an elevated tee that looks over the town of St. Andrews and down to a dogleg right fairway below. It plays 513 yards from the championship tees.
Local players used to firmer links conditions complain a bit that the course is too damp for a bump and run game, but the course's style caters more to a North American-type aerial game anyways. It's also been heavily renovated since Kohler bought the Duke's in 2005 and players returning since then won't recognize a whole lot - especially the final four holes which were all completely redone.
Even still, the Duke's will probably never garner much international fanfare given the stiff competition in St. Andrews, but if it were most other places in the world, it would be placed among that area's best.
Instead, the Duke's is an upscale modern, parkland compliment to the storied links courses of the town - and guests of the Old Course Hotel won't have to worry about getting a tee time here. Greens fees are £105 in the peak season. Buggies are also available for hire at £40 per 18 holes (which includes both riders).
You can receive special packages on the Duke's course at the Old Course Hotel that sits on the famous Road Hole, but it doesn't offer guaranteed Old Course tee times, even though you might receive a few shots off your window from players teeing off on the Road Hole.
The Rusacks Hotel is a four-star option that sits overlooking the 18th green and R&A clubhouse of the Old Course - offering the best views of the storied grounds in town. It also features a newly remodeled fine dining room and lounge that overlooks the course as well.
For more information on where to stay in Scotland, click here.
The Duke's Course was opened in July 1995 by the Duke of York, Prince Andrew and Scottish Rugby Captain Gavin Hastings.
July 24, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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