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Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course New
« on: November 01, 2011, 08:07:53 AM »
Opened in 2008 with a load of media coverage, I think is fair to say this D Kidd design has not been universally praised.  To some degree, this was always bound to be the case because it is natural to draw comparisons with the Old Course, or indeed all Links Trust courses...and tell me, how many courses compare favourably with the Old Course?  Well, The Castle is a bold statement by Kidd!

The opener is sensibly a short two shotter bending right.  There are two aiming bunkers off to the left. The green is fairly shallow and quite wide.  Looking back at the tee.


#2 legs right as well and played quite short with the wind quartering from the left.  Once again, aiming bunkers down the left are provided.  This is the first of the many plateau greens.  The short third features a side by side two tier green with a sharp fallaway to the rear.  Accessing the flag seen in the photo took a very special shot.  Walking away I questioned the severity of the green. 


#s 4 & 5 are back to back three-shotters with the fifth more or less turning back on the fourth.  #4 features a third consecutive plateau green with an interesting twist of a burn in play. The green is absolutely huge!  Approaching from left of the photo, the hole is located on the extreme front of the cloverleaf green.


#5 is a much harder hole playing uphill to a blind punchbowl green with mounds dotted through it.  The second shot is particularly challenging.  Behind the green.


The up n' oer' sixth starts the run back to the house along the cliff edge - another plateau green is on tap.


The 7th is a tough par 4 with a tight drive.  Below is the approach after a very good drive.


Staying on the coast, the short 8th is a devil of a hole.  The green is set at an angle with a large depression needing to be carried to access its rear right section.  #9 hugs the coast, but one can have a go directly at the double green shared with the 18th. 


The approach after a lay-up.


The back nine starts with a terrific par 3, perhaps the best hole so far.  It plays deceptively uphill; the flag is on the front part of the green in a swale.  To the left and not that far off, is a creek which will drink many a pulled tee shot. 


The eleventh plays uphill and splits sentinel mounds on either side of the fairway.  It was by this time that I was thoroughly frustrated with the greens.  Not only were many quite severe, but I think to combat the slopes the green speeds varied immensely.  On the 11th two balls hung up half way down the slope to the hole.  The twelfth, notwithstanding the turf, felt very linksy to me.  An extreme legger to the left with a tight driving zone.  This is the easy part! The green is table top jobbie (to the far left in the first photo - left of the golfers).  What makes this hole work better than most of the other severe greensites is there is space to miss to the rear of the green.




#13 is probably not as harsh as it seemed - more a case of an unfortunate hole location given the wind off the left. 


I have been talking about severe greens, but the 14th has to be in the discussion for most severe.  That said, there is no way I would change an inch of the putting surface.  This is an engenious hole luring golfers to the poor position on the right.  The best position is down by the water where one earns a straight shot in on this long, narrow green. 




The long par 5 15th crosses a burn just shy of the green.  Unlike on the fourth, most can't reach the water in two.  Not surprisingly, the green is raised and quite difficult to hold.  There is the possibility of bouncing a low shot over the water and have it kick it up, but I suspect one must be quite close to the burn to try this.   


Just to make things easy to remember, the final three holes all have relentless greens - some may say cruel.  The drive for number 16 is somewhat obscured and it is easy to leak it left.  Because of the raised green it may be best to lay-back at a full shortish iron distance...the approach.

 
The final two holes offer all sorts of heroics - some of it forced and some of it by choice. #17!  One can feed a ball in from the left, but for all the hard work involved in hitting this green, the putting surface is still very challenging.


Behind the green.


The home hole is wonderful three-shotter.  From the tee it is hard to know where one should aim.  The fairway leads out to the left, but the eye is drawn to a nest of bunkers over the cliff roughly halfway between the fairway and green.  Clearly, the green can be reached in two if a risk is taken, but how much risk?  Even when the risky is drive is taken on the approach to the raised green is no bargain.




To some degree I think The Castle is a wasted opportunity, but I am not ready to throw the course under the bus just yet - there is far too much good stuff on offer to be so black and white.  #s 4, 9, 10, 14, 17 & 18 are all holes which would grace nearly every course on the planet.  The routing is well done with walking between holes kept to a reasonable minimum for a modern course.  It would be grand if three or four greens were toned down, but I honestly think sorting out the drainage is far more important. Once that is done a fresh look at the greens can be taken with a much greater chance of getting it right. 

I especially like the texture of the course.  The rough lines cutting in on horizons and how fairways bleed into greens is also very attractive.  Despite the many nay sayers on the Castle Course, I have some time for the place and would suggest, if folks are in town and need to fill a date, they should consider the The Castle with the warning that it is extreme.  So much so, that I wouldn't have believed I would ever say I thought a set of greens were just too much, but that is without a doubt the case with The Castle. 

Previous stops

www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,30926.0.html  Kington

www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,37526.0.html   Harborne

www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,49998.0.html   Worcester G&CC

Next Up

The Old & The New

Ciao
« Last Edit: April 22, 2022, 07:09:40 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Anthony Gray

Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: Castle Course
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2011, 10:35:51 AM »


  Thanks for the pics. Looks different from the first year. I had no clue where to go on the first hole.

  Anthony


David_Tepper

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: Castle Course
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2011, 12:05:43 PM »
Sean -

Thanks for another wonderful tour. Nice to see and read an honest appraisal of the course.

DT

Marty Bonnar

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2011, 01:31:27 PM »
WAFM!
You're in Fife and you haven't called?
Was it something I said??? :(
Effers.
Assembled in Michigan from foreign parts.

Ally Mcintosh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2011, 03:43:32 PM »
Thanks Sean,

I find it very hard to agree with you calling it a "wasted opportunity" though... Whatever it is, I wouldn't call it that... After all, the site was a one slope hill with a sewerage plant... I think 90% of architects would have come up with a vastly less interesting product...

As always with bold design, there will be things that almost everyone doesn't like... The greens for the most part are good fun and you're probably right that 3 or 4 (max) could maybe do with a little toning down (only a little though - we need variety so there has to be some courses with wild undulations)... One of those is / was probably the 10th... I'm amazed that you find that one of your favourite holes... I'll need to look again on my next visit... As I will need to see again your comments about many plateaux greens... I didn't think it was a particularly aerial course but maybe my memory serves me wrong

The par-5 fifth is probably my favourite hole on the course.

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2011, 04:10:09 AM »
Is it just me or have these pictures gone AWOL?
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

Tom Kelly

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2011, 08:03:45 AM »
Ally,

The 10th green was extended during the winter of 09/10 so it may be different than when you saw it? I am told it was a pretty ridiculous green before the change but now I have to agree with Sean and say it is one of my favourite holes on the course. A bit of a sleeper hole in that it doesn't look like anything extraordinary like most of the course but is very deceiving and fun to play with quite a few different shots possible depending on the wind.

Sean,

I am surprised to hear you say that 4 is one of the better holes, I know they have extended the green last winter since I was there (back left I believe) which will undoubtedly improve the hole but I am not a fan really. The 5th is the better of the par 5's for me.

The 9th is also an interesting one as it clearly has huge potential especially if it were to be played off the very back tee (next to the 8th green) but I doubt that will ever happen because of safety. The problem I have with the hole is that the entrance to the green is so hard to negotiate. It is nearly impossible to carry the green and hold the ball anywhere near the pin off what will nearly always be a downhill lie (the pin is nearly always at the front becasue of the safety issues a double green presents), yet trying to run the ball in is also extremely difficult as the shape of the front bank sheds all but the extremely accurate shots to the left or right. A very frustrating hole in my experience.

I was also not keen on the 18th, mainly due to the tee shot. Having played it a number of times, I found that there was absolutely no point in hitting driver as the landing area at the corner of the dogleg was almost impossible to hold the ball on mainly due to the angel you were approaching it from, which left me hitting 3 or 5 wood and making it a certain 3 shotter as there was no chance of hitting the green in two. I am not against 3 shot par 5's I actually like them, but when it is because the hole forces you to lay up of the tee I am not so sure? I also then found the 2nd shot after laying up confusing. It was either negotiate the central bunker and lay short of the right hand side trap which is a very small target or lay up to both. Often I ended up hitting 5 wood, a knock down 7 or 8 iron and then another 7 or 8 iron which to me seems a bit silly to me?

I know they had restrictions on what could be done around the road which crosses the hole but I think by moving the tee back and to the left up onto one of the dunes (if you go back and scrabble up them it presents a great view of the hole) it would improve the drive and offer an angle which makes holding the fairway just short of the road possible, thus inviting players to tempt fate by going for the green in two. The central bunker I also believe should be moved slightly forward to offer a more generous landing area for the second shot and tempt the shorter hitter into trying to carry the bunker.

In terms of the good holes it is funny how much the course divides opinions as personally I think 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 17 are the better holes which almost completely different to your set!

I think with a few more tweaks it could be a very fun course but at the moment it is just dropping over the line of very fun and into the slightly ridiculous for me.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2011, 08:12:18 AM by Thomas Kelly »

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course New
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2011, 03:09:41 AM »
FBD

I was in a large group and there really wasn't much time for outside tom foolery.  Sorry.

Ally

While I applaud the boldness, I definitely think the greens are out of control.  There were so many raised greens that I didn't think I could hold that playing short of the sharp banks and trying to bump it up got old.  That isn't the reason I think this is a wasted opportunity.  I felt like the course was half finished because the drainage was so bad.  The powers that be must have known this was going to be an issue and here we are with sloppy fairways when in town they are fine.  For 120 the very least a golfer can expect in SCOTLAND is proper fairways.

Thomas

I liked the 9th because it is short enough that one could have a reasonable expectation of hitting a runner successfully. 

I liked all the par 5s - and that is unusual for me.  Choosing a favourite is like choosing one's favourite ice cream. 

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 14, 2018, 05:50:06 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Niall C

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2011, 03:50:42 PM »
Sean

Thanks for this, and the other photo tours of Fife, great stuff. You suggested that this course was a wasted opportunity, do you think maybe they just went to far and broke out of the envelope ? And if so, continued tweaking to bring it back might make it work ?

Niall

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2011, 04:13:02 PM »
Niall

I suggest that this is a wasted opportunity because all the elements were there to knock it out of the park.  To go chinz on drainage in ST ANDEREWS is an unforgivable sin.  They spent a fortune anyway - may as well spend more and get it right.  That said, most complain, bitterly I might add, about the greens.  I can't say they aren't at least somewhat on target, but that is a very secondary issue for me.  I hate it when courses don't drain at least decently for their circumstances as dry, firm turf is the very backbone for excellent golf. 

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Ally Mcintosh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2011, 05:06:57 AM »
Niall

I suggest that this is a wasted opportunity because all the elements were there to knock it out of the park.  To go chinz on drainage in ST ANDEREWS is an unforgivable sin.  They spent a fortune anyway - may as well spend more and get it right.  That said, most complain, bitterly I might add, about the greens.  I can't say they aren't at least somewhat on target, but that is a very secondary issue for me.  I hate it when courses don't drain at least decently for their circumstances as dry, firm turf is the very backbone for excellent golf. 

Ciao

You see Sean, I'd disagree... All the elements weren't there... It was a VERY ordinary site save for the views and cliff edge....

As for the drainage, they haven't not got that right for want of trying. The soil was very heavy and the more you build shape in to the ground, the harder it gets. That said, maybe they could have put all their effort in to the drainage... But maybe it would have ended up a far less interesting course... The St.Andrews element is a red herring though... It was chalk and cheese with the main courses on the west sands...

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course New
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2011, 06:00:21 AM »
Niall

I suggest that this is a wasted opportunity because all the elements were there to knock it out of the park.  To go chinz on drainage in ST ANDEREWS is an unforgivable sin.  They spent a fortune anyway - may as well spend more and get it right.  That said, most complain, bitterly I might add, about the greens.  I can't say they aren't at least somewhat on target, but that is a very secondary issue for me.  I hate it when courses don't drain at least decently for their circumstances as dry, firm turf is the very backbone for excellent golf. 

Ciao

You see Sean, I'd disagree... All the elements weren't there... It was a VERY ordinary site save for the views and cliff edge....

As for the drainage, they haven't not got that right for want of trying. The soil was very heavy and the more you build shape in to the ground, the harder it gets. That said, maybe they could have put all their effort in to the drainage... But maybe it would have ended up a far less interesting course... The St.Andrews element is a red herring though... It was chalk and cheese with the main courses on the west sands...

Ally

I meant the project had lots of money, a well known archie and on a beautiful site.  The land itself wasn't great - quite obviously by how poorly it drains, but with money that can largely be overcome.  Jeepers, all sorts of dirt was moved as this is a totally artificial design - why not spend more and do the drainage better while the course is dug up?  Its not as if they didn't know drainage wasn't a problem.  Interestingly, it seems to me that the drainage on and around the greens was far better than the fairways.  Was anything done differently?  I don't really know what they did for drainage as I only noticed a few drains in spots where the golfer SHOULD be walking.

I will disagree concerning St Andrews.  The Castle is to some degree a relief course, as is all the others except for The Old.  To have a viable alternative I think the course should play (in terms of dryness) similar to the others or there is the very real possibility that its function as a relief course will fail.

Ciao 
« Last Edit: February 14, 2018, 05:50:57 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

John Mayhugh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2011, 12:38:31 PM »
Thanks for the tour, Sean.

What do you think about the value of the course relative to alternatives at St. Andrews?  It's priced well above the New and approaching the fee for the Old.

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2011/12 Winter Tour: The Castle Course New
« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2011, 01:51:22 AM »
Thanks for the tour, Sean.

What do you think about the value of the course relative to alternatives at St. Andrews?  It's priced well above the New and approaching the fee for the Old.

Tucky

The Castle is okay value despite the drainage and green issues.  In fact, and unusually, I ticked the course down because of drainage.  If that is sorted The Castle is a 1* for mine.  That said, I don't think I would organize a game there in the future.  Once around The Castle is enough when TOC and some other interesting courses are down the hill.

Ciao
« Last Edit: April 09, 2012, 06:09:58 AM by Sean Arble »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

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