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Sean_A

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Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS
« on: May 26, 2015, 09:21:08 AM »
Mark Parsinen is often an over-looked figure in the recent renaissance of classic design harkening back to the heady days when Colt, Fowler, Park Jr, Mackenzie, Alison and Simpson held sway in nearly all architectural matters.  No stranger to links, Parsinen was delighted in the brilliance of Dornoch as a visitor and later, member, for nearly 35 years.   It should come as no surprise then that after successfully developing Kingsbarns, Parsinen would seek out another prominent golf project.  The site, a rather awkward assemblage of farming fields over-looking Moray Firth, is not wholly unlike Dornoch in that it is split level.  The views are arresting, but it would take a creative design to marry the various fields into a harmonious 18 holes.  Step up Gil Hanse, co-designer and with courses such as Rustic Canyon and the Craighead Links under his belt he is no stranger to strategic or seaside design.  See the video below for more information on the construction of Castle Stuart.

https://vimeo.com/36066304

The ample width of fairways and fairly large greens surrounded by short grass make it clear Parsinen wanted to buck the recent trend in GB&I of visually attractive, yet overly demanding courses.   Living on site for two and half years to ensure his design principles were successfully implemented, Parsinen was clearly determined.  On hole after hole it is abundantly obvious the mantras of more than one route to the hole and golf being much more about recovery than perfection are incorporated into the design.  I was expecting a monstrously wide course.  To the contrary, I experienced a course which is well balanced in terms of width while offering plenty of opportunity for risky play.   

With holes such as 2, 3 & 9 the front nine has to be considered among the finest in the British Isles.  But first let us back up to #1. The tee shot is visually severe, but the fairway must be at least 50 yards wide with a bit of light rough which can be negotiated without too much difficulty. 


The course really kicks into gear on the par 5 second.  This is one of a handful of holes where there is a clear choice to be made off the tee. The higher left side of the fairway will open up the green, but playing to the south east, reaching this green in two will often be daunting task.


It may be wiser to play out left for the second and attack the green head-on.


Moguls await to the left and bunkers to the rear.  On more than one occassion one will find bunkers in unlikely places near greens. 




The third continues the brilliant golf with another clear choice off the tee...though the better approach is from the right.  The bunker protecting this angle is well short of the green.  The sub-300 yardage suggests the green is within reach, but playing in the same direction of the 2nd means the wind will more often than not be unfavourable.   


It is often the case at Castle Stuart that while the fairways are wide, many greens are not terribly forgiving. 


One of the real issues with raised greens is deciding where to cut-off the green.  To my eye, this cut line visually disturbs the setting, especially with a wavey green edge.  It would be better to put up with the maintenance headache and cut the bank at a less obvious height differential to the green.




More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 15, 2020, 08:18:38 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

David Stamm

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Re: Considerable CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-3
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2015, 09:47:49 AM »
As always, great pics and commentary, Sean. Thank you for taking the time to do this.
"The object of golf architecture is to give an intelligent purpose to the striking of a golf ball."- Max Behr

Niall C

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Re: Considerable CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-3
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2015, 10:45:00 AM »
Sean

Always a pleasure to read and enjoy one of your course reviews. As usual your pictures donít disappoint although you are using some interesting angles I notice. The low level holes are the most successful in my view as there is an element of constraint that is missing in the holes on the upper level. They also have more varying fairway levels and when you add the two together it produces the need to consider what line to take off the tee.

So in that respect I agree with your comments that the course isnít crazily wide and you need to place the ball off the tee, as long as you are talking about these particular holes. I look forward to reading how you explain away some of the holes on the upper level  ;D.

Niall

Sean_A

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Re: Considerable CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-3
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2015, 12:29:50 PM »
Niall - by upper level which holes do are you referring to?

CASTLE STUART CONT

The money shot for #4 is straight up the hill toward Castle Stuart, which will presumably be restored as a hotel, but that photo does not fully reflect the true nature of the hole.  To my eye it looks like the play is to swing a low runner in from the right as the high bank to the rear of the green is clearly visible from the tee.  However, there is a hidden swale mid-right of the green which will foil a shot even the slightest bit off line. 


Bunkers up the right wing of the fairway indicate the best line of approach into this deceptively large 5th green. There is a substantial turbo boost for those who can drive the ball past the left bunkers. 


From just past the driving zone one gets a better sense of the green running in from the right.


More to follow. 

Ciao
« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 05:17:49 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

David Davis

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-5
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2015, 01:26:46 PM »
Sean,

I guess it must of been your first play there? Did you like it? Where does it fit on your scale? Do you think it's worth the money? Would you go again or do you have a desire to play it again immediate?

Next up: open to ideas!

IG: @top100golftraveler
www.top100golfcourses.com

Neil White

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-5
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2015, 03:00:03 PM »
Sean,

I guess it must of been your first play there? Did you like it? Where does it fit on your scale? Do you think it's worth the money? Would you go again or do you have a desire to play it again immediate?



All in good time David - don't rush the man.......   ;)
Courses played 2020 - ................!

Ash Towe

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-5
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2015, 06:13:57 PM »
Sean,

Thanks for the tour.  I am looking forward to the remainder.  Interesting to compare your photos with those used in Ran's review.  Between the two tours we can get an excellent idea of the course.

Sean_A

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-5
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2015, 06:29:17 PM »
The change in wind direction had been fairly subtle until the 6th hole, which plays in a westerly direction.  Not a long par 5, but the location of the green dictates that only the best players should contemplate a go at this green in two.  The vast majority of players should concentrate on how to stay right of the well placed, but aesthetically displeasing centre-line bunker some 75 yards short of the long and narrow putting surface.




Right of the green is no bargain either.


The 7th features an S hitch in the fairway just about where a good drive wants to finish.  Flirting with the chasm on the left leaves a more palatable approach while playing too safely right off the tee will leave a very unpleasant blind shot.  There are, however, some saving bunkers between the green and the PLUNGE. 


The longish one-shotter 8th has a rather large mound situated just so in front the green.  The second issue at hand is the wonderful boomerang green which will cause some head scratching should one get the wrong end of the stick.


The side finishes conveniently at the rather handsome clubhouse.  But lets not be too eager for a drink and miss the superb 9th, a short 4 requiring a high degree of accuracy off the tee and the approach.  In the right conditions some can have a go at the green from the tee, but it may be wiser to play left and leave oneself a fairly straightforward second.  Of course, finding the plateau fairway left side is not a given. Most will be left with the daunting shot seen below after driving right.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 05:24:42 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Mark Pavy

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-9
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2015, 06:57:32 PM »
Sean, nice commentary. Here's a link for some missing imagery. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJaa1y-AmEk

PPallotta

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-9
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2015, 09:47:15 PM »
Sean - as always, my thanks. The course too looks lovely. But your juxtaposition several times of 'brilliant golf' and 'clear choices' puzzles me. No, strike that. It *would* puzzle me, except that I've been harping on for two years about how little thinking and choosing is actually required on even the most vaunted and supposedly option-filled strategic courses -- and I feel supported in that view when I read how a first timer can 'learn' all he needs to know in less than one time around.

Not that there's anything *wrong* with that, of course; I've just grown tired of just about every course we like being described as requiring 'thinking'. Any golf course might require *something*, but it's not what can in truth be called 'thinking'. I dare say that more often than not it isn't even 'choices' that are required -- since the dimmest awareness of the quality of one's golf game and the briefest assessment of the weather conditions/wind that day will pretty much make that choice every time (which truth you also suggested, implicitely at least, several times already in your review.)

Don't get me wrong; there must indeed be something that so many folks appreciate about wonderful golf courses. I'm starting to think that what that is can better be described as "artful asymmetry".
 
Peter
« Last Edit: May 26, 2015, 10:22:14 PM by PPallotta »

Sean_A

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-9
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2015, 01:59:08 AM »
Pietro

You have lost me.  The clear choices comments doesn't mean one choice will always be the best.  If the wind comes from a different direction than that may alter the situation.  Plus, for the "best" option it usually entails an element of risk.  The design will get the golfer on the tee or the approach....the golfer gets to choose his medicine...in my experience this is rarity to see on a large number of holes.  The wonderful aspect of the design is if the golfer does go for the optimum tee shot nearly every hole has a bale-out part of the fairway which is hard to ignore.  Its awfully enticing to aim down the middle of 50, 60 or 70 yards of fairway rather than voluntarily inviting lost ball into the scenario if one misses on the wrong side of the best angle.  In all earnest, one doesn't get a sense of what wide provides unless he sees it in person.  In effect, death by a thousand cuts is on offer if the golfer allows himself to be lulled into the middle of the fairway on hole after hole...at least if there is a decent wind about.  In calm conditions I expect the riskiness of the design is to a degree mitigated.  I reckon we had about 15-17 mph winds which is more than most golfers need, but the design held up wonderfully. 

CASTLE STUART CONT

The 10th transitions back down to the lowest shelf.  There is a lower tee which entails a steep walk.  We had a conversation about the high tee not working well on this hole.  Just as I normally don't want to walk for a high tee, I don't want to walk for a low tee.  As is usually the case with high tees, it is difficult to judge the strength of a cross wind.  In the case of the 10th with wind off the left it takes some nerve to aim at the water.  The hole isn't terribly long so one can lay-up to the fat part of the fairway short of the bunker, but again, temptation is tough to overcome. 


Again, I am not convinced the clean style of bunkering works well in the fairway, but again, the sand is perfectly placed.


The sharp rise is well disguised for those coming in from the right.  However, the angle of the slope will allow for a run-up shot if one accurately judges the carry and ball flight, but the ball will naturally head for the left side of the green. The more difficult task will be to control the distance as the green feeds away from play. 


I expect many will cite the short 11th as their favourite hole and that wouldn't be a bad call as it is a welcome change of pace demanding an accurate shot.   


We now start the arduous transition back up to the higher level...in stages.  The par 5 12th is uphill and the walk to 13 tee is severely uphill. No question for me the course now feels different until we make the turn for home on 17.  I think the amount of dirt pushed around on the 12 & 13th may be more than the first 11 holes combined!  That said, the uphill 13th is an interesting hole with a clear choice; aim left at the bunker or go right for more distance.  This hole too is one of the few on which sand offers some aiming assistance.  Many of the tee shots are wide open.


For those coming in from the right there is a mess of moguls which reminds one of the 2nd hole at TOC.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 05:32:13 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Niall C

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2015, 03:27:53 AM »
Sean

1-3 and 10-12 are lower level and everything else I think of as upper level. I appreciate that the upper level holes play on top of and either side of a ridge but the main elevational differences are quite obviously between the holes along the water as mentioned and the other holes.

Niall

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2015, 03:59:27 AM »
Sean,

The most dirt moved was on the 12th where the entire uphill climb was built to shorten the green to tee transition to 13, the tees of which look like they were lowered considerably too.

Ally

Niall C

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2015, 04:48:04 AM »
Sean

Re 5th hole. - either they have relocated the RHS fairway bunkers or you are kidding everyone on that they are guarding the best line in. Your photo tends to suggest that the distance between the LHS fairway bunkers and the RHS ones isn't that great but in reality, and looking from the tee (presumably your photo was taken from left rough part of the way up the fairway), the two sets of bunkers are miles apart (c.150 yards ?) with the RHS ones being well out of reach of a good amateur in most conditions. They are also way off the line of play. I suspect there intended use is purely a visual one.

This was one of the holes that I was referring to about excessive width. I also note they appear to have brought the fairways in a bit by creating some semi-rough.

Niall

Sean_A

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2015, 05:04:06 AM »
I didn't hit a great tee shot which never touched the fairway and I was well past the left bunkers...its only 220 to cover them.  The right bunkers must be about 275ish or so from the Green tee...not a huge hit downwind and with a turbo boost.  My playing partner wasn't striping the ball and he was about level with bunkers.... We can disagree about the angle in....I would much rather be right where I can see the green than left where it was blind.  Jeepers, I didn't even think this fairway was particularly wide.  For the those going past the left bunkers its maybe 45-50 yards wide...what I think a pretty standard links fairway should be...unfortunately, this is rarely the case.     

Ciao
« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 04:44:20 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Mark Pavy

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2015, 05:13:44 AM »
Niall,

Regarding 5, what do you mean by, "they are also way off the line off play"?. I would agree that they are really not in play, but the ideal line from the tee is not too far away from the left edge of these traps. It's quite an interesting tee shot with clever use of the brow and consequent void, giving the golfer the feeling that those bunkers ARE in play, when they are really way out of reach.

Mark Pavy

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2015, 05:25:11 AM »
Sean,

The distances to the first RHS trap on 5 are: 352 from the blacks, 335 from the whites and 306 from the greens.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2015, 05:51:10 AM by Mark Pavy »

Thomas Dai

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #17 on: May 27, 2015, 06:04:24 AM »
A course on two levels.

A few other courses around the NE Scottish coast are on two levels or have a higher inland level where a hole or two or even a few are located - Royal Dornoch, Nairn, Cruden Bay, Royal Aberdeen being examples of the more famous ones.

An raised beach line from millions of years ago maybe?

atb

Niall C

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #18 on: May 27, 2015, 06:21:26 AM »
Sean

Green tees !? This is shaping up to be another forward tees debacle just like Silloth  ;D.

Bear in mind also the last 50 yards or so to the RHS bunkers is uphill.

Niall

Benjamin Litman

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #19 on: May 27, 2015, 10:35:10 AM »
Thanks, Sean, for a beautiful tour of a beautiful course. It looks to be in incredible shape (assuming these pictures were taken recently). And thank you for your commentary, which always sets your tours apart and makes them especially informative. To that end, I have to ask: What prompted the word change in the subject line from the initial "Considerable" to the current "Capacious"?
"One will perform in large part according to the circumstances."
-Director of Recruitment at Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda on why it selects orphaned children without regard to past academic performance. Refreshing situationism in a country where strict dispositionism might be expected.

Tom Kelly

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #20 on: May 27, 2015, 11:19:18 AM »
Thanks for the tour Sean.

The discussion of the 5th is interesting as when I played the course in 2010 the bunkers being discussed were not there and the fairway was the main culprit for some of my comments regarding the course perhaps being overly wide in places. I actually have a sketch I did for fun of some bunkers that I would have proposed which seem to be in the exact same position as the current bunkers on the RHS. Considering they have been introduced  since then and their distance from the tees it seems fairly obvious to suggest the main driving force for them was the pro's and the Scottish Open for better or worse. To me it seems like they make the hole more interesting as I agree with Sean in saying that the right is the preferred side to attack the green from given the angle of the green and ground short and left of it. Am I right in remembering that the drive is generally downhill too? I'm pretty sure I remember it playing downwind when I was there to, with the firm ground this makes me think they would be reach for many golfers playing from suitable tees.

The greens are the general 'daily play' tees or equivalent of the usual yellows used at most clubs if I remember rightly so not particularly far 'forward'.

Overall I loved the place.

David_Tepper

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #21 on: May 27, 2015, 11:31:57 AM »
"Am I right in remembering that the drive is generally downhill too?"

Tom K. -

If anything, as shown by Sean's pics #5 at CS plays a little uphill.

DT



 

Tom Kelly

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #22 on: May 27, 2015, 11:38:15 AM »
"Am I right in remembering that the drive is generally downhill too?"

Tom K. -

If anything, as shown by Sean's pics #5 at CS plays a little uphill.

DT

 

It looks to me from the photos and I remember it playing along a relatively flat section before dropping into a dip shy of where the RHS bunkers are before rising slightly again to the green. Can a drive realistically carry to the start of the dip to get an extra push forward?

Niall C

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2015, 12:02:10 PM »
Tom

The problem with super wide and large scale fairways is that when you stick a bunker to the side of them they look kind of ridiculous and irrelevant. Sean does a great job with his camera angle of making the LHS and RHS bunkers appear not that wide apart or indeed that distant to each other but in reality, as you look at it from the tee, they are miles apart.

You might be right in saying the bunkers were put in for the pro's as they went in after Monty made his comments about bunkering. However given they are 352 from the back tees according to Mark's yardages, I have to wonder whether they get any use.

Mark

I've played the course before the bunkering several times, and maybe its like a blind hole that you rmember what's there second time round, I really wasn't fooled on the tee into thinking those bunkers were within reach but this is a resort course so I've got to think they are more about visual trickery or even as a target for the repeat golfer rather than something to think about having to avoid.

Niall

Tom Kelly

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Re: Capacious CASTLE STUART GOLF LINKS 1-13
« Reply #24 on: May 27, 2015, 12:09:47 PM »
You might be right in saying the bunkers were put in for the pro's as they went in after Monty made his comments about bunkering. However given they are 352 from the back tees according to Mark's yardages, I have to wonder whether they get any use.

I saw Nicolas Colsearts hit a 3-wood over 300 yards uphill on the 3rd at Wentworth last Saturday. I'm pretty sure they will get some use even off the back tees when the pros visit.

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