A combination of stunning coastal views, centuries of history and hugely enjoyable golf is what makes Balcomie Links one of Scotland's most finely polished, golfing gems.This traditional, classic links course was laid out by the old master himself, Tom Morris, and opened in 1895. Created in the days when course design was governed by the natural lie of the land and not the mechanical earth mover, Balcomie has the unusual combination of three par fives, six par threes and nine par fours, producing a tough par of 69. Extraordinary holes abound, along with those which seriously challenge and those which are more comfortable. The sum total is a layout which both enchants and delights, but which also demands and punishes, testing all the skills in a golfer's armoury – as well as his nerve. Those length seekers who believe Balcomie will be a soft touch, do so at their peril.
Not content with a devilishly testing layout, Old Tom designed the course in such a way as to take maximum advantage of its exhilarating seaside location. Shots over rocky bays, long par threes with greens perched on top of vertical cliffs, shots to greens seemingly engulfed by gorse, curving par fours round sandy strands - daring the golfer to cut off too much, shots from cliff tops to greens and fairways invitingly laid out below: all these and more make up the Balcomie experience.
The many memorable holes include the first, which sets the tone for the enjoyment to come with an opening drive from the cliff top to the welcoming fairway below. This is followed by a pitch over a bunker and a turf wall to a blind green with bunkers either side, and a burn beyond. The ferociously challenging fifth, a 447 yard par four, is appropriately named Hell's hole, a name approved by Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance, who added that it was probably the hardest par four in Scotland. It provides the golfer with the classic dilemma of risk and reward: succeed in cutting off much of the out of bounds rocky bay on the right and the green is in reach, or play safe and accept that a third shot to the green is inevitable.
With the wind a constant and ever-changing feature, the challenge is enhanced at many of the holes, but perhaps none more so than at the extraordinary 13th. A longish par three at 210 yards, it is played up and over a vertical cliff to an invisible, viciously sloping green and, more often than not, the wind is an added hindrance. This supremely challenging hole was made famous in Michael Murphy's seminal book 'Golf in the Kingdom'. It is followed by another par three which is one of Scottish golf's most scenic holes. The 14th is played from the top of the cliff to a green far below surrounded by bunkers, with an out of bounds beach to the right and fronted by an enormous sleeper-faced bunker. The golfer's difficulty at this hole is to pause long enough from admiring the view to concentrate on the demanding short iron shot that is required.
A round at Balcomie is always one to savour and will provide happy memories for many years to come.