It was not so much a challenge as it was a dare: Design and build a golf course on a board-flat and barren potato field, leaving right-of-way for the neighbor’s cows, minding a popular pedestrian walking path, and working around the town’s two-acre wastewater-treatment plant plopped smack-dab in the middle of the plot. The budget would be meager, the red tape thick, and the pressure great. The rewards, however, would prove to be substantial for architect David McLay Kidd, the Oregon-based Scotsman who, in 2002, earned the most coveted assignment in golf: to create a new course in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Expectations within the St. Andrews Links Trust—the organization that manages the seven public courses in St. Andrews—were initially modest; the trust needed 18 holes to handle spillover crowds from the Old Course and the other layouts at the Home of Golf. Instead, St. Andrews got the best new golf course in the world.
Kidd’s Castle Course, which opened last July, is a throwback. The architect put on paper just enough of a layout to receive permits, and then he designed the course in the dirt. He challenged his crew of earth-moving artists to create the sort of woolly landforms that existed centuries ago when the game was born on the neighboring links. Then, through these humps and lumps, he wove a rollicking adventure that can be maddening but is never boring.
Set apart from its six sister courses, on the southeast side of town, the Castle features more than a mile of cliff-top terrain above St. Andrews Bay. Every hole delivers a water view, with the acme coming over a crescent-shaped cove at the 17th hole—a 184-yard par-3 that deserves its billing as an instant classic.
Throughout his layout, Kidd (whose father was a longtime golf course director at Gleneagles in Scotland) places a premium on local knowledge. Thus golfers playing the new St. Andrews layout for the first time—especially those who choose to storm the Castle without a caddie—may be in for a long day.
The Castle Course, +44.1334.466.666, www.standrews.org.uk