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The Golf House Club, Elie, has a lot to live up to. Not only is it a short drive from St Andrews but it’s also just along the road from James Braid’s birthplace.

It’s a good thing, then, that the golf course is one that the locals can be proud of. Dating back to the 1870s, the par-70 layout stands up well to the advancements in modern technology, despite featuring no holes over 470 yards.

Before all that, though, you’ll get a flavour of the history as you drive into the club. As is the case with the best venues, the entrance to Elie is understated and one most will probably miss on the first attempt.

When you do arrive, you’ll see that the starter’s hut is equipped with a periscope that belonged to HMS Excalibur until 1966, when it was retired to a less stressful life on dry land. 

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In 2014, it was moved to its current position beside the first tee, where it allows you to ensure it’s safe to get your round underway. It’s a round that’s rather unusual, in that it features 16 par-4s and just two par-3s. That might sound like a course that lacks variety but don’t be fooled.

To the first-time visitor, the first tee shot might look quite intimidating but it really shouldn’t be. Once you get to the top of the steep hill around 50 yards in front of the tee box, you’ll see there’s plenty of space to open your shoulders.

As mentioned, there are only two par-3s on the golf course at Elie, the first of which comes at the third. It’s the first time you play towards the water and if the wind is blowing from the east, it’s a bit of a brute. Playing over 210 yards from the back tees, with a green that has a pretty severe slope in the middle, it’s a great test.

From here, you’ll cross a small road and play two medium-length par-4s that precede the fantastic sixth. A real thinking golfer’s hole, if you’re a long hitter and have the wind at your back, you might want to try and drive your ball over the green and take out the six bunkers that guard the fairway. If that’s not an option, lay-up before trying to, somehow, stop your ball on a green that slopes towards the beach. If you can do that, you’re a better wedge player than me.

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The front nine finishes with three par-4s that all travel in different directions. The seventh is just a short one, and with the wind at your back is in reach of even the short hitters. The eighth is stroke index one, but really, the ninth is the hardest hole on the front nine. Nearly 450 yards, back into the prevailing wind and with a blind approach shot, it’s a tough end to a supremely enjoyable first half.

Elie Back Nine Golf Course Review

It’s at the start of the back nine that Elie comes to life. Some other traditional links courses turn for home at this point, but that’s not the case here. You head for the water. The tenth is a bit of a fiddly par-4 but if you can get your ball over the crest of the hill, you could be putting for eagle.

The 11th, 12th and 13th all run along the coast of the East Neuk and make up the best stretch on the course. The 11th is the second and final par-3 and it couldn’t be more different from the other. The third is long, with a wide green, while the 11th is short, with a long, slender green. They’re both super holes.

If you’ve been playing the members’ tees to this point, head to the medal tees for the tee shot on 12. It takes you into the dunes beside the beach and makes it the longest hole at Elie. You’ve got most of Fife to your right, but the more of that you use, the longer your approach shot will be. Anything left will be on the Earlsferry beach.

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That strip of sand shouldn’t be an issue on the 13th, where instead it’s a bunker in the middle of the fairway that needs avoided. Stay clear of that and you’ll be playing to an elevated green that requires an extra two clubs to reach. The 13th is a truly special hole.

The final five holes are all tricky par-4s and will keep you honest if you’re trying to protect a score. As is the case with almost every links, how you play them will be dictated by the wind conditions of the day.

In isolation, the final hole is one of the easier on the course but the fact that out of bounds (and the car park) is very much in play for a mishit certainly focusses the mind. 

Verdict

Elie offers a truly tremendous day out.

It’s not a course where hitting the ball miles will benefit you hugely. Instead, it’s about staying out of fairway bunkers. The short par-4 seventh and the two par-3s are probably the only holes you don’t need to worry about finding a fairway bunker off the tee.

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Also, as with any course in this part of the world, the views are top class. Take a moment on the 14th tee to look out over the water. It’s well worth it.

There are not many courses in the country that won’t claim to be open and playable all year round but Elie truly is. I played it on consecutive weekends in November, with the days intersecting my visits featuring rain that had Carnoustie under water. Apart from a few bunkers that had puddles in them, you would have had no idea there was any rain over the East Neuk. It’s a testament to the hard work of the staff and the excellent layout they are blessed with.

Elie Course Verdict

Standout Hole

James Braid’s favourite was the 13th, which he described as the ‘finest in all the country,’ and I’m not about to argue with him. The bunker in the fairway will be out of reach for most but requires the longer hitters to stay short of it.

The approach shot plays pretty dramatically uphill to a green that is shallow, wide and massively undulating. There’s really not an easy putt on this green, regardless of where the hole is cut.

Did you know?

Golf has been played on the land here since the 1500s but the first mention of an official course came in the 1770s. In the early 1800s, there was some legal disputes over whether golf should be played on the land or whether it should be used for farming. In 1832, the right to play was secured and has been, thankfully, upheld ever since.

And another thing…

James Braid is heavily associated with the area and the course but he didn’t actually design it. Braid was born in the adjacent Earlsferry but it was Old Tom Morris who is credited with the layout at Elie. Braid did, however, win his first tournament at Elie at the age of eight. It was the start of a long career which included five Open Championship wins.

Green Fees

In 2023, a weekend round for an adult will set you back £160 but there are plenty offers to be had, including weekly, fortnightly and monthly tickets. If you’re in the area for a while, this is a great option. 

A round in the ‘low season’ – October until March – will be £60 for an adult on the weekend. If you can dodge the worst of the east coast of Scotland’s weather, that’s excellent value.

As always, if you’re planning to play a few courses in the region (which you absolutely should be), then head to bunkeredgolfbreaks.com for the very best value.

Find out more

T: 01333 330301

W: golfhouseclub.co.uk


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Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

Performance Editor

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