The changes were saved.
Your Basket

Your basket is currently empty.

Total: {{cartTotal}}

The Home of Golf

Welcome to the Home of Golf. Watch live, share your memories or take a look behind the scenes here at the world’s most famous Links.

Back to News

Making History at the Home of Golf – The Story of the Seventh Course

July 02 2018

Over the past ten years it has challenged golfers of all abilities with its rugged routing and testing greens, all set against the clifftop setting which has spawned a million camera shutter clicks, each capturing a truly unique view of The Castle and the Auld Grey Toun. 

The first, formative steps that led to the “seventh” course can be traced as far back as 1998 when history would repeat itself at the Home of Golf. Just as had been the case at the end of the 19th Century, the increase in footfall which prompted the creation of the New and Jubilee Courses was witnessed again in the 1990s across the Old, New, Jubilee, Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove courses. And amid fears that the volume of traffic was unsustainable and could ultimately discourage travellers to visit the Home of Golf a ‘Capacity and Population Working Party’ was established.

The working party looked at a number of factors, but were set the primary task of looking at the volume of rounds the existing Links courses could sustain while, at the same time, maintaining their playability, condition and appearance – bedrocks of the modern era at the Home of Golf.

The working party determined that capacity was approximately 220,000 rounds per year and with local demand and visiting traffic to be met land should be sought to create the seventh course to join the complex at the Links.

News of the Working Party’s findings quickly became public knowledge as the Links met with several local land owners and, after around 18 months entered into an agreement to purchase the land for the seventh course, subject to planning permission.

The proposed new course was to be created on 200 acres of former farmland to the south-east of St Andrews, around two miles from the historic town centre. 

The seventh course at Links now had a home but needed someone to help design it and fulfil the Links’ brief.

As news of the project spread speculation was rife as to who would design the course with all manner of suggestions, including Champion golfer’s turned course designers such as Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus.

However, in 2002 an up-and-coming Scottish architect, David McLay Kidd (then aged 33), who had already worked on a number of acclaimed courses, including Bandon Dunes in Oregon, USA and Queenwood, Surrey, received a phone call out of the blue.

“I was working in Hawaii, developing Nanea Golf Club on Big Island when I got a call from Gordon Moir (Director of Greenkeeping),” David recalled.

“He explained they were building a new course and would I take a look at the site. I think I took the call on the Friday in Hawaii and I was in St Andrews the next week, it wasn’t an invitation that you would say no to so I jumped on the first flight I could. I didn’t know anything about the project. I didn’t know much about it, but it’s the Home of Golf, you just don’t say no. 

“I arrived thinking we would be looking at sites to the west of the Eden Estuary and the existing courses but when I met Gordon he started heading out of town and I have to admit I’d never travelled round that side of St Andrews before so had no idea of where we were headed or what the potential site might be. We pulled over at the side of the road and the first impression was that we had a substantial amount of farmland, we walked the entire site and it really started to emerge that we had a blank canvas with a perspective and view of St Andrews that no golfer had ever really seen before or certainly not hit a golf shot from before.”


Undaunted by the prospect of devising a course on the rolling topography, David got to work in January 2003 devising a number of holes and potential routes.

“I remember very early in the project saying that the clubhouse had to be where it was today, that was the starting point,” David explains. “I could see that and I could see the coastal holes; 6; the stretch that would become 8, 9 and 16, 17 on the reverse; the double green on the 9th and 18th. I didn’t know the numbering but there were a couple of variations to routing that started to come to me and the clubhouse position was absolutely critical, it couldn’t be anywhere else.

“Shortly afterwards we started working on drawings for the clubhouse and mapping it really became apparent that people outside the Links Trust, stakeholders, media, golfers, community groups etc all cared passionately about this project. And let me tell you as a proud Scotsman getting to build the first course in a generation at the Home of Golf is an incredible honour, but I can attest that it’s one that comes under scrutiny, subject to huge amounts of politics and, of course, real expectation.”

Within David’s brief was a desire to offer golfers something that differed from what was already on offer at the Links. There wasn’t an appetite to recreate or rewrite history; instead what emerged was the vision for a truly unique, dynamic layout that utilised its striking clifftop location. By definition it was not to be a true Links course but would boast many similar qualities; bent and fescue grasses; crisp and tight lies; rolling fairways and large, undulating greens.

His final design was not uncontested and David recalls many tough talks as he sought to secure his desired design and routing.

“You’re only going to get one chance to design a course at the Home of Golf,” he explains. “Long after I’m gone The Castle and the rest of the courses at the Links will still be standing because of what it means to the game of golf. I think that mindset meant that I fought for what I believed was the best possible way to go with that particular sight and design. I was definitely of the view that it would be easier to go big, make an impact instead of playing it safe and having to try and make it something else.”

What emerged were signature holes in waiting; the Par 3 17th that required the golfer to hit over the Kinkell Braes; the Par 5 18th hugging the coastline to a huge double green at Kinkell Point; all included within a site that offered golfer’s incredible views to the Auld Grey Toun and St Andrews Bay whilst the courses remained unobtrusive on the landscape.

The application was not without its detractors, receiving 22 written objections, however in March 2004 full planning consent was given and work began in earnest, transforming the farmland site into a golf course worthy of the Home of Golf’s unique reputation.

The project was not without its delays, so ill-suited to shaping, seeding and growing a Links course is the Scottish climate. However, by summer 2008 The Castle Course was ready to be revealed to the golfing public, officially opened by HRH Prince Andrew. 

In its first days of operation there were audible gasps on approach as a golf course in its infancy emerged looking, to all extent, as if it had been there for centuries. Blessed with such stunning vistas across to the East Sands, Fife’s rugged coastline and beyond it was hard to believe that a golf course had never sat there before.

In truth it was an instant success story, quickly garnering acclaim with entry into the prestigious Golf Digest Top 100 global courses ranking and attracting thousands of golfers from near and far. However, whilst golfers were wholesome in their praise it was not without its detractors around fairway mounds and green surrounds.

But like its older siblings in the town, The Castle possessed another key Links trait, notably an ability to evolve and heed the demands of the golfers playing it. The Castle Course was never designed to stand still; history had taught everyone at the Links that learning, understanding and evolving were key elements in each of the courses at the Home of Golf.

Its first decade has been one of achievement, establishing itself as a key component of the Links experience; welcoming thousands of golfers and guests through its doors; and hosting final qualifying for the Women’s British Open to great acclaim in 2017. 

For David McLay Kidd, a decade after handover he reflects on the five years he worked on the project with fondness and pride but like a perfectionist counters if opening day had never came he could still be making tweaks and changes.

“You know I reflect on it now and realise it will probably be one of, if not the, greatest challenge of my career,” he explains. “It was one of those opportunities in life that doesn’t come along very often and one where I know I put every effort into making The Castle Course worthy of association with the proud name of St Andrews and all that it means as the Home of Golf.

“I learned a huge amount from the process, both in my career and as a person, and I can honestly say there will probably be no other project that can match working on a new course at St Andrews. 

“Today I hear the feedback from golfers and the number of rounds being played and it’s a real source of pride for me to be associated with St Andrews and a course that I believe will stand the test of time.”

Though The Castle Course may have to wait some time before it can boast centuries of golf being played on it; the spirit, passion and experience it offers visitors and golfers enriches any visit to St Andrews. In its short life it has accomplished much and it will continue to make history at the Home of Golf.
Back to News

 Accessibility Help