Lundin Golf Club
Additions or fundamental changes to courses rarely work well. The new holes invariably look out of place and never quite fit with the original ones. Inverness in Toldeo, Ohio is an example and several name architects still can’t get it right to this day at this historic American club.
Lundin Golf Club is a rare example where two different architects contributed holes over a 40 year period and yet the final eighteen holes are a homogenous collection of design styles and principals.
In 1868, Leven Club had Old Tom Morris extend their links east from the Mile Dyke toward Lundin Links. That same year, Lundin Golf Club was founded. Play commenced at both ends over the shared links holes and this arrangement proved satisfactory for the members of the two clubs. These holes were on genuine crumpled links land and fit snugly in between Largo Bay and the railway line.
However, golf was growing in popularity and by 1907, Leven had 1000 members and Lundin had 400. The resulting congestion was too much for one course to handle and Lundin sought additional land. With no more room on the bay side of the railway line, they acquired the land to the north (away from the Firth).
Lundin then approached James Braid, who in 1908 began work on the new nine holes. Braid was the obvious choice having grown up in Elie, just four miles away. Also, Braid appreciated Old Tom’s work and most importantly, shared many of his same beliefs. Though he altered some of Morris’s holes, Braid left the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 17th and 18th entirely as Old Tom had designed them some 40 years before.
What then of the two men’s design beliefs?
Old Tom Morris seemed to prefer straight holes, no doubt as a result of his time spent at The Old Course at St. Andrews. Such is the case at Lundin (the 1st at Macrihanish is a rare exception of a dogleg hole of Old Tom’s that still exists to this day). He preferred placing his greens on plateaus when possible and there are few finer examples than the 1st at Lundin with its commanding views across Largo Bay. The long slender 18th green at Lundin is also an excellent original Morris green in a natural site that features plenty of back to front slope. He loved the use of dykes, the 4th at Lundin being a case in point. Shared fairways had there place and once again the 1st and 18th at Lundin do just that. He liked to place tees when possible to give golfers a good view of the hole even if it meant a forced carry – the 2nd at Lundin being a good example. Old Tom saw that grassy hollows made an up and down just as difficult as a formal bunker and the 17th at Lundin is a fine example. Old Tom would incorporate railway lines into the strategy of holes wherever it was safe and feasible to do so – holes 15-17 at Lundin testify to that.
But what of the other holes at Lundin Links, the ones that Old Tom did not design?
James Braid shared many of Old Tom’s beliefs. Even though his new holes are set on different land other than just pure links, the two nines in no way feel disjointed. As with Old Tom, Braid believed in forced carries over broken ground, incorporating railway lines where possible, dykes directly in front of greens, and natural green sites in hollows. All of theses features and more are found in the holes that Braid added north of the railway line. Braid also appreciated front to back sloping greens as witnessed at the 9th and 14th greens.
Lundin Links stands today much as Braid left it, with only the 3rd green having been moved 80 yards to the west in 1970. His holes and Old Tom’s seamless fit together. The first five holes and last four holes are from Old Tom’s original nine. Braid’s holes six through fourteen on the north side of the railway embankment are an interesting mix of links and parkland. The railroad embankment to this day is played as out of bounds and influences the strategy on several holes.
Holes to Note
First hole, 425 yards; Because both the tee and approach shot are equally inspiring, this opening hole may rival that of the more famed one found at Macrihanish. The hole is appropriately named High as the tee and green are perched on plateaus that overlook Largo Bay. The fairway is shared with the 18th (wonder where Old Tom came up with that idea?J ) so the golfer has plenty of room for that first swing. Given the complete dearth of practice fields at most Scottish clubs, this attribute seems imminently just and fair. Cleverly though, there is a nest of bunkers some 275 yards off the tee so downwind the golfer needs to pay heed.
Forth hole, 450 yards; A mighty hole, played along the top of a dune.A burncuts 30 yards in front of the green with the surrounding land sloping back into it, so the golfer needs to be well up with his approach shot. This hole is more wisely played as a three shotter when the wind is against.
Eightth hole, 365 yards; Braid cleverly angled the green to best accept shots from the right side of the fairway. But guess what? The railway embankment and out of bounds run the right hand length of this hole.
Tenth hole, 350 yards; An interesting hole played to the shared fairway of the 11th, the 10th green is in its own natural amphitheater surrounded by gorse, grass hollows and five bunkers. The front right bunker is an island bunker and a superb one at that. Such bunkers are difficult to build because the island can often look silly if it is too symmetrical or lacks vegetation. Gil Hanse is an admirer of this style bunker and features several at his new course at Crail.
Fourteenth hole, 175 yards; A unique hole – rarely do golfers encounter such a downhill shot on a links course. Interestingly enough, every green on the entire course can be seen from this vantage point and leads some observers of the game to consider this amongst the finestviews in all of golf. With numerous bunkers, gorse and the perimeter wall on the right, the green seems smaller than it really is. From the elevated tee on a windy day, the golfer willunderstand why this hole is called Perfection.
Eighteenth hole, 440 yards; A superb finishing hole, especially in match play. The entrance road (which is out of bounds) to the clubhouse closely parallels the last ninety yards of the fairway, making the final approach shot one of the most nerve-wracking anywhere. The slender long green is steeply pitched and offers no respite. In true Scottish fashion, it finishes underneath the clubhouse windows.
Word has to be made mention of the clubhouse, putting green and professional shop: their location is cumulatively ideal. The clubhouse is elevated and provides views over much of the course and Largo Bay. The putting green and the stand alone small professional shop are directly on the Bay’s edge and 80 feet down is the shore. Sweeping views across the Largo Bay and the course will inspire any golfer as he marches to the first tee. The idyllic setting is straight from a Wodehouse novel.
As good as this all sounds, the course has its flaws. The east-west strip of land that the course resides on means that only the short 5th and 14th holes run in another direction. Still, only four holes ever play in the same direction at a time, so it never becomes monotonous. More importantly, some holes have lost a bit of their challenge through the years. An irrigation system was installed in 1974, which invariably hurt the keenness of turf. Also, several bunkers like those found around the tabletop 6th green are no longer well integrated into the green side slopes. They gather far fewer balls than they have in the past.
Still, the course is an historic treasure and the Royal and Ancient uses it as a qualifying site for the Open. The fact that the well traveled Malcolm Campbell is a member here also speaks of its enduring charm.
Old Tom Morris designed a number of fine courses within an hour car drive today of the town of St. Andrews. The list includes Leven, Ladybank, Montrose, Crail, Elie, Panmure, and The New and Jubilee Courses. Of these courses, the authors’ favorite work of Old Tom’s is to be found at those holes he designed at Lundin Links. They are among the finest in Scotland and possess many of the attributes that Old Tom held in highest regard. James Braid admirable additions expand on those themes and any student of architecture will appreciate such a course.