Kings Acre Golf Course opened in 1997, so it is extremely new compared to other courses in the area. It was built on farmland about 7 miles south of Edinburgh city centre, and because of this, it has many fully mature trees all over the golf course. Along with this, there are several plantations of young trees which will develop in the coming years.
The facilities at Kings Acre are outstanding, with an excellent clubhouse and professional's shop (both of which were built at the same time as the course). The course is perfectly suitable for trolley use and there are also many carts available for hire. The clubhouse is situated around half a mile from the main road, and the access road runs through the course, which is an interesting feature.
The course itself is fairly short, at only 5,935 yards. Both halves are almost identical lengths with the par of 70 being fairly generous. The greens are particularly large given the shortness of the course, and despite their youth, they are in immaculate condition. The fairways and tees have not bedded in quite so well, but they are getting better all the time. Another major characteristic of the course is the number and size of bunkers. They are a major feature of almost every hole, and their placement and design is both imaginative and challenging to all levels of player.
There are a number of memorable and imaginatively designed holes, so I find it difficult to pick any signature hole in particular. Hole 1 is a par 4 measuring only 327 yards, but can prove to be a fairly tricky opener. There is a large fairway bunker down the left side, around 200 yards from the tee, and a large tree plantation all the way down the right side. After the bunker, there is a large gully that doglegs right leading up to the green.
There is a large upslope at the rear of the green, which has 2 tiers sloping from back to front. The vast majority of approach shots are played from the gully, and though this is a shot of less than 100 yards, it can prove to be very deceptive. The green is shaped like an upturned saucer, so accuracy in the second shot is very important. It can be very easy to three putt this deceptively fast and undulating green, so it can be a very frustrating start.
The third hole is the signature hole at Kings Acre. It is a 553 yard par 5, which is heavily contoured, with ten bunkers and a large dogleg. There are three large bunkers on the left side of the fairway, around 230 - 240 yards from the tee. There is a large dogleg right which goes downhill immediately after the bunkers, then goes uphill again around 190 yards short of the green.
The longer hitters will play their third shot from flat ground with a view of the green, but many players will be left with a blind third shot of over 200 yards with a uphill, sidehill lie. It is a good idea to lay up around 75 yards short of the green, as there is another downslope at this point. The green is the second smallest on the course, which is very unusual for a par-5.
It is extremely well protected by seven pot bunkers placed at equidistant points all around the putting surface, so approach shots from any distance are extremely hard to control. The only straightforward aspect to the hole is the green itself, which is flat and runs relatively straight. Generally, accuracy and tactical thought are rewarded on this difficult hole, and par is a very good score.
The 15th hole is a bizarrely designed par 5. Tee-to-green, the hole only measures around 350 yards, however the hole has such a large dogleg to the right that the official measurement is 501 yards. Nevertheless, the hole plays its full distance, as any drive attempting to cut the corner will end up out-of-bounds. The tee is extremely elevated and the fairway is tight until the almost 90 degree dogleg, which is around 275 yards out.
Any drive over this distance (which is made more possible by the elevation of the tee) is rewarded by a second shot around 200 yards with a view of the green. A shorter drive will require an extremely accurate second shot over the corner of the out-of-bounds, in order to avoid a tree on the left side of the fairway (around 145 yards short of the green), and the fairway bunkers just over 100 yards short of the green on each side.
The green itself is guarded by a large bunker short left, and the continuing out-of-bounds on the right. Overall, the drive is the vital shot on this hole. A long and accurate drive leaves a good birdie chance, but a poorer drive can lead to a very large score, often extending into double figures.
The 18th hole is a 361 yard par 4 where, one again, accuracy is paramount, with water and multiple bunkers in play all the way to the green. The first lake begins around 150 yards from the tee and extends a further 65 yards, so any drive slightly left is likely to finish in the water.
Moreover, there are three bunkers on the right side starting where the water ends, so a straight drive is vital. There is a major advantage for the longer hitter here, as the fairway opens out after the first water hazard. Having successfully negotiated the drive, there is another water hazard short left of the green, along with a large bunker short right. The green is fairly large and contoured, so a final three putt is highly possible.
Generally, Kings Acre is a very enjoyable course to play. The overall condition is incredibly good given the age of the course. The greens are very large (for a course so short) and are often heavily contoured, but they are fast and run true. Although the course is quite open, accuracy is still important due to the clever placement of bunkers on the fairways.
This can be attributed to the newness of the course, since it is designed taking into account the fact that golfer's hit the ball much further than they did 100 years ago (unlike other courses in the area). Accurate tee shots and good putting will be rewarded with a good score at Kings Acre, and it is a very enjoyable course to play. It is fast becoming one of the best conditioned courses in the area, and the superb clubhouse contributes to a great day out.
Kings Acre Golf Course
Telephone: +44 131 663 3456
Package deals available for parties of 12 or more. Also, there is now a floodlit driving range.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Darren Clarke learned to play the game at Dungannon Golf Club, a pretty parkland course right in the middle of Northern Ireland. While the course is pretty enough and the green fee is almost embarrassingly reasonable, the appeal of Dungannon is the opportunity to pay homage to the 2011 British Open champion, Clive Agran writes from County Tyrone.
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