MONIFIETH, DUNDEE, SCOTLAND - Mr. Bill Miller, Chairman of the Links Management Committee of the Monifieth Golf Links, watches a foursome of Americans approach the starter's hut of the Monifieth Links Medal Course, and shakes his head.
"So you four played Carnoustie this morning, and now you want to play an afternoon round here? In this wind?" Mr. Miller asks kindly, with more than a hint of concern in his voice for the limping, wind-burned Yanks.
Although bemused by the golf-frenzied group, Miller is happy to see the Americans beginning to return to these historic links. Despite the course's storied past, Monifieth Golf Links (which actually comprises two courses - the Medal Course and the Ashludie Course), has lost play, due to both economic conditions at home, and the fear of terrorism abroad.
After September 11th, 2001, the number of foreign golfers visiting Scotland dropped across the board. Whilst "must play" tracks like nearby Carnoustie continued to attract players from abroad, second rung courses like Monifieth suffered, despite having the distinction of having hosted final-stage British Open qualifying rounds and the Scottish Men's Championship and Boy's Championship.
In addition to the Medal Course (opened in 1845) and the Ashludie Course (opened in 1912), Monifieth is home to five golf clubs, whose clubhouses are located across the street from the Medal Course's 18th hole.
These clubs, however, are exploring ways to combine themselves into one club. According to Mr. Miller, "without doing this, three or four of the clubs won't survive. Ten to fifteen years ago, an applicant had to wait for years on a waiting list to become a member in any of the clubs. Now you can walk into any club. We welcome new members with open arms - even foreign members!"
For being an old, classic inland links/parkland layout, the par-71 Medal Course is reasonably lengthy even by modern standards, at 6,655 yards from the championship tees and 6,354 yards from the middles. And the wind, as pointed out by Mr. Miller, can make it play much, much longer. Even more importantly, the wind accentuates the spin on poor shots, bringing into play some of the most treacherous hazards, OB, and gorse to be found on any Scottish course.
"You must think your way around the course," cautions Mr. Miller. "And it is not a slicer's golf course, by any means. You can see that on the first six holes."
Sure enough, a quick glance through the yardage book corroborates Mr. Miller's local knowledge: Holes 1-6, 13, 16, and 18 all feature OB on the right side from tee to green. And the remaining holes hold little promise of relief, as the gorse and heather appear to be thicker and wilder than any I have ever seen on any links.
The 456-yard, par-4 No. 4, with its pine-lined fairway and large green peeking coyly from behind ten-foot high fescue-covered mounds, is one of the most memorable here. This hole is called "Featherbed" because of those fluffy-looking moguls, but you can be certain that any errant shot landing there will not leave a comfortable up and down.
No. 9 (547 yards) is called "Long Hole," and when you see it, you know why. (Actually, golfers tend to mumble to themselves "No s**t.") Generally playing into the wind, this world-class par 5 requires three solid shots to reach the green in regulation. Even if you stay down the middle, trouble can be found at 285 yards out from the tee, where the fine fescue short grass gives way to a rugged swath of gorse and rough. The fairway then runs back uphill to the smallish green.
Nos. 10 (369 yards, par 4) and 14 (158 yards, par 3) epitomize inland links golf: If you end up right on 10, or short, left, right, or long on 14, you feel like Sherlock Holmes tromping through the highlands in The Hound of the Baskervilles. And you'll need all of your powers of observation just to locate your ball.
The fine fescue and bentgrass mix greens are generally large and flat, but feature enough subtle burrows (undulations) to test one's green-reading skills. Adding to the scenery of the layout, which was actually called "the most scenic links on the east coast of Scotland" in a 1991 Golf World article, are the stately pine trees lining so many of the fairways and framing the back sides of nearly every green.
As one would expect from a links layout, the bunkering can be penal, and off-line shots are rarely forgiven. However, if you live right and say your prayers, you may receive the benefit of a lucky bounce or two. Our foursome was graced with two such bounces on the 382-yard 6th: Two shots that were well OB struck the railroad tracks running parallel to the hole on the right and ricocheted back into play.
Monifieth's Medal Course is well worth the 20-30 minute drive across the Firth of Forth from St. Andrews. And if you're feeling particularly self-flagellant, you too can play it on the same day you play Carnoustie, which is only 5 minutes away.
According to the thorough history of the Monifieth Golf Club written by J.A.R. Fraser (Monifieth Golf Club: The first 136 years), golf has been played on this linksland since 1639. As you make your way up the 18th fairway, in view of the five golf clubhouses and numerous pubs and shops across the narrow street, you cannot help but feel a part of the history of the place. You may even be treated to the gentle strains of bagpipe music drifting onto the green from somewhere in town as we were.
The blistered feet, burning cheeks, and aching back will soon take their leave from my memory all together, but I will never forget that music, that green, that putt, or those sturdy, enjoyable links.
Monifieth Golf Links
Dundee DD5 4AW
Starter Tel: +44 (0)1382 532767
Pro Shop Tel: +44 (0)1382 532767
Medal Course: 6655/6354/5891 yards, par 71
Ashludie Course: 5123 yards, par 68
Rates: 33 pounds (Medal), 17 pounds (Ashludie)
Misc.: Tuesdays reserved for two-ball play only (May-June); No visitors before 2 p.m. Sat. and 10 a.m. Sun.
Practice Facilities: 2
Club House/Pro Shop: 2
Pace of Play: 5
Par 3's: 3.75
Par 4's: 3.75
Par 5's: 3.25
Overall Rating: 3.35
September 11, 2002
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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