Looking back on the high-profile courses that opened in the British Isles during the construction boom of the '80s and '90s, it's striking how very American many of them feel. Think Palmer at the K Club, Weiskopf at Loch Lomond, Dave Thomas at the Belfry. All proven championship courses, to be sure, but somewhere along the way the traditional look of golf in Britain and Ireland got misplaced.
This year the pendulum has swung back, as clubs have sought to balance the modern game with the vernacular style. As we reveal in our update, courses both new (Archerfield, Skellig Bay) and old (St. Andrews, Dooks) have succeeded in this enterprise.
The trend shows no sign of abating. On our radar screen for next year, we find David Kidd designing a course at Machrihanish Bay that will be part of a five-star hotel complex. He's also working on yet another public course at St Andrews. Near Inverness, Kingsbarns developer Mark Parsinen is codesigning the first course at Castle Stuart with architect Gil Hanse. Next door to Loch Lomond, the discovery of an important archaeological site delayed the opening of the Carrick course, designed by Canadian Doug Carrick, but fourteen holes will open this summer, with the full eighteen coming online early next year. And Colin Montgomerie will begin work this summer on his first design in Scotland, a parklander at Rowallan Castle, not far from his boyhood home in Troon. We expect each of these projects will capture the magic of golf on this side of the pond.
With that in mind, here are some of the best new developments on the golf scene, as well as updates on luxury hotels and fine dining—all places worth seeking out this summer.
Dirleton Links Dirleton, East Lothian
It was hoped that the reestablishment of golf at Archerfield, which lies on the fringes of Muirfield and North Berwick, would result in a product worthy of the area's strong golf heritage. The opening of the Fidra Links almost two years ago hinted at the ambitious nature of the project, and this year marks the debut of the second course at Archerfield, the Dirleton Links. More open and linkslike than the Fidra, the Dirleton is serious golf in a place that takes its golf very seriously. Architect David J. Russell, who also designed the Fidra, has clearly taken his inspiration from Royal Troon and Muirfield. The revetted bunkers around the seventh green directly opposite Archerfield House and those at the seventeenth at Muirfield are worth comparing.
The Dirleton—and indeed the entire 550 acres of the Archerfield estate—would make an impressive tour venue someday. For now, the owners are more concerned with attracting members to what will be an expensive private club by Scottish standards ($35,000 lifetime debenture to join). The good news is that a "test" fee of $116 is available for visitors to try out Archerfield's courses before making up their minds.
Greens Fee: $116. Tee Times: 011-44/1620-850-714 or visit archerfieldgolfclub.com.
The Old Course, St. Andrews St. Andrews, Fife
After stretching the Old Course to a brawny 7,279 yards for last year's Open Championship, the St. Andrews Links Trust has now elected to push back the medal tees for the rest of us—in the interest of speeding play. Nine new tees have been put into play, including several from previous championship years, to gain a total of 112 yards. The changes will register most clearly on the ninth and tenth holes, both drivable par fours. In the past, delays sometimes occurred as players waited for the group ahead to clear the green before making a mighty bid for an eagle putt. Of course, if the wind's up, added yardage is almost academic—the great course will still make every effort to shred your scorecard.
Greens Fee: $210. Tee Times: 011-44/1334-466-666 or visit standrews.org.uk.
Prestonfield House Edinburgh
The white-walled baroque home of Edinburgh's Lord Provost in the mid-seventeenth century, Prestonfield has been given a $3.5 million facelift that has transformed it into one of the most gloriously opulent hotels in Scotland. The place feels like a time capsule where Dr. Johnson, Boswell or David Hume would hold a think-in as they sprawled over the sofas in the Tapestry Room or dined at the Rhubarb restaurant. Modernity, however, is not overlooked, with everything from bedroom DVD players to high-speed wi-fi Internet access.
Rates: Luxury doubles from $341; suites from $514. Call 011-44/1312-257-800 or visit prestonfield.com.