Speak to anyone who has played Elie and you will find yourself caught in a monsoon of adjectives that will make you desperate to play there. You see, this is a special golf experience and one of those timeless clubs that oozes charm at every turn.
Not many, if any, golf clubs are named after their clubhouse but in 1875 The Golf House Club, Elie came to life. Like many an old course, Elie began life as a nine-holer and grew to eighteen with Old Tom Morris completing the final holes to make it pretty much the course we see today. The links at Elie is still used by a few golf clubs who share the wonderful course.
As you make your way to the property you see a stunning clubhouse and a starter’s hut with a high mast sticking out of it. This is one of the first things that will make you smile about Elie, the high mast is actually a salvaged periscope from HMS Excalibur. The wonderful piece of naval paraphernalia is used to make sure the 1st hole is clear for play and you can even have a look through it yourself.
The opening hole is a great start and sets the scene for your round beautifully. You face a wall of fairway and your opening shot is blind. As you walk up the hill the hole reveals itself and you know you have started a round of golf that you are going to remember.
If that big reveal wasn’t enough for you, as you get up to the 2nd green you get a glorious vista of the towns of Elie and Earlsferry. You get to enjoy this view of the Firth of Forth for longer as you stand on the 3rd tee and look down on one of the most picturesque par threes you will ever see. This is a course that sets its stall out early and doesn’t disappoint.
Elie just continues to deliver those “wow” moments and just as you regain your breath it is taken away from you again. The 6th hole has you play down towards the water, you get another big reveal as you climb over the camber of the fairway and the panorama comes into view. You wouldn’t be judged for taking a moment here to just savour it. Don’t get too distracted though, this hole is well protected by various hungry bunkers awaiting you ball.
The back nine starts with a flurry. The 10th hole, Lundar’s Law, is out on a rocky peninsula of sorts, don’t over-hit your drive here or your ball will end up in a sandy or watery grave. The hole is named after the large stony mound that sits to the left of the treacherous green.
In another quirk of Elie, there are only two par threes and they are like Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde. The 3rd, as we’ve discussed, is like a postcard par three, refined and beautiful. The eleventh on the other hand has a wild beauty, it is a rugged seaside hole on the water’s edge. There is a simplicity about the hole itself that is a great juxtaposition against the gnarly frame in which it is set.
Down on this section of the course, it is just great hole after great hole. The 12th is a classic tee shot to a fairway that hugs the beach, it tests the nerve especially in the wind. How much of the beach do you dare take on?
The 13th was described as James Braid, who was once a member at Elie, as “The best hole in golf”. The tee shot on this hole is fairly straightforward then it’s onto a glorious approach. Elie is like a golfing petition, it has so many signature holes. The huge green sits in a sort of arena underneath the intimidating cliffs of Kincraig Point. Walking off of this green it is clear that James Braid was right in his assessment of the hole.
The crumbly dyke is something that adorns many a course in Scotland and the next hole has such a feature. As you leave this special part of the course, the wall is a reminder of the fact that this land hasn’t always been a golf course. You have the chance on the 14th and 15th holes to look back and take in that wonderful flurry of seaside holes to firm up your memories of what will surely be some of the finest golfing land you’ve ever played on.
As you come toward the end of your round at Elie, there is a danger of being hypnotised by the course. A chance of being taken in by the charm and beauty of the place but you must resist, there is a lot of golf to be played and the closing holes are some of the toughest out there. The 17th and 18th will test the accuracy of your tiring swing. They demand accuracy and a calm head as you navigate your way home around the grassy knolls and bunkers that await anything offline.
As you make your way up to the 18th green, the beautiful clubhouse comes back into view. On a cold day, you may be more excited about the open fire in the lounge than you are about the pint that is waiting for you, but that depends on how you’ve played.
One of the great things about Elie is that the greens and tees are so close to one another. This is a feature of older courses in Fife, like the Balcomie Links at Crail. It is a nice throwback to the days when you didn’t need a caddy or a buggy to get round a course plus the added yards between holes. It is a quaint and dare I say quirky old Scottish links.
The Kingdom of Fife is where the modern game of golf first took hold. There are so many world class golf courses dotted around this beautiful part of Scotland and sometimes this can make choosing where to play a bit overwhelming. With this article we hope to make that a bit easier for you, Elie should be front and centre, do not miss this wonderful golfing experience.
Words - Kenny Pallas
Photography - Stuart Currie