Time Stands Still at 'Charming' Kingarrock
Experience golf the way it was played a century ago at this historic course
Twenty minutes from St. Andrews, Scotland, you’ll find a hidden golf gem. It flies under the radar of most American visitors to the Home of Golf, but it’s as “must-do” as the Himalayas Putting Course or the yum-yums at Fisher & Donaldson bakery. Welcome to Kingarrock Hickory Golf—the last remaining Hickory Golf Course in the United Kingdom.
A nine-hole course winding through the grounds of the majestic Hill of Tarvit estate (think Scottish Downton Abbey), charming Kingarrock dates back to 1924 but reopened in 2008 after a 70-year hiatus—and it is truly golf geek paradise.
Upon arrival at Forester’s Cottage (the course’s clubhouse), you’re given authentic 1920s hickory clubs (mashie niblicks and spoons), an old-school pencil bag, early 20th century-style Haskell golf balls and instruction in proper graphite-free technique. (Many visitors arrive dressed in plus fours and wearing flat caps.) Tee times are often spaced half an hour apart, meaning you will rarely encounter other golfers while you learn to forego titanium.
Out on the course, a truly special round awaits. Well-struck irons feel as soft as Scottish butter, and the thrill of solid contact fills you with a sense of euphoria seldom experienced during a normal round. The scenery throughout is beautiful and Orkney Islands quiet. The entire grounds—overseen by the National Trust of Scotland—feels time capsule-esque. The course is even maintained in authentic 1920s style: The grass is cut using old-fashioned equipment, and a flock of sheep maintain the rough. And the photos you snap during your round are guaranteed to make all your Facebook friends sputteringly jealous.
The price for nine holes at Kingarrock is £45 (roughly $55), which includes all aforementioned equipment, plus helpings of ginger beer and shortbread after your round. You can easily book taxis for the short ride between St. Andrews and Kingarrock, where the staff are—how should I put this?—really excited that you’re having fun.
All told, a late-afternoon round at Kingarrock is simply glorious, and is guaranteed to be a highlight of your Scotland golf trip.
Photo credits: Courtesy National Trust of Scotland, Oliver Horovitz