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Dream Trip to Scotland, Day 10: Crail Golfing Society

Kevin Daly is a good friend who's on a dream golf trip to Scotland with his brother Mike. After he sent me his itinerary -- 21 rounds in 14 days -- I asked him to file a series of trip reports, which I'd post to the blog. Here's Day 10:

Craighead Links: I felt great. This would be my day to beat Mike. 

My unusually bright outlook on day 10 of this odyssey might have had something to do with a later tee time (10 a.m.), the yoga session, the Tiger Balm that I lathered all over my lower back, the antibiotics (sinusitis), the Ibuprofen, or the golf high coming off a round at the round on the Old Course, but standing on the first tee of Craighead at the Crail Golfing Society, I was determined to beat my brother.

The first hole is a difficult start -- a meaty par 5. I played four perfect shots en route to a birdie; 1-up. 

Craighead, which was built by Gil Hanse in 1998 (his first outside the U.S.), and rumored to soon be on The Open qualification rota, is a tough track. The small greens are in fantastic shape. Throughout the round you enjoy a fun design, a clever use of stonewalls and outstanding views of the North Sea. The Pro, Graeme Lennie, is a class act. By far the friendliest and most knowledgeable pro we’ve met thus far. Fortunately for us, we caught Craighead on one of the 10 days a year when the wind isn’t a significant factor. It was my day to beat Mike, I just didn’t get it done. Scores: Mike 82; Kevin 100.

Lunch was at another clubhouse with a magnificent view ($15).
Balcomie Links: An absolute treasure! Completely different from Craighead, this Old Tom Morris design is a blast. (The third hole is pictured above.) It’s not long (5,861 yards), but it’s tight (OB everywhere). Between the tricky greens and the beaches of Fife, I guarantee it will be the longest short course you’ll ever play. In addition, we enjoyed a two- to a four-club wind in the afternoon round at Crail. One of many lessons we’ve learned on this trip: A course doesn’t have to be long to be difficult. 

It’s not often a guy gives details of a bogey, but here it goes: At the 450-yard fifth -- “Hell’s Hole” -- where Fife meets the North Sea and where we were playing into the aforementioned wind, I hit driver, 3-wood, 7-iron and two-putted from 50 feet.

One of Matty G’s readers, a PGA Member, commented that the last six holes of Balcomie, starting with the 207-yard 13th, “Combine to be the longest assemblage of short holes ever; you’re in for a finish you’ll never dream of.” 

Once again, input from an outsider was accurate. I four-putted the 14th from 40 feet. On the long walk around the peninsula to the 15th tee, where King Constantine I died in a cave, I debated ending my putter’s life with a proper burial in the North Sea. I’m glad I didn’t. I finished birdie-par-par-bogey by making putts that mattered and by the soft light of a setting sun. And I finally beat Mike, 2&1. Scores: Mike 80; Kevin 83.

Bottom line: I deposited $63 in January; I paid the balance of $63 on play date, plus $8 for a pullcart.

Obviously, there are a lot of courses to play in the St. Andrew’s area, but we highly recommend the two we played at the Crail Golfing Society. After golf we drove back to St. Andrews (20 minutes) and decided to swing by the famous Jigger Inn on the fairway of the Road Hole of the Old Course. At dusk we witnessed a couple of kids having a pitch-and-putt battle on the 17th green. Very cool scene. And as the Old Course guide states: “The living legacy of the past continues to be nurtured and respected at St. Andrews Links, the Home of Golf, where the game developed and where its spirit and traditions have been safeguarded and cherished for six centuries.”

Total cost of day: $229
Ten-day total: $3,589.

--Kevin Daly

(Day 11, Carnoustie, will post on Tuesday. Follow me on Twitter @Matt Ginella.)