Ladybank Golf Club: A Wonderfully Relaxing Experience

By John Morison, Contributor

In the very heart of the Kingdom of Fife, about 6 miles or so south west of Cupar, one might have the good fortune to come across Ladybank Golf Club, a bona fide contender for the title of best inland golf course in Scotland.

121 years prior to this Millennium year, Ladybank Golf Club came into being as a six-hole heath land layout put together under the eye of Old Tom Morris. By 1910, Ladybank had been extended to nine holes and due to ever-growing demand, an eighteen-hole layout akin to the one we see today was officially opened in May 1961. Since then Ladybank has built a reputation as an exacting yet very fair golf course.

As a celebrated and much lauded qualifying course for the British Open, the world's best have had the good fortune to take divots from the turf of this Fife gem. Perhaps the most glamorous occasion for Ladybank to date was the 1983 exhibition match between Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros, arguably the two best players in the world at that time. For the record, Ballesteros came out on top.

From the championship tees, Ladybank stretches out 6,724 yards with a par of 71, for us mere mortals thankfully it is some 424 yards shorter, but is nevertheless a formidable test of golfing skills. Characteristic of the heath land layout at Ladybank are long, narrow fairways flanked by colourful, and at times, intimidating woodland and shrubbery.

I played the course in the second half of October, far later than my fair weather golfing tendencies are meant even to dream about setting foot on a Scottish golf course. I believe the winter tees and temporary greens called for when the Celtic weather really takes hold were shortly to be installed. However, you would be hard pushed to say the course was in anything other than exceptional condition- the fairways stretched out like carpets and the greens ran as true as my putting stroke would let them.

The opening hole is a fair warm up for pleasures to follow. 370 yards long, and guided by a combination of timber and heather, you are gently alerted to the premium placed on accuracy at Ladybank. The 3rd hole saw the first of my stumbles. Not long, at 382 yards from the back tees, it is a reasonably tight dogleg to the right that anyone with any sense will play in the way it was intended, and not as I intended, via an attempt to cut off the corner.

According to the powers that be, the ninth is the hardest hole on the course. I would not beg to differ. At under 400 yards it is not one of these 'stroke index 1' holes that merely challenges the size of your biceps.

The drive is dominated by a magnificent Scots pine that dwells to the left of the fairway; the hole then doglegs left to a two-tiered green that can only really be reached by a genuinely struck iron shot. An intimidating hollow guards the front of the green.

The inward half is said to be for the most part the same as when it was first laid out in 1910. I imagine it is in all likelihood the finest set of nine holes that I have ever been lucky enough to cover. From the layman's tees just one par 4 stands longer than the 400-yard mark but all, in my opinion, offer a beguiling test of golfing nous.

As diamonds in amongst an enviable hoard, the 3rd, 9th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th all shine brightly. When the golfing gods were handing out par 4s it is fair to say that Ladybank must have been near the front of the queue.

The 16th at Ladybank has now become a part of my fantasy course that sadly lives only in the back of my mind for moments when the mind wanders. Holes that have been afforded this honour usually have to fulfil two criteria. Firstly, they must be attractive holes offering a significant challenge in an enchanting manner- not too tough for courses of the quality found throughout Fife. The second, and far more exacting qualification, is the need of the hole to have been a site of my own personal golfing success.

The 16th at Ladybank is a reasonably tight left doglegged par 4 of some 390 yards. However if one has the sheer talent, guts and skill to slog a driver over the corner, you might still be lucky enough to take a wedge from your bag and enjoy watching your ball nestle down five feet or so from the flag.

The 18th is a fitting hole to finish off a great course. Again, not long at 392 yards from the usual tees, it is a typical Ladybank par 4. Standing on the tee you are faced with a drive that appears to be tight on the left with approximately 100 yards of scrubby heathland to carry in front of you.

The fairway gets tighter the longer you hit- probably one of the best ways for courses to combat the unrelenting advance of long distance golfing technology. The second shot is ideally played towards the clubhouse onto a deep, narrow green protected on the left and right by bunkers.

Playing golf at Ladybank is a wonderfully relaxing experience. In the height of summer, when fully preened to show itself off, I can think of few other courses that would match it for a fair, picturesque and intimate golfing experience. When in the autumnal outfit in which I saw Ladybank, it was an engaging mix of yellows, greens, browns and purples.

Its appearance and the course itself are matched only by the extensive clubhouse facilities and the warm welcome extended to visitors that goes as far as to provide disposal plastic bags for you to put any wet or dirty clothing in.

All in all, Ladybank is an inland golfing experience of the very highest calibre; I thoroughly recommend looking it up.

Ladybank Golf Club
KY15 7RA
Phone: (01337) 830725 Martin Gray (Professional)
(01337) 830814 David Allan (Secretary)
Fax: (01337) 831505

John Morison, Contributor

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