My first visit to the Balcomie Links at the Crail Golfing Society was magical, and it started even before my first tee shot. Standing on the tiny practice green with my son Tim, a collegiate golfer at the time, overlooking the North Sea and much of the golf course from its highest point, I heard my son’s name called. Here we are 5,000 miles from our Connecticut home, and Tim introduces me to a young Scottish lad against whom he had competed in a college tournament in Virginia. It was pure kismet that they both were at Balcomie on the same day at the same time.
From there, the magic continued for my first round on a true links course. Yeah, I had played what I thought were links courses, like the Ocean Course at Kiawah and Shinnecock Hills but, no, this was an entirely different experience. I won’t belabor my opinions about Crail’s two courses – the other is a more modern links course by Gil Hanse opened in the ‘90s but with strong nods to classic architecture – but suffice to say the experience is unique, given that all 36 holes feature at least one view of the North Sea, quite possibly the only place on earth where that is the case. Other elements such as blind shots and double greens and walls in fairways and behind greens are not unique, but blended together into one beautiful package…maybe. (I reviewed the course here in 2008)
I was so smitten with Crail, including the charming coastal town right out of a picture postcard or jigsaw puzzle – I own the latter – that I signed up as an overseas member knowing full well that during some years, especially those smitten by something called coronavirus, I would not be playing there. But, heck, it is less than $200 annually, and it gives me something to dream about. And that is a small price to pay for great memories and dreams.
I didn’t want to let today pass without a special shout out to Balcomie Links, designed by Old Tom Morris and 125 years old today. Beatha Fhada. Long life.