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The DEVLIN COURSE Fairmont St Andrews

St.Andrews, December 25, 2007

[photopress:Devlin_braeside.jpg,full,pp_image]
The Braes (cliffs) on the Devlin Course 17th and 18th holes

The DEVLIN golf course, open since august 2002, was designed by Dennis Griffiths, Bruce Devlin and they were aptly assisted by the legendary Gene Sarazen. “Mr. Sarazen was very involved in the routing of the course” remembers Head Pro John Kerr. “He thought the site reminded him of Pebble Beach”. The Devlin occupies a wonderfully scenic mile long brae side location overlooking St. Andrew’s Bay, aka the Eden Estuary and the North Sea. Their creation has matured really well and offers a fine golfing experience for every level of golfer. Even golf carts (buggies) are available so there is no excuse to miss this superbly conditioned gem.

From the forward* or Red tees (5195 yards) to the Blue tees (7049) every player can be challenged. And, behind the Blue tees you will notice another set of available tees, just in case Tiger shows up and wants a 7400 yard test! There is seldom need to play this, or any quality course, that far back as it removes the challenge of the superb design – but they are there and policy is to let golfers play whatever tees they want.

*note: From hosting many events some of the women prefer playing a mixture of Red and Yellow tees on the Devlin. Checking with the starter before playing will help you decide how best to enjoy the course.

During 2008 the very popular TORRANCE COURSE is undergoing many improvements, including new tees, new revetted bunkering, new drainage (to insure fast and firm conditions are available) and other enhancements, all under the watchful eye of Designer Gary Stephenson, as it prepares to host the Final Qualifying for the 2010 OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP. When the Torrance reopens the DEVLIN will be rerouted to take further advantage of it’s spectacular brae side setting, leaving Fairmont St Andrews with 36 holes of the best championship golf.

1st hole THE DEVLIN par 5 481 – 559 yards
The Devlin opens with a nice gentle slightly right-to-left downhill par five. It’s an ideal introduction to Scottish golf, after a semi-blind tee shot, you immediately appreciate the “ground game” as you run your second, or third, past the bunkers onto a huge double green (shared with 15). The normal “breeze” is behind you on the first, so this drive may have been your longest! enjoy it. Aye !

2nd hole par 4 264 – 376 yards
The second is a moderately short par four but be careful of the lake running almost the entire left side of the hole. For you Scottish golf aficionados please consider the lake just a wide ball-gobbling-burn. The ideal tee shot is a draw, starting towards the bunker on the right side, this will leave a short wedge to a large green protected on the left by bunkers. Remember the first green, this will also be fast (Stimp 11 or 12), firm and so it’s not always ideal to go directly for the pin from the fairway.

3rd hole par 5 421 – 511 yardsPlayed more often than not into the prevailing wind, the third is a short par five. Favouring the left side of the fairway off the tee leaves a fun go-for-it type of second that should be played towards the left side of the green, carrying the burn and just missing a trap. For the average player mind the lake to your right off the tee then lay up short of that wee burn crossing the hole 60 yards from the putting surface. This green is quite deep and most approach shots into it will be short and run to the right. The resulting chip shot may be your first chance to use your Texas wedge (putter). “Please use your sand wedge only in the sand, and never use your lob wedge in Scotland” is sage caddie advice. Although the breeze may not make this easy to do, playing the left side the entire hole is usually sound advice and the best way to make par.

4th hole par 4 354 – 465 yards
The fourth is a deceptively good long par four with only one bunker which you should aim for from the tee. Favour the right side for your second as the green runs to the left and towards the back (once you are on the surface). This hole might be your first chance to enjoy the fescue* challenge, on both sides of the fairway. The wind at your back also can add interest, particularly on your shot to the green. *fescue grass is used throughout courses in Scotland, in the rough, on the fairway and in the greens. It is very reliable and loved here because it doesn’t need much expensive nourishment. You will find that most turf purposely also consists of dozens of other kinds of grasses, all thriving in different conditions making the average “perfect” for gawfing. Dark green is also not a favourite colour here (“too much nitrogen” or “too lush, the ball canna run”). In this area the green football team (Celtics) is also not the chosen one, the Rangers (blue) are #1 here. A visitor should not talk about the football anyway.

5th hole par 3 126 – 177 yards
A fast downhill par three that features a slightly reverse redan type green. The best tee shot is a fade that lands safely short or middle of the green. The deep bunkers on the right are very well placed; most players seem drawn into them. Over this green leaves a difficult pitch, if ball is found! Great farm scenes to your right, the affluent farming community is Boarhills (wouldn’t Boarhills Hack and Hunt Club be a great name for a new course?)

6th hole par 4 369 – 476 yards
The game starts here! A Very good par four, your drive is downhill and your second and third will be uphill! From the tee your aim is over or just right of the fairway bunkers -the breeze will run your ball into the middle. The ideal drive will leave 155 yards -shorter off the tee makes it very difficult and longer means you’ll face an uphill shot from a downhill lie. This hole introduces Kittock’s Den, a large SSSI protected swale running through the course to the sea, and it requires a good carry to clear. (check in the Pro Shop after the game to get the unofficial history of the ‘Den) A difficult hole for we short hitters (short wee hitters).

7th hole par 5 359 – 532 yards
My favourite hole (not because I like birdie holes), a clever par five back into the wind. It may be the third par five in the first seven, and without the breeze it’s just a nice four with potential for all sorts of disasters. Avoid the bunkers to the right off the tee by playing as close to the left rough (and deep ravine) as you can. For those taking advantage of this hole your uphill second should be a tumbler, fading away from the mounds on the left about 70 yards short of the flat “tabletop” green which is well protected by sand everywhere but on the front. Left can be difficult, to find and recover. For the rest of us try to lay up 100 yards from the green, leaving a downhill crisp shot into the middle of the green. This green site is excellent, protected by the sand, narrow entrance and exposure to cross winds. Did you avoid all ten bunkers? A couple require playing out sideways.

8th par 3 79 – 139 yards
The last hole was the start of stunning visual distractions. This par three is a bit too short (the original green is in the protected SSSI area behind) but Bruce was trying hard to keep the course under 7400 yards. It plays downhill and, like the 7th at Pebble Beach, can play from a three iron to a kicked-on-knocked-down-wedge. If the pin is front left be careful of the distance as long can be tough. The bunker on the right is very popular as many high shots blow back into it’s challenge. This green is very easy to three putt as it is constantly in motion. Take a moment to enjoy the view; Carnoustie may be visible in the distance across the estuary. To the left St Andrews, Dundee then the coast running towards Abroath.

9th par 4 301 – 406 yards
This beauty is downhill, well protected on the left by the brae, the sea (and OB). The ideal tee shot is just short of the bunker on the left, although there are many options available, including busting it over the collection of five bunkers seemingly in the middle of the fairway. A large double green, very fast from front to back and left to right. It’s easy to lose your second over the wall left of the green (quoting Steve McQeen – keep it out of the cooler). Once again enjoy the scenery, take a look over the wall to see the shore and the Fife Coastal Path which allows non-golfers the opportunity to walk around the Kingdom of Fife.
[photopress:Devlin_7_8_and_9_plus_12_grren.jpg,full,pp_image]
the 7 top left, 8 top centre, 9 right and 12 bottom green of the DEVLIN

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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