The DEVLIN COURSE back nine

Interesting comments I’ve received since doing the front nine of the Devlin. Most are very positive however two emails mentioned the fact that the Devlin is not a Scottish golf experience. Well, it’s definitely in Scotland, in the Kingdom of Fife. Two of the shapers (Mick McShane and Conor Walsh) also did Kingsbarns and The Castle Course. The Devlin occupies the finest variety of braes (coastal cliffs) on the Fife shores, with elevation changes from 90 feet above sea level (18 tee) to over 200 (9 tee). It is not a true links course as are the other two courses mentioned, and Pebble Beach and Cypress Point. Over the years sand will continue to be added to the fairways to increase the ideal fast and firm conditions golfers should crave. The Devlin and Torrance greens are quicker than most Scottish greens, in November they were at 13 on the Stimp scale when we hosted a Professional tournament – they were wowed and made some great positive comments “best greens we’ve played this year”, wish the Dunhill was on greens like this”, etc. Interestingly we had to slow them for the final round! Back to the back nine…..

10th Par 4 309 – 378 yards
One of my better driving holes, just aim left of a knob on the fairway, careful not to end up in bunkers left or the one 80 yards short the green. Lots of trouble left (acres of fescue and mounds and catchment areas) and again left of the putting surface (superb gathering bunkers). Take an extra club into this elevated green location, one of the best on the course.

11th Par 4 340 – 438 yards
I know Nicklaus did not invent double fairways but this one could be a favourite of his. From the elevated tee you see a divided fairway that lets you choose between the narrow right side which leaves a better angle to a front pin position, or play safe to the wider left side of the fairway and take your chances on the second. The green is very fast and offers you a chance to putt (or walk) off the green into the sea! Beware of the front right bunker but being in it is still better than left (gone). Look behind the green to see some superb rock formations (like New Brunswick’s flower pots) and the striking seascapes. To the right, Crail beckons. To the left a mile of braes as you play back towards St. Andrews.
Devlin 11th on bottom, Kittocks in the middle picture by Justin Wood
12th Par 4 277 – 344 yards
Another hole where yardage is not an indicator or how tough the hole plays. This would make a great driveable par four, except you have now turned back into the prevailing wind, blowing a bit stronger and more irratic as you are playing along the cliffs. The ideal drive is a fade, started left or over the bunkers facing you across a sea of waving fescue. It is very easy to end up right or short off this tee (all the trouble is right, and short). From 200 to 275 yards off the tee there is a second collection of sand hazards, right where the fairway turns towards the green. They can come into play, but better there than in the North Sea. Your second is to the back of the same undulating green shared by the 9th. There is one small bunker on the left and it gets lots of action as golfers try not to go right. The stone wall, as are all stone walls, is in play.

13th Par 5 455 – 564 yards
Tremendous variety on this uphill par five. A cape type hole off the tee, allowing you to decide how much wall and fescue you can carry. Factor in that it’s also uphill. Because of the sloping fairway you are hitting a semi-blind tee shot that ideally will be a draw around the end of the stone wall. The ideal second is a low runner just avoiding the clever bunker around 60 yards short of the angled green. Your third might be the only level lie on this hole and your pitch is to a reasonably flat putting surface with the green open on the left and well protected back and right.

14th Par 4 259 – 428 yards
Now you play back and over Kittock’s Den. The tee shot requires a carry of from 190 (Blue tees) to 145 (Yellow tees) and should be started just right of the two bunkers in the left side of the fairway. I prefer bunkers like this, in the fairway, pinching the landing area, challenging you to make a decision -should I play short, right, or over them. There is a fifty yard space between the bunkers and this is the chosen area from which you should be hitting your second, to a large tabletop type of exposed green. Take an extra club into this hole as the majority of players end up short and it can be a tough chip or long bunker shot depending upon the pin position.

15th Par 3 121 – 187 yards
You have two par threes in the last four holes and both require solid swings and accurate distances. From the tee the green is large (sharing with first hole) and beckoning but this hole plays longer than it looks. The putting surface is firm and has two very defensive bunkers protecting the front pin positions. The breeze is a factor, pay attention, stay down and make a positive swing.
The mounds and bunkers left of the green are also very popular landing places.

16th hole Par 4 314 – 453 yards
A very good hole with Kittocks to the right and rough and mounds to tp the left. Aim at the single bunker that appears to be in the left of the fairway and this will leave a flat lie for your second. The shot to the green is another challenge – keeping your ball left enough while it’s in the air and then letting it release to the right once it lands is a joy, hopefully it landed deep enough into the green to stay on! Avoiding the fauna, flora and bunker to the right is also difficult. A large firm receptive green sloping left to right. Great view into Kittock’s from the right side of the green – one of the most peaceful spots on the course.

17th par 4 279 – 443 yards
Destined to become the final hole, the 17th is often considered the “signature hole” on a course of many. The tee shot is blind, played to a very fast steep downhill fairway that forces your ball to run to the right, right into the unseen bunkers. No problem, being in the sand can be one of the better places to play your second. The very large green rests on top of a Roman outpost and is still well protected, by at least five large, deep bunkers. The shot to the pin should be along the ground, plan it to run out from the very front towards the pin. From the safety of the clubhouse we see many players actually putt from up to a 100 yards short of the green. These are obviously people who tried something different their first round.

18th Par 3 87 – 182 yards
Forget the Red tee, go as far back as you can and enjoy this superb par three, destined to become the best 19th hole this side of Cowboy Stadium parking lot. For many obvious reasons this is a tough hole. Some of the reasons – annoyed it’s the last hole and your game is almost over – it’s into the breeze – it’s played from one promontary to another with the braes seemingly surrounding the tee – the view back towards the aulde toun of St. Andrews is awesome – you have an audience of healthy people who have just walked two miles from town along the Fife Coastal Path – or maybe it’s just because the hole is uphill to a diabolical green protected by bunkers, walls, slopes and the cooler to the right. From the back tee to the back right pin position this might be the toughest shot in Fife (until the Castle Course 17th hole opens in 2008). Take a mulligan and try it!

Above the green our 19th Hole features the best fish and chips in the area, enjoy as you plot your next visit to the Devlin or another of the area’s great experiences. Did I mention the Devlin has optional power carts ? The locals love them secretly and use the GPS to extremes.

A few quotes from “The Top 100 Courses of the British Isles” It’s an understated layout which entertains and makes you think…I was taken with its Kingsbarns risk/reward design on many holes…cracking design, this course with its dramatic coastal views is going to become known throughout the world…the greens and conditons are stunning, the best in Scotland…


Merry Christmas, the Old Course on Christmas morning

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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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