Balcomie Links at Crail

Located on the most easterly edge of the Kingdom of Fife, the Balcomie Links golf course overlooks striking views of the beach to the Firth of Forth, and is the home of the seventh oldest golf club in the world – Crail Golfing Society. Its variety of holes and legacy as one of Old Tom Morris’ designs makes this an unique and enjoyable course to play a round of golf on.

In this blog post, we explore some of the fascinating history and highlights of this remarkable golf course on the Old Tom Morris trail, as well as the hospitality and retail options in Crail…

Course Overview

Crail Golfing Society
AddressBalcomie Clubhouse Crail Golfing Society Crail Fife KY10 3XN Scotland
Location 12 miles South East of St Andrews
CategorySilver/Hidden Gem
Style Links
LengthApprox 5,922 yards
Scottish Ranking67th

Course design

Although Balcomie is only 5,922 yards, it is renowned for being as enjoyable and challenging today as it was when it was designed centuries ago by Old Tom Morris – a true legend of the game. He improved upon the first first 9 holes in 1895 after a local farmer laid out the original holes, then returned to extend the course to its full 18 holes in 1900. With natural hollows, shared greens and old railway sleepers incorporated into the design of the bunkers, Balcomie Links is a remarkable course where you will never play exactly the same round twice. 

Embracing the rugged North Sea shoreline, the first 5 holes are a thrilling start to any round, with the coastal winds offering a challenge to even the most proficient golfer. The following 9 holes head inland, with undulating greens and glorious views accompanying you along the way, until you conclude the course in a return to the stunning shoreline.

Course history

Situated in a stunning coastal corner of Scotland, Crail is steeped in a rich history, with the sport being played here for centuries. Crail Golfing Society was formed in 1786 as the seventh oldest golf club in the world, their early rounds were played on an 8-hole golf course closer to the charming fishing village of Crail, until Old Tom Morris revived a 9-hole golf course a local farmer had laid out to create the golf course many know and love today.

When you see the trophy cabinet within the clubhouse, it will quickly become clear that competitive golf has been regularly played at Crail over the years, with many Championships, junior matched and mixed events dating back hundreds of years – and still played today.

Regional history

The pretty seaside town of Crail is one of Scotland’s oldest Royal Burghs, with its first Royal Charter gained in 1310 by King Robert the Bruce. Fishing has always been a fundamental part of the local economy here, with exports of salted herring, and ‘Crail Capons’ dating back to the middle ages. The town’s Dutch Tower on the Tolbooth in Marketgate is a historic piece of evidence to show Crail’s trade with the Netherlands.

The Balcomie Course at Crail was named after the nearby Balcomie Castle, whose ancient ruins can still be seen from the golf course. The castle has become renowned for the rumour that it is haunted by the mysterious ghost of a boy who starved within the castle over 400 years ago, as well as being the castle where Mary of Guise stayed on her way to marry King James V in St Andrews in 1538.

Local hospitality and retail

Where to stay

If you’re looking for somewhere with a tranquil, coastal feel, The Waterfront has exceptional 4 star guest suites, located just a matter of steps away from the picturesque Anstruther Marina in the heart of Fife. It is also home to an exceptional restaurant which serves a delicious selection of locally sourced seafood.

Set within the centre of Anstruther – just a 15 minute drive from Balcomie Links – The Bank has been developed into a family run establishment with beautiful mature gardens, an extensive beer garden and excellent guest rooms, with incredible views overlooking the Firth of Forth.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for an adventure, try Catch Penny Safari Lodges. Crail is just a short drive away from this unique destination where you can enjoy sleeping under canvas and enjoying all the comforts of home.

Where to eat

In addition to Crail’s fantastic hotels, the seaside town offers a number of restaurants and cafes for an enjoyable dining experience while you’re away from the dunes. The Shoregate offers locally sourced produce and creatively prepared meals within the cosy setting of their traditional style bar and contemporary restaurant. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a day of golf!

Another firm favourite just a 10 minute drive from Crail is the Michelin star Cellar restaurant in Anstruther. Their mouth watering menu and premium dining experience is not one to be missed.

The Cellar Restaurant [Photo by Alex Baxter]

For light bites and a relaxed atmosphere, the harbour hosts a number of charming cafes and tea rooms. At Reilly Shellfish you can enjoy freshly caught lobster and crab unlike any other, while Crail Harbour Gallery offers a superb choice of sandwiches and snacks inside the town’s historic 17th century fisherman’s cottage. 

Where to shop

If you’re hoping to bring a little piece of Crail home with you after your visit, the town is home to some wonderful brands. At Crail Pottery you’ll find an array of beautiful stoneware, planters and earthenware which have all been handmade to create an individual charm in every piece.

For a treasure trove of crafts and gifts, head to The Beehive – their soaps and bath products smell heavenly and you can enjoy coffee and cake in their café once you’ve finished shopping. If it’s the taste of the seaside you’d like to bring home, then look out for Darnley’s London Dry Gin. Using 9 locally grown and foraged botanicals, as well as sugar kelp, sea buckthorn and marigold petals, this gin is the spirit of the Fifeshire coastline captured in a bottle.

Iconic landmarks

As an old town on Scotland’s eastern coast, Crail and the surrounding area boasts a number of iconic attractions and landmarks, steeped in a rich history. Take a scenic East Neuk treasure tour by boat from Dundee or St Andrews, and discover the hidden charms and of the surrounding villages. Alternatively, you can take a peaceful stroll through the quaint harbour of Crail, which dates back to the 16th century.

Of course, if you are playing a round on the Balcomie Crail golf course, it only makes sense to visit the magnificent Balcomie Castle as well. This ancient structure is most commonly known as the place where Mary of Guise was welcomed in 1538 when she arrived in Scotland to marry King James V.

The best photo spots

  • Caiplie Caves
  • Dunino Den
  • Kilminning Coast
  • Crail Roome Bay
  • Balcomie Castle

Our top tips for playing this course

Make sure you enjoy the 19th hole, The Balcomie Clubhouse’ to enjoy the vistas over the North Sea.

Don’t miss the King’s Cave between the 14th green and 15th tee.

If you’re looking for a second round of golf, be sure to play the Craigend course, also part of the Crail Golfing Society, designed by legendary Gil Hance.

Watch Stephen Proctor’s Balcomie Links Dispatch here

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