Top: Sculptured fairway at the 7th. A very tough green to hit when the wind blows at the 15th
In the bar, course owner Julian runs through some changes he wants to make to the front nine, which was added to the Old Links back in 2008. I think sometimes we can be too harsh on holes that are added to a traditional nine-hole links and try to compare them. I also think the run of holes from sixth to eighth are great, especially the par-4 eighth which is a dog-leg left. Depending on the wind you can hit a long iron up to a driver off the tee, but it’s the second shot to an infinity green that takes your breath away. If I was playing in a competition, that second shot would scare (as my Irish grandparents would say) the living be-Jesus out of me! It looks like there is nothing there – miss the green and its goodnight Vienna.
The front nine comes to a close with a hole that some players with love and others will hate – and all probably depending on their score. It’s a hole where you have to lay up. It’s s an iron to the top of the hill and, depending on the wind, a wedge to a 9-iron to the green that sits some hundred or so feet below. Don’t be long or you’ll be over the road, and don’t be short or you’ll be in bushes and gorse up to your armpits. No problem then!
The back nine is James Braid’s original nine holes and has a completely different feel about it. The way the holes play may have altered but nothing has changed about the beauty of this stretch of links. The sea is always in sight and like most links course when the wind blows it will be a tough proposition. But luck has been with me on this trip and I’m hitting the back nine at about 6.30pm on a beautiful Welsh evening with the sun just starting to take a bow on the horizon, its oranges and yellows mixing with the blue azaleas of the skies. I don’t think there are many better moments in golf than these.
Look out for the back-to-back par-3s on the back nine – they turn up at the 15th and 16th. I can see club championships being decided on these very greens. Walk away with par or better and you’re on your way – but a lot easier said than done and with an exposed green at 15 with the wind blowing in, just making the green some 190 yards away will be only the start of your obstacles to overcome.
I’m fortunate to be staying in one of the dour-star Dormy Rooms that sit just by the 10th tee looking out to sea. As I sit watching the sun go down, I think James Braid would be proud of what Julian is trying to achieve here. If he can create a stunning par-3 on the front nine, I think the next golf writer to come along in 100 years’ time, once the new nine have bedded down, will no doubt praise the vision to not only bring Braid’s nine-hole course up to 18 but embrace the difference between the two nines. I hope you do too. It’s well worth the journey to find out.
The infinity green at the 8th
Looking back at the 9th greenOne of the many sea view at 17
All golf photography taken on the day of play © James Mason