Majestic Kingsbarns is the Perfect Stage for Ricoh Women's British Open
The majestic Kingsbarns Golf Links is tasting major championship golf for the first time this week as host of the 41st Ricoh Women’s British Open. Situated seven miles east of the legendary Old Course at St. Andrews, this stunning layout steps out from under the shadow of its famous neighbour as the game’s best female players descend upon this modern classic designed by Kyle Philips.
Opened just after the turn of the century, Kingsbarns – where golf had historically been played centuries ago – has been regularly showcased each year through the European Tour’s lucrative Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, but that arrangement has been in conjunction with both the iconic Auld Grey Toon and the revered Carnoustie across the water in Angus.
However, this is an opportunity for the Kyle Phillips creation to be seen extensively across the world, furthering a distinct identity that will only see the course grow in stature. Possessing incredible views across the North Sea, there is no questioning the scenic quality of Kingsbarns, but that is often a feature overplayed by otherwise mediocre designs. That charge is most certainly not applicable to this jewel on the Neuk of Fife, which presents a test that is both playable for regular golfers but remains more than challenging around the greens to examine the best players in the world.
Though a contemporary imagining, variable weather conditions alter the character of this Millennial links markedly, reminiscent of the more historic venues that are seen in the men’s Open Championship. For the players, returning to the seaside after last year’s event at Woburn, there is a tangible sense of enthusiasm from the field towards the course. Somehow, despite the quality of inland destinations the event has reached (Sunningdale among them), this feels more like how a Women’s British Open should be.
World number two and popular American favourite, Lexi Thompson was effusive in her pre-tournament press conference, describing Kingsbarns as being “one of my favourite layouts”. The 22-year-old will enjoy the benefit of having a Scottish caddie – former pro Kevin McAlpine – who can boast significant history on this course, having been a regular bagman here before joining the likeable Floridian earlier this year. That will be certainly be an invaluable asset over the days ahead.
Teenage Canadian sensation, Brooke Henderson was also highly positive in her assessment of Kingsbarns, as was the reigning ANA Inspiration champion and top ranked women’s golfer So Yeon Ryu from South Korea, who noted the width of the fairways and size of the greens. “I really enjoy this golf course. I always enjoy links style, and I always enjoy the big greens because you still can see so many different shots,” the 27-year-old said.
Kingsbarns has been laid out over a rolling and spectacular landscape. Much like Castle Stuart in the Highlands, it’s a course that underlines why Scottish golf is not just about the ancient, which the course uses immaculately. The fairways are reasonably generous, but this is a layout that demands both imagination and precision when playing towards or around its undulating greens.
That’s an intricacy noted by former winner Inbee Park, who noted: “It is very complicated (and) challenging, but I think that is the point of links golf, and I enjoy doing that.” Different questions are asked of the players, and each have contrasting answers. For defending champion, Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand, the driver hasn’t even been packed in the bag, while for the likes of Thompson, being aggressive off the tee is paramount to strategy.
Ryu, who tops the Rolex Rankings, was relishing the demands asked by Kingsbarns. “It's just totally different golf, and it's all about being creative, especially if wind is going to be really strong. Sometimes you have to chip around the green with a 3-wood or utility, 5-iron. It's so much fun. It cannot be boring, and you always can expect some fantastic shot or some ridiculous shot, but it still could be really great.”
With a mixed forecast predicted over the four days, the players will be tasked with having to be creative through their shot choices and course management. Whatever the weather, however, Kingsbarns will look great and provide a fine stage for this championship.
Highlights include the par three 15th – playing as the 14th for the Women’s British Open – and the striking par five 12th, which has been compared with the iconic 18th of Pebble Beach in California. Both of which are now regarded as being among the finest holes in the British Isles.
It’s an unquestionably course expensive to play, but it ranks extremely highly with Golfshake users, who have universally praised the experience, leaving behind glowing reviews, including comments such as: “simply breathtaking and awesome,” and “best course I've ever played.”
Those are sentiments that have been widely shared by many of the game’s best female players ahead of the event, who are looking forward to competing over the most beautiful of canvases.
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