A reader from Lake Lotawana, Mo., has a question about tenth-ranked Castle Stuart, the brilliant, one-year-old links course on Scotland’s Moray Firth. “A few months back,” he writes, “you wrote that the Castle Stuart clubhouse has the best men’s room view in all of golf. But you didn’t back up your claim photographically, and you left the impression that Castle Stuart’s high ranking was based solely on clubhouse amenities.”
I’ll address the reader’s points in order. First, the claim that Castle Stuart’s lavatory view is unsurpassed. The Top 50 staff photographs the clubhouse and halfway house interiors of all our ranked courses, and if the facility has windows we document the view from every window. We can’t publish all these photos, obviously, so we go by the old adage, “A thousand words is as good as a picture.” I described the view from the Castle Stuart men’s loo. That seemed, to me, to be sufficient. But if my correspondent needs to have it spelled out for him in pixels, here is a selection of photos taken from the second-floor men’s lavatory of the Castle Stuart Golf Links.
The second point of the e-mail, implying that we ignored the Gil Hanse/Mark Parsinen golf course in our evaluation of Castle Stuart, is totally off the mark. No course in the Top 50, with the obvious exceptions of Sand Hills and Cypress Point,* achieved its elite ranking until it had been played by yours truly, either anonymously or (in the case of courses with outrageous green fees) not. Just last week, in fact, I played Castle Stuart in conditions that some would call extreme — wind gusts of 75 miles per hour — and left convinced that Inverness is home to the greatest new links course in the British Isles and one of the top ten golf courses in the world. It would not surprise me to see Castle Stuart, given a year or two to mature, to wind up in my top three with Askernish and Carne.
*And a couple of others.
I’m not the only one to be enchanted by Castle Stuart. Golf Digest managing editor Roger Schiffman, who played it last week as a member of the U.S. Writers Cup team, used words like “unforgettable … magnificent … stunning … beguiling … arresting …,” stopping only when he forgot whether he was describing the course or the barmaid in the third-floor lounge. George Peper, the author and former GOLF Magazine editor, calls Castle Stuart “the most significant British Isles debut since Loch Lomond in 1993 …. Think Pebble Beach, Pacific Dunes, Royal County Down …. restrained, insightful design combined with a breathtakingly beautiful site ….” Since I arrived in St. Andrews for this week’s Open Championship, I have been approached by total strangers asking if I have played the new Highlands course that rivals or even surpasses Royal Dornoch Golf Club. “You’ll be blown away,” one of them told me, unaware of the irony.
So, here’s what I’ve got to say to that reader in Lake Lotawana and anybody else who thinks he or she can trip up the Top 50 staff: Forget it. When it comes to golf courses, we cover all the basins.
Top 50 on TV: The one, the only, Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland. The 139th Open Championship begins tomorrow morning on the Fife muny, which is the only God-designed course in the Top 50. The Bottom 50, however, features the unforgettable Ft. Meade City Mobile Home Course Golf Course of Ft. Meade, Fla., which is reputed to have been built by God, Jr., with help from his brother Rees.