Tag Archives: Mark Parsinen

Castle Stuart: Still Lookin’ Good

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.

Lavatory view

Castle Stuart's 9th green, as seen from the clubhouse lav. (John Garrity)

View of driving range

The Castle Stuart driving range from the men's shower room. (John Garrity)

9th Green Castle Stuart

Close up of 9th green from loo. (John Garrity)

Panoramic photo

Panoramic loo view, Castle Stuart Golf Links. (John Garrity)

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.

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Castle Stuart Soars in World Ranking

The surprise of the latest Top 50 ranking (see sidebar) is the new Castle Stuart Golf Links of Inverness, Scotland, which debuts at No. 10.  A collaborative effort by Philadelphia-based architect Gil Hanse and American developer Mark “Kingsbarns” Parsinen, Castle Stuart opened last July to rave reviews from the dead-tree publications: “Destined to become one of the best courses in the world.” (Links Magazine. … “A Masterpiece!” (Bunkered) … “Effortlessly blends the best elements of St. Andrews and Pebble Beach, Ballybunion and Royal County Down.” (Golf World, U.K.)

Castle Stuart Golf Links

The 11th green at Castle Stuart, Inverness, Scotland

“Yes, it is that good,” wrote the Links reviewer, prolific author and former GOLF Magazine editor, George Peper. “Succinctly put, Castle Stuart will be the most significant British Isles debut since Loch Lomond in 1993. It should be well on its way to the top echelon of the world rankings.” I’m guessing that Peper was paid by Links to write that, but you can’t argue with his call.  Castle Stuart, at No. 10, is the highest-ranked new course in Top 50 history.

My own first impression*, garnered on a bright, windy afternoon in late July, was as positive as Peper’s. Most of the holes have views of the miles-wide Moray Firth, from the Kessock Bridge to the Chanonry Lighthouse, and an improbable number seem to be right on the water. It’s an illusion. When you play the holes that parallel the Firth on the higher ground, it’s like playing the cliffside holes at second-ranked Pebble Beach Golf Links; you don’t see the beach or the lowland duffers, you see only sparkling water and breaching whales. (Or, in this case, breaching Loch Ness Monsters.)

*I have no financial, professional or prurient interest in the Castle Stuart development, but my middle name is Stuart and I claim, by royal birthright, to be the rightful monarch of both Scotland and England via my great-great-great-great-etc.-cousin, Mary Stuart — a.k.a. Mary, Queen of Scots — and the other golfing Stuarts, including James IV of Scotland — “the first golfer known to history” — and James I of England, who is best remembered for appointing the first royal club maker.  For more on the Stuart golfers, see the just-released paperback edition of my book, Ancestral Links: A Golf Obsession Spanning Generations.

I’ll discuss the course layout in later postings, but there’s no reason to withhold the fact that Castle Stuart dominated our “top lavatory view in golf” category, displacing Newport Country Club of Newport, R.I. The shower stalls and urinals on the third floor of Castle Stuart’s art-deco clubhouse provide panoramic views of the course and the shoreline through eye-level, wraparound windows. Dropping to No. 3 is the locker room pissoir at California’s venerable Cypress Point Golf Club (No. 13). “An awning somewhat restricts your view,” reports Sports Illustrated’s Gary Van Sickle, “but you can see a big tree and some of the ocean.”

Equally surprising is the disappearance from the Top 50 of the Jupiter Hills Club of Tequesta, Fla., which held the No. 10 spot now occupied by Castle Stuart. Knowing how computers work, I suspect that the Jupiter Hills listing has somehow been covered up by Castle Stuart, concealing a tenth-place tie.

We’ll get to the bottom of that. In the meantime, Jupiter Hills moves to No. 1 on the Challenged and Disputed List, replacing Liberty National Golf Club of Jersey City, N.J..


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