Over 200 years of Golfing History at Leven Links

Leven Links is undeniably one of the oldest pieces of golfing ground in existence anywhere in the world. Golf is first recorded here in the early 1800’s but it is most likely that the game was played here many years beforehand.

To this day Leven Links is one of the most traditional of all the Links courses in Scotland. It has a rich story to tell in respect to the land upon which the course developed, the iconic golf clubs that play over it today and the historic medals, shields and trophies that are still played for today.

The Land

The land over which Leven Links presides is what gives the golf course its unique signature. It is a wholly natural landscape, created through time by falling sea levels and ebbing tides. These combined to produce a series of parallel dune ridges and valleys along the bay at Leven. It is between those ridges and along those valleys that the golfer still plays today. This makes for superb definition and a true links test as the slopes and bulges of these natural obstacles come into play throughout your round.

The main strength of the course lies in the variety of quality “links holes”, with undulating fairways, revetted bunkers, fast running approaches and large, true running greens, all awaiting the golfer.

At the end of your round lies one of the finest finishing holes in all of Scotland. The 18th at Leven requires two well struck shots to carry the gaping Scoonie Burn in order to reach a green of almost epic proportions.

“Winning the Leven Gold Medal in 1993 was one of the highlights of my amateur career. It’s a wonderful golf course with many different challenges and one of the toughest finishing holes you’ll play anywhere”. Lee Westwood.

The Editor of Golf Monthly once described the older parts of Leven Links as being “one of the best stands of bents and fescues in Scotland – the place in summer to put away the solid ball, leave the wedge in the locker room and hone your chip and run approaches, because this is where the real game is played”. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

The Course

Early in the 19th Century play over Leven Links was over nine holes. This took the player out to the Leven parish boundary from where he turned and headed back home. (the Mile Dyke and current eastern boundary of the course). In 1868 the course was extended east towards Lundin Links to make 18 holes. This was the first 18 holes ever to have eighteen separate greens and tees and still stands as the third oldest 18 hole course, still in existence, in the world.

Leven Links retained this layout until 1909 when, due to playing demand and rounds lasting up to five hours, the course was divided at the parish boundary and each village set about developing its own 18 hole layout. Both took the land to the north of the then railway. In doing so both ladies clubs using this land had to be relocated. What was laid out for Leven at that time is still basically the same course played today.

The Game

Throughout its history many accomplished professionals and amateurs have competed over Leven Links. In 1868 the inaugural event to celebrate the opening of the new course was won by a Young Tom Morris. Aged just 17 he was already that years Open Champion and went on to win The Open four times in a row. He is the only player ever to do so. After his third victory he kept the Championship Belt and then went on to become the first name inscribed on The Claret Jug.
In April each year an Inter Club match still takes place between teams from Leven, St. Andrews and Carnoustie. The roots of this match can be traced back to the early 1870’s making it the oldest inter club match played to this day.
Also played over Leven Links is the Amateur Champion Gold Medal. First played for in 1870 it lays claim as the oldest amateur strokeplay championship in the world.
In modern times Leven Links has hosted Final Open Qualifying 6 times, each time when The Open was played over St. Andrews. The quality of player for this prestigious event is probably best exemplified by the year 2000. Playing over Leven Links, and hoping to qualify for The Open that year, were Mark McNulty, Luke Donald, Eduardo Romero, Anders Forsbrand, Stephen Gallagher, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott.

In more recent times Robert McIntyre has won the Scottish Champion of Champions over Leven Links.

Course alterations from 2003 added new bunkers and new tees adding greater challenges but Leven Links still retains its place as one of the most traditional of links courses in all Scotland.  


Timeline

1846 Leven Golf Club was founded.

1857 Leven to Kilconquhar railway opened.

1867 Leven Thistle Golf Club was founded.

1867 Innerleven Golfing Society relocated to Leven
Links. At this time the course was 9 holes, which roughly comprised the current 1st, 2nd, up and down 13th fairway, 14th, 15th and 18th

1868 Extended over the mile dyke to form 18 holes,
straight out 9 and back in 9. Hence OUT and IN. Lundin Mill Golf Club founded.
There was a two tee start and Leven Links was reputedly the first 18 hole
course with 18 separate greens.

1909 The course was divided at Mile Dyke to allow Leven and Lundin to develop their own 18-hole course. Both took land north of
the railway line, which at the time was over by two ladies clubs. Both ladies’
clubs were relocated. In addition, the town sports grounds were taken over to
accommodate holes 16 and 17.

 

Points of Interest as you go round on Leven Links Golf Course

THE LEVEN GAMES. Held in the valley between the first green and cross bunkers on second hole. Ceased in late 1800s.

SALMON BOTHY and ICE HOUSE. Once located on the far right-hand side of the lower second fairway. The foundations are still visible. Fishermen would prepare and store fish as well as sleep here.

SHEPHERD’S KNOWE/COURTIN BRAE. Hill to the left of the third fairway and behind second green. Both names suggest past uses. One for grazing sheep and the other as a meeting point for amorous caravan owners.

GERMAN TANKS. Blocks put in place to repel an invasion of German tanks during World War II. They are all down the right-hand side of the fourth fairway.

High Tee at fourth – great photo opportunity.

SALMON NETS. Stakes for nets can be seen form high fourth tee. Nets were dried right across the links from the coast to Silverburn (pre railway).

GRENADES. Grenades were found in the allotments to the
right-hand side of the sixth tee and safely detonated on the course recently. They were a legacy from Polish parachute brigade that was formed and trained here during World War II.

PAVILLION. Name of the ninth hole. Site of the former Ladies’ course clubhouse.

CATTLE CREEP. Name of the 10th hole. Small passageway under the railway to allow cattle access from one field to another was located here.

THE RAILWAY. Entered course from behind 10th tee. Continued along right-hand side of 10th, 11th and 12th fairways and exited course at gate in mile dyke and on to Lundin golf course.

WATER STOP. High tee location on 13th hole was constructed to hold water tanks. These were needed to replenish early steam trains every ten miles.

High Tee at 13th – Great views over the course.

CANTEEN BUNKER. Situate to the left of the 14th medal tee and is now grass. The cone of land was surrounded by sand and part of the old line of the third hole. Other named bunkers included TAR PAT and Mafelink. There are no named bunkers now.

CIRCUS. Name of 16th hole. This area of former football fields was used when the circus came to town (pre 1908)

SCOONIE BURN. Name of the 18th hole. Recently voted second hardest closing hole in all of Scotland. In the late 1800s caddies were granted the rights of ownership to all balls deposited in this burn.


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