Golf House Club – Elie Review

Graylyn LoomisCourse Reviews15 Comments

Golf House Club – Elie, better known as Elie Golf Club, is one of my favorite courses in Fife.  Elie exemplifies the best aspects of a traditional Scottish club. The course is short and features strong inland and seaside holes (without a single par 5). The club has a great historical background, having been James Braid’s home course. As with many of the great traditional Scottish links, the course is very quirky. Blind tee shots abound, the most prominent of which is on the first hole, where an old submarine periscope is used to ensure that the fairway is clear. The experience is very unique, and opinions on the course land on both ends of the spectrum. If you didn’t like Elie, you either went into the round with the wrong expectations, or you don’t know what Scottish links are really about.IMG_6801Elie’s membership is comprised of many powerful golfing figures. The club has a very large percentage of R&A members – some say the highest percentage of any club in the world. The course was first laid out in 1770 and the Golf House Club, which now owns the course, was established in 1875.IMG_6869I have played Elie quite a few times, and the particular morning last week was very cold and frosty. Although the course seemed to be frozen, play was not delayed, and the sun quickly melted everything by the 4th hole.


Hole #1 – 420 yards – “Stacks”IMG_6805The first hole at Elie has a completely blind tee shot. If you have never played the course, you will fine it slightly unnerving. Aim slightly right of the marker post on the hill and you will be fine. The above photo shows the long downhill approach into this green. The first hole is a tough opener, come prepared.

Hole #2 – 284 yards – “High Hole”IMG_6807This short par 4 works straight uphill, which makes the hole play longer than the stated length. All approach shots are blind into the green, and tough bunkers and thick rough line the fairway. Although it is a short hole, which seems like a birdie opportunity, I have not seen one during any of my rounds at Elie.

Hole #3 – 214 yards – “Wickets”IMG_6809This is a great par 3. Approach shots can vary from long to mid irons on this hole, depending on the wind and firmness of the turf. During my latest round, the ground was fairly soft (frost had finally begun melting off) and I struck a hard 4-iron. Everything short and right will kick down and left onto the green. At the height of summer it is difficult to hold balls on the hard green.

Hole # 5 – 365 yards – “Doctor”IMG_6818After a straightforward tee shot, the fifth hole picks up pace from 75 yards into the green. Large slopes and some deep bunkers guard the sloping green, so distance control is paramount with this approach shot. The hole is said to have been named “Doctor” after the large number of medics who played at the club during its founding.

Hole #6 – 316 yards – “Quarries”IMG_6820 IMG_6823The sixth hole is another blind tee shot. Aim straight at the marker post and brace yourself for the amazing view once you crest the hill. The first views of the water, cliffs, and beautiful seaside area of the golf course are visible from the hilltop.

Hole #7 – 252 yards – “Peggy’s”IMG_6827There are plenty of short holes at Elie, and this is the shortest of the par 4s. The hole is a real birdie opportunity, but features another blind tee shot. The miss at this green is just short. A very old man in the group behind us hit his tee shot to five feet while we were putting out. His ball must have run 100 yards onto the green. Gotta love links golf!

Hole #8 – 382 yards – “Neuk”IMG_6828 IMG_6829The eighth hole is the number one handicap hole at Elie. It is a tough dogleg left par 4, where most mistakes come off the tee. This is one hole where local knowledge really pays off. If you were standing on the tee for the first time it would be very difficult to pick out a line. A single large bunker guards front of the large green, leaving many pin position options.

Hole #9 – 440 yards – “Martin’s Bay”IMG_6834The ninth has another blind tee shot. The view from the hilltop is stunning and similar to the view at the sixth. A large ledge sits directly in front of the green, putting a premium on distance control.

Hole #10 – 288 yards – “Lundar Law”IMG_6842The tenth hole has another blind tee shot… did you see that coming? I told you it was quirky. The view from the top of the hill is even more impressive than those earlier in the round. On a clear day you can see right across the water to East Lothian, with Berwick Law and the Bass Rock in clear view. This hole is short, and a very accurate drive can find the green.

The next three holes all hug the beautiful beach.IMG_68371IMG_6837

Hole #11 – 131 yards – “Sea Hole”IMG_6844It is hard to capture the beauty of this hole in a single photograph. Water splashes up against the back of the tee box and the whole beach and sea stand to your left. The simple shot onto the green becomes much more when the entire setting is taken into account.

Hole #12 – 466 yards – “Bents”IMG_6847I think this is the hardest par 4 on the course. It is a slight dogleg left, and again, the photo doesn’t do the setting justice. The beautiful cliff line contains Elie’s fun chain walk, which is out of frame just to the left. A long drive leaves a solid iron into the large and mainly flat green.

Hole #13 – 380 yards – “Croupie”IMG_6854 IMG_6856The beauty and setting of the thirteenth cannot be understated; it is my favorite hole at Elie. It is absolutely stunning and the hole is framed very well by the hills in the background. Drives have to avoid fairway bunkers, leaving a short shot into the raised and shallow green protected by a single bunker. Distance control is very important.

Hole #14 – 414 yards – “Suckielea”IMG_6859The fourteenth begins a string of difficult finishing holes. No match is safe coming into this final stretch at Elie. The thick grass and OB on the left side of this hole make golfers naturally err to the right, which has a grouping of deep fairway bunkers. An accurate drive is followed by an uphill approach to the large green.

Hole #17 – 439 yards – “Ferry”IMG_6863The seventeenth is yet another tough hole in the final stretch. I forgot to take pictures of holes fifteen and sixteen because my match was about to end, but I did manage to snap this on the seventeenth. A dogleg left tee shot leaves a long shot into the guarded green. Just aim to the middle of this green and accept your par.

Hole #18 – 359 yards – “Home”IMG_6871

The best way to play this final hole is a 3-wood to the 100 yard marker and then a wedge to the pin. I drove my final tee shot into the bunkers 50-60 yards in front of the green and was left with a difficult sand shot. A sloping fairway and large green allow for a challenging course setup.IMG_6832I strongly suggest adding a traditional Scottish club such as Elie to any golf trip itinerary. Play the Kingsbarns, Castle Stuarts, and Turnberrys, but, if you really want the full Scottish links experience, visit a club like Elie.

15 Comments on “Golf House Club – Elie Review”

  1. I played Elie with my son in June 2012 while staying in the town for 2 weeks. Thanks for the reminder of how much fun it was.

    1. Thanks for the comment! That video sums up so well just how much fun you have playing links golf. I hope all is well!

  2. Love the course, managed several rounds over three years in St Andrews.
    I don’t like the first two holes but the next 16 are pure fun Scottish golf.

    Thanks for your photos and review.

    1. I agree with you on the course picking up pace after the first two holes. That stretch from 10-14 or so is among my favorites in Scotland. Thanks for taking the time to comment!


  3. Played Elie as part of a road trip from London in September 2015 where we played Dunbar, Crail, Scotscraig and Panmure amongst others on Scotland’s wonderful east coast. There were four of us (all ladies with handicaps from plus1, myself, through to 3). First of all there is just something about Elie that is hard to explain; there’s a feeling from the moment we parked up and took our clubs out of the car that says ‘this is a special place.’ As has probably been said before the course is set in the village and gives it a feeling of intimacy with its surroundings; perhaps a little bit like the Old Course, St Andrews in that respect. The layout of the course isn’t straightforward either as the holes are played in all directions: 1st, 8th, 11th, 12th,13, 16th all northwards with 2nd, 5th, 9th, 10th, 15th in the totally opposite direction and the others a mixture to all four points of the compass. With the wind blowing at c.25 mph from the south it meant that few holes played alike. The favourite holes would be the 6th; directly westwards to a hidden green that had that lovely, extension-of-the-fairway sort of way, the 8th where visually from the tee there appears little fairway to aim at with a track cutting across diagonally to confuse the eye ever more. The 10th played over the brow of the hill to a hidden green with a bell to warn when the groups ahead had cleared away was agreed to be the favourite of all – a par-4 of little under 300 yards from the men’s medal tee (where we all played from!). A carry of around 220 yards to the brow of the hill followed by a downwards journey for the ball to another extended-fairway style green. The hole yielded a two and two threes for my group but any score would still have made this our favourite hole! James Braid called the 13th his favourite hole anywhere in the UK and I can see why. A long sliver of a green set at angles to the fairway with a steep bank in front; to run the ball up or pitch to a barely holding green was the option for two of the group. But finally the 18th is a wonderful closing hole; we all tried it from both the ladies and gent’s tees (no-one looking and no group behind to hold delay!). From the ladies tee it was a 3-wood of c. 255 yards for me short of the cross bunkers that guard the green followed by a 65 yard pitch to a green with out-of-bounds on three sides whereas from the gent’s medal tee it was a full blooded driver to 285 yards (dealing with the right-handed crosswind) from a more difficult angle making the hole a slight left to right dogleg coming up short of the cross-bunkers once more whilst under the gaze of the members in their splendid clubhouse. Elie is more than a gem; it is a very special place indeed and those locals and members should be rightfully proud of what they have. Finally, just a mention for the lovely, quaint sand-box tee markers which are believed to date from the early 20th century; remarkable and they lend a classy touch to a classy course – proof indeed that Elie is a special place!

  4. Elie was one of my favorite links courses that my son and I played in August 2017, on our first golf trip to Scotland. It is the essence of historic Scottish links golf. The first tee shot is unnerving (I’d advise staying a little left – a push or fade right can be a lost ball), and it rained hard the entire time we were playing 2 (a shame, because that is a great little hole). But, on 3 tee, the sun came out on our Sunday evening round, and it was glorious the rest of the way. I love the short, blind holes. Despite being a high single digit HC, I’m not a long hitter, so the length, combined with the links bounce, means guys like me have a realistic shot at birdie or par on virtually every hole – wind permitting, of course.

    I remember almost every hole on this course, which is saying something since we played 10 rounds in 7 days, on 8 different golf courses (all in Fife and Angus). I could only play holes 10-14 for the rest of my life, and I wouldn’t feel like I was missing anything. The tee shot on 11 is breathtaking – so much so that as Graylyn stated, it’s easy to lose your concentration and miss a simple 9-iron to a big green (which I did, of course). The wind had something to do with it, though. On 12, I played the best links golf of my entire trip. I bit off a little more than I could chew on the tee shot along the firth, then pulled it slightly. I watched anxiously as the wind carried the ball just beyond the sea, and I bounced safely into the fairway, leaving about 175 to the front of the green. I hit a 7-iron (my normal 7 goes about 155), a high draw with the wind behind. It landed short, bounce a couple times, and ran up to 3 feet for a tap-in birdie. Best shot/hole of the week, because I actually meant to play it that way.

    On 13, I pulled my approach right of the green, down over the hill, and had a blind pitch to the putting surface. Pitched it to about 8 feet, and walked the putt in, as my son shook his head in disbelief (I putted the lights out all week). I’ll remember that birdie-par one-two punch along the ocean on 12-13 for the rest of my life. The finish is a little less spectacular and memorable, though the holes are hard, because you say goodbye to the ocean and walk back up the hill. But, the clubhouse is beautifully sited, and it marks your journey in quite well. Everybody we encountered was very friendly (even though we had been warned that this was a somewhat “snooty” club. We didn’t encounter any of that at all.

    A few small criticisms. The tees and greens are VERY close together. Too close, sometimes, as you have to wait for a tee to clear to hit your approach shot. The approach into 6 is particularly unnerving, as the group in front of us was lingering on 7 tee, and it created an optical illusion that they were standing right behind 6 green – so much so, that I couldn’t tell whether I should hit or not. Also, the course is very compact, and was very crowded on the Sunday we played, at least for the front nine. There were more Americans playing too (which means playing SLOW, by Scottish standards) than we encountered at our other “hidden gem” courses. Fortunately, some of the locals (young guys and two groups of young girls) must have gotten frustrated and quit after nine, so it was much more manageable on the back. When that course is crowded, it seems like you’re playing in front of a Japanese driving range. The course is also short (though some of the holes are quite long. A member we met at Panmure pooh-poohed Elie as nothing more than “a holiday course”.

    All in all, I LOVE Elie. I would definitely go back there again if I stay in St. Andrews (about a 20-25 drive). If you plan a golf trip to Fife, break out some time to play Elie. You won’t regret it.

  5. Dear Graylyn, I am so enjoying your posts and advice online. Two ladies and myself were “bitten ” by the golf bug a couple years back. We play every week as soon as they open and we’re the last threesome at the end of the season !
    Now we’re off to Scotland this May and as I read and listen to your podcasts I seem to be making some good choices.
    Elie is on our list, as well as the Lundin Ladies Club to warm up. The Himalayas Putting Green sound fun and because none of us have handicap cards, we’ll be looking for courses nearby where that’s not a necessary requirement.
    We are all in our 60’s and just thrilled to be outdoors, walking the beautiful courses and enjoying life.
    Thank you for all your wonderful posts !!

    1. Hi Hannah, I’m very happy to hear you’re enjoying the content and that you’re planning a trip over to Scotland! You guys will have an amazing time. As for courses I would suggest for you guys, I’d look at the following:

      -St Andrews Strathtyrum Course (fun course loved by locals)
      -St Andrews Eden Course (a step up in design and difficulty from the Strathtyrum and very underrated)
      -Anstruther Golf Club (a fun 9-holer attached to a beautiful village where you’ll find amazing fish and chips near the harbor)

      Those three would all be great additions to what you’ve already planned. I hope you guys have a great time – let me know how it all goes!

  6. Many thanks, Graylyn, for your suggestions !
    The second half of our stay we’re headed down to the Borders.
    The romance of playing along the coast will never wear off and I fully expect to keep coming back well into my 70’s . I thought it would be a good sampling to try some country courses as well. Our pro here in the states said ” you guys move right along and don’t mind bad weather” so we should have a good time ! I took that as a compliment.
    I’ve tried several times unsuccessfully on your website to sign up for your newsletter. Could you help me with that? Thanks again ! Hannah

  7. Graylyn, Splendid piece. I must assume a caddie is imperative but tell me your thoughts please. I will come over in June of 2020 to Aberdeen and Fife. Join me for a round? When in Atlanta please let me have you to the Athletic Club.

  8. Hi Graylyn: Our group is coming to St. Andrews in May 2020, and I’d like a little advice. We have six days of golf and are currently scheduled for the following in order of days:

    Eden Course (our first evening in Scotland)
    Old Course (got a guaranteed tee time in the September ballot!)
    New Course (chosen as part of our Old Course deal – I played Jubilee on our 2017 visit)
    Open Date
    Kingsbarns (It’s expensive, but we subbed it in for Carnoustie, since they are full-up the week we’re there)
    Crail (I am an Overseas Member there, so we’ll play Balcomie and Craighead)

    For our open day, I’m considering Elie (which I played in 2017 and loved), Scotscraig, or Leven. Other than Crail, I haven’t played any of the courses currently on our itinerary, and the rest of my group are Scotland first-timers. I’ve heard Leven is a little shaggy in conditioning recently, but it’s a great ocean-side layout. Scotscraig could be a nice break from the seaside wind. And, I know Elie is awesome (but I’ve played it before). We could also drive across the Tay Bridge and play Monifeith or Panmure (which I’ve also played and loved). I guess Elie eliminates Leven at this point. What do you think of Scotscraig or Monifeith? Any advice is appreciated. Love your website and writing for Links Magazine.

    1. Hi Ryan, Thank you for the comments! I love the look of your trip – you’ll be playing some of my favorite courses in the world. Also, awesome that you’re a member at Crail.

      Generally speaking, I think you would enjoy any of those courses you named. I actually haven’t played Scotscraig, but have played Monifeith. Both will provide that break from the exposed wind and they’re pretty neck and neck in my book! I might err on the side of Scotscraig based on feedback I’ve heard from others, but I don’t think you’ll go wrong with either!

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