A re-routing of the course due to the infrastructure involved in hosting one of the five majors in the women’s game will result in the normal second hole being the opening hole in August, with the current first hole, in turn, becoming the 18th.
“It will finish on one, and the tournament will start on a par-3, our second hole,” revealed Alan Hogg, the chief executive of Kingsbarns, at a media day to promote the event. “It reminds you a wee bit of Lytham. There’s not many championships start with a par-3, so it’ll be really interesting.”
It is a pity, in truth, because the normal 18th would probably be more capable of throwing up some drama with its steep bank down to a little stream at the bottom. The upside, though, is that the final green for the event will now have a spectacular view of the Tay Estuary as its backdrop.
“I think it’s based around the hospitality and the logistics, the challenges of servicing the hospitality,” added Hogg. “If you look at the back of our 18, the course was built with a stadium feel, great for spectators. Yes, you could get grandstands, but servicing them might get a bit difficult.
“The people from (tournament promoters) IMG, who do the Dunhill Links and have been here for 16 years, know Kingsbarns like the back of their hand. They say with the Ricoh it’s that mixed level spectator/hospitality, so they chose our first hole, which has that lovely view down the coastline when you get on to the green.”
In its time as one of the host courses for the Dunhill Links, Kingsbarns has witnessed lots of low scoring. South African Branden Grace shot a 12-under-par 60 in 2012 to set a new course record, which was matched by American Peter Uihlein the following year. In fact, Uihlein would have become the first man in European Tour history to break 60 if he’d been able to convert a 20-foot eagle putt at his closing hole.
For the Ricoh Women’s Open, it is likely to be set up to play at maximum of 6,700 yards – it can go up to 7,400 yards from the tips – with an option to reduce it by between 200-300 yards if it is really windy. No matter the length, Hogg is confident it will serve up a fitting test for the world’s top women golfers in one of their showpiece events.
“With the pro-am format of the Dunhill and the three-course structure, the pin positions are essentially the same virtually every year, and the holes have to be set up the same every day so everyone plays the same course,” he said. “This’ll be the first time Kingsbarns will be able to show a little bit of its teeth by stretching a hole or reducing it depending on the wind and also in the positions of the pins, again relative to the wind.
“In all honesty we’ve never said that we’re a championship course and we’re the hardest of courses, that’s not been Kingsbarns. From day one it’s been about the public, so we’re fortunate and privileged the Tours like to come here and play professional events. But we do nothing to the course for the Dunhill, there’s no narrowing of fairway and it’s exactly the same for the Ricoh.
“The difference is when the general public play we have different pin positions and in the Dunhill, it’s set up for a pro-am. The pros understand that and appreciate that. I’ve done six Dunhills and the weather has been perfect, it’s been benign and these boys are good, so links courses with no wind, no defence, lovely greens?
“When the women come to town and depending on how the wind is in August, the course can be stretched and the pins positioned as tough or as straightforward as the Tours feel fit.”