Open

Most of our places are now open. Find a place to visit near you.

Back to Hill of Tarvit Mansion

Kingarrock Hickory Golf

Test your game on a golf course that transports you back almost 100 years in time to an era when golf was a game of skill, strategy and technique rather than one driven by innovation and technology.

History

Kingarrock is the only remaining hickory golf course in the UK and was first established in 1924. Over the years we have welcomed British and US Open Champions. Now we offer you the unique opportunity to follow in their footsteps and test your own skills on our challenging 9-hole, 2022yd course.

Whether you’re a serious golfer or just fancy trying your hand at a fun, authentic sport from bygone days, we’re confident you’ll enjoy swinging back in time, whatever your handicap.

Kingarrock’s golf heritage stretches back to 1906 when wealthy jute magnate Frederick Sharp first brought his family across the River Tay to Hill of Tarvit, attracted by its proximity to St Andrews Royal & Ancient Golf Club.

Not content with such easy access, Frederick and his son Hugh soon set about designing a 9-hole golf course on the front lawn. It proved a popular fixture with golfers for many years, until the advent of World War 2 when the course was commandeered for farming use to aid the war effort.

The site’s great golfing heritage was finally revived in the 1990s when Trust staff discovered a 1924 map of the course, along with Frederick Sharp’s golfing bag. We set about restoring the old course to its former glory, with some improvements to make it suitable for modern players. After a 70-year hiatus, the course finally reopened in June 2008.

An empty glass bottle lies on its side in front of a wooden box. The box has a sepia photo on the front of three men drinking tea from a flask and holding golf clubs.

The Kingarrock golfing experience

A typical day

A day at Kingarrock should please any keen golfer, but you get much more than a game of golf – you get an authentic slice of Edwardian life.

Your day starts with a warm welcome in Forester’s Cottage from the golf team. They’ll introduce you to the quirks and charms of the 1920s kit and give you some fascinating history, about both the history of the game and the Sharp family. After that, it’s time to collect your clubs and head out to the first tee. A 9-hole round takes roughly 90–120 minutes to complete. For maximum privacy on the course, and to fully experience the game exactly as the Sharps did when they had the course to themselves, we do our utmost to ensure each golfing party gets a half-hour gap on the first tee.

After you’ve made your final putt, you’ll return to the Forester’s Cottage where we reward your efforts with another fine Fife tradition: a cool, refreshing glass of ginger beer and a plate of shortbread.

There’s no dress code, but you’re welcome to don your plus fours and look sharp on the course!

Please note that dogs are not permitted on the golf course, although they are welcome on the rest of the estate.

Non-golfers are more than welcome to accompany their golfing counterparts on the course in this sublime stretch of Fife countryside.

Tools of the game

Back when the Sharp family designed the original course at Kingarrock, golf was all about choosing your clubs carefully, making the shot with skill and using your imagination. We’re rekindling the original spirit of the sport, with all the excitement and challenges players enjoyed a century ago.

Hickory clubs were state-of-the-art in the Edwardian era. Wooden clubs had been used for years, but hickory wood was first imported from America during the 1860s. They remained popular until the late 1930s, when steel gradually began to replace them. At first they may feel a little more delicate than today’s sophisticated, technology-driven titanium and graphite clubs, but they’re reassuringly sturdy and light enough to carry comfortably.

You’ll get issued with five original 1900s hickory clubs: a spoon, a driving iron, a mid-mashie, a mashie niblick and a putter. With expert guidance from our team, fully versed in the ways of Edwardian golf, you’ll have everything you need to pick your shot with perfect poise. If you’re already a hickory golf enthusiast, you’re welcome to bring along and play with your own heritage clubs.

Now let’s talk balls. Golf balls came a long way during the 19th century, starting with the original, much-prized Featherie balls, stuffed with goose or chicken feathers. They were superseded in the mid-1800s by the Gutta Percha, which was made from rubber processed from Malayan gum trees and far more economical to produce.

In 1898, things were ratcheted up a notch with the introduction of rubber-wound balls, mass-produced in America by the Haskell Company. By 1921 the Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s Rules Committee standardised things, stipulating that ‘The weight of the ball shall be not greater than 1.62 ounces and the size not less than 1.62 inches in diameter.’ Today, we play with replicas of these 1920s balls.

Last, but by no means least, comes the Reddy Tee, first patented by American dentist William Lowell in 1924. The wooden, red-painted Reddy Tee soon took off and set the benchmark. It seems astonishing that this initiative took so long to develop, especially as for centuries golfers were forced to improvise and tee off from little mounds of sand made with their hands!

If you’re a seasoned golfer you’ll certainly appreciate the difference these historically authentic tools bring to your game. You’ll notice that the ball travels a shorter distance and the clubs generally benefit from a less aggressive swing than you may be used to. Of course, this all makes for a more leisurely game, but we’re sure you’ll get into the swing of things soon enough!

A brown wooden shelf filled with white golfballs, the golfballs have a logo of two crossed golf clubs in blue. Above the shelf is a brass plaque that reads 1924.

About the course

The original design and layout of the course have been tweaked slightly, bringing it in line with modern safety needs. The old course had several holes which crossed each other, which made many a player holler ‘fore’ and dodge flying balls! What makes Kingarrock truly special is the unique environment we’ve created, using a combination of historically inspired groundsmanship with a few modern touches, and sheep grazing among the rough.

Greens and collars are hand-cut, while fairways and tees are carefully mowed using 1920s-style trailed gangs. No fertilisers or artificial irrigation are used anywhere on the course, which provides a more natural, less manicured (and therefore more authentic) feel than most other courses.

Ecology of the course

We have an impressive level of biodiversity, with wildflowers including marsh orchid, lady’s bedstraw, cuckooflower and ox-eye daisy spreading across the course and attracting high numbers of bumblebees.

The tussocky grasses draw field voles and tawny owls, while the gorse on the course attracts yellowhammers sheltering from swooping sparrowhawks. You’ll also spot many tree sparrows, who nest in some of the tree boxes we’ve provided.

We’ve also started planting trees, such as sessile oak, pedunculate oak, European beech, horse chestnut, copper beech and sweet chestnut, some of which have not been present here for a century.

Course plan and holes

Today’s course has a number of features to put your skills to the test, including three bunkers of varying depths and a water feature – the cundy (or small stream) on hole 7.

1. Ha-ha

Slightly uphill and often into the prevailing westerly wind, the opening shot is important if you’re going to have a line into the green for your second. Aim just to the right of the oak left of centre in the fairway. Be careful not to go through the green as the ditch in front of the ha-ha is deep.

2. Stand sure

Straightforward, longish par 3. Don’t take too much club or you could go over the drystone dyke behind the green.

3. Kingarroch

Taking its name from the Kingarroch Inn at the bottom of the valley, this is the only ‘blind’ shot on the course. Wait for the bell if there are players in front of you. This is a short par 4 that requires accuracy off the tee and punishes a slice or hook. Play within yourself. Anywhere on the fairway and the green is easily within reach for your second.

4. Copse

The shortest hole on the course. Don’t overshoot or you could easily become entangled in the trees at the back of the hole.

5. Wemyss

The longest hole on the course and sometimes a birdie opportunity if you get the line right and don’t try to cut the corner. The two 1920s-style inland bunkers are clear to see in front of the green. Getting over them is important, but beware the long rough beyond.

6. Monument

Hit your drive left of centre to have a safe approach for your second shot. The cundy lies in wait to catch any ball in the light rough either left or right of the fairway at the lowest point of the hole.

7. Cundy

Judging distance is everything. Too short and you’re in the cundy or the bunker. Too long and you’re in the deep grass on the bank behind. Is it a full niblick or mashie niblick, or do you go down the shaft on a mid-mashie? Good luck.

8. Doocot

If your tee shot doesn’t go the distance to see the flag on this dogleg left, don’t risk going over the trees. Play up short and hope to chip and putt for your par. If you’re not going to chip in, leave your ball below the hole as there’s more slope to deal with than on any other green.

9. Sharp

A wonderful hole to finish your round with, well chosen by Frederick and Hugh Sharp all those years ago. Do you play safe and take a mid-mashie for the centre of the fairway or select the spoon and go for the green? It all depends on the condition of your match!

A single golfer stands on the green, next to a yellow flag. The golfer is swinging a golf club, preparing to hit a ball into the hole by the flag. In the background is a white mansion house and woodland.

Booking

We’re delighted that the golf course is now open again.

It’s easy to step back in time and book a round or two at Kingarrock. Book a tee time online by emailing your requested date and preferred tee time to kingarrock@nts.org.uk.

The course is open from Thursday to Monday. The first tee time is 9.30am and our tee times are 30 minutes apart to allow all our guests to enjoy a unique and unhurried golf experience.

Green fees

From £30pp (9 holes)

From £45pp (18 holes)

All prices include everything you need to enjoy a great day at Kingarrock, including a set of authentic hickory clubs in a lightweight bag, tees, balls and a scorecard. Our knowledgeable staff will provide an entertaining introduction and some tips and pointers before your game. Afterwards, a warm welcome awaits you back at Golf Cottage, with refreshing ginger beer and Scottish shortbread.

Groups

Kingarrock Hickory Golf is the perfect experience for a celebration with a difference, team-building, or just a good old-fashioned day out.

Group rates available for 8 players and over. Corporate and celebratory hospitality packages available. To find out more, contact us at kingarrock@nts.org.uk.

Concessions

Selected concessions and occasional special offers are available. PGA/BIGGA Members £30

Concessions must be booked in advance and may require proof of eligibility. Please email kingarrock@nts.org.uk or call 01334 653421.