In many ways, the Dukes Course at St Andrews was standard Peter Thomson 1990s fare, a links layout in a parkland setting that doesn't quite hold the interest of the golfer for the full 18 nor manage to convince them it's an authentic links experience. Only three or four miles inland of St Andrews, Dukes is cut through an attractive wooded estate with glimpses of the Old Town and pleasant firth views from several parts of the property.
From Thomson's perspective, it's easy to see why he likes to build these 'links looking' courses and in fairness this is one of his better efforts. The problem, of course, is the lush surfaces and the fact that many greens here are designed to be approached via the air rather than the ground. Also his random 'Old Course-style' bunkering looked quite effective but there wasn't anywhere like the space or bounce here needed to make such design ideas work properly.
Several years ago the bunkers were completely rebuilt in a more naturalistic style by Tim Liddy, who changed quite a few greens as well, especially on the closing stretch. Liddy's bunkering is more rugged with traps attractively cut into undulations and framed by the gorse and heather. The style works well here, but one criticism is that the design looks better than it plays, because greens aren't always arranged to favour a tee shot from a certain area. Often out of position shots are hit to flat sections of greens, so the strategy essentially becomes how to avoid bunkers, rather than how to flirt with bunkers to set up better shots.
These small issues aside, the Dukes is a pleasant golf walk – with nicely conditioned holes enjoying views of the Old Town and some of the attractive Fife countryside. Those spending a week or more in St Andrews may consider a game here as a means of mixing up golf with the older links.