Playing golf in Scotland is to do it the way the good Lord intended. And the stretch of coastal land to the east of Edinburgh is where the game thrives like nowhere else in the world. Many believe this rugged stretch is the real golfing heartland, so if you?re up for a battle against the natural elements that come together to test every facet of your game, listen up.
Like St Andrews, Gullane is known for being at the centre of five quality championship courses and wherever you are in the town you?ll usually be able to see golfers making their way through the old streets for a knock around.
Nearest to Edinburgh is Luffness, which from a distance is indistinguishable from the three courses of Gullane itself. Whereas Gullane 1, 2 and 3, as they?re fondly known, play around and over Gullane Hill, Luffness twists and turns at its foot. Gentle both in length and gradient, it may seem a surprising choice to have hosted the qualifying for the Open.
Small greens are the defence at Luffness, testing approach shots with an array problems and their smooth surfaces reward good strokes and require a deft touch and feel. Laid out on some of the most natural and pristine golfing land anywhere it is also the perfect introduction to Lothian?s charms ? and that?s probably why the R&A like it for qualifying.
Less than a minute?s drive up the busy main road from Edinburgh, you arrive in Gullane itself. The three courses are all worth playing but Gullane No 1 is recognised as the best. The second offers a heroic and original challenge but if you fail to pull off a famous low score you?ll be rewarded by breathtaking vistas. A view accelerates back along the Forth to the capital, framed on either side by the sweeping landcape of Lothian and Fife. The exhilaration generated is all consuming and can?t help but tip over onto the remaining 16 holes. The short par 5 twelfth, is an interesting dogleg at the base of the hill, and the tricky proposition of the par three which follows, are two of the most enjoyable.
On the left hand side as you leave Gullane heading south, is an tiny road that leads to one of golf?s purest thoughts. If you think you?ve taken a wrong turning, chances are you haven?t. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers dates from 1744, however Muirfield their third home, is almost half as old having been designed in 1882. The course doesn?t resemble your typical seaside layout. There?s nothing of a long desolate sprawl of dunes and no sense of wide open space with an obvious grey wall patrolling three of the four sides and the estuary guarding the remainder. However this is a awesome test of links shot making that?s considered one of the finest tracks on Earth, and we aren?t about to disagree. The bunkering is imaginative and not because they?ve been designed to look like Disney characters. No, instead the bunkers are small but perfectly placed to make you think on every shot. It is no exaggeration to say that every hole here is a classic and as no two play in the same direction the wind is always tough to judge.
Not very far South is the West Links of North Berwick. And if you?re after a classic, old course with a quirky character, you?ll find nowhere better. North Berwick offers the chance to tackle two of the most copied holes ever. In Perfection (the 14th) and Redan (the 15th), have helped other well-respected course architects to give their own track a memorable test. Most importantly the West Links is refreshingly eccentric. Small, stone walls, roads and the beach all have an important part to play. Trust us, you?ll never forget you?re trip to North Berwick ? if you get the chance to play it you?ll be richly rewarded.
The rugged links of Dunbar bends along the jagged shore a few miles North West of St Abb?s Head. Dunbar is an unusual layout with the first three holes and the 18th the only holes visible from the clubhouse. The remaining fourteen holes exist on the other side of a large stone wall that runs down the edge of the last. The land there is different in character. The fairways roll alongside the raw beach and lead you towards beautifully placed greens.
Scotsman Hotel (Tel:0131 556 5565)
Overlooks the North Bridge in the city centre.
Apex International Hotel (Tel: 0845 608 3456)
Situated in the bustling Grassmarket area.
Hopefield House (B&B)
(Tel: 01620 842 191) positioned on
Gullane?s Main Street.
Greywalls Hotel (Tel: 01620 842 144)
The Marine Hotel (Tel 0870 400 8129)
Overlooks golf courses and the Firth of Forth.
Scotrail and Caledonian Sleeper
Tel: 08457 484950
GNER: Tel: 08457 225333
Virgin Trains: Tel: 08457 222333
Tel: 0870 850 4850
Scot Airways: Tel: 0870 606 0707
Lothian is easily accessed by main
motorways and enjoys a good
network of roads internally.
The A198 from Edinburgh
connects all five courses.
WHERE TO PLAY
(Tel: 01620 843 336)
Yardage: 6122 yards, from medal tees.
Par 69 SSS 70
Green Fees: £46wd
Gullane No 1
(Tel: 01620 842255)
Yardage: 6466 yards, from medal tees.
Par 71 SSS 72
Green Fees: £75wd, £90we
North Berwick West Links
(Tel: 01620 892135)
Yardage: 6420 yards, from medal tees.
Par 71 SSS 72
Green Fees: £50wd, £70we
(Tel 01368 862317)
Yardage: 6404 yards, from medal tees.
Par 71 SSS 71
Green Fees: £40wd, £50we
(Tel 01620 842123)
Yardage: 6673 yards, from tees of the day.
Par 70 SSS 73
Green Fees: Tuesday and Thursday are visitors days
one round is £110, 2 rounds £140.
Due to demand you normally have to write
one year in advance to secure a tee time.