It is the place where club golf, as we know it, first began. Bruntsfield Links Golf Society is the fourth-oldest club in the world – founded in 1761 – and the sport has been played on that original Edinburgh site for much longer.
Their current Barnton course is a former Open qualifying venue, and a layout that has been given a helping hand by Willie Park Jnr, Dr Alister MacKenzie and James Braid down the years.
It had been almost unaltered since the early 1970s so, last year, the club embarked on an ambitious redevelopment project to modernise the course and called in Mackenzie & Ebert’s Tom Mackenzie.
He had been behind the very successful improvements to Saunton’s West course and his inspirational plans at Bruntsfield included eight new holes and developing a former practice ground.
With the first phase of a £1.2 million project now complete, we asked Bruntsfield Links chief executive Dougie Cleeton how it’s gone and what is to follow in the next stage…
Take us through what has happened so far.
The project started in June 2017 and, through one of the wettest summers on record, 1st Golf Construction completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
New signature holes were created – the 2nd from an elevated tee looks down upon a fantastic vista while the 16th represents the ultimate par 3 over water to a green that slopes towards the pond.
The membership of the society were so impressed with the first phase that they almost unanimously agreed that the course works should be completed in year two, one year ahead of schedule.
What is planned then in this next phase?
There will be an impressive new putting green in front of the clubhouse on the areas currently occupied by the 1st tee and which more than quadruples the size of the existing one.
The final phase will also see further dramatic changes with the par-4 9th becoming a par 5.
The once signature 10th will be even more dramatic as a ‘postage stamp’ par 3 that will be played to a green where the view from the tee is an unspoiled vista of the River Forth and beyond.
The new 12th hole will become a demanding par 5 dogleg and dangerously bunkered.
The 1st tee will move onto the current 18th green, which subsequently gets flipped over onto the once 10th fairway.
Another 40-plus bunkers will be reshaped and lined with Capillary Concrete.
When can we expect to see it all completed and what has been the over-riding aim of the project?
The renovations will be completed in October and ready for play in April 2019.
The over-riding observation about the changes is that while it looks like the course is more challenging, it remains very fair, aesthetically outstanding, and is elevated to one of the very best parkland courses in the UK.
Bruntsfield Links’ long history
The Society dates back to 1761 when members played over five holes at Bruntsfield Links.
Golf had been played there since the 15th century in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.
The growing popularity of the game saw the links become very busy and the Society moved to Musselburgh in 1876.
They were soon on the move again, this time to a spacious parkland course laid out by Willie Park Jnr at Barnton – three miles west of the city of Edinburgh – in 1898.
Dr Alister MacKenzie, James Braid and Fred Hawtree have all since modernised or reconstructed the course and it has held a host of top amateur tournaments as well as being nominated as a regional qualifying course for the Open between 2011 and 2015.
The clubhouse, which was built in 1899, is renowned for its views of the Firth of Forth and the hills of Fife beyond.
Having been in existence for more than 250 years, the club also boasts a fine selection of memorabilia, with ancient hickory clubs, featherie balls and paintings dating back to their foundation dotted about the clubhouse main hall, staircase and Sandy Watson room.