Scotland Golf Guide: East Lothian
The names trip off the tongue in any wish list for a trip north of the Border. Muirfield, Gullane, North Berwick, Dunbar, Archerfield – no wonder East Lothian can call itself Scotland’s Golf Coast.
Home to 19 distinctive and different layouts, this area around Edinburgh may have more great courses per mile than anywhere else in Britain. Top of the list, of course, must be Muirfield – the host of 16 Opens and acclaimed as one of the world’s great golfing experiences.
But if a few hours among the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is not within your reach, don’t despair.
Surely matching Muirfield stride for stride is the magnificent North Berwick. With views of the Firth of Forth, the islands of Bass Rock, Craigleith, Lamb and Fidra, there can’t be too many better places in the world to enjoy a round.
Putts have been holed over the historic West Links since the 17th century – the present club being formed in 1832 – and today’s players continue to tread the same path. Expect to negotiate walls in the middle of fairways – there’s even one of front of a green – and hit shots off the beach if you’ve failed to stay within the confines of the course.
You won’t need to stray too far from those shores to find The Glen, one of East Lothian’s most popular courses.
Also situated in North Berwick, James Braid and Ben Sayers helped frame this course, referred to by the locals as the East Links, which has boasted 18 holes since 1906.
A fabulous clifftop location, with holes that look out to the Firth of Forth and the world renowned bird sanctuary, Bass Rock, brings the visitors flocking in.
Standing at 6,275 yards with a par of 70, off the medal tees it is a real challenge. Don’t make the mistake of missing out as you make your way round East Lothian’s gems.
Continue round the coast, passing Archerfield and Gullane’s courses along the way, and you will arrive at Kilspindie – which spreads out along the southern stretch of the Firth of Forth.
Kilspindie are one of the world’s oldest clubs and celebrate their 150th birthday this year.
Should you join the celebrations, you will discover a traditional links that’s a challenge whatever your ability. With well-defined fairways and greens that are both quick and deceptive, the weather can make a massive difference to your eventual score.
Take the signature hole, the par-3 eighth. Measuring 162 yards off the white tees, it can play anything from a 9-iron to a 3-wood.
That should all be part of the charm and the challenge.
Any East Lothian trip simply must include a round at Renaissance, the work of celebrated architect Tom Doak.
His design was minimalist – embracing the original dunes and incorporating the contours into a course that was moulded from 300 acres of pine forest.
Trees may be sparser now, but a number stayed in place – guarding fairways and greens and adding depth to the landscape.
The holes around the turn, from nine to 11, are Renaissance’s jewels. They move around the coastline offering views of the Firth of Forth that mustn’t be missed.
And don’t forget the historic Musselburgh Links, the world’s oldest playing course, or their near neighbours Musselburgh and Royal Musselburgh.
Golf in East Lothian really is a trip to treasure.