THE EAST LOTHIAN, SCOTTISH GOLF COAST
The East Lothian refers to the golfing paradise in Scotland also known as the Scottish Golf Coast. Home of the oldest golf course in the world, Musselburgh Links, this fascinating site is one of the most famous golf regions across the globe featuring as many as 22 golf courses for golfers of all tastes and standards.
The very much-admired wind-swept fairways and dunes of the East Lothian occupy about 30 miles of the Scottish coastline. This historic golfing site sits on south shores of the Firth and Forth, just 30 mins east from the renowned capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh, which itself reflects the tradition and history of Golf quite remarkably.
Hosting some of the best golf festivals and tournaments throughout the year, the Scottish Golf Coast area is known for having the driest and sunniest weather across the whole of Scotland. This places its links among the most refreshing destinations for great and uninterrupted autumn golf! With Muirfield, one of the more famous courses in this region, successfully playing host to the Open Championship in 2013, paying a visit to this iconic golf region presents an unforgettable, first-hand golfing experience. There is so much going on here, from warm-up to big-time events or festivals all year long for pros, amateurs and visitors. This explains why many golf enthusiasts from around the world travel to the 22 amazing golf courses in this area. Here are the various golf course options to pick from within the East Lothian;
Musselburgh Links, the Old Golf Course
Now located within the Musselburgh Race Track, this rare vintage golfing site is the oldest golf club in the world still in existence. After Leith links, Musselburgh Links is one of the most ancient locations with documented evidence of golf first played as far back as in 1672. It is now a nine-holer, 2,954-yard par which happens to have been the host of many open championships in the 19th Century. History is evident in these parts with golf purists nowadays having the luxury of renting period costumes and hickory clubs from the clubhouse to step back in time and experience how golf was played in the time of our ancestors. The billboards beside the second tee are emblematic of the history carved into this place with seven of its nine holes mapped out in 1838, and the other two later added in 1870.
Many open events are still held in the Old Golf Course which should be a priority stop for anyone who values the history of the beautiful game. Its colourful gorse and fascinating sod-walled bunkering make up for any odd feeling you may get from slight conditioning rough spots or playing over the race track and rails.
The legend of Muirfield is familiar to almost every lover of golf across the globe. Phil Mickelson’s victory in the 2013 Open Championship, thanks to a magical back nine contributes to this popularity. Muirfield was established in 1891 and is currently home to The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Well-known as one of the three original hosts of the Open Championship alongside Musselburgh and Prestwick Links, Muirfield has hosted 16 Open Championships since first doing so in 1892.
Its two loop-arrangement (one clockwise and the other anti-clockwise) of nine holes is a layout very unusual for a links course.
Before the most recent 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield, where Mickelson lifted the Claret Jug to join other golf legends such as Ernie Els (2002), Nick Faldo (1987, 1992), Tom Watson (1980), Lee Trevino (1972), Jack Nicklaus (1966), Gary Player (1959), Walter Hagen (1929), James Braid (1901, 1906), and Harry Vardon (1896), renovation by architect Martin Hawtree saw the addition of seven new back trees and the movement of bunkers towards fairways and greens.
Outside play is only accepted on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the famous Muirfield club and it’s often booked full months in advance. So, visiting here requires timely planning. Also, Jackets and ties are mandatory before you could get in and use the locker room to change into your golf attire.
This is another historic golf course in the East Lothian with a layout which holds the old-fashioned golfing virtues of vintage views, shots and club selections in high esteem. Having undergone many redesigns since establishment in 1856, the Dunbar Golf Club which hugs the rocky coastline of a narrow land strip very close to the crashing waves presents quite a challenge to players of all levels. This Classic Scottish Links course lightens up when players walk across the ancient wall (built by prisoners of Napoleon’s invading armies) at the back of the third green with the next 14 holes all along the North Sea. Sloppy tee shots which end up overly close to the wall on the finishing hole of Dunbar’s par-4 have decided many matches on this course.
In 1968, Dunbar Golf club hosted the European Tour’s first PGA Championship which now holds annually as the flagship event of the Tour at Wentworth. It has also played and still plays host to countless national and international competitions like The Scottish PGA, The Scottish Amateur, The British Boys’, The Ladies Home International, The Scottish Boys’ and other junior and senior championships in addition to serving as an Open Qualifying Course.
There are plans to build a new clubhouse in the next few years on the ridge over the second hole, this redesign also features routing tweaks which will change the current par-5 first hole to the finisher meanwhile the par-5 second hole will become the new opener.
Dating back to 1832, this is another classic Scottish golf course more saturated with oddities of links golf more than any other you would find in the world. One of the eye-catching features of the North Berwick Golf course is its par-3 15th hole, known as the original Redan, which has a slanted green from the players all the way from front-right to back-left. This design has been copied over the years by many golf course designers around the world. The other challenges in the layout of this course include the madly narrow nature of the raised16th green having a chasm in the middle and two plateaus on both sides, and the ancient stone wall protecting the greens of par no. 3 and 13, which are the two toughest par-4s of the course.
Its traditional layout of 9 out and 9 back links particularly attracts a good number of golf-loving visitors from across the world every year and it serves for qualifiers into Muirfield British Open Championships.
This amazing West links golf club features a fascinating facility for children. The course for children has a 9-hole par 3 layout beside the 15th and 16th hole on the west links. It is among the best in the world for children to learn, though adults are allowed if accompanied by a youngster.
The North Berwick Childrens’ golf course opened in 1888 and is maintained by the greenkeeping staff of the North Berwick Golf Club. This means the conditions are always perfect and the fees are kept low as an encouragement for children to try their hands at the sport.
In the eastern end of the same town where the North Berwick Golf Club is situated, you will find the modest Glen Golf Club which isn’t a stand out course of the East Lothian. The clifftop course is an amazing course nevertheless, with breathtaking views of the Bass Rock, Firth of Forth and the North Berwick town together with uniquely interesting challenges. It’s most memorable hole seems to be blind, beachside par-3 13th.
Archerfield Dirleton Links and Archerfield Fidra Links
Between the more ancient Muirfield and North Berwick Golf courses are the Dirleton and Fidra Archerfield links. The large Archerfield Estate carries both courses which are rather upmarket having been formed just more recently in 2004. Though the two Archerfield courses are very much infants when looking at their historically illustrious neighbours, they are doing very well to make a name of their own having hosted major tournaments and events such as the British Ladies Open (2011), The Paul Lawrie Match Play (2016), and The Scottish Senior Open (2015) with prospects of a lot more to come. All this is thanks to the uniquely designed fast running-links mixed with pine forest of the Fidra links laid out by DJ Russel combined. Also, the generally prestigious feel of the area well portrayed by the legendary 18th red sandstone Archerfield House building with its luxurious gardens contributes to this reputation.
Royal Musselburgh Golf Course
Located at Lavenhall links in Prestonpans, two miles from the more popular Old Golf Course, the Royal Musselburgh Golf course is believed to have been founded in 1774, making it the 6th oldest Golf Club in the world. The life of the club began on Musselburgh’s ancient links with its royal status coming from connections with the Duke of Connaught. With a rather parkland setting between pine and oak trees, The Royal Musselburgh Golf Course still has much of a links feel making it perfect for people searching for a mix of both worlds.
Pioneered in 1774, the Old Club Cup is the world’s oldest trophy still contested for. This elegant silver trophy which is usually displayed in the British Golf Museum is presented to the player who wins the Autumn meeting at the annual dinner of the Club.
Longniddry Golf Club
Traveling south from the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club, down the A198 brings us to Longniddry. Deservedly one of the best Golf destinations in the world, the memorable experience surrounding this course is in the Harry S. Colt design featuring a smooth mix of links and woodlands, white sanded bunkers and windswept fairways, and stunning views of the city center right across the Forth Bridges and through the Firth of Fife from many of its holes.
Often selected as a befitting course for some qualifiers into the Open Championships held at Muirfield, the 6260-yard course presents more of a challenge than it appears with eight par 4’s of over 400 yards each and no par 5’s usually in the west wind.
Craigielaw Golf Club
Clearly, one of the renowned new courses of the East Lothian, Craigielaw Golf Club is situated between Aberlady and Longniddry. The deep bunkers of this course together with its exposed layout to the elements have contributed to it building a commendable reputation of sternness since its establishment in 2000. Craigielaw Golf Club has hosted a good number of tournaments and the new nationwide course rotation policy of the Scottish Open has led to it being chosen as a venue for the Scottish Senior Open between the 14th and 16th of September, 2018.
Gullane Golf Club (No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3)
Slightly towards the east from Craigielaw is evidently a golfing Mecca, in the name of Gullane. This village actually has four amazing golf courses with three of them all in the Gullane Golf Club.
The 6584-yard Gullane No. 1 is the most scenic and strongest of the three at the club dating as far back as 1884 and has since served regularly as a qualifying site for the British Open alongside many other senior competitions. There is a seemingly impossible task of climbing up the famous Gullane Hill with the par on the par-5 third hole which ends with a fitting reward at the fourth tee of Gullane No. 1, an elevated perch with an amazing overview of the whole links including some holes of Gullane No. 2. There are so many other signature features which combine to make Gullane Golf Club (No. 1, 2 and 3) one of the best golf destinations in the world.
For instance, the raised tee box at No. 7 presents an amazing view of a distant Muirfield peek and a beach usually coloured with kite surfers. Breathtaking!
Added to being chosen to host the Links Golf Cup East Lothian from the 25th to the 29th of March 2019, and the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open between July 11th and 15th this 2018. Gullane’s No. 2 course hosts many junior competitions as it is a smaller version of No. 1.
However, all three courses at this club are magnificent with the less popular No. 2 and No. 3 renowned for their outstandingly pristine conditions all year long.
Luffness New Golf Club
This gem of a course joins with the other three Gullane Golf Club courses mentioned above in the vicinity of Gullane village, making it one of the best links destinations on the planet. The Luffness New Golf Club was founded in 1894 with its historic design which offers challenging and enjoyable experiences. Designed by Old Tom Morris, it’s a traditional links course which is very welcoming to visitors from anywhere in the world.
Musselburgh Golf Club
Designed in 1938 by five times former Open champion, James Braid, the Musselburgh Golf course was built when the Honourable Company transferred to Muirfield. This top-class championship links course has many eye-catching features that rival any other in the world. With the length measuring 6725 yards from the tees, its situation around a bend on the Esk river presents an enjoyable but tough challenge even for the most accomplished golfers around. The number of visitors returning to this course at the slightest opportunity is a clear message of how satisfying every experience here pans out.
As the years have gone by, the Musselburgh Golf Club has hosted so many amateur tournaments and the Scottish Professional Championship twice. This amazing course until 2010 distinctly served for Scotland as the qualifying course of the Regional Open Championship and was also used for the Local Final Qualifying rounds for the Muirfield OPEN back in 2013.
Gifford Golf Club
The Gifford Golf Club is amongst the few high-standard parkland courses in the East Lothian. Created in 1904, this beautiful 9-hole course rests upon the gently undulating parkland of the suburbs of Gifford village. Its top-class greens are well-spoken of in the company of other world-class courses. The first 100 years of this club’s existence saw only four head greenkeepers, indicating their passion to maintain standard continuity and smooth evolution. This has led to the original architecture remaining quite unchanged with slight improvements done annually. The staff here are also known to provide light drinks, snacks, and sometimes freshly cooked meals with prior notice to visitors.
Haddington Golf Club
Bounded at the North by the River Tyne, this historic parkland course beautifully sets within the peaceful walled area once occupied by a one-time country state. The Haddington Golf Club, though not the most reputable in the East Lothian, features amazing historic buildings and a mixed treat of natural waters, trees and eye-catching indigenous wildlife with refreshing sightings of grouse, deer, and otters very common.
Kilspindie Golf Club
Hidden within the nature reserve of the Old-fashioned Aberlady Bay village and the Firth of Forth’s teaming waters, the Kilspindie Golf Club is truly one of the most fascinating hidden golfing gems to be discovered by lovers of the sport from around the world. The current course was laid out and first used in November 1898, making it the 35th oldest in the world. Originally designed by Ross and Sayers before later contributions from Willie Park, this traditional Scottish seaside links course retains a charm which captures the hearts of its visitors. Mind-blowing coastal views, well-mapped fairways, deceptive greens, sights of diving seabirds, seals basking on the sand, and so much more are some of the irresistible features of this precious golf stone.
Normally a host venue for so many tournaments, Kilspindie Golf Club is among four courses chosen to host the Links Golf Cup East Lothian between the 25th and the 29th of March, 2019.
The Renaissance Club
The stunning landscape of this epitome of golfing tradition only adds to the pure elegance embedded into the design by its architect, Tom Doak. There is deep originality in the course’s memorable windswept links. This modern masterpiece has received worldwide recognition for its expertly laid out natural features with critics and professionals of the game all in acceptance of the fact that this course is one of the most exclusive in the world. Golf Monthly named the Renaissance club BEST NEW COURSE IN GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND.
State-of-the-art facilities at the private club such as; the 400-yard long practice area filled with Titleist Pro V1 balls, access to well-trained professional staff, the three-story clubhouse, and so much more make this golfing paradise worthy of its consideration as the future of links golf.
One-time experiences at this members-only course give golf lovers unforgettable experiences.
Winterfield Golf Course
Located along the coast of Dunbar, this relatively low-key seaside East Lothian course features great sea views of the Isle of May, the Bass Rock, and the Firth of Forth with the Lammermuir Hills serving nicely as a backdrop. Nature is key in the experience gotten from walking and playing this course.
Castle Park Golf Club
This very beautiful private parkland course isn’t far from the Winterfield course as it sits just beneath the Lammermuir Hills. Castle Park Golf Club features 18 holes which challenge golfers of all ability with its complex nines. The general feel at this facility is unique within the East Lothian as it is particularly an amazing golfing holiday destination.
Whitekirk Golf Club
This unique golf course which used to be the unsung hero of the Scottish Golf Coast has been closed recently. Whitekirk Golf club was supposed to stay open during a planned redesign of its quirky modern undulating heathland track by Paul Lawrie, 1999 Open Champion. The beauty of its layout took advantage of natural water hazards in the area.
The course is located at the center of the East Lothian area and used to offer some of the best views of the entire region. Things haven’t gone quite according to plan with activities of the course which had amazing views of the Firth of Forth from its elevated tee boxes currently frozen.
The East Lothian is most famous for its deep golf history and plethora of golfing options for even the most astute golfer. These breathtaking golf courses outlined above are surrounded by top-class hotel, catering, touring and clubhouse services of all levels to make sure this heritage is preserved and nicely served to everyone who comes visiting.