Some of the nation’s best golf courses are tucked into a very accessible area, writes Paul Corney
Head North towards the Cheviots at Carter Bar and you’ll quickly discover the grandeur that is the Scottish Borders. These lands are wonderfully varied with high moors, bare hills, rugged cliffs and wooded valleys all combining to provide an air of tranquillity and peacefulness.
It’s hard to believe that this region is marked by its violent and savage past – centuries of combat and conflict between the English and Scots. Fortunately the battles these days are good-natured and mainly confined to the region’s golf courses – and there are plenty to choose from.
While many were mainly nine-holers at one point, it is no longer the case. The area now boasts some top 18-hole courses including the Dave Thomas-designed Cardrona near Peebles, the Roxburghe which sits on the outskirts of Kelso and, over on the coast, Eyemouth, where you have the opportunity to play “the most extraordinary golf hole in Great Britain” then relax in a clubhouse with views that are simply stunning.
There are 18-hole courses at Duns and Coldstream and, if you add in the likes of Torwoodlee, The Woll and Peebles, you can see why visitors to the Scottish Borders are simply spoilt for choice.
As for accommodation, the region offers many great places to stay – and a personal favourite is the four-star Peebles Hydro Hotel. Set in 30 acres, it is a superb indoor and outdoor leisure resort and is ideally located for playing golf around these parts. Many of the 132 bedrooms enjoy spectacular views across the beautiful Tweed Valley and all are en-suite, spacious, extremely comfortable, and well equipped. Peebles Hydro also has an excellent reputation for food – be it fine dining at the hotel itself or its award-winning Lazels restaurant in Peebles. Another great place to stay is the Auld Cross Keys Inn in Denholm. The village is situated 50 miles south of Edinburgh, and is only 16 miles from the border itself at Carter Bar. Hawick is the nearest large town which is five miles to the west, with Jedburgh lying six miles in the opposite direction. Denholm is a quiet village, with two pubs, a post office, butcher, hairdresser and a garage. Overlooking the village green, the Auld Cross Keys Inn enjoys an exceptional reputation in the area for good food and excellent ales. The premises were built in 1800 as a bakehouse, later becoming a coaching inn.
David and Karen Bennett are the Inn’s owners and pride themselves on the service they offer.
David says: “When we took over in 2003, we only had two rooms but we’ve now expanded and we currently have 12 en-suite bedrooms with TV, wi-fi and tea and coffee-making facilities.”
The attraction of the Auld Cross Keys is that it is central to many Borders golf courses.
David Bennett says: “There must be 30 courses in the Borders so there are plenty to choose from and I believe we are priced right.”
The nearest course to Denholm is Minto, a couple of miles away. Established in 1928 and set in parklands on the lower slopes of Minto Hill, the course faces south over the Teviot Valley and enjoys outstanding views of the surrounding countryside. Considering the quality of the facilities, Minto is particularly affordable, and with continuous investment in the course, visitors are guaranteed an interesting round of golf.
Slightly further afield is Woll Golf Club and one of the most popular in the Borders. This par-70 parkland course follows the gentle contours of the Ale Valley and is surrounded by mature trees. Sited on the natural valley bottom, the course drains very well and is playable all year round.
A 15-minute drive north from Denholm is Torwoodlee Golf Club. Situated just outside Galashiels, the course is a picturesque par-69 and set amongst a mix of mature woodland and rolling parkland – but don’t be deceived, it is one of the most challenging courses in the area. Torwoodlee is a must on any golfing itinerary.
Approximately half-an-hour away is Coldstream and the Hirsel Golf Club, which some describe as the Augusta of the Borders. Set in rolling woodland with thick shrubbery, fierce rough, water and other hazards in abundance, the course is always presented in pristine condition and offers a stern challenge to the accomplished while being sympathetic to the beginner.
A five-minute drive south of Coldstream, the Collingwood Arms Hotel in Cornhill on Tweed is another great base for a golf trip to this region. It takes its name from the local merchant family who owned it up until 1955. And there are strong ties with Northumberland’s 19th century naval hero, vice admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, who served under Nelson around the time the hotel was built. Worthy of note is the fact that the 15 bedrooms take their names from the 15 ships under Collingwood’s command at the Battle of Trafalgar – HMS Royal Sovereign, Bellisle, Mars, Tonnant, Bellerouphon, Colossus, Achilles, Polyphemus, Revenge, Swiftsure, Defiance, Thunderer, Prince of Wales, Dreadnought and Defence.
In 2007, the Collingwood Hotel received a 21st century makeover with award-winning architects collaborating with historians and local craftsmen to refurbish and reinstate period details and restore the Grade II-listed Georgian building to its former glory.
Further east from Coldstream, the golf course at Eyemouth features some of the most scenic and interesting cliff-top holes in Scottish golf. Eyemouth’s signature hole is the sixth, curiously named “A-Still-No-Ken” and regarded as “the most extraordinary golf hole in Great Britain”. This fearsome and demanding 167-yard par-three is played across a deep gulley and with the sea waves crashing below you can be excused for failing to make the carry. A good tip is use an old ball and if you don’t make it, head for the drop zone. There are no bunkers defending the two-tiered green but there is a wall to the right to take into account.
And the two big championship courses are close to Denholm as well – the Roxburghe and Cardrona. At just under 7,000 yards off the white tees, the Roxburghe has had the honour of hosting the Scottish Seniors Open. Another Dave Thomas creation and owned by the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe, this is a rolling parkland course featuring tricky par-threes over water, old fashioned blind tee shots, dog-legs left and right and huge bunkers. While the course has been designed with championships in mind, there are tees from which the club golfer can play from.
With its backdrop of beautiful Borders hills and skirted by the River Tweed, Cardrona is a delightful setting. The golf course has already hosted a number of PGA events, attracting golfers from all over the world. This par-72 parkland and woodland course has large undulating greens and at more than 7,000 yards from the medal tees, is a great test of golf.
If you haven’t played golf in the Scottish Borders, then you have missed out on something very special.
Passport to golf heaven
Why not bring your clubs to the Scottish Borders and pick up the Freedom of the Fairways Golf Passport, Scotland’s best-selling golf pass? This long-running initiative – which celebrates its 21st anniversary this year – entitles golfers to choose from 21 fantastic courses.
Golf passes are valid until October 31. Freedom of the Fairways adult and senior golf passports are available for three and five days and offer great value – for example, on a five-day adult pass, if you play 36 holes each day it will cost you only £14 per round.
The Three-Day Golf Passport – up to six rounds of golf over three consecutive weekdays (weekend, four rounds) – costs £105 per person.
The Five-Day Golf Passport – up to 10 rounds of golf over five consecutive weekdays (weekend, eight rounds) – costs £145 per person.
Weekend Golf – players wishing to play golf on a Saturday and/or Sunday can exchange two Freedom of the Fairways vouchers in return for one round of golf. All weekend golf must be booked with clubs in advance to avoid disappointment as there are a number of club competitions at weekends which take priority.
Seniors Golf – golfers over the age of 55 are able to purchase three and five weekday senior passes that offer six rounds of golf over three consecutive weekdays for £75, or 10 rounds over five consecutive weekdays for £90.
Junior Golf – contact individual golf clubs direct for junior rates.
Additional Costs – please note that Roxburghe Golf Course charges a £20 adult/£10 junior supplement per round and Cardrona charges a £15 (Mon-Wed) and £20 (Thurs-Sun) supplement per round.
Borders Golf Directory
Cardrona Golf & Country Club, Cardrona, by Peebles EH45 8NE 01896 833600
Duns Golf Club, Hardens Road, Duns TD11 3NR, 01361 883599
Eyemouth Golf Club, Gunsgreen Hill, Eyemouth TD14 5SF 01890 750004
Galashiels Golf Club, Ladhope Recreation Ground, Galashiels TD1 2NJ, 01896 753724
Hawick Golf Club, Vertish Hill, Hawick TD9 0NY, 01450 372293
The Hirsel Golf Club, Kelso Road, Coldstream TD12 4NJ 01890 882678
Innerleithen Golf Club, Leithen Water, Leithen Road, Innerleithen EH44 6NL, 01896 830618
Jedburgh Golf Club, Dunion Road, Jedburgh TD8 6TA, 01835 863587
Kelso Golf Club, Golf Course Road, Kelso TD5 7SL, 01573 223009
Lauder Golf Club, Galashiels Rd, Lauder TD2 6RS, 01578 722526
Lilliardsedge Golf Club, Lilliardsedge, Jedburgh TD8 6TZ 01835 830271
Lilliesleaf Golf Club, Dimpleknowe, Melrose TD6 9JU, 01835 870333
Melrose Golf Club, Dingleton Road, Melrose TD6 9HS, 0189 6822855
Minto Golf Club, Minto, Hawick TD9 8SH, 01450 870220
Newcastleton Golf Club, Holm Hill, Newcastleton TD5 8JZ 01387 375608
Peebles Golf Club, Kirkland Street, Peebles EH45 8EU, 01721 720197
The Roxburghe, Heiton, by Kelso TD5 8JZ, 01573 450333
Selkirk Golf Club, Selkirk Hill, Selkirk TD7 4NW, 01750 20621
St Boswells Golf Club, Braeheads, St Boswells TD6 0DE, 01835 823527
Torwoodlee Golf Club, Edinburgh Rd, Galashiels TD1 2NE, 01896 752260
West Linton Golf Club, Medwyn Road, West Linton EH46 7HN, 01968 660463
Woll Golf Club, New Woll Estate, Ashkirk TD7 4PE, 01750 32711