Gary Ramsay heads north to Scotland and finds three classic courses
There can be few better destinations for a golf trip than the seaside town of North Berwick in East Lothian. There are more than 20 courses within a small radius of the town and they include three of the courses that regularly feature in the top 30 courses in the UK (whichever poll you choose to use), namely Muirfield, North Berwick (West) and Gullane (No.1). It really is golfing nirvana and a regular port of call for golf society trips from the North East and Yorkshire.
I’ve been a regular visitor over the past 20 years or so and for our latest visit we stayed at an old favourite, the Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa, which overlooks the aforementioned West course and has magnificent views of Bass Rock. This four-star hotel is the ideal place for a stay for a group with over 80 bedrooms and a luxurious spa with swimming pool, steam room and sauna – ideal to relax in after a day on the fairways…or in the rough! It also has an award-winning restaurant with great views where you can sit and discuss the highs and lows of your day. It’s also only a short walk into the town centre. Our two-night break meant we had time for three rounds of golf and after much deliberation we decided on Longniddry, Craigielaw and the Glen (also known as North Berwick East course).
Longniddry is the closest seaside course to Edinburgh and is an unusual combination of woodland and links with spectacular sea views from many holes. It’s unusual in having no par fives but eight of the par fours measure more than 400 yards, making it a tough test, particularly when the wind blows and the large greens are invariably true. We thoroughly enjoyed it and were made to feel most welcome in the clubhouse after our round.
Craigielaw is located near Aberlady and is a fairly new course for this part of the world having opened in 2001. It is inspired by some of the great links courses with extremely challenging greens, many like upturned saucers, meaning you need to be accurate with your approach shots t as an offline approach will often mean a visit to one of the many cavernous bunkers that surround them.
There are fantastic views over the Firth of Forth and in the relatively short time it has been open the course has been host to many national events including the Scottish Amateur Stroke Play Championship and a qualifier for the British Seniors Open – it’s well worth a visit.
The Glen is a delightful clifftop links course and often described as a hidden gem. I must say that the first hole is one of my least favourite golf holes ever and I’ve had some horror stories in the past. It’s not long at 330 yards from the yellow tees but has an extremely elevated green meaning you need to hit a good drive and then have confidence in your short irons to the uphill green. However, once you negotiate that wee beastie it opens up to be a really enjoyable test with fantastic views and some extremely interesting holes along the coast. The signature hole is the 13th, a short par three at 136 yards with a blind tee shot to a green that has beach and rocks on both sides. Depending on the wind strength it can be anything from a pitching wedge to a four iron. There’s an excellent clubhouse too with great food and views to accompany your pint of Belhaven.
If you’ve never visited the area before it’s only 100 miles from Newcastle and 200 miles from Leeds and you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to golf – we are already planning our next visit.
To book golf at the courses we played visit the club’s websites: