The North Berwick Golf Club is situated along the coast from Muirfield and Gullane, an approximate 45-minute drive from Edinburgh. Founded in 1832, North Berwick displays all of the charm and quirkiness of an ancient links where the natural boundaries and flow of the coastline have lent much to the golf course design. North Berwick is a golf course where you must use your imagination and where you cannot get distracted by the stunning scenery for a second.
Like many golf courses in Scotland, the North Berwick Golf Club developed in phases. A rudimentary form of the game was played there from the 17th century, but it wasn’t until 1832 that the club formed. An initial six holes were laid out by John Whitecross on what was then ‘common-land’ in the town, regularly used for pasture. Additional land was granted by a member in 1868 and nine holes were completed, including the famous “Redan” hole, now the 15th. Two further extensions to the footprint were required before, in 1895, the course measured 6,095 yards. This redesign was completed under the watchful eye of the legendary Ben Sayers. Since that day, despite minor improvements, the West Links at North Berwick Golf Club has changed very little.
There is much to enjoy in the eighteen holes at North Berwick. The start and finish of your round, in the heart of the town, with the clubhouse directly behind the 18th green, provides many similarities to The Old Course in St. Andrews. The finishing hole too, a short, bunkerless, par four, with the public road running up its right side and dotted with swales and hollows being reminiscent of the closing hole on The Old.
The opening hole is also great fun, very much typifying the experience ahead. A reasonably short par four at just over 322yards, the drive needs to be played short of the path at some 200yards from the tee to allow you to see the green. The sea wall comes in hard on the right of the green, so your approach needs to be aimed well left with par a good score. Interestingly, the front nine is played in an anti-clockwise manner from the 4th through to the 14th, so the influence of the sea is negated. However, the original boundaries of the links always influence play, with a wall across the middle of the 3rd hole, a road to the right and wall to the left of the par three 6th hole and the burn on the 7th adding to the entertainment.
The stretch from the 13th – 15th is probably the most memorable and the Pro’s favorite holes. The 13th is the infamous ‘wall’ hole (“Pit”) stretching across the front and side of the green, dividing it off from the fairway and adding an unusual challenge for your approach. The 14th, “Perfection,” requires two very well-judged shots to navigate this 374yard par four hole. A lay-up before the cross bunkers will leave a short iron to the green, but this must be controlled to provide a good birdie chance. Finally, the 15th and the aforementioned “Redan” hole playing 190yards from the tips. The green slopes steeply from right to left and it plays all of its yardage – a par three which has been copied many times around the world, but none as good as the original.
If this wasn’t on your bucket list – get out your pencil fast and call the Consummate Pro to include this on your golf vacation to Scotland!