Discover Edinburgh and Scotland's Golf Coast
Play North Berwick West Links and Discover Diamonds in East Lothian!
"6 night discovery tours featuring: 1 Bucket List Course and 4 Hidden Gems, unique experiences and great value!"
East Lothian is commonly marketed as being Scotland’s “Golf Coast”, and it’s a fitting title considering the region is sat alongside Edinburgh, the country’s historic capital. Regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful and cultural cities, Auld Reekie (as it’s known by the Scots) is also the gateway to some incredible courses running along the Firth of Forth coastline. Muirfield is a legendary venue, having hosted numerous Open Championships, but elsewhere there are some understated gems that encapsulate the best that the Home of Golf can offer.
For those seeking an experience on a slightly less well-trodden but wonderfully satisfying path, here is a personally recommended adventure for you to savour, taking in; North Berwick (West), Gullane No. 2, Craigielaw, Longniddry and Kilspindie.
If you like what you see, contact Golfbreaks.com and they’ll put you on this memorable journey to uncover Scotland’s best, but lesser known, courses.
Day 1 - Arriving in Edinburgh
When you land at Edinburgh Airport, before hitting the road to the coast, I would strongly recommend taking a day to explore the capital city; which is a bustling, historic and cultural hub possessing some of the most striking scenery and architecture in all of Europe.
Renowned for the Festival Fringe, which is the world’s largest arts festival, Edinburgh has an intoxicatingly cosmopolitan atmosphere. That vibrancy is particularly seen on the Royal Mile, which is the historic road between the famous and domineering Castle, and the Queen’s official residence at Holyrood Palace. You could literally spend hours just walking the streets and observing the colourful and entertaining surroundings. It’s a special place to spent time.
Though you’re in Scotland to discover some of the finest golf courses on the planet, it would be a real oversight not to sample Edinburgh. It will certainly leave an impression you.
Day 2 – Kilspindie
“Hidden Gem” is a wholly overused term, which has somewhat diluted its meaning. However, Kilspindie is the absolute definition of that epithet. Situated in the quaint village of Aberlady, the stunning course rests alongside the Firth of Forth and boasts mesmerising views across the water, ensuring for a memorable introduction to golf in East Lothian.
Unquestionably short at just 5,500 yards on the scorecard, the challenges of Kilspindie are subtle, rewarding accuracy with deceptive and slick greens keeping everyone on their toes. Designed by Willie Park and Ben Sayers, this is not a layout with sheer power in mind. The whole experience of playing the course is one of a relaxed and tranquil manner, savouring each breathtaking vista and enjoyably crafted hole. In fact, it exemplifies exactly what a quintessential Scottish links ought to be.
Day 3 – Gullane No. 2
Gullane is everything that its more esteemed neighbour, Muirfield, is not. Welcoming and charming, the club is blessed with three excellent courses that are all worth playing. The European Tour’s Scottish Open (won by Rickie Fowler) in 2015 brought significant attention to No. 1, but it’s the second of the layouts that is often considered the most underappreciated and best of them all.
Sharing much of the same ground, Gullane No. 2 runs alongside No. 1 for its first seven holes, as the two courses progressively ascend the hill. This is where they ultimately part, with No. 2 turning towards the beautiful Aberlady Bay, most notably framed on the par three 11th, where it serves as a striking and distracting backdrop. This is just one of many searing images that you’ll witness.
It’s also significant to note that for middling golfers, like myself, No. 2 is the more playable of the two main layouts, but it still retains more than a stern challenge. Individually, the holes on this course stick in the mind, and it’s a fine complement to No. 1 or any other course in the region; though it could be argued that the numerical labelling does it a disservice. It’s second in name only.
Day 4 – Craigielaw
When you consider the proximity of Gullane, Muirfield, Luffness New and Kilspindie, it’s understandable why East Lothian has deservedly attained the title of Scotland’s Golf Coast. It’s a remarkable stretch of courses. Craigielaw is right amongst them, and the most junior of the bunch, having only opened for play at the turn of this century.
Consequently, the layout designed by Donald Steel is slightly different in character and design to its compatriots, especially when it comes to the greens, which are raised and sloping; somewhat reminiscent of those found at Royal Dornoch. In turn with its noticeably firm fairways, this ensures that Craigielaw is a stout challenge, and a fine example of modern links-style golf.
The clubhouse and facilities are, unsurprisingly, excellent, even though they may lack the intimate charm of nearby establishments. Ultimately, it’s a change of pace, and a refreshingly welcome one at that.
Day 5 – Longniddry
Situated across from Craigielaw and Kilspindie, Longniddry is somewhat overlooked by visiting golfers, which is unfortunate as the course’s unique mix of woodland and links holes provides a contrasting variety to what is otherwise generally experienced in East Lothian. It’s also a testing layout, particularly in a strong breeze, with a majority of the par fours measuring above 400 yards, and is a challenge for the most serious of players.
Relatively wide fairways and large greens are protected by deep bunkers and gorse, which are ready to ensnare any wayward shots. Much like Gullane No. 2, Longniddry was formerly an Open Championship qualifying venue and it’s easy to see why. This is a solid and thoroughly underrated course, and one that would fit perfectly into any trip to the area.
Day 6 – North Berwick (West Links)
When it comes to enjoyment and having a lasting experience, it doesn’t get better than the famous West Links at North Berwick. Like the legendary Old Course at St. Andrews, its starts and ends on the edge of the town and its original designer remains unknown. Having progressively developed over the centuries, this is an organic, natural and purely original layout that has been undiminished by time.
Many of the holes and features have become iconic and replicated elsewhere, most notably the famous ‘Redan’ par three 15th, and the 13th that is best known for having a centuries old stone wall protecting the green. Like many, I have fallen victim to that obstacle. The course will entertain you with stunning views across the water, the sea being in play on six holes, and many challenges on the course that include burns, deep bunkers and the numerous humps and bumps that were created by nature.
There is a tangible authenticity and charm to North Berwick that is arguably unmatched anywhere else. It’s comfortably among the finest in Scotland. Beautiful, fun, unique. Each round on the links is more enriching than the last, and it will leave you with many unforgettable moments to reflect upon.
Other East Lothian Courses to Explore
Such is the quality of golf in the region, I could recommend more than a dozen exceptional courses that lie under the radar of most visiting golfers. Both the stunning Glen at North Berwick and Gullane No. 3 are fine companions to their more esteemed siblings, while Dunbar is an excellent and sturdy layout situated in a historic old fishing town.
However, and this is for the ultimate golf nerds, the historic Musselburgh Golf Links was host to six Open Championships in the 19th century and is reputed to be the world’s oldest course. Consisting of just nine holes, and situated (yes, really) inside a horse racing track, it would be remiss not to mention this as a possible quick diversion. What more could you want?
In terms of quality and accessibility, East Lothian is unmatched as a region for golf. These courses I’ve shared come together for a comprehensive and memorable taster of what makes playing the game in Scotland so special… and all within reach of one of the World’s finest capital cities! I always relish visiting the area, and in putting together this article, I’m more than inspired to plot my next trip back to The Golf Coast. It is the ideal destination for the most passionate and dedicated of golfers.
You too can experience it…
Prices for the above tour start from $1010pp when staying at Ducks at Kilspindie House 4*, or from $1055pp when staying at Nether Abbey Hotel 3* in North Berwick. Includes all taxes and surcharges.
The package includes the following:
• 6 nights’ B&B at: Ducks at Kilspindie House 4* or Nether Abbey Hotel 3*
• 5 Rounds of Golf at: North Berwick (West Links), Gullane No. 2, Craigielaw, Longniddry, Kilspindie
• Car Rental (self-drive)