By Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla of Golf Nook, Scotland
In a series of 4 blogs, we focus on some of the major championship courses – the “Big Boys” – around Scotland that have delightful “Little Brothers” – shorter, less-demanding courses that treat you to a round of genuine Scottish links golf.
Scotland is proof that great golf doesn’t have to be played on 7,000 yard courses and take five hours for a round. The country is dotted with wonderful smaller golf courses that you can play and at modest rates.
We’ve divided Scotland into 4 areas to bring you excellent examples of the less difficult links courses that can be found:
- Part 1 – St Andrews
- Part 2 – Crail and Carnoustie
- Part 3 – Gullane and North Berwick
- Part 4 – Aberdeen, North Highlands and South West Coast
In this blog we concentrate on the third area and take a look at the Little Brothers in Gullane and North Berwick.
Don’t let the mighty Big Boy golf courses intimidate you into staying home or not enjoying some memorable Scottish links courses. A rewarding golfing experience awaits you, no matter what your handicap.
These Little Brothers have lower green fees than the championship courses and are usually more available. Often sought out by scratch golfers and touring pros wanting to relax or practice, they are one of the best kept secrets of Scotland. You too can discover them – links courses you can manage and can be comfortable with. Look into it, because a whole new world of golf will open up for you.
Bear in mind too, with only two exceptions (Anstruther and Dunaverty), these courses share the same land, the same superintendents, the same consistency of greens, and the same weather conditions with their bigger brothers – a key factor in their quality.
The Golf Coast – Gullane & North Berwick
Gullane #1 and #2 – the Big Boys
In the town of Gullane on Scotland’s Golf Coast east of Edinburgh, Gullane #1 is a stiff test of golf, especially in a strong breeze.
Used as a qualifying course for the Open Championship, which tells you how challenging it can be. Situated on magnificent Gullane hill where golf has been played for over two centuries and with breathtaking views over the Firth of Forth and golf courses in almost every direction, Gullane #1 is “king of the hill,” but Gullane #2 is right up there with it. At 6,385 yards off the white tees with a par 71, it is a little shorter than Gullane #1 (6,548 yards/par 71) and about as challenging. The terrain is almost the same as #1 Course and the views are about the same as well.
Happily, these two have a little brother.
Gullane #3 – the Little Brother
Although only 5,259 yards with a par of 68, Gullane #3 still requires a degree of skill and accuracy if you want to score well. The course is on the same hill as #1 and #2 and offers beautiful views. Not for the absolute beginner, but easy enough to be a delightful experience for the less-skilled. Not a “foo-foo” course by any means. The greens are the same fine quality as #1 and #2. Some of the local good golfers (for instance Archie Baird, owner and founder of the nearby Heritage of Golf Museum) prefer Gullane #3 Course over the other two.
North Berwick West Links – the Big Boy
North Berwick West Links is a glorious golf course for the accomplished golfer. Directly on the water, it is used as a qualifying course for the Open Championship.
It has no Little Brother course, but it does have something very special…
North Berwick Children’s Course – the “Tiny Tot”
Cradled in the strong arms of the West Links course, with the same eye-catching views, is a unique little golf course for children. What a wonderful gift this is to the community, and what a treat it is to see these youngsters perfecting their games. Small as it is, this is a serious golf course that can be played only by children or adults accompanied by a child. It’s only £2 and there’s often no one to collect your green fees, but there is an honesty box for donations. Even if you don’t play it, you should take a look at this impressive phenomenon.
And if you do want to try the little course yourself, take note: Adults must be accompanied by a child!
It’s true. Scotland, the home of golf, offers great links golf for every level of skill. Golf is still “pure” here, taken seriously, and accepting of even the beginner. And the only way you’ll get to play these delightful links courses is as an independent golfer. The commercial golf touring companies don’t frequent them. Keep in mind also that these golf courses cost less…MUCH less…than the legendary ‘big boy’ courses.
Click here to see the other blogs in the series.
Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla, Golf Nook Scotland
Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla absolutely ‘practise what they preach’ with 15 years experience as independent golf travelers in Scotland. They up-sticks from their base in Florida every year and come to Scotland for 3 months. Why? Because they love it. We can think of no better people to tell you about why Scotland is such a special place. They maintain an entirely independent website, Golf Nook Scotland, focusing on the independent golf traveler visiting Scotland. They have kindly allowed us to share their insights here on Ginger Beer Golf Travel.
You can rely on our recommendations for where to play because we’ve played there. You can rely on our suggestions for where to go because we’ve been there. You can trust our ideas because we accept no payment for endorsing the places and services we recommend.
Richard, a mid-handicapper, loves the game of golf. Mary-Alice, while not a golfer, loves the land, the castles, the people, and all things to see and do in Scotland.
Both of us love the lore and aesthetics of the great courses – their history and tradition, the great players, the skill involved, the game itself with all its frustrations and rewards. We admire those respectfully silent at golf tournaments while someone else yells “GET IN THE HOLE”. We appreciate the golfers who replace their divots, repair their own ball marks and look for others to repair. We’re grateful for the one in the foursome who suggests letting the group behind play through.