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Craigielaw Golf Course

NOW OPEN !!! Craigielaw Lodge
-- see below

Craigielaw 6th -- and ancient stone wall
This view is from the tee of the 6th hole, a par 3, 174 yarder. Note the deep bunkers on the left front of the green. The hard greens call for a high ball but the wind is usually blowing from left to right on this hole so you've got to either hit a draw or start your ball toward the bunkers and let the wind take it back. Hmmm! Better just concentrate on getting it over the wall!

Scotland's "Golf Coast," is a geographical area spanning only about 20 miles as the crow flies. Yet, in that relatively small area you have, for my money, the best golfing per square mile in Scotland. (And if it's the best golfing in Scotland there's a pretty good chance it's the best golfing in the world!)

One would think, then, that with all the old, established courses on Scotland's Golf Coast, a new golf course would have to wait its turn to be considered a "must play." Not so for Craigielaw Golf Course in Aberlady, one of the newest links golf courses in Scotland, having officially opened in June, 2001. As far as I am concerned, it was born a "must play." Considering the high quality courses it competes with, that's quite a compliment, but Craigielaw Golf Course deserves it. Craigielaw Golf Club was voted 5th best new course by Golf World Magazine 2005. In addition, it was considered good enough to host the prestigeous 2006 Scottish Amateur Strokeplay Championship and to be the qualifying course for the 2007 Senior Open Championship that was held at Muirfield. Not bad for a toddler, eh?

The baby is a big boy now

Craigielaw is not an easy golf course. In fact, the first time you play I'd be willing to bet you won't shoot your handicap--or even close to it. Yet it can be enjoyed by golfers on every level. In August of 2003 Craigielaw hosted the Craigielaw Classic, a PGA Tartan Tour event. One hundred and fifty-six club professionals from Scotland competed for 25,000 in prize money on a windy weekend. Of the fifty who made the cut, only 22 were below par after four days! That says a lot for this fine golf course.

Craigielaw bunkers
Craigielaw is a fine example of Scottish links golf

From start to finish this is a quality golf course and fine example of a links golf layout. Situated next to delightful and compact Kilspindie Golf Course (see separate write-up on Kilspindie) and sharing many of its fine qualities, it bobs and weaves its way around a layout of 6043 yards and a par of 71 off the visitor's tees. The holes are imaginative, the greens fabulous and the bunkers fearsome. Yet the course is eminently fair. No exaggerated penalties for a slightly less than well-struck shot (as there are on certain holes at St. Andrews Old Course, for example), and there is not the exaggerated length of a Carnoustie to contend with. Hitting both tee shots and approach shots over bunkers, stone walls, meandering streams, and the always formidable rough, there is not one hole I do not thoroughly enjoy. And then, of course, there's always the wind, an integral part of the course and indeed of all links golf. Craigielaw Golf Course certainly has its share of wind blowing off the Firth of Forth and Aberlady Bay.

The Greens -- Good News & Bad News

Let me first talk about the greens. They were constructed and styled to conform to the USGA recommendations but are still prepared along the more traditional lines of Scottish golf to be hard, fast, and true. They are among the best I have ever played. Not only are they in great shape, the waves, wrinkles, ripples, and folds make reading them and putting them truly a game within a game. It's like putting on a huge,grass-covered potato chip (or, as they say in Scotland "potato crisp"). The pin placements are diabolically nestled behind fearsome looking greenside bunkers, daring you to aim for them. Also, most of the greens are crowned, that is they sit atop a mini-plateau like an upside down saucer so that any ball a bit short or a ball that comes in a bit too hot rolls right off. You are then faced with a bump-and-run to get back on the green or a longish putt back up the hill or, heaven forbid, a delicate chip over a yawning bunker!

Craigielaw #2 green
Typical of the greens, they are heavily bunkered and sit up high. If you don't hold them you will have a devilish time chipping over a bunker or putting between them. Neither is a bargain.

Position is Everything

The greens, when they are dry, are difficult to hold for the average golfer if you are coming in from the wrong side. That's why position off the tee is so important. If you're out of position you'll need to hit a high approach shot to have any chance of the ball staying on the green--lots of luck if the wind is behind you and you are far away from the green. Or forget it if you come in low and hot.

An Auspicious Start

The opening hole gives a preview of what's in store for you on this fine first hole, giving you a bit of a challenge but allowing you a bit of a warm-up at the same time. The hole measures 291 yards from the visitor's tees. You have a choice of hitting a long carry over two fairway bunkers for an easy approach to an elevated green or you can play safe and hit a more accurate shot to the right of them but flirting with long rough and bringing greenside bunkers into play. Or you can lay up left and leave yourself an even longer approach shot but coming into the green at its greatest length. Since the green is one of those crowned ones, there is a tendency for any ball that comes in even a little bit hot to run off the side. How brave do you want to be on the 1st hole? Are you sure you brought your "A" game today? That's what this golf course asks on every hole.

Craigielaw first tee
View from the 1st tee, a291 yard par 4 starting hole that will get you warmed up. Note the inverted saucer green-- typical of the greens on this terrific golf course. .

The 4th is rated the toughest hole. It's a 535 yard par 5 monster with a stone wall running up the entire right side and fierce rough on the left. A fairway bunker lies 200 yards from the tee and two more 213 yards from that one. Devious, n'est ce pas? Wait, that's not all! The stone wall does not run parallel to the fairway, it actually cuts into the fairway at an angle thus narrowing the fairway the closer you get to the green. Not tough enough for you yet? Okay, the green is a severely inverted saucer shape and is guarded by three bunkers and is one of those humpy-bumpy greens, so even if you get on in regulation there's no guarantee of a two-putt. One more thing. I forgot to mention when the prevailing wind is in your face it can make the 535 yards play more like 635!

Craigielaw 4th green
After negotiating the 535 yards--often into the face of a stiff wind--you have to hold this green. The inverted saucer shape will send any shot not well struck rolling off in all directions. This is one tough hole with a well-deserved SI of 1.

Even the 9th, which has a stroke index of only 17, can be challenging if you're not a long hitter. On the 9th tee you are facing the most fearsome looking bunker 222 from the championship tees and 200 from the visitor and right smack in the middle of the fairway. It's wide and deep and mean looking. You could swear it has teeth. It has long grass growing out the sides of it and just around the edges like hair out of an elderly gentleman's ear. It just dares you to try to drive over it. "Go ahead, make my day," it whispers. Long hitters can hit over it--especially if the wind is behind. If you can't carry it you can play left or right of it. But if your drive heads to the right there is a good-sized bunker ready to gobble up any slight fade and very long rough on the left ready to make any excessive draw disappear. You can lay-up and face a 130 yard iron into a huge elevated green surrounded by 4 more bunkers. It's really a terrific hole. typical of the inspired layout of this course, and. I can't understand why it's not rated higher.

Craigielaw looking down the 14th fairway
This view down the 14th gives you an idea that the rough is rough! Getting out is not easy and will usually cost you a stroke.

One of the things I really love about golf in Scotland is that the architects use whatever is available with a minimum of gimmicks. This course is like that. There are stone walls--who knows how ancient they are, but one gets the impression they've been here since kilts were invented. These old walls weave in and out of many of the holes. When they run directly across the fairway where a shot should land, the architect merely takes a portion of the wall down. The rest of the wall stays up to add to the hazard of errant drives. If the wall does not interfere with any shot, it is left standing undisturbed. The 149 yard 6th is like that. You have to hit over heavy rough and a stone wall, so there's absolutely no chance of topping the ball and rolling onto the green. On another hole, the 5th, the green is wedged between two stone walls that form an angle of about 60 degrees where they meet behind it. It's this kind of design that makes a course not only challenging but also a lot of fun.

Position golf is what this golf course is all about. The best line on this hole is a drive that lands about 20 yards left of this position, thus taking the bunker out of play. This photo is an example of what a tough shot a poor drive leaves you (yes, that's my ball on the right!). From that position, I not only have to hit over these bunkers, I have to hold the green. Never an easy task--especially because the wind was blowing. But, typical of links golf, there are choices. I can take a wedge and pitch it over the bunker on the left and try to hold the green. The problem here is that the fairway grass is usually very short on links courses and it's easy to chunk a pitch and, secondly, I need some spin on the ball to hold the green. Alternately, I can chip it over the middle of the bunker on the right and try to guess which way the ball will run. Decisions like this make links golf so much fun...especially when you pull the shot off!

This golf course is filled with the most gracious people you will ever meet. From Derek Scott the General Manager to the waitresses in the clubhouse to those who mow the lawn. The first time I played the course I bent over to get my golfbag out of the car and pulled a muscle in my back. I was in agony but I wanted so much to play the course that I gave it a try. I could swing the club without pain but I could not bend over to putt (just as well, the way I putt!). I did play but only lasted 15 holes. The starter was very solicitous that day. When I returned to play the course the following year he not only remembered me, he asked how my back was! The entire staff is like that--friendly and knowledgeable. They will take time to talk to you and help you in any way they can. Craigielaw is a great place to play golf.

11th tee at Craigielaw
At 540 yards the 11th is long but your tee shot will be downhill. It is reachable in 2 but you'll have to negotiate a "wee burn" (small stream) smack dab in front of the green.

Craigielaw is well-priced

At twice the price I would recommend this course. With its moderate price Craigielaw is a no-brainer and one of the best bargains in the area.
It's an exceptionally fine course and as it matures I predict it will be regarded as one of the best in the area. I feel the next time the Open Championship comes to Muirfield, Craigielaw will be one of the qualifying courses. Some of my all-time favorite courses are in this area--Muirfield, North Berwick, Dunbar, The Glen, and Gullane #s1 and 2. Now Craigielaw Golf Course solidly takes its place among them.

Clubhouse - It's new and it's beautiful. Utilizing an existing centuries-old stone barn, the architect has created one of the best clubhouses in Scotland. It's fully licensed to serve food and drink throughout the day. Many of the non-golfing locals come here to have lunch or a snack during the day. Saturday night dinners are exceptional--as is the staff--exceptionally friendly, that is. And the views are terrific--sunsets are breathtaking.

Fourshot Golf Academy - If your game is in need of anything from a total rebuilding to a tune-up, there is a fine golf school on grounds with plenty of practice targets, short game area, bunkers and greens to work with. The Academy is run by Head PGA Professional Jonathan Porteous.

The full driving range is available to all golfers, not only those in the golf academy.

Some final thoughts -- As with most Scottish golf courses there are few yardages marked on the course. Craigielaw Golf Course has only one and that's 150 yards from the center of the green. So it's a good idea to get yourself a yardage book before you go out. This one is quite a good. And, unlike those awful Strokesaver books, this one actually fits in your back pocket and gives you meaningful information!

The South Links -- In the summer of 2003 another course opened at Craigielaw--The South Links. It is only a 6 hole layout of 714 yards but you can play 6, 12 or 18 holes. It is a fully maintained miniature and a perfect spot to hone your short game or just warm up for the championship course. It is included in your daily fee (which is moderate) for the big course

One final word...the excellent Craigielaw Clubhouse Restaurant has good food, good service and unbeatable views. Open during the daytime every day, and also Saturday evenings. (Bookings are required for Saturday evenings. Tel: 01875 870801) More below.

Beautiful Craigielaw clubhouse -- excellent food, spectacular views

The Golf Nook rating -- a solid BIRDIE.


Welcome to the all-new CRAIGIELAW LODGE !!!

Experience Scotland's stunning Golf Coast from the doorstep of this excellent lodge. A fantastic base to enjoy the wonderful facilities at Craigielaw Golf Club as well as exploring the golf coast and all the attractions of Scotland's capital city Edinburgh. Attached to the clubhouse, the lodge boasts 25 well appointed rooms which can be set up on a double or twin format. 13 rooms enjoy views across the course to the River Forth, Gullane Golf Courses and the kingdom of Fife, whilst 12 rooms enjoy the quiet and secluded view across a decorative courtyard. Perfect for singles, couples and groups. We are VERY impressed.
Gofl Nook rating -- Splendid !!! Take a look --


Mary-Alice suggests ...
What to Do All Day around Craigielaw

Kilspindie and Craigielaw Golf Courses are both in Aberlady, a gem of a little town. If you are starting out from either of these two courses, you have an enjoyable list of options for the day. The area has so much for the independent traveler in Scotland can enjoy.

Aberlady is a picturebook "must walk" village. Park the car and amble along the main street (the A198) running through the village. You'll see an information sign telling about the high points of the village, from one end to the other. It's only about a 5 minute walk if you don't stop. But by all means do stop and look at everything. The architecture, the gardens, the church, the little lanes leading to evermore charming houses and gardens, the immaculately groomed bowling green--investigate and relish it all. (You may want to take some time and watch the bowlers. You can do so from the sidewalk.) And, of course, if you're hungry keep in mind the charming Old Aberlady Inn, which you can't miss once you are in the village. (I also mention it under places to eat.) Even if you don't eat there, walk along the little alleyway to the left of the inn as you face it, and look at their garden terrace.

Aberlady Bay Nature Preserve -- Just east of Aberlady, on the A198, you'll see a small car park on the north side of the road. Usually several cars are parked there, and you'll see the fairly long wooden footbridge leading out across the wetlands. What a great place to walk, with long vistas across the Firth of Forth and the Gullane golf courses on the hills to your right. Signs along the path explain the birds and animals that live in or visit the Preserve. Aberlady Bay Nature Preserve is simply a wonderful place to hike about, enjoy the views, and become educated at the same time. Bring your lunch, and be sure to take you litter with you when you leave.

Myreton Motor Museum -- If you are fascinated by all kinds of motor vehicles you can head for this museum, which is right near Aberlady. You'll see the signs for it on the A198. You'll also see it on your Ordnance Survey map. The exterior belies the fascinating and large collection inside.

Craigielaw Clubhouse Restaurant -- Always keep in mind that you can eat at the clubhouse at any of the golf courses. The beautiful new Craigielaw clubhouse is an architectural gem, incorporating the old stone barn and walls into the structure for a most pleasing effect. Aside from the visual impact of the facility, you'll have an enjoyable dining experience with stunning views over the golf course and the Firth of Forth. All this for good prices and a laid-back ambience where you can relax and never feel rushed. The restaurant at Craigielaw Clubhouse is open to the public every day. Saturday evenings by reservation only.