Scottish Links Gol
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Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay...
Royal Troon, Turnberry, Prestwick...
Just east of Edinburgh
Scotland's Golf Coast
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St. Andrews area
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Craigielaw Golf Course ©NEW !!! Craigielaw Lodge
-- see below
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 is a fine example of Scottish
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 6601 yards and a par of 71 off the championship 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!
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. 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.
The 4th is rated the toughest hole. It's a 583 yard par 5 monster with a stone wall running up the entire right side and fierce rough on the left. A fairway bunker lies 250 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 583 yards play more like 650!
Even the 9th, which has a stroke index of only 17, ican 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 blues 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 you drive 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 -- www.craigielawlodge.com
Kilspindie and Craigielaw Golf Courses are
both in Aberlady, a gem of a little
If you are starting out from either
two courses, you have an enjoyable
options for the day. The area has so
for the independent traveler in Scotland