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Scottish Links Golf

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Aberdeen &
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Just east of Edinburgh
Scotland's Golf Coast
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Musselburgh Links
North Berwick
Royal Musselburgh

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St. Andrews area

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North Berwick West Links

I could summarize this quixotic course in two words and be done with this write-up PLAY IT! However, I'm not going to let you off that easily because this championship Scottish links golf course is one of my favorite golf courses in all of Scotland--a definite must play, and I'm eager to tell you about it. It is golfing at its best and I'm absolutely sure you'll have a great time playing it.

From the back of the elevated 1st green you can see how closely the golf course is wedded to the sea and the town. The teeing area is about in the center of the photo.

The wonderful North Berwick Golf Course is a final qualifying course for the British Open
Seven holes border the beach. The others are within a chip shot of the beach. This, the 2nd hole, taken from the tee, will give you a taste of what's to come. By the way, the beach is not out of bounds. You can actually go down there and play your ball--if you can find it and if the tide hasn't come in.

The Famous Redan

Golf has been played on the West Links of North Berwick for centuries. Only The Old Course at St. Andrews has witnessed more golfing activity. I have to confess that the first time we came to this area I had never heard of North Berwick golf course. Sure, I had heard of Muirfield, which is just down the road in the town of Gullane--who hasn't heard of Muirfield? But North Berwick West Links? I was in for a great surprise and a great treat! After the first round I was so enthusiastic about this course that I did some research on it and discovered it is one of the most famous courses in the world of golf. In fact, one of the holes, the 15th, called REDAN, (see below) is the most copied par 3 hole in the entire world of golf design and is on virtually everyone's list as one of the 18 most famous holes in golf in the world!

A final qualifying course for the Open Championship

But one hole does not a great golf course make. When you play this amazing course you will be hitting over dunes, streams, stone walls, yawning bunkers and sandy beaches (which, by the way, are in play!). Not only is it an historic and venerable course, with its commanding views of the sea (the Forth estuary), it is one of the most beautiful and stimulating true links courses anywhere. Every hole is completely different, every hole sets a different challenge of length, wind, risk/reward, club choice, and much more. The R & A think so much of this golf course that they use it as one of the final qualifying courses when the Open Championship is played at Muirfield.

North Berwick #15 tee, and that's REALLY the sky!
The famous 15th at North Berwick--THE REDAN--a 180 yard par 3. This is the view from the tee. Of course you can see the bunkers in the front but what you don't see are other fierce bunkers and a green that is diagonally oriented, sloped to the left and plateaued. Not enough? Look at the next picture and see how the redan (ridge) on the left actually protects the green and makes this such a unique hole. No wonder it is the most copied hole in all of golf.

North Berwick #15 -- the famous "Redan"
THE REDAN viewed from the right side. You're teeing off from the left about 180 yards from the green. Note the ridge (the redan) on the left and the valley between the ridge and the green. Anything short of the green will roll into this valley of death leaving you with a very tricky chip up to a sloping green. And the deep bunkers, about 15 feet below the green on the right are no bargain either. All-in-all this is a "cracker" of a hole.

Some Unusual Play

At North Berwick West Links you will be playing some amazing and unusual holes. You will be putting on one green, the 16th, that is 186 feet long and is actually made up of two distinct mounded greens--plateaus actually--with a huge swale that is part of the green and three or four feet deep, separating the two plateaus. (See picture below.) I had never seen a green like this before in my life. I was almost wishing my ball would hit the "wrong" half of the green so I could putt across the deep valley. A local story has it that the year Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus played in the British Open Championship at Muirfield and were staying at the Marine Hotel here in North Berwick (which is right next to this green and in easy view of the rooms), they were so fascinated with the unusual green they took their putters out and were hitting balls on it to see if they could putt through the huge valley. The story goes that the Course Marshall did not recognize them and chased them off. The story may be apocryphal but it is certainly believable, because I doubt either Watson or Nicklaus has seen many greens, or ANY greens, as unusual as this one.

North Berwick 16th green--two tiers!
Number 16 green. Yes, this really is one green. It extends from the extreme left of the picture to the extreme right of the plateau on the right. You can see the flag is placed on the left plateau today. Heaven help you if your approach shot lands on the wrong plateau. A four putt on this green (greens?) is not unusual.

Other holes are just as fascinating. On the 3rd you line your tee shot with a gap in the wall that is about 300 yards away before hitting over the burn (stream) that weaves back and forth along the course. On the 5th hole you drive over a paved road that, from time to time may have hikers on it or people walking dogs. The 7th offers the burn again--this time it slices directly in front of the green, only a few yards from the edge. It makes for an intimidating second shot. The 13th has a 4' high stone wall that separates the fairway on one side from the green on the other! The 15th-the famous'll just have to see for yourself.

As I said, it's serious golf with a great sense of humor. With all of its eccentricities it's a championship course all the way and one of the most amazing courses you will ever play. Whatever other courses you play while in this area, be sure you play this one! (And, by the way, it just happens to be the home course of the 2009 Women's British Open champion, Catriona Matthew.)

Golf Nook Scotland rating -- a solid HOLE-IN-ONE.

North Berwick seafront
This is the kind of scenery that will accompany you on your round.

*For Mary-Alice's suggestions of What to Do All Day, please see the North Berwick Golf Coast area.