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Winterfield Golf Club

This physically beautiful golf course is dramatically situated right on the edge of the North Sea. The 18 holes meander from the coast to inland and back to the coast. It''s not quite a links course and not quite a parkland course. The best holes are the ones played next to the North Sea. The golf course is kept in good shape, but as I played my round I couldn't help thinking what a fantastic 9 hole course this would have made with just a little imagination (much like Gifford Golf Club has done with great success). Simply by getting rid of some holes entirely, lengthening others to make them par 4s and 5s, and shortening others to make them playable par 3s, you could have had a really fine course. Using different tees for the back nine would make it play like a legitimate 18 hole layout.

As it is, what could have been a remarkably beautiful and testing 9 hole course has been turned into a not-so-remarkable 18 hole course. Consider this--the very first hole is 238 yards from the back tees to the middle of the green. (It's 220 yards from the front tees) That's a difficult enough par 3 for most amateurs but on this par 3 you are separated from the green by a deep valley which starts a few yards from the tee, sinks down about 30 feet and then (as you can see in the photo below) rises back up to level ground a full 200 yards from the tee. In other words, your tee shot has to carry 200 yards to get you over the valley! When you consider that the average amateur's drive goes about 180 yards in the air, most players start off with an automatic bogey or worse.

Winterfield Golf Club, taken from 1st tee
Opening hole at Winterfield Golf Club

Want more bad news? Okay, the hill facing you is lined with deep rough, so any shot that comes up short presents you with a lie that is very difficult to chop out of. Thinking of laying up? Sure, you can lay up, but laying up in this case is laying down because in order to lay up you have to hit your ball down into the valley. If you do, your second shot then has to go up a 30 foot hill and land on the green if you want to have any chance of paring this difficult hole. The problem with this strategy is that your lay up has to be placed well short of the hill because if you hit too far you won't be able to see the flag and thus will be firing a blind shot.

The final piece of bad news is that even if you're a long hitter you'll be hard-pressed to reach the green off the tee. It's almost an automatic bogie because the prevailing wind will usually be in your face. A better design would have been to use the tee box of the 5th hole which lies forward and to the right of the present tee about 180 yards from the green and doesn't require a shot over the valley. Or, using the same tee, clear some fairway on the level ground off to the side for those who can't hit a ball 200 yards in the air into a stiff wind, move the green back a bit and make it a par 4. What a dandy par 4 that would have been, but because they were trying to squeeze 18 holes in a limited area, unfairly designed holes such as this predominate.

Bring Your Short Game if you play Winterfield

If you play Winterfield Golf Club, bring your short game. It's filled with lo-o-o-ong par 3s. Off the medal tees you have par 3s of 238 yards, 221 yards, 226 yards, 230 yards, and 240 yards. Many of these holes play into the wind so unless you hit the ball a ton, you are probably looking at 5 bogeys before you even start, unless you have a superb short game.

Typical of the poor design of some of these holes is the 8th. Not only is it 240 yards long--that should be enough to make it a tough hole--it has two bunkers guarding either side of the front entrance to the green so, if you can't carry the green in the air, it takes pinpoint precision to roll your ball onto the green. Plus, the green is slightly elevated with a sharp drop-off in the back and then there is a deep depression at the front part of the green, which makes putting it a nightmare. Oh, and don't forget the wind blowing off the North Sea! Any one of these challenges would be enough to make it a difficult hole, all of them together is really overkill.

Maybe the best thing about playing here is the price--low. But if you're looking for an economical day of golf, why not try Gullaine # 3 golf course. It is about the same price, is a legitimate 18 hole course, a better layout, and a better value than this one. Follow the A1 east from Edinburgh and North Berwick, and watch for signs to Dunbar. Look for the Winterfields signs as soon as you enter town.

To sum it up, Winterfield Golf Club is disappointing. Although the price is very low and there are some great views, I don't recommend it.

Golf Nook Scotland rating -- a BOGEY.

*For What to Do All Day, please see Dunbar Golf Club