Founded in 1890 on links land named Goswick (Goose Farm) by the Romans, the Berwick-upon-Tweed Golf Club lies six miles south of the Border Town of Berwick, and boasts views of the North Sea and to the south, Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle. A design of James Braid, the original nine holes were extended to eighteen in 1894 while Frank Pennink made some amendments to the original nine in 1964.
A twisting lane between arable fields reaches Goswick Links between the railway and the dune-lined coastline. The links lie either side of the clubhouse, front nine to the north, back nine to the south. There is little to choose between the two nines, both being equally varied in terrain and challenge.
The 1st rises uphill as a dogleg and is followed by a short 2nd across a chasm. The 3rd is now the longest par four on the course at 437 yards. Exposed to the elements, the challenge on the front nine is variously dunes, out of bounds on 6th and 7th and contoured greens, most notably on the medium length par four 8th.
A long par four – 425 yards – opens the second half, before a par five and the 12th, Pilgrim's Way with a narrow landing area off the tee and a blind second shot.
The mid point of the second half is the most scenic and follows a climb from the 14th green which is surrounded by hills on both sides. A par three follows, and while the finish is only medium length, 16 can deceive after a blind tee shot, 17 requires care, and the fairly short 18th is tempting, but a wayward shot can bring penalty from slope or bunker.
Add the variable of the winds of the East Coast, and quite an experience awaits on a course, which now measures 6,800 yards from the championship tees. Berwick-upon-Tweed Golf Club was also an Open Championship Regional Qualifying course until 2012.
Looking out from the clubhouse at Berwick upon Tweed Golf Club you would be forgiven for thinking that the course wasn’t really up to a great deal. You would be wrong. Very wrong.
For it is not until you venture a little further out onto the bumpy linksland at Goswick that the golf course really starts to come alive and show its full character.
Arguably the worst two shots on the course can be seen as you drive into the club; the opening tee-shot with an ugly copse of trees as well as internal out-of-bounds down the right and the approach to the uninspiring par three ninth.
That aside this classic and genuine links course, found just south of the border town of Berwick, delivers not only a true test of golf but asks you to hit a wonderful variety of strokes, both along the ground and through the air. There is much more movement in the land than you might expect from your initial impression of the course with some superb changes in elevation throughout the 18 holes.
A centrally situated clubhouse, located at the end of a twisting 3 mile single track lane and close to the main East Coast railway line, dissects the course that runs along the beautiful Northumberland coastline; front nine to the north and back nine to the south.
The welcome is always warm and friendly at this much underrated links that has hosted Regional Open Qualifying in its recent history and pushes 7,000 yards from the back tees.
The duneland of the outward half tilts slightly towards the inland side of the course and as a result of this you play to raised greens at the first and fifth where flighting the ball well is paramount, especially if the wind is blowing straight in off the sea, even more so if it is across.
You also get to play thrilling drives across sloping fairways, which drape over the rumpled duneland elegantly, from elevated tees at the third and sixth; both of which dog-leg slightly to the right as does the reachable par five fourth.
The sixth is also a par five and was my favourite hole on the entire course and perhaps in the whole of Northumberland.
How Golf World Magazine missed this course from their top 200 rankings, let alone the top 100, is a mystery to me. This is as good as many of the top links in East Lothian and knocks socks of many of its southern counterparts. And perhaps that is the reason; its relative isolation, in no man’s land, just off the A1 in Northumberland on England’s East Coast.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Hi Ed, I see Golf World in their June 2017 issue have rectified this omission by placing Berwick 66th in England and 1st in Northumberland. They, like you, commented "a very strong links that ought to be more lauded"
A real gem of a course and it's clear to see why the R&A are bringing Open qualifying back to Goswick next year. There's an unpretentious feel to the course and the clubhouse. As others have rightly said it would be much more highly rated if it was in East Lothian or Lancashire. I visited a week ago as part of a small group and from the friendly (and not pompous) welcome in the pro shop through to the bar afterwards it was a joy to visit Goswick. It seems that it really was designed by Braid (unlike some that claim this) and it is a great testament to his skills that it's still such very tough challenge in the modern day. Set in a classic dunes topography the layout is two loops of nine starting with a tough par 4 of 392 yards from the medal tees featuring OB running the full length of the right side of the hole, dog-legged to a steeply sloping greens. The course comes alive immediately with no easy holes to ease one into the round. The holes run at differing angles to the prevailing westerly wind and as such nothing can be taken for granted. Some fairways are very tight off the tee; 8th comes to mind whilst the back nine runs easterly until the 13th from when it's pretty much back to the clubhouse in a straight line. There is a sense of great space at Goswick without 'interference' from other groups of players on nearby holes. The greens were in perfect, fast running condition when I played but are fiendishly small making for the need to be accurate with the long and mid-irons.
A great course which is possibly overlooked due only to it's location in Northumberland, a county not known for proper links-golf.
A final word: make sure you pick up the course guide from the pro shop. It's a proper pro tour style one with no fancy colours and pictures. It's easier to understand than may first appear but it's invaluable with yardages to run-outs being an unusual feature. A sign that Goswick is a course for top-quality golf.
I love everything about this course. I knew it was going to be good but I was elated when I rolled up and saw the landscape. The course weaves in and around the dunes in a very natural manner. Every fairway has its fair share of protections either via quite long rough, well placed bunkers, slopes and dog legs.
It is an honest course that is very unpretentious. No gimmicks just a gritty course that bites quickly if you stray. In the past I have been pleasantly surprised by a number of courses that were considerably better than I thought they were going to be(eg Panure, Monifieth, Skegness) and Goswick joins the list.
The first nine flows in all directions but finishes back at the club house whilst the inward nine is an out and back stretch and probably hold the best holes, especially around the turn of 12/13/14.
I had the course to myself and at 30 quid twilight is fantastic value. After getting around Dunbar yesterday in 36 pts I had hopes today but after scoring 11 pts on the outward nine I needed a strong start at 10 but wiped 10/11/12 as I got a case of the blocks. I regathered with a few pars and bogies to string a few points together and finished birdie, birdie to make me a very satisfied customer, despite scoring low 20s. Great finishing hole, short and a number of options.
This course has authentic charm in spades. Warren from Aust
Over the years I have played Goswick many many times but after a break of a year or two I played here early Dec 2016 with my son. I was struck by how much the course has improved in the interim. The course was bone dry and the greens immaculate. The continued refurbishment of bunkers (the riveting is a work of art) ensures these are kept in prime condition. Suffice to say I joined as a country member in January and feel pretty smug being a member at a top class course for a little over £300. The biggest compliment I can pay is, a round here is always a good day spent!!
This is a cracking course which, if it were nestled in amongst others in East Lothian or Lancashire, would be rated far higher I think. It is undoubtedly worthy of being in the English Top 100.
It's a course full of variety (and no little beauty), finishing with a cracking risk/reward short par 4, where many great rounds have been scuppered by greedy drivers no doubt, and was in superb condition. Friendly club and great value too.
Super links course in good condition with a great variety of holes and a great risk/reward par 4 18th (I risked, got out of the back bunker and 2 stabbed for a par !!).
REALLY enjoyed the visit which was a warm up for the week at Carnoustie after - and it worked as played OK all week.
Friendly bar - all round nice course and nice Club
The par five 6th will also give you plenty to think about. Out of bounds is on the right where there is a line of dunes. Closer to the green are fairway bunkers on the left side. There is a very big hollow in front of the green which is set in the side of a hill.
This is not a course you will enjoy if you are prone to slice. Very thick rough again features on the right on the par four 10th. The par five 11th can be diabolical if you don’t hit straight. Out of bounds runs along the right and there is a wet marshy area all down the left side.
Thirteen is the pick of four par threes. Although the tee is elevated, you are hitting uphill to a green with three bunkers in front and one either side. Fifteen is another good par three, hitting from high up down to a green with water and marshland at the rear.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every English course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.