“Gullane Hill, with the sun shining and the wind blowing, the black clouds banked beyond the Forth, and just a glimpse in the distance of the mighty tracery of the Forth Bridge, is one of the most beautiful spots in the world,” wrote Bernard Darwin in an article for Country Life called, On Gullane Hill, which was reprinted in his book, Playing The Like.
Gullane is a small town that lives and breathes golf: there are five superb golf courses in this locality, including the mighty Muirfield. The Gullane No.1 course was laid down in 1884 and is the most senior of a triumvirate of courses at Gullane Golf Club. Records dating back to 1650 show golf being played over these links, though it is unclear who originally designed the No.1 course. Therefore, until we can establish otherwise, we must put it down to Mother Nature.
Gullane is blessed with the most exquisite turf – winter rules are not needed here. If you hit the fairways, a perfect lie awaits, even in the depths of winter. The opening hole, cunningly called “First”, is a relatively gentle short par four. The 2nd hole, called “Windygate”, begins the march up Gullane Hill. The 3rd hole is called “Racecourse”, a short par five which plays along what was once an old 18th century racecourse and it continues to take you onwards and upwards, now at a canter, until you reach the 7th tee and the 200-foot summit of Gullane Hill.
The 360-degree views from the vantage point of the 7th tee are simply breathtaking. In the foreground, all around, are the fluttering flags of Gullane, Muirfield and Luffness New. The Lammermuir Hills lie to the south, while the Firth of Forth wraps up the panorama to the north, west and east. And now, it’s time for the 7th hole and its inviting downhill drive and the scurry home down Gullane Hill.
If you have read up to here and you haven’t yet played Gullane No.1, it will come as no surprise to you that there is the requirement for varied uphill and downhill shot-making. This in itself is quite unusual for a links course and makes Gullane all the more fascinating. Don’t be misled into thinking that Gullane is a quirky old-fashioned affair; this is a high class golf course, host to many important competitions, including Open Championship Final Qualifying and the 2015 Scottish Open, which Rickie Fowler won by one shot courtesy of a 72nd hole birdie. The 2015 Scottish Open utilised a composite course taking sixteen holes from No.1 and two holes from No.2.
To complete the Gullane experience, visit the club’s fascinating museum, put together by past Gullane captain, Archie Baird. Archie is a golf historian and collector who wrote Golf on Gullane Hill.
Holes 3-6 are a slow climb to the peak at ‘Queen’s Head’, the spectacular par four 7th. From the tee, you have magnificent views down to Aberlady Bay. To your right is Muirfield. Straight ahead are the rippling fairways of Gullane No. 1 and No.2 courses. Slightly left and further away lies Gullane No.3, Luffness New, Kilspindie and Craigielaw.
Three long holes await you at the turn with 10 and 11 being very tough par fours at 466 yards and 471 yards respectively. The back nine presents a more difficult set of holes and the two par threes, the 13th and 16th, are no exception given their length and bunkering.
Gullane No. 1 is hillier than most Scottish links courses but the holes are not too demanding. The course is beautifully maintained and it is quite a stiff test, especially in the wind. If you can’t get a game at Muirfield, then be assured, this is the next best thing.
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 Scottish 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.
A gentle start precedes the uphill, slender 2nd. A short uphill climb is now required to get to the third tee but, believe me, it is well worth the effort as what awaits you is a view that spreads out like a giant golfing gourmet buffet, all you have to do is tuck in, which I eagerly did at holes 4, 5 and 7, my favourite holes of the front nine. I do believe that the back nine is stronger with holes 11-13, 15 and 16 all you could ever desire of any course especially on a winter rate of £41 till the end of March 2010, a bargain. Last, but by no means least, a special word for John the steward and his girls who ensured that 4 hungry travellers from the west were fed, even though the kitchen had closed 5-10 minutes before our arrival. But, then again that doesn’t surprise me as that is only a small part of what Gullane is all about. A place where guests are royally looked after, and golf is played in nigh on perfect conditions irrespective of what month of the year it is. Which is why this reviewer makes a visit to Gullane at least once every year. MPPJ.