Jim McCann originally nominated the Glen Golf Club as a gem back in 2005. Since then the course has made our Scottish Top 100 rankings which we published in 2009. The following passage is an extract of Jim’s original article from 2005.
I have lost count of the number of times that I have played at a club that lives in the shadow of a nearby ‘must-play’ course and come away thinking ‘what a golf course that is.’ The Glen Golf Club in North Berwick is a prime example.
The west course at North Berwick, just a couple of long drives away, gets all the plaudits in this neck of the woods but the east links of The Glen deserves recognition as a cracking alternative venue. Because most of the course is played on a cliff top, the views across the Firth of Forth to Bass rock and the island of Fidra, then beyond to the Kingdom of Fife, are a magnificent backdrop to the terrain over which the 18 holes are laid out.
Nine of the twelve par four holes are less than 400 yards so the layout will not tax you for length. Rough off the fairway is often long, wispy grass so you can cut loose with your driver off most tee boxes. Greens are not overly undulating or raised with run offs to throw slightly miss-hit shots away from the pin.
There is a holiday feel to playing here with so many people nearby relaxing along the beaches or walking along the hill paths. The signature par three 13th hole ‘Sea Hole’ which hugs the coast may be the one most advertised by the club but what a driving hole awaits a few holes later at the last when the elevation drops a hundred feet or more at ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ down to the green by the clubhouse – a thrilling, exhilarating way to end a great round of golf.
North Berwick is a very pleasant seashore village that served as our base during our first golf trip to Scotland last year. North Berwick has two beautiful golf courses on each side of the town. The West Links is the better known golf course and attracts most golf tourists visiting North Berwick.
On the other side of the town the East Links is situated, better known as the Glen. It offers a true and honest golf experience.
The Glen also has a departure and return in front of the clubhouse, but since part of the course is situated on a raised plateau, the Glen also offers magnificent views over North Berwick, Bass Rock, the Law and the Firth of Fife. On a good day one can see the Forth bridge of Edinburgh.
The Glen - not being excessively long - offers a nice variety of good golf holes, and excellent greens to test one's putting skills. The Glen has been there quiet some while, and one can feel the maturity of the golf course when playing it.
Where the West Links is normally totally jammed from dawn till dusk, Glen offers a quiet and pleasant golf experience.
We discovered the Glen last year during our trip, and we returned this year, enjoying the course as much as last year!
The Glen Golf Club, often referred to as North Berwick East Links, is one of the most popular and the best value of all East Lothian golf courses.
Overlooking the town of North Berwick the cliff-top course enjoys simply sensational views across the Firth of Forth; as good as you’ll find on any golf course.
The coastal layout provides an enjoyable test but doesn’t quite stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the more recognised links in this part of Scotland; not that it pretends or tries to. The turf isn’t quite as good and the green complexes don’t hold as much interest as the real top drawer courses but that’s not to say a visit here isn’t warranted because it is.
The Glen promises much but for me ultimately just fails to deliver, but only if you are expecting the very high standard which many other courses deliver in East Lothian. This isn't really a negative on the course, more just a nod to the extremely good and tough competition East Lothian provides.
That said, go to The Glen with modest expectations, get a beautiful day, simply enjoy the walk and I suspect there are few better places to be.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I've just seen Patrick's review response, so in answer I'd say that the Glen is definitely at least a 4 ball due to its location, condition and accessibility. Ref driving range, i always smile to remember the sign on Panmure's short range which is on the lines of "Golfers are reminded that this is for warming up, not practice". Many classic courses start with a gentle opener to get you to the course (RND, Montrose, Panmure, Dornoch, Old Course, Western Gailes, Turnberry, Portrush etc), so who needs a range ?
Our fourball had an absolute blast today on the Glen course. It's not the most challenging, I agree, but that's not why we came here anyway. We were looking for holiday golf (played on greens that were an absolute joy to putt on) on a day that was forecast to be sunny and both the course and the weather delivered big time.
The views across the Firth of Forth are a wee tonic in themselves and if the excellent conditon of the course, coupled with the wonderful surroundings don't stir your blood then it's probably time you packed away the golf sticks and took up lawn bowling.
The Glen offers exceptional value for money, especially when using discounted green fee vouchers as our group were, and I'm absolutely delighted that the course has made the Tartan Top 100 on this site as it thoroughly deserves such recognition.
The first hole starts off at ground level then the approach shot must be played up a steep incline; after putting out on the first it is from this lofty cliff-top level that the next 16 holes are played from. Personal favourites on the front nine included the bumpy downhill par 4 third and the two-shot dogleg eight hole where the views from the tee box down to the bay and crashing waves were simply breathtaking.
The back nine starts like the first nine with an uphill par four. This leads up to the best stretch of holes on the course beginning from the 448 yard par 4 12th where you must drive from an elevated tee and then hit an accurate tee shot to a smallish green at the far end of the course. Next up is the famous, and much photographed, 13th called Sea Hole. Again the tee is elevated from the green and there is a potential for a blind tee shot depending on the pin placement. When I played I could just see the top of the flag but despite this advantage my ball still landed on the beach area adjacent to the green! The 14th requires another uphill drive as the hole begins by hugging the edge of the cliff and the approach must be hit towards the green which ventures back inland from the cliff edge. The long par 4 15th and the solid 186 yard slightly uphill par 3 16th concludes this fine run of holes. The 17th also runs along the edge of the cliffs before leading the player back to the top of the hill where they would have putted out a few hours earlier on the first hole. From the vantage point of the 18th tee box the golfer stands high above the fairway, looking down to the pro shop, clubhouse and the town of North Berwick and off into the distance sits the imposing bass rock out at sea. A slice from this high position could potentially end up over the road and into the sea, however it is possible to hit a long drive towards the green due to teeing off from such high altitude and this should leave a mid to short iron into the well guarded final green.
Overall I enjoyed my day at the Glen, the course was in excellent condition and for £20 was real value for money. The course had a number of good holes, particularly between the 12th and 16th, as well as some average ones which perhaps makes it not as exciting as some of the other courses in the area but I would have no hesitation in returning for another round of sun, sights and golf on this lovely course. DM