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18 miles E of Edinburgh on A198
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“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 and 2018 Scottish Open (which South Africa's Brandon Stone won after posting a 10 under par final round) 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 was a golf historian and collector who wrote Golf on Gullane Hill.
Great golf course and all round great experience. So much good golf to be had in this area.
The course starts with a fairly benign opener and then you quickly go up Gullane hill on #2. The green here is long and narrow and quiet funky! 4 and 5 are impressive holes, a strong one and two shorter. 9 is another great par 3 as is 13 and 16. The 17th plays back towards the town and back down the hill with great cross bunkering.
Ranking-wise I’d say Gullane 1 is a little underrated – the only semi-weak holes are by the clubhouse, which isn’t abnormal. The views are some of the best around and the course, although tough, is wide enough from the tee that you don’t get constantly beaten up. This width may be something to do with the continuous gales blowing in, which like my previous visit to Gullane were blowing bags over. The constant changes in hole direction does give some respite.
There are highlights aplenty, with a couple of drives going off the hill then the 8th, 9th and 11th greens sitting particularly close to the shore – not something many ‘big’ courses can offer. The subtle dogleg of the 12th, flanked by a huge dune felt a lot like Birkdale, then the steeply downhill 17th can split opinion but it’s no doubt a fun par 4.
If you’re making a one-off visit to East Lothian or even Scotland then Number 1 is worth prioritising. The Gullane courses are quintessentially Scottish and draped over Gullane hill are some of the most unique and picturesque links you’ll find.
Gullane 1 is a classic course with a great variety of holes. Regular changes of direction, elevation and length of hole make it an enjoyable test. I’ve had the pleasure of playing the course numerous times and its challenge varies greatly with the strength of the wind and severity of the rough. The 2nd is one of the most challenging par 4s around with significant scope for lost balls. Great views and always a joy to play.
Does Gullane’s No 1 course have the best tee box views in the UK? It would get my vote. Based upon my own experience, the views here are unparalleled. I played here on a picture-perfect Summer’s evening with the sun setting during the back nine. The scenery from each lofty tee position was truly magnificent. White sandy beaches, the Firth of Forth, Muirfield, North Berwick Law and even Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh were all visible in the distance and helped create a fine walk around Gullane Hill.
Gullane No 1 is an honest, simple course that’s draped over the side of the hill. There are no template holes or hidden tricks and there’s nothing brash or flashy about the place. But I did like how you start the round close to the village where the practice green is set on a traffic island next to the members’ clubhouse and the 1st tee butts up against the road. Both the 1st and 18th then play in between the roads whilst the rest of the course traverses up and down natural linksland on the side of hill. The 2nd hole is unique given that it’s nestled between two dune ridges whereas the rest of the course is more exposed and open to the elements. The course then really shows itself at the par five 3rd hole for it’s the land on this side of the hill across which most of the golf is played. Thereafter, you’re faced with a winding journey as you traverse up, over and around Gullane Hill across green ribbons of fairway that are separated by deep yellow fescue.
I wouldn’t say that any of the holes themselves are individually as memorable as many of Scotland’s other highly ranked courses, and I felt that the course misses the humps and bumps that I love to find when playing a links course, but the eighteen holes as a collective still make for a quality course. I’d probably select the par threes at 9 and 13 as the pick of the holes, along with the par five 12th with the teeing ground that sits on top of a steep cliff face. The anti-tank concrete fortification blocks on some of the holes on the back nine are also an interesting feature and make you realise that these are much more peaceful times, but thankfully the serene conditions of that Summer’s evening meant that any fierce battles on this land were confined mainly to the history books. Gullane’s a fine place to enjoy a round of golf and my only regret is not having played the other two courses as I left with the overwhelming feeling that Gullane is more about the sum of its parts rather than any specific individual highlights.
Played Gullane no.1 last week, having played no.2 and no.3 previously.
Weather conditions were fine, if a little cold. The fairways were in great condition, and greens superb. Rough was brutal, maybe too harsh. (i lost a ball on the 2nd which was probably less than 10yards right of the flag from 200 yards out. Was expecting a birdie putt rather than losing a ball!)
Like many links courses, if you keep the ball on the fairway (even semi rough is long) then you can score well, as greens are true and consistent.
You can tell this is a championship course by its set up. Only one weak hole for me, and that's the downhill 17th, which i don't think fits in with the other holes.
Overall i would recommend playing this course once if you get the chance, but given price differential between no.1 and no.2, i would play no.2 every time. Both similar in respect of quality of holes and conditions.
Overall i would say no.1 is an excellent course and worth playing once. But next time im back in Gullane ill play no.3 as a warm up and play no.2 instead. Then as a treat play North Berwick.
Gullane No1 is a classic design with very minimal contouring and extremely good turf conditions. There are very few standout holes on this course but the views and pure links experience is worth checking out. My opinion is that Gullane No1 is an average course on a beautiful piece of land.
Great town and club. It was a wonderful host to the Scottish Open. The course itself is very good. The course is very firm and fast with very good greens and views that you will not forget. There are a couple holes that I don't love, but overall it is a wonderful day. Don't hesitate to play #2 or #3. There are some fantastic holes at a great value.
Gullane Golf Club is located in the centre of town and has 3 wonderful links courses. Of these the oldest, named Gullane No 1, is generally regarded as the best.
Gullane no 1 opened in 1884 although golf has been played in the area for over 350 years. Gullane no 2 & no 3 followed soon thereafter. It is unclear who designed no 1.
What is known however is that no 1 is one of the finer links courses in Scotland, a stern test of golf played on superb turf. No 1 has hosted many championships over the years including the Scottish Open. It has also been used many times as an Open Championship qualifying course when the Open is held at nearby Muirfield.
Unusually for a true links course, No 1 starts by climbing directly up the imposing Gullane Hill for the first few holes, before meandering down the other side toward Aberlady Bay, and then returning over the hill to finish back in town.
To score well around Gullane no 1, a player must be able to avoid the many bunkers strategically placed to catch the errant shot. And there are plenty of bunkers!
The course has a strong collection of par 3's which require a player to flight a shot over bunkers and judge the wind to land on the putting surface. Of these, I particularly liked the uphill par 3 thirteenth hole.
The par 5 twelfth hole is heavily bunkered off the tee, but is short enough to entice every player to take them on and gain a chance of getting home in two.
Other favourite holes include the uphill par 4 second hole with its valley green, the short par 4 sixth hole, and the longer uphill par 3 sixteenth hole with it's tiered green.
However the finish is a little disappointing- the home holes- 17 & 18- although decent, were a bit of an anti climax after the quality that preceded them.
All in all, I thought Gullane No 1 was a wonderful golfing experience. Lovers of links golf just cannot miss this beauty!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
#1 is a superb course, surprisingly hilly, with top quality fun golf. From the gentle opener, to the very tricky uphill holes that get you to the top of the hill, then round and back and forth until it's time to come back down the hill and a gentle finish. What fun ! Fantastic views, great condition with true greens, and some truly memorable shots and moments. Clearly the best of the 3, but don't miss the other 2, good courses and great fun in their own ways and much cheaper and more accessible, but with the same quality upkeep and no airs and graces.
Gullane 1 is not in the same class as three of its nearby neighbors, but it is a golf course that will provide everything you are looking for in golf.
Yes, it has a few weak holes such as 1, 3, 6, 112, 7 and 18 but it also has some tremendous golf holes such as 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14 and 15 so one could argue that the weaker holes are necessary so that the golf course does not overpower you.
The views from 7 are amazing and the eighth and ninth holes are simply outstanding.
The greens are very well maintained with most not being overly difficult with the exception of 15, the long uphill par five that long hitters can still easily reach in two shots.
There is adequate fairway bunkers as well as width to the fairways.
Gullane 1 is a gem and is definitely a must play if you are visiting East Lothian. It really does offer everything one wants in a golf course in terms of difficulty, views, strategy, and joy.