- +44 (0) 1620 842255
18 miles E of Edinburgh on A198
Book in advance
“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 is a golf historian and collector who wrote Golf on Gullane Hill.
The No.1 course is relentlessly persistent in producing quality golf holes, one after another. It winds its way up, over and around Gullane Hill creating, as you would expect from the rise and fall in terrain, a variety of holes in the process. The views are truly spectacular, none-more-so than the vista from the 7th tee where taking in the panorama from here will add at least ten minutes to your round!
However, before you get to that point you will have tackled six very different holes. The first is a gentle opener with bunkers rather than length the main defence. You then snake up the second with an angled fairway requiring a draw shot to put you in the perfect spot to find the long, narrow and leaning green. If the well-placed bunkers are avoided at the downhill par-five third you may have the chance to pick up a shot. And that stroke is likely to be required because the short fourth, with a slightly raised green, and the 450 yard uphill par four fifth offers little hope of birdies. The sixth is perhaps the best chance of improving your score at this delightful short par-four perfectly etched across and up the hillside.
From the highest point on the course the descent is rather more sudden than the march to the top.
The course has some truly fantastic views but don't be fooled by the amazing aspect that acts as a backdrop to almost every hole because, as good as it is, the scenery is most definitely a supporting act to the superb golf on offer.
The course doesn't possess the quirks and idiosyncrasies that some links courses muster but that isn't to its detriment. This is true championship links golf.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Excellent course. Wasn’t what I was expecting. Thought it was going to be a slog up and down the hill but this was not the case. Obvious elevation changes but routed beautifully and very few average holes. Maybe the first and the 10th (which is being revamped) are the only mediocre holes. The 2nd is a beautiful hole as are a number of the holes down the other side.
It was a round I didn’t want to end. Played it with some nice West Coast folk. Expect to see a couple of putters on the road to Largs over the next day or two.
Greens were huge and smooth with subtle contours, nothing outrageous. The rough was manageable, penal but likely to find your ball on most holes.
Bunkering is superb, tough and hard to avoid. The little one right in the middle of the fairway collected my nailed drive down the hill (maybe the 8th?) and what I thought may have been a possible eagle putt turned into double bogey. When your ball goes in at speed they tend to sit within an inch or two of the face and that is savage.
Great course that caters for fun and a challenge. Getting close to 6 ball territory but not quite. I may have jumped the gun when I recently ranked Craigielaw 5 balls as well – let’s just say Gullane is a strong one. Warren from Aust
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.
On a sunny winter’s day, there’s no more pleasing vista in Scottish golf than that afforded from the top of Gullane Hill, looking out across Aberlady Bay and the Firth of Forth to the Kingdom of Fife – and today, our 4-ball was blessed with just such a day and just such a view as we reached the third tee box!
Many of the bunkers on the course were marked GUR due to the amount of work that has been done to them over the past few months to keep them in tip-top condition and they will snare many a ball when they come into play.
Greens were remarkable for the time of year – talk about pacey!
And I made it into the very homely member’s clubhouse for the first time – I must be going up in the golfing world, at last!
The back nine is very strong from the 11th all the way home and the par three 13th hole is a particular favourite. It’s not everybody’s idea of what a links course should be but it has a unique character that will draw you back again and again.