"Having played on Gullane No.2 in the morning and No.1 in the afternoon, my mind is in an agreeable jumble between the two," wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1934 book, Playing The Like. "I am inclined to think I am the fonder of No.2, but here again there may be a personal motive; it is decidedly the shorter. There is, of course, a strong family likeness between the two, because on both we have (like the Grand Old Duke of York of the poem) to march up to the top of the hill and march down again."
Golf at Gullane dates back to 1650 but the club wasn't founded until 1882. The then current Open Champion, Willie Park Jnr, laid down Gullane No.2 in 1899 for ten guineas.
Gullane No.2 runs parallel to No.1 for the first seven holes. It's a flat beginning and then a steady climb up the hill. At the 11th, the charming view of Aberlady Bay opens up but don't let this distract you too much because this is probably the best short hole on the course, which invariably plays into the prevailing wind to a front-to-back sloping green. Frank Pennink remodelled the 12th hole in 1969 and it takes you on a journey to the edge of the secret and picturesque nature reserve. "We feel as if we were playing in a little world of our own - ours and the gulls' and the rabbits'," wrote Darwin.
There's an overriding feeling of openness at Gullane. The sky is big and the course seems wide and open, but it is an illusion: each hole has its fair share of trouble and it lulls you into a false sense of security. Gullane No.2 has played host to Open Championship Final Qualifying, so it's certainly not a pushover. Play No.2 along with No.1 – you'll have a memorable day on Gullane Hill.
I played Gullane 3 then 2 in a great 36 hole deal. Gullane 2 is still relatively short but I found it a stern test, there’s a lot of clever bunkering and many a hanging lie. It can be easy to rack up big numbers, especially with the usual wind. I asked a local if it was always gusty enough to be blowing over bags and his response suggested I’d asked a stupid question.
There aren’t many flat holes on #2. It’s a ball strikers’ course, I’m not good enough to truly strategize but you’re always better off on one side of the fairway. The 7th and 8th were used in the Scottish Open lay-out but many other par 4s wouldn’t have been out of place. I loved the far end of the course, 11 is a downhill par 3 with an amazing panorama and the half dozen par 4s surrounding it are dramatic, remote and really scenic. Catch it at the right time and you’ll have a remarkable spot to yourself; Gullane can be a bleak but in a beautiful way.
The conditioning was also excellent, the greens fast and true and the turf some of the best I’ve enjoyed. I guess what’s holding Gullane 2 back is that it has consistently good holes rather than outstanding, plus the obvious competition in the area. I didn’t find any greens which stunned me, nor the roll-offs and catchment areas other layouts have. Therefore I liked it rather than loved it, it is as ‘proper’ a golf site as you could find but it probably wouldn’t be the highlight of a trip.
Gullane #2 is a fine golf course that takes awhile to get going, but once you get into the holes on the other side of the hill, it offers both scenery and a lovely setting. Unless it is a windy day, this is a very friendly golf course and one should likely score 2-3 shots better than one's typical score.
The first three holes are not much, too short and not very interesting. The fourth is a longer par four but does not play to its length.
It is not until the seventh hole that the course gets more interesting due to better placement of bunkers. The ninth hole in particular with ten bunkers is very interesting, although as a short hole they can be easily avoided.
The 11th, a long par three that has numerous bunkers is perhaps the course best hole, certainly it is the finest par three on the course. The 11 begins a very fine stretch of six holes 11-16. The 12th and 13th have perhaps the two best green complexes on the golf course.
Although the 14th is short at 366 yards from the back tee, I always seem to have difficulty with it by trying to drive too far left. It is a clever golf hole.
The par five 16th hole is well defended with bunkers on the tee shot but suffers a bit from a green that is not that well defended for a par five.
The 17th and 18th are much like the start, the holes are compressed by the road and a lack of land. They are uninteresting.
Gullane #2 is not a golf course I would rush to play other than as a warm-up round to a golf trip or perhaps as the second round of the day. It is an enjoyable walk with terrific views of Aberlady Bay. At less than 6400 it does suffer from a lack of length but I also believe it suffers from a lack of better bunkering. In sum I thought there was one good par five, two good par fours, and two good par threes.
Not my favourite Scottish links and always felt myself wondering how much better No 1 (that we couldn't get on on the day we visited was).
Must be good for locals but didn't feel that welcoming to be shown the clubhouse over the road that you are not allowed in.
Typical links with some good holes.
Bit of a walk starting out but after that this was another proper links course in my view. Lovely atmosphere about the place. The views from the top of the huge hill were lovely. Course was concrete firm any straight shots would have gone on for miles. Bunkers were all in the right places or wrong depending on your predicaments and the greens were very good for putting. Easier to hit them than to stay on!!! We even played 2 rounds here on the day as we also had a go on the 3rd course. Won’t be doing that again but it was also another decent enjoyment and also not ever so long. Done in near the end and the marshals can’t blame them were chasing us old boys along!!! Value was good as I seem to recall we paid around 55 pounds for 2 rounds with lunch although can’t remember what year it was. Would go back if I could and then also have a go at the 1st course. Cyril.
I would recommend any golf trip to Scotland to make a stop in Gullane: the atmosphere of the village is pure golf, and that feeling is evident everywhere in the village.
As for no.2, it is definitely a brilliant golf course.
The first 3 holes are not the most appealing of all, but, from there, when you reach the top of Gullane hill, apart from a superb view, there are some really remarkable holes, being the best, in my opinion, the 4th and the 7th, two masterpieces.
Holes number 10 to 12 will take us to the farthest and most isolated part of the course, and golf is still of great quality almost until the end, where the last two holes offer two birdie opportunities: the 17th is an abrupt downhill par 4 and the 18th is a driveable but nice par 4.
Maybe they are not the best holes in the world, but they will allow us to close the round with the possibility of lowering numbers in the card.
In short, a great golf course, in a fantastic setting and at a reasonable price.
So far, of the Gullane courses, we have only played Gullane II, and we loved it. The course starts in the valley in front of the visitors clubhouse and ends there as well, the other holes are played around the hill with nice views over the bay and surrounding golf courses. When we played it was not overly crowded, but I can imagine it can get a bit crowded on busy days.
We played that day with a 2 club wind, and that is when the fun begins! Especially on top of the hill, the wind was forcing us to punch our way around, making sure to keep the ball in play.
I found the hole three uphill a bit funny, but all the other holes were excellent golf holes, with good design, sufficient length, excellent links turf & rough and outstanding green complexes. Gullane II offers both excellent short and long holes. If Gullane I and III are of the same quality as Gullane II, this is an exceptional collection of quality links golf holes!
Maybe the only hole that is out of sink with the others, is hole 19: the visitors' clubhouse. Whilst the members' clubhouse sits beautiful alongside the first tee of Gullane I, the visitors' clubhouse is a rather unwelcoming place near the first tees of Gullane II & III. So we missed the after round member & guest interaction in the clubhouse that other courses provide. But the good news is: Gullane offers a variety of pubs and restaurants for your cool down after the round.
We played the course from the yellow tees and I scored a decent 72, so you can wake me up any time of the day to play this course again!
Gullane is definitely on the list when we come back again.
The type of links golf encountered at the No.2 course is very similar in character to that at the No.1 layout. In fact you could take almost any hole and place it on the main course and it wouldn't look or feel out of place.
The No.2 course is preferred by many locals and whilst it doesn't quite demand as much from the golfer it's easy to see why it is so well liked. As a whole the No.1 course in my opinion is undoubtedly superior and consistently produces on 18 occasions but it could be argued that the second course has the stand-out holes. The fourth, 11th and 13th certainly have the 'wow' factor and are seriously good golf holes. I could also make a strong case for it having at least as strong a set of short holes too.
It comes in 500 yards shorter than its elder sibling and houses only one long par four (which is played downhill) but the par of 71 is still a sound test.
The condition of both courses was, as you would expect, immaculate. The greens ran true and the fairways produced that tight lie only links golf can provide. The bunkers were immaculately maintained, both the sand and the surrounds. It has a reputation for excellent winter golf too and I can well imagine that being the case.
One key feature we noticed on both courses is the bunkering on a lot of the holes gives the appearance that the hazards are much closer to the green than they actually are. This may fool the first time visitor but you will certainly know for your second round, and third, and fourth... This is a course that once you have played it you will want to return to time and time again.
I can't speak highly enough of our experience here. It is very rare that you come across a club with two courses where there is such a consistent quality throughout both of them.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
The 3rd hole is uphill but is a very short par four of just 237 yards. Provided you drive straight then you will be close to the green with a great birdie chance. The easy 3rd is followed by a long par four of 454 yards and rated index 1. This is a really good hole and features no less than five bunkers in front of the green.
The 17th has the same wonderful views as its counterpart on the No. 1 course. Although 361 yards in length, down the steep hill this hole is very driveable. You cross over the road to the 18th tee to return to the public clubhouse. At only 305 yards, this par four presents a very real birdie prospect.
The No. 2 course is not far behind No. 1 in terms of quality and degree of difficulty. The greens at No. 2 are excellent and, in general, the course provided far more variety than I had expected. The bunkers are quite small so invariably you will find yourself right up against the sides or front wall with little means of escape.
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.