Gullane No.3 may well be dwarfed by the neighbouring No.1 and No.2 courses of Gullane Golf Club but it is still a superb little links in its own right, providing plenty of pleasure for members and visitors alike since its introduction in 1910.
Length off the tee will never be a major issue on a course that is only 5,252 yards long. Strategic greenside bunkering and slick putting surfaces – on a par with the other two Gullane links – certainly are issues to be considered. The Standard Scratch Score is two under the par of 68 so this is as near to recreational golf that you will get at a serious golf complex.
The conditioning is every bit as good as you will find on the No.1 and No.2 courses so don’t think that playing No.3 course will mean you are golfing at an inferior venue – far from it. It is plain and simply a tighter, scaled down version of all that exists on its bigger golfing siblings next door.
The first and last three holes are played on the flat around the visitor’s clubhouse with the 4th to the 15th holes set out over and around Gullane Hill. And what a vista awaits after the steep climb up the 4th hole to the 5th tee at the top of the hill!
The full splendour of the Gullane courses spreads out before you as you look down to the southern shores of the Firth of Forth, with the other two Gullane courses to the right and Luffness New on the flatter ground to the left. Beyond Luffness, on the other side of Aberlady Bay, you can just make out the Kilspindie and Craigielaw courses.
And, as if that were not enough, there is the tantalizing distant view of those other great golfing destinations, Leven, Lundin and Elie on the other side of the Firth. Is it any wonder that many seasoned Scottish golfers believe this to be one of the most inspiring vantage points on any golf course?
Only one of the twelve par fours on the card is over 400 yards, indeed two of them – the 3rd and 4th – are under 300 yards in length. All are comfortably in range after the tee shot is played so scoring well on Gullane No.3 is all about approach play and putting.
There is only one par five on the card – even that is only 443 yards long – and of the five par threes, the pick of these is the 176-yard 15th hole which plays back down Gullane Hill to a green way below tee level near one of the opening holes on No.2 course. It is a genuinely thrilling way to finish an excursion up, over and around the hill that began a couple of hours earlier.
Yesterday, I tried to arrange a game in Fife for St Andrews Day today but the two clubs I contacted couldn’t get me out until late in the morning (meaning I’d miss a late afternoon appointment back in Glasgow) so I reverted to an old standby – Gullane No.3. The sun was shining as I teed it up at the first, even if a snell wind was blowing in from the north, so it felt good to be back here playing on a winter’s day five years after my last visit. If I’m honest, though, I was still a little peeved that I wasn’t playing one of the higher ranked tracks on the other side of the Firth of Forth as I set off up the first. Fast forward three hours to early afternoon and my arrival back at the clubhouse where I could only shake my head and wonder why on earth I had ever doubted (even for a single second) the validity of playing at Gullane No.3. It’s simply a wonderful little track with greens as good as any I’ve played on in the UK this year. Considering the rain that had chucked down in recent days, you would hardly know there had been bad weather from the state of the course and that indeed is my abiding memory of today. On the 18 holes that were absolutely stuffed with golfers out playing (and I’m sure that’s the case most days, come rain or shine), you would not have an inkling on any of the pristine tee boxes or immaculate greens that this place must see some heavy traffic all year round. The people who manage/maintain/promote some of the newer resort-style courses in Scotland would do themselves (and golfers) a big favour by taking a wee trip through to Gullane to see how a golf course should be presented to visitors – and for a remarkably reasonable green fee too. I’m already looking forward to returning in 2012. Jim McCann.
The first two holes on the clubhouse side of the road are gentle openers before the longer third and steep hilled fourth (on the other side of the road) are where the course starts to pick up the pace. My favourite holes on the front nine were the 6th and 7th - both par 4s. The 6th, usually with a prevailing wind behind, means that the golfer can open their arms a little on the drive before having an approach to a long and thin green which is elevated from the fairway. Then, the best tee shot on the course, the 7th the tee box sits amongst the rocks at the top of a hill, inviting the player to smash the ball down onto the fairway from above, although usually into the wind in my experience, meaning that you may have to hope for a favourable bounce in order to get closer to the green. The par 3 8th and 327 yard 9th take the golfer to the farthest point from the clubhouse on the course before turning back with the 10th parallel to the 9th hole. An uphill par three and tricky dogleg par 4 have to be negotiated before heading homewards back towards the visitors' clubhouse.
The 13th is a decent enough par three and the short and only par 5 acts as No.3's 14th hole. Although the green is towards the brow of the hill climbed during the 4th hole it should still be possible for high handicappers to be around the green in two or three, making this a good birdie opportunity. The 15th is a downhill par three, falling down towards the road, in which a wedge or 9-iron can be used to punch the ball halfway down the hill before watching it trickle down on to the green. The final three holes are played on the same side of the road as the first three holes and the 16th is probably the pick of the bunch here with a slight left to right dogleg, although the golfer must be wary of the massive gorse bushes lining the right hand side of the hole from about 100 yards from the green.
The condition of this course, and all of the courses at Gullane for that matter, is always excellent and the greens certainly were true and fast as you would expect. The clubhouse was welcoming and due to the relatively inexpensive nature of this course it is definitely worth playing however as previous reviewers have stated, it should not be played at the expense of some of the other and more illustrious courses in the area. DM