Located in part of the Hirsel Estate – the ancestral home of Lord David Douglas-Home, son of the former Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home – the course is laid out over rolling Borders terrain right on the border between England and Scotland.
Although founded in 1948, it took another fifty years before members of Hirsel Golf Club were able to play on a full 18-hole layout when the course was extended to its present 6,024 yards.
The River Leet features on several holes, though its presence is pleasing to the eye rather than threatening. Of more danger is the out of bounds to be found at no fewer than eleven holes on the card. There are also a few blind tee shots and blind approaches to contend with around the course, adding interest to the round.
The four par three holes are worthy of mention. The first on the front nine is the 3rd; a 243-yarder called “Bell”. It takes a fair old blow from the tee to get close as the hole plays uphill and the green is entirely blind. The next two short holes – “Kingfisher” and “Spa Well” – are the 7th and 10th which are both protected by water to the front of the green. The 177-yard 14th, named “Cheviot” plays to a two-tiered green with three bunkers in front.
Conditioning of the Hirsel course is famed, so much so that some who should know a good course when they play one have called it “the Augusta of the Borders”.
Hirsel made a recent surprise appearance in a golf magazine’s Top 100 list of Scottish courses so I just had to venture down to the border with England to see what was so special about this place. Because it’s laid out on four separate parcels of property, the course has a slightly disjointed feel as you have to make short walks across bridges and a road to play a number of holes in each sector.
The opening two short par fours ease you into your round before you face an uphill par three hole that plays blind to a green all of 243 yards from the back tee position – once you get over the absurdity of this hole, you can rest assured the other three short holes are going to be a tad more conventional in layout!
Two of what appear to be newer holes on the course at 5 and 6 are good, left dog legs in a little loop that brings you back to tee across the River Leet as it winds its way through the estate at the lovely short 7th.
The beauty of this lovely par three is surpassed however by the 10th, where a 98-yard tee shot is played from a vertiginous position 50 feet above a green that sits on the other side of the river. Some might think it too quirky but I must say I liked it as it reminded me of my formative golfing years back in the 1970s playing the “Wee Drap” 12th at Clydebank’s municipal course (… those were the days…).
The back nine contains two par fives (at 12 and 18) that contribute to a yardage that’s 400 yards longer than the front nine but the newer holes across the road from 12 to 15 never really took my fancy, mainly because the longer par fours at 13 and 15 seemed too out of step with those that had been played earlier in the round.
The closing three holes are very good, played out over wickedly undulating terrain and they round off the routing in fine style.
As the previous reviewer stated last year, Hirsel is a decent members club. As to whether it merits its recent claim to fame amongst the upper echelons of Scottish golf courses, I’m not so sure – maybe you should avail yourself of one of the club’s excellent twilight green fee offers and judge for yourself.