Kilspindie Golf Club is situated beside Aberlady Bay in East Lothian. The 1439-acre bay was made the first British Nature Reserve in 1952 and its salt marshes and mudflats support a large variety of plants – such as rushes and sedges – which provide breeding grounds and resting places for many birds, including waders, ducks and geese.
Kilspindie is one of the oldest clubs in the world (35th oldest to be precise) having been formed in 1867. The game of golf has been played in these parts for hundreds of years; one of the first courses in the world was created along the coast at Musselburgh where Mary Queen of Scots is reported to have played in 1567.
King James V was a frequent visitor to Aberlady in the early 16th century when he came for "the archery and golfing” though his attention for the ladies of nearby Gosford was also known to be another reason for his presence in the area! The former course at Aberlady was a short, 5-hole layout known as the Wanster course and it was built on holes seven to eleven of the present 18-hole layout. The club moved here four years after the breakup of Luffness Golf Club in 1894, when some members broke away to form Luffness New.
Kilspindie measures only 5,480 yards from the medal tees. Although the par is 69, the Standard Scratch Score is 66 so that lets you know you should not be in for too torrid a time when playing here, weather permitting. There is one par five and four par threes on the course. Only three of the par fours are greater than four hundred yards in length –indeed seven of the thirteen par four’s are less than three hundred yards, so length off the tee is not a major factor.
From the opening 167-yard par three (“The Point”), to the 252-yard short par four final hole (“Home”), you will find a charming, old fashioned, traditional Scottish links course which is only one of the many golfing pearls to be strung out along the southern shores of the Firth of Forth. With a small, private road that winds its way from the main Gullane road, alongside Aberlady Bay to the clubhouse, Kilspindie literally is one of those much quoted “hidden gems” of Scottish golf.
This small corner of the country is golfing nirvana, where the great game of golf always has been, and in all probability always will be, in safe hands. Put simply, you owe it to yourself to sample golf in its simplest form at Kilspindie and also many of the other courses in the local area.
Kilspindie Golf Club is the 35th oldest golf course in the world and this year celebrated their 150th anniversary. This seaside links layout was originally designed by Ross and Sayers but later updated by Willie Park offering panoramic views of Edinburgh across Aberlady Bay and the Firth of Forth beyond. When I was there in early October, seals were sunbathing on the sandy shoals in low tide and the geese were starting to migrate here for their annual pilgrimage. Stunning indeed and maybe an omen.
Don’t be fooled by this very short 5,494-yard par-69. Kilspindie is a true ‘Scottish Links Course’ where wind will be factor and strategy is much more important than distance. #1 Rule - Stay out of trouble. Deep fescue line both sides of the fairways and strategically located sod-walled bunkers force you to avoid them at all costs. Hit it straight or be prepared to be challenged.
The outward holes are by far the most challenging and scenic of the two. There are six holes that play directly onto the coastline so make sure you have your camera to capture the moment.
The 1st hole is only 158-yards but heads directly towards the ocean and normally plays into a strong crosswind. You must bounce your tee shot short left onto this large firm green while still avoiding the five pot bunkers in front.
The 2nd hole maybe the most challenging of them all. This tight par-5 normally plays directly into the prevailing winds with the ocean looming on your right. The par-4 3rd hole, nicknamed ‘Arthur’s Seat’, offers a blind tee shot and a sunken green that juts out to a point. Another hole that reinforces that you need to bounce your approach shot short on these putting surfaces.
The closing 18th hole is a risk/reward driveable par-4 with a stone wall that runs down the left side and starts again as you approach the green. Two large bunkers protect the front left and out of bounds are to your right. A great way to finish your round.
Kilspindie may not be long but it will challenge every club in your bag. One of my favourite golf courses to play with hickory cubs in East Lothian Scotland.
Dave Finn is our Canadian Correspondent. To read more about his golf travel adventures visit www.goftravelandleisure.com
Reminded me of Crail’s Balcomie course. The opening holes after the benign par 3 opener were excellent. Running along the coast and forever threatening the right hand slice they provide a stiff test especially in the chilly wind I experienced in the late April cold snap.
The pick of the holes for me was the par 3 eighth hole at the far end of the course. To take on the green you need to take on the little inlet. It needs a good strike.
The inward nine were well conditioned, maybe a bit flat and uninspiring in places but still fun golf. The rough was thin enough and wayward slices went unpunished. At times I should have been playing 3 off the tee but was actually having a shot into the green, albeit not quite the angle the designers had in mind.
The course is short with the last 2 holes playing well under 300 yards. The stone wall provides a nice feature on these holes and can come into play if you hit the ball particularly poorly. All up with 7 holes at or under 300 yards it would not provide a big enough challenge for serious golfers but for fun and forgiveness it rates well. Warren from Aust.
The 18 holes at Kilspindie are such an enjoyable place to play links golf. You won’t find championship standard golf here but that’s not to say the course doesn’t present plenty of challenges, it does, and you will have much fun rising and perhaps falling to them.
Kilspindie opens with a relatively straight forward par three. The proximity of the clubhouse and the knowledge that your first shot of the day is with an iron (along with a good chance of some onlookers) is probably more daunting that the series of bunkers that front the green.
The next three holes all run along the shoreline and with fantastic views across Aberlady Bay to the golf courses at Gullane it’s easy to be distracted from the task at hand. The second hole is a par five, the only one on the scorecard, whilst the third and fourth are medium length par fours. There is plenty of room to the left on all three holes but the favoured approach is from the right, especially at the two par fours, so a risky drive close to the beach is ideal!
There are lots of lovely green complexes throughout the round and because there are a number of short par fours you will get to enjoy a series of tricky pitches and partially blind shots into them. Sometimes you’re not sure if you’ve hit it close until you get to the green.
An old stone wall comes into play towards the end of the round which adds further character to Kilspindie.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
The opening hole is a par three, well bunkered, and often plays directly into the wind. The next three are literally right along the water’s edge. The 2nd hole is the only par five and can require a very demanding tee shot. By the time you have completed the narrow 415-yard 3rd, you will realise that Kilspindie is no pushover.
If there is a standout hole it is probably the 8th. A par three of 162 yards, it follows the coastline of Gosford Bay. As the hole curves right and the wind is often from offshore then you have to be brave enough to start your ball out over the water.
The first eight are possibly the best but there are some interesting holes on the back nine. The 16th is a par four of 412 yards with eleven bunkers, mainly on your left. The approach to the short par four 17th requires you to play over the remnants of a stone wall. The 18th is a very short par four of 252 yards. The perfect shot is to aim for the left of the clubhouse with a very slight fade.
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.
Kilspindie only measured about 5,500 yards from the medal tees with only one par 5, 3 par 3s with the rest par 4s that measured between 250 yards and 436 yards. The links played hard and fast with many beautiful views courtesy of its great location on the shores of the Firth of Forth. It definitely has a great location as evidenced by its neighbors which include Muirfield, North Berwick, and Gullane.
Some of my favorite holes included number 2 (Kings Kist), number 3 (Arthur's Seat), and number 4 (The Target) which required accuracy off the tee and were right on the shore of the Firth of Forth. The par 3 8th (Gosford Bay) was a nice testing hole. The last 2 holes (Craigielaw and Home) were short par 4s that were unique as an old stone fence separated the holes.
Overall the course was in great condition, was a pleasure to play, and was reasonably priced. The staff at the course were excellent and the members were very friendly and showed a true interest in how we enjoyed playing their course. Would highly recommend golfers that are in this area play this short links as a warm up to the other great courses in Scotland and you will not be disappointed. Click here to see a You Tube slideshow of some pictures I took during my visit. Jim Brady