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 in many of the other courses in the local area.
Golf courses like Kilspindie are for me, what makes Scotland one of the most vibrant and varied golfing destinations in the world. This course could be classed as diminutive, but what this par 69 links lacks in length, it certainly more than makes up for in character. I played it on a particularly balmy spring evening and I was blown away by the beauty of this spot and the playable nature of the golf course.
The opener is a something of an amuse-bouche; a relatively tame par 3 but framed by the backdrop of of the glistening waters of Aberlady Bay. From this point on, the front nine is quite simply breathtaking as you play your way along the edge of the bay to the furthest point from the house on the 8th green. This front nine is captivating, spellbinding and brilliant I would quite happily play this stretch of holes again and again. The proximity to the water could at times be classed as distracting and it’s certainly intimidating if you have a miss to the right in your locker.
The star of the show on that run is undoubtedly the blockbuster par 3 8th called ‘Gosford Bay’. If this hole were at major championship hosting course, it would be a hell of a lot more famous than it is. But I like the fact that this extraordinary one-shotter just sidled up to me halfway through my round and truly knocked my socks off. The green is tucked in the most westerly corner of the layout and played to with the waves lapping up on a miniature cove to the right of the green. The protective wooden ocean barriers add further character and beyond the green is a very simple two bar fence that is the only thing breaking the join between grass and ocean. It’s a fabulous spot and one to take a moment to drink in the ambience.
The returning holes are played further from the sea and apart from the associated reduction of photo opportunities (you spend this time abutted to the boundary with nearby Craigielaw GC), the holes are no less engaging. 15 and 16 are a strong double salvo so close to the end of the round and if you make it through there intact, 17 and 18 offer two reachable par 4’s to finish.
In summary, there are bigger named golf courses surrounding Kilspindie on this coastline of East Lothian. However don’t be drawn in to just ticking off the biggest names if you are here visiting. The best trips I’ve enjoyed have been the ones where you blend the most famous courses with the lesser known gems and Kilspindie is most definitely an authentic and enjoyable Scottish gem.
If one wants to have “guaranteed” fun in East Lothian, then one should head to Kilspindie. I have been coming to The area since 1993 but had always focused on the more well known courses. I finally played it a few days ago.
I agree with the comments of the other reviewers in terms of the course where it is the par 3 holes that stand out the most, even if only one of them is terrific. That hole is the eighth, playing at 167 yards over the edge of Gosford Bay requiring all carry from the tee to the green. The green itself has a backstop and a lovely shape to it.
We played as a three ball and although we waited on every shot still played in 3 hours as the course is short at 5494 yards and with the exception of getting to the ninth tee around a corner, the next tee is right next to the green.
I did like several of the tees that are placed on ground off to the side nearer the water on the early holes as these tees provide a more interesting angle for the tee shot. It is interesting to me that moving a back tee 10-15 yards to the side of the other tees magnifies the challenge of a tee shot.
There is only one par five here which is short at 516 yards and has one of the lesser interesting greens on the course.
There are only three par 4’s of over 400 yards of which our threesome thought the sixteenth was the best playing downhill to a dogleg left back nearly in front of the clubhouse. The green complex with the sharp fall-offs on the fifteenth is a nice feature to the longest par 4.
The bunker/mound and stone wall on the left side of the par 3 thirteenth is also a good feature. If one lands over it, their ball is likely to fall off thr backside of the green.
I had also never played a course informing the players to limit their tee shot to no more than 250 yards. This occurs on the uphill ninth hole perhaps due to a house adjacent to the course.
The finishing hole is nice, a final chance to thread the needle between stone walls and bunkers and drive the green at 250 yards, with the green close to the clubhouse. I missed my try for eagle.
As I looked at the large homes that sit next to Kilspindie as well as Craigelaw Golf Club, I could not help but wonder why Kilspindie never acquired that land to lengthen the course to 6000 yards. A second par 5 would have added to the course as well as a few more par 4’s of 400+ yards. As it is, the holes are cramped with parallel fairways that can bring errant drives into play, although more likely on a windy day. Having said that, I would not have wanted this course to be more than 6000 yards because it would change it too much from what it is - joy.
This is a good course for juniors under 15, couples, and those who want views of the water from nearly every hole where the game is going to be stress-free. For the longer hitters, I am certain they are playing their own game of “how many greens can I drive from the tee.”
For playability and fun, this course is a 5. In comparison to the other great courses in the area, it is unique.
Played Killspindie today in near perfect conditions. Paired up with two members (John & John) and had a great round on a lovely course. Fairways were lovely to hit off and the greens were in fantastic shape, so smooth and running so true. Left my 7 iron at the first tee and a gentleman in the group behind phoned the pro shop and arranged for someone to drop it back to me. Couple that with the fact that the round was a present for my birthday, plus my best ever round of golf (71), you could say it was a wonderful day all round. Although the course isn't the longest, you do have to keep it straight or the bunkers will come into play. Will definitely play here again
I have a soft-spot for shorter, more fun courses – pace of play is better, they’re more suitable for novices and seniors, and for us in between we can make more pars and birdies. On a Scottish golf binge too, it’s a nice compromise for weary legs.
In this niche, Kilspindie is the best course I’ve played. There is presumably a steady wind which ensures it’s still no pushover, and the three early holes along the beach play into the breeze so can wreck a scorecard before it’s even taken shape. Have a look for seals from these holes too, we were lucky to see wild ones in low tide.
One small gripe is that it would be nice to have these beach-side holes at the end of the round. Once inland, Kilspindie is fairly hilly for a links course and wind-depending will offer plenty of options from the tee. Running close to Craigielaw next door, I’m sure more longing stares come from that side of the wall than Kilspindie’s guests towards there.
The course is set up fairly easily and for speedy play – fairways are extremely firm whilst some greens have lush rough behind them to stop runaway balls. The fairway rough is wispy and short, whilst the greens are slow and pure. If you are someone who gravitates to a course’s back tees, you probably would be better off elsewhere. You would be missing though, some typical Scottish quirk that culminates in the short par 4 18th where you must thread an iron between two walls. A pushed tee shot means pitching over the wall, as I found. Shortly after, the group behind put a ball to fifteen feet for eagle – in my opinion this golf is far more fun than grinding for 6500 yards and spending ages looking for balls.
Admittedly the novelty could wear off if this is the only golf you play, but it probably isn’t, so miss Kilspindie at your peril.
What a pleasure - Kilspindie as I'm sure you are now aware, is not a long course. At around 5500 yards it may seem lacking, but don't let the distance worry you, this is a wonderful old school test of shot making ability.
A wonderful stretch of holes along the coast with the waves lapping at the shore, welcomes you in, with views to die for. As the course meanders back inland, you never lose sight of the sea.
A great mix of testing approach shots and gently undulating greens will provide a test for golfers of all abilities.
After a 5hour drive, this was a fantastic way to ease our way into our Scotland adventure.
This was the last course in what was a tremendous week away on the East Lothian coast with 2 great friends.
Onto the course and the hospitality given by the club and warm welcome was good, along with the food provided before going out. The first a gentle par 3 lures you into a false sense of security, before you turn into the wind to play 3 holes that run adjacent to the sea, where you can hear the waves crashing and you play, a real joy despite the 6 club wind we were playing into. It's beyond belief how golfers of yesteryear would play the course in similar conditions with hickory shafted clubs and feathered balls. The 8th a 178 yard par 3 hole directly across the sea to a small undulating green gas to be one of the best holes in golf and into a head wind provided the stiffest if challenges. It was fitting that all 3 of us hit our best shots of the week and managed to find the short stuff. The course continued to meander through ancient walls providing opportunities to score if the winds were not as high. Overall this for me is a fantastic good course and experience of true links golf were the early architects considered the prevailing winds when designing the layout, not the longest but it does not need to be.
You usually finish a round on one of Scotland's seaside links with a feeling of satisfaction not necessarily at the quality of your golf, rather at having survived everything Mother Nature can throw at you. This is not the case here at Kilspindie where the delightful views and short nature of the course combine to provide a pleasurable experience that may lead to delusions of golfing adequacy! The opening stretch along the Firth of Forth is just lovely and the short 8th right beside the water utterly charming. There are quite a lot of similar short par fours here but 17 - with that finest of all Scottish golfing features an old stone dyke - and the well-bunkered 18th stand out. Unusually, Kilspindie does not offer reduced green fees in the winter, and I do feel £65 for a round here is somewhat overpriced, but it is a course to play if only as a respite from the bigger beasts along the coast.
Kilspindie Golf Club is located at Aberlady on the East Lothian coast in Scotland. The area is blessed with a smorgasbord of quality links courses including Muirfield, The Renaissance Club, and the West Course at North Berwick, all within 10 or 15 minutes of each other.
Throw in Dunbar, Craigielaw, Luffness New, Longnriddy, Gullane courses 1, 2, and 3, the east course at Nth Berwick, and 2 courses at Archerfield- and there is plenty of choice....
Kilspindie dates from 1867, and as such ranks as the 35th oldest course in the world.
The course is sited right on the Firth of Forth, with the first four holes, then holes 7 & 8 adjacent to the coast. There are no large dunes at Kilspindie so every hole has clear viewing of the firth across to the Kingdom of Fife. There is very little "quirk" factor here, just good solid links golf.
As you would expect the turf is firm and fast, the greens are not overly large or contoured, but have plenty of interest, and there are enough revetted pot bunkers on every hole to gain your attention.
Although only a par 69 with four par 3's and one par 5, Kilspindie is very short by modern standards measuring only 5494 yards from the tips. There are six par 4's which come in under 300 yards!
This is a great course to hone your links golf skills, and an ideal starter for any trip to the area. And the fun factor is off the scale!
You will not be required to hit many fairway woods into greens, but you will constantly be asked the question as to what type of shot, and which club to use, to approach those short par 4's.
With the greens and surrounds firm, and enough breeze to get your attention, it was a perfect opportunity to practice the bump and run, the punch shot, and improvise various half shots. To me this is far more interesting than playing a full shot in to every hole, but then I just love links golf....
The course starts off from the quaint little clubhouse with a lovely par 3 defined by the firth behind the green and a cluster of revetted bunkers.
Other stand out holes were the par 4, fourth hole with its green tucked on a point- and the gorgeous par 3, 8th hole on its own little promontory (with beach carries from the back tee). Not so impressive was back right tee on the par 4, 9th hole. A new home was built right of the green, so the club has put a screen up to prevent the tee shot heading that way, forcing you to aim left- it's an awkward hole..
Overall I found Kilspindie a joy to play. It is short by any standard, and there are no large dunes on the site. But the seaside views are lovely, the turf exceptional, and the golf great fun. And in the end of the day what more could you want? This is just pure links golf!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
This one came as a surprise as it was not planned and I just dropped by the Proshop with less than 3 hourse to complete the round and it was possible due to the very generous Club Secretary who allowed me to rush and enjoy it.
The course was in my mind since I read a review from Tom Doak stating how good it was and that the value for money was excellent.
I had played Musselburgh Old early in the morning driving from St Andrews and had a tee time 4pm at Renaissance, it was 1pm when I approached the Pro Shop and in 5 minutes I was off to the first tee to play one of the most fun courses you will find in Scotland: a lot of short par 4s, short and long par 3s (8th over the ocean is greatness), a couple of long 4s and just one par 5. Very friendly to score but as many of these, if you are sharp off the tee … if not you will not!
Sun and light wind were the perfect partners for my lonely round until 14th when I joined a Senior Member for the last 4 holes.
Great green complexes, amazing views almost from everywere, well placed bunkers and just a course where you will just have a lot of fun.
I have to say the set of par 3s is maybe the best feature on the course: 1st facing the ocean, 8th over the water where a slight misshit will be wet, very nice 10th downhill with one of the best greens on the course and 185yds 13th where I just missed the green and I had no chance …
Small charming Club House and the idea of a perfect afternoon round after doing Muirfield in the morning for example. Worth? Pfff, an absolute MUST!
We played Kilspindie two days ago on a sunny day in a 2 club westerly breeze straight down 2 & 3 with the beach hard right (OOB here rather than a water hazard as at North Berwick the previous day) so a real challenge to start! This is a traditional links with tight turf, elevation changes, true greens and fantastic views of Arthur's Seat, the Forth bridges and snow covered mountains beyond. As you putt out on the last you certainly won't feel it was too short. Would definitely return, and echo a previous reviewer that this would be an ideal intro to Links novices to see what all the fuss is about without having to take on the bigger siblings nearby.