Luffness New is probably the oldest “new” golf course in the world. An application was made to the Laird of Luffness to lay out a golf course on his land way back in 1867 and so Luffness Golf Club was inaugurated. After the Laird decided to reclaim his land, Tom Morris was approached to design a new course, which started out in life as a 17-hole layout but by 1872, an 18-hole course was in play.
A professional tournament in 1894 marked the formal opening of the current course with Willie Auchterlonie (Open Champion 1893), Andrew Kirkcaldy, Tom Morris (all of St Andrews), David Grant, Ben Sayers, G. Sayers, P. Wynne (all of North Berwick), J. Simpson (Edinburgh), B. Campbell (Musselburgh), G. Shepherd ("Old Luffness"), E. Fitzjohn (Muirfield) and H. Gillane (Gullane). A handsome winning purse of £25 was made available and, after 36 holes, Ben Sayers emerged victorious with a winning score of 166.
Some members of the old club were unhappy with the new arrangements and they decided to break away to form Kilspindie four years later, using the old 5-hole Wanster course that was already established where the present day holes seven to eleven are located, next to Gosford Bay.
The Luffness New course is situated on the western edge of Gullane, a hallowed stretch of East Lothian coastline. “If the golfer can only get up early enough in the morning,” wrote Bernard Darwin in his book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, “and has the strength to do it, he can play on seven courses on one long summer’s day. At his very door is a trinity of courses – Gullane, New Gullane, and New Luffness - which, to the eye of the stranger, are indistinguishable the one from the other.”
Nobody doubts that Old Tom Morris designed the original course in 1894, but plenty of changes have taken place down the years. According to Fred Hawtree, writing in Simpson & Co. Golf Architects: "Willie Park Junior also had connections with it later. This course is listed by Simpson in 1931 as 'one of ours'. One would expect that being only a mile away or so from the family home of Simpson's pupil, the realisation of the plans was very much in the hands of Mackenzie Ross. Perhaps he was even responsible for getting the job in the first place."
Luffness New is underrated and certainly overshadowed by Muirfield, Gullane and North Berwick. This little-known links plays host to qualifying rounds when the Open is held at Muirfield. It’s a challenging course with interesting green complexes. The members are proud of their putting surfaces and, all year round, they are amongst the truest in the area. It only measures 6,502 yards from the back tees, but the lowly par of 70 makes low scoring rather challenging.
Luffness New comes to life after you’ve walked across the road to the 6th tee. Here, you are faced with a delightful short par three, called “Quarry”. From this point onwards, the course goes on from strength to strength. “From Gullane Hill to the Luffness Club-house is one huge stretch of turf,” wrote Darwin, “and such turf! The finest, smoothest, and most delicate that ever was seen.” The Luffness Strokesaver refers to the turf as “being of the springy type which gives gently to the feet, like a rich Persian carpet.” There is no doubt - it’s the real thing!
Luffness is a quiet, but private, members' club. Everyone is very friendly, but bear in mind that men may need to don a jacket and tie in order to take refreshments in the bar.
I was somewhat disappointed with Luffness. The opening hole was nice, hitting up and over some wonderful bunkering but that was close to the highlight of the round. The first 5 holes are played on the clubhouse side of the A198 and at the conclusion of those I was dearly hoping for a change in proceedings as these holes were laid out in a fairly flat, mundane way.
Over the road the views improved a bit and briefly so did the golf with the 7th and 8th going up and then down a part of Gullane Hill but it was with some regret that I realised the back nine yellow flags of Luffness were not the yellow flags of the adjoining Gullane #3 course as those holes looked much more interesting than the remainder of Luffness.
The bunkering is the highlight of the course. Some small elevation changes, you could turn the tee boxes into putting greens they were so smooth, but overall I got bored with it. The rough was kept quite thin but I’m sure it could get nasty if allowed. The greens were very nice, a bit brown but true.
At 90 quid it is not good value. I now know why there are just 13 reviews on this website in the past 13 years – nobody plays it other than members. Take the 95 quid Gullane #1 Spring Offer way before you consider parting with your cash for this course. But like all my reviews VFM does not come into it. I cannot see how it can be considered higher than 4 balls, it’s a good, honest course, nothing more. Warren from Aust
For many years whilst visiting the beautiful town of Gullane I would glance to the right as I drove past and say to myself that I must play Luffness New the next time I’m here. Well 15 years ago I did just that and started what has been a long lived admiration for what I feel is one of the most charming links courses in Scotland. Recently, I visited again and the more times I play the course the more I appreciate its subtlety, angles, routing, beautiful setting and well designed strategic bunkering. In particular, the raised cross bunkering on some of the par fours. The greens are well renowned and they are some of the best surfaces you will ever roll a putt on. Your tee shots are varied, needing driver, 3 wood and long irons for placement on the differing length holes. The rough often bites here so accuracy is needed.
The course flows well and although it is generally over flat ground there is good elevation change on 7 and 8 which offers beautiful views across Aberlady Bay to Edinburgh in the distance. A small number of blind drives over ridges also add to the variation.
My favourite holes……1- a lovely opening par 4 that demands a precise short iron over a bank of deep cross bunkers to a large sloping green from the front. 3 – A mid length par 3 to possibly the best green complex on the course. 7 – A short par 4 that demands an accurate drive to leave a short pitch to a raised green on the hillside. 9 – A long testing par four that runs downhill after a drive over the ridge. 16 – Testing short par 3 to a well bunkered green that backs onto the bay.
However, for me, the real stars of the show are the 12th, 15th and 17th which are all par fours with sublime cross bunkering that ensure great thought is given to the approach shots. I would go as far to say that the 17th is one of my favourite holes in East Lothian.
I don’t feel that Luffness often gets the love it deserves. No it’s not a course to hold the great championships but it holds its own with difficulty. It doesn’t get the accolades that are bestowed on the great Scottish courses. It is what it is. I am a low category 1 golfer and it tests me every time whether the wind is blowing or not. When reviewing a golf course I feel that one of the most important characteristics is ‘charm’ and in my view this place has it. I fully accept that this is not one of the great championship links courses but I often judge a course by the warm feeling you get inside when you think back to your day there. And for that I place Luffness New in the same company as The Golf House Club, North Berwick, Woking, New Zealand, Formby, Alwoodley, Royal West Norfolk, Royal Cinque Ports and of course Sunningdale.
I would urge any true golfer to do what I did and turn right as you enter Gullane and play a charming subtle links golf course that oozes tradition. Take your jacket and tie and enjoy lunch in the beautiful clubhouse afterwards and as you glug your claret I’m sure you will quietly think to yourself why hadn’t you played this course sooner. Stu R
Before we played, a senior Muirfield member with whom we were staying cautioned us: "It looks like an easy course and a scoring opportunity, but when you look at your card afterwards it will not look that way at all!". He was right, of course! Why? Certainly, during our visit the answer was to be found on and around the greens. An approach played to the foregreen would have had a good chance to stop close to the flag at Muirfield and at North Berwick whereas it just ran through to the back on most holes at Luffness. Given another chance we might just have started to "get it". In other words, I think this is a course where you should play at least two rounds to give yourself a fair chance. Now would you? £90 for one round may not be value for money compared to alternatives on offer, but £105 for the day certainly is. However, do factor in the time-warp experience that is lunch in their clubhouse. We decided to enjoy it on the club's terms and were very happy. If you think you cannot, go elsewhere.
Five holes are on the clubhouse side of the A198 but it is the holes that follow from the 6th out to Aberlady Bay that provide a lovely peaceful stretch of enjoyable links. The 6th is one of the best holes at Luffness. This par three is only 155 yards but there is plenty to think about. The shot is uphill and the green is surrounded by four strategically positioned pot bunkers.
The 12th is a good looking short par four with the difficulty coming from the six fairway bunkers. Fourteen is a reasonably long par four at 435 yards and the rough here is very punitive. Conversely, the 15th is rated the second hardest and is only 346 yards.
The 16th is another excellent par three featuring six greenside bunkers, including a large one at the front. Three raised bunkers about fifty yards short of the green are the feature of the par four 17th. The final hole is a good finish at 416 yards, slight dogleg left. This green has a number of grass mounds behind to prevent balls from going onto the nearby road.
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.
Luffness New is a fine example of a true Scottish links course and I was fortunate enough to play it on a calm, sunny day when scoring was a lot easier than it would be normally with the wind up. Having driven past here lots of times, it looked a well manicured, but slightly dull, flattish layout – how wrong can your perception be as you drive by at 40 mph!
I was surprised by the changes in elevation – and totally unprepared for the blind drives on “Long” (the 4th hole) then “Hill” (the 7th hole) and “Peffer Bank” (the 11th hole).
Cross bunkers were in evidence at many holes, particularly at the 12th where there were no fewer than nine sand traps in view from the elevated tee – on a hole that only measures 330 yards from the back tees!
I’m glad to say the greens were as good – and subtly contoured – as they were reputed to be and the best was saved ‘til last as the 18th had a lovely hidden swale in front of the putting surface.
A word of caution though in relation to the course in general; the rough can be extremely penal (maybe the grass was especially thick after a very rainy summer) and the fairways relatively narrow on some holes – which is fair enough for a course that only measures 5958 yards from the regular tees.
The name of the game at Luffness New is to keep the ball in play on the fairway, otherwise you will be punished if you stray too far from the cut stuff (hence my loss of 4 balls on the front nine). Rounding off the morning’s match play with lunch in the dining room was a fine way to end my Luffness New experience though my mince and tatties were a lot easier to swallow than a defeat to my parkland pal who won 2-UP!