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.
May 26, 2004