Newbattle Golf Club originates from Dalkeith Golf Club, which was founded in 1880. The club didn’t have a course of its own until sixteen years after its formation, when a 9-hole layout was leased from the Marquis of Lothian and the club changed its name to Dalkeith and Newbattle Golf Club.
Moving to its present location in 1934, the club dropped “Dalkeith” from its title before it engaged none other than architect Harry Colt to design its new course, so the Newbattle layout is in a rather elite group of less than a dozen Scottish courses that have been built or modified by Colt’s design company.
Holes are set out on either side of the River Esk, though its flowing waters never come into play. The opening and closing two holes are laid out on one side of the river and the remaining holes are routed around the other side, with the historic 15th century listed monument known as Maiden Bridge linking the two sections of the course.Measuring a modest 5,912 yards from the medal tees, the layout plays to a par of 69, with only one par five on the scorecard at the left doglegged 546-yard 13th, “Lucky Dip”. First time visitors should be aware of the tough stretch of three par fours starting at the 6th, whilst the long par three 14th (“The Oaks”) precedes a run of four demanding par fours that lead back to the clubhouse.
My round at Newbattle started very brightly, with the opening hole playing to a lovely sunken green, followed by a tee shot on the short par four 2nd that plunges down to a right doglegged fairway. After crossing the old Maiden Bridge to the 3rd, the landscape changes, becoming more open, with fairways sometimes ill defined, such as at the 6th and 13th, which run parallel to each other – and if the couple of fairway bunkers separating those two holes are Colt originals then I’ll eat my hat as they were as basic a couple of sand pits as I’ve ever seen anywhere.
In truth, the only holes I really liked on this part of the front nine were the two par threes at the 3rd and the downhill 8th, both of which were beautifully bunkered in a style that I would have anticipated from Colt.
There’s a very solid run of holes from the short par four 9th to the left doglegged 13th - the only par five on the card - before the final par three is played at hole 14, measuring all of 236 yards from tee to green.
The penultimate hole begins with a drive across the river and ends with an uphill approach to a domed green, followed by a shortish par four 18th which kinks slightly right to finish in front of the clubhouse.
Almost all the putting surfaces on the course were laid at grade with the green surrounds, which I didn’t expect to see as I’d anticipated the Colt greens to be raised.
Now maybe I was expecting too much, perhaps the master architect never actually stipulated that greens had to be elevated from the level of the surrounding land; it’s just that that’s what I was expecting to see so I left here feeling a little bit disappointed, even though I’d no real reason to feel that way because Newbattle’s a solid course that’s well worth playing.