North Berwick West Links looks so perfect on arrival that it’s hard to think of a better setting for a golf course. The course is laid out beside a beautiful sandy beach in what can only be described as a highly affluent area, so even without the clubs it would be a lovely place to go for a walk. But when you look out from the clubhouse to the course, the instant impression is that you’re somewhere special.
The first two holes are straight out of the top drawer, you play over the beach and cross naturally bumpy rock formations. A stone wall splits the fairway in two on the third, a feature that then reappears at other moments through the round, before the gaping bunker that sits below the green on the par three 6th being another memorable highlight of the front nine.
The holes leading into the turn don’t quite have the same character as to what came before, but this is only because the other holes nearer the town are just sublime. The patch that comes mid-round are still well crafted golf holes, but they just cover slightly inferior land. Even with that being the case, hole 9, Mizzentop is still a really strong climbing par five with two very well placed bunkers located to the front-right of the green protecting the obvious angle in.
Then comes the closing stretch; holes 12 through to 18 would have to be in the conversation when discussing the finest sequence of holes in world golf. 12 with its cluster of bunkers protecting the corner of the hole before playing out to the fence line. 13 and 14 then represent the best back-to-back holes I’ve ever played. The 13th “Pit”, with a stone wall diagonally crossing ahead of the green and 14, Perfection, the most breathtakingly beautiful hole playing over a rise before dipping over two bunkers and out to the sea. So many architectural features of the course have been borrowed and replicated elsewhere. The Redan at 15 and the Biarritz valley green at 16 will test the best with the flat stick. And whilst the club have made a mess of the changes to the 17th bunker, it’s still an incredible hole as you play to the high raised-top green.
To conclude your round, there can be no more nerve-racking hole than 18. What sort of maniac decided that the best place for a car park was tight to the right of the 18th fairway? “Bail left, bail left” is all I had in my mind. Thank goodness the fairway is as wide as they come, but God help you if you’ve parked your car in the heart of the kill-zone and suffer the misfortune of your windscreen coming face to face with the ball of some over-confident youth. Ah well, if you do, then at least every green fee comes inclusive of free liability insurance, and you’ll always carry the memories of having spent three to four hours on one of the best links courses in the game.
Date: July 16, 2019