North Berwick (West) - Lothians - Scotland

North Berwick Golf Club,
Beach Road,
North Berwick,
East Lothian,
EH39 4BB,
Scotland


  • +44 (0) 1620 892135


The West Links at North Berwick Golf Club is an immensely enjoyable golf course, located on the Firth of Forth with stunning sea views across to Craigleith Island and Bass Rock. The equivalent of Turnberry’s “Ailsa Craig”, Bass Rock is a huge volcanic lump, rising up over 300 feet from the Firth of Forth. It’s the closest seabird sanctuary to the mainland and home to 80,000 nest sites; approximately 10 per cent of the world’s population of Atlantic Gannets stay here.

North Berwick’s West Links has taken some time to evolve into the 18-hole course that’s now in play. Elementary golf – which was largely frowned upon by the local authorities – had been played on the ‘toune links’ in North Berwick since at least 1672, but it wasn’t until the foundation of North Berwick Golf Club in 1832 that a properly designated course was brought into play.

The ground used for organized golf extended only to the “March Dyke” which crosses the current 3rd and 16th holes and only six holes could be fitted into this small parcel of land, so that medal competitions were played over three circuits, allowing golfers to complete an 18-hole round. A seventh hole was eventually squeezed into this tight tract.

Moves to expand west, beyond the March Dyke stone wall, were made in 1868. Thanks to the Right Hon. John Nisbet-Hamilton, who owned the property, three additional holes were laid out – one of which was the famous Redan short hole – and this allowed one of the existing seven holes to disappear. Only two circuits were now required to play an eighteen-hole round.

Nine years later, further negotiations with the Nisbet-Hamilton family resulted in the course edging as far as the Eil Burn, with The Scotsman newspaper reporting that Messrs. Brodie (the Provost) and Whitecross (a member) had assisted David Strath (“keeper of the North Berwick green”) who in turn had received “hints given by Tom Morris on a recent visit.”

The course now comprised eighteen holes, but seven of them were less than 200 yards in length so another effort was made in 1895 to push even further to the west, giving the course an overall yardage of 6,095 yards. Modifications to this layout were then carried out under the supervision of Ben Sayers Jr. and C. K. Hutchison when additional ground was leased in 1932, stretching the course to a little over 6,400 yards.

There are two reasons why North Berwick is such an enjoyable course: 1) the land is raised above sea level, affording those excellent views 2) it has a superb collection of holes, a number of which have been replicated at other courses the world over.

The 15th is one of the world's most famous holes. It’s a par 3 measuring 190 yards, called “Redan” (a military term meaning “guarding parapet”), and is the most copied hole. Bernard Darwin referred to this hole in his book, Golf Courses of the British Isles: “a beautiful one shot hole atop a plateau with a bunker short of the green, to the left, and another further on to the right, and we must vary our mode of attack according to the wind, playing a shot to come in from the right or making a direct frontal attack".

One of the many delights of North Berwick is that you can play the course without being punished brutally by penal rough. The club prefers a round to take no more than three hours, consequently the rough is kept relatively short to speed up play. It’s not the longest links course but it’s sheer fun and a unique experience. You’ll need to negotiate stonewalls, deep bunkers, all kinds of humps and hollows and burns. You’ll also experience blind shots and you’ll need to hit out over the beach. North Berwick is genuinely entertaining.

It’s not often that we thank politicians, but in this case, we should take our hat-off to golf mad former Prime Minister Arthur J. Balfour, immortalised as “The Golfour” by Punch magazine. He was once captain of North Berwick and took every opportunity to popularise golf.

According to golf historian Archie Baird, Balfour once said: “a tolerable day, a tolerable green and a tolerable opponent supply, or ought to supply, all that any reasonably constituted human being should require in the way of entertainment. With a fine sea view in front of him, the golfer may be excused if he regards golf, even though it be indifferent golf, as the true and adequate end of man’s existence.”

So, what are you waiting for? If Arthur liked North Berwick, then surely you will too.

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Reviews for North Berwick (West)

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Description: The West Links at North Berwick Golf Club is an immensely enjoyable golf course, located on the Firth of Forth with stunning sea views across to Craigleith Island and Bass Rock. Rating: 9.3 out of 10 Reviews: 76
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Fergal O'Leary
We continued down the narrow roads to North Berwick Golf Club. The hailstones for the first 3 holes made me question my sanity and the sky looked about as friendly as a bull to a red rag. As is typical in that part of the world, the weather changed every 20 minutes and you start counting rainbows just as soon as you begin guessing when to put back on the Gortex. This golf course is so significant and its global reputation is almost unparalleled. CB MacDonald and Seth Raynor created a par 3 Redan hole at every course they ever built, and the original sits along the land of the 15th at North Berwick. Click here to read Fergal’s full article, “in pursuit of a dream”.
November 10, 2012
8 / 10
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nicholas roy
simply the best course in the lothian/borders area !...I have been lucky to play it on several occasions and also the gullanes, both archerfields, renaissance, dunbar, roxburgh, goswick & muirfield. (controversial, i know, when comparing to muirfield which is a fantastic course too!)...but north berwick is such fun...all the staff are so welcoming...i cannot think of a weak hole...and the last 6 holes are my favourite in golf..you cant help but have a thoroughly enjoyable day out on the west links...be it sunny or raining sideways...if you are playing well or are struggling (perhaps playing your second shot on 2nd or 3rd hole from the beach)...a must for any east lothian golf trip...dont forget to complete your day by getting fish & chips from one of the chippies in north berwick town...RD
September 05, 2012
10 / 10
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BGD
September 06, 2012
It has been three years since I played North Berwick (I have a review posted below) and have played many fine golf courses in Scotland and the US since then. When I think back on all the courses I have played, and there have been many great ones, I think I had more fun playing North Berwick as any of them. It's a wondderful golf course. I would add that I think Macrihanish is in the same category.
Fred Hammer
I am an american (apologies), but I have been fortunate enough to play in the UK many times over. North Berwick is the epitome of all I love about Scotland and golf. It is not the best course in the UK (Royal County Down, Muirfield?), not the hardest (Carnoustie, Lytham), and not the most beautiful (RCD), but it may be the most memorable. I find my mind always returning here. I have played here with friends, family and also the local plumbers and carpenters. I have just returned from playing at the National and Shinnecock, but the original Redan is still the best. For me, this is the most enjoyable walk along the sea in the world.
August 20, 2012
10 / 10
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Cal
August 30, 2012
I, too, have played courses all over Britain and Ireland. I, too, am an American who greatly prefers links golf in the British Isles to American golf. Just curious, though: why are you apologizing for being an American?
Richard Smith
I don't think there's a course that is more fun to play in the UK and Ireland. North Berwick has always been one of my favorites, and it was well received and enjoyed by our group of 8 Golfers on our recent trip to Scotland. North Berwick is challenging yet playable, quirky while also holding true to all the fret qualities of classic links golf. The greens have the perfect amount of slope to make them a challenge without being indecipherable. There are three great one shot holes, including the justifiably famous Redan hole at 15. However there are many great holes including the wonderful combination at 13 and 14 of Pit and Perfection. Of all the holes, however 17 may be the best, requiring a precise drive and approach to a difficult sloping green. Par is well earned here. This is a great course. We were warmly welcomed at both he starters hut and the pro shop, and I would encourage everyone to play here if they have the opportunity . Richard Smith. Knoxville, Tennessee. USA
August 10, 2012
10 / 10
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Javier Pintos
I played the West Links at North Berwick on an East Lothian trip that included playing Muirfield and Gullane No.1 plus visiting both courses at Archerfield and staying 2 nights at the course view located Marine Hotel at North Berwick, a great couple of golfing days. Our play at NB was the last of three rounds and the first thing I have to say it is that West Links is the nicest of the three, not only due to the piece of land but also because of the variety of the golf holes, as you have almost every kind of hole you can imagine. The day started with breakfast at the Cub House with the golf Secretary, the building is really old fashioned and traditional, and offers you plenty of the history of this fantastic golf course. Play was suposed to be at 10am, North Berwick (West) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerbut a dense fog that left almost no visbility made us tee off at 11, with sharp times to continue our trip so we had to really rush. The fog lasted for 2 holes in our round, during 3rd a soft breeze cleaned the air and we had the best sunny day you can possibly ask to play golf with some stron wind in the back 9. Holes 1-18 have a similar layout as The Old Course at St Andrews, but both of them are shorter and there is a level change between green 18 and tee 1st towards 1st green and 18th tee. 3rd hole shows the first special feature: a 1m tall wall corsses the fairway reaching 275 yards from the tee. I loved 7th, a great down hill short par 4 where you have to play short of a stream before a 80yds approach. Par 3 10th with elevated tee is one of the nicer holes. Par 4 13th with another wall going parallel to the fairway which you then have to fly for the green is other of the special features of this jewell. And last 4 holes in my opinion are the best part, starting on Redan 15th par 3, unique double green for 16th, tough 2nd shot on 17th and drivable 18th were a small slice will lead on a broken glass on one of the many cars parked there. My golf was great that day but a short second putt for birdie missed at 18th left me a little sad. The views the course offers have are as good as Turnberry, Kingsbarns or Castle Stuart, but those big rocks give it a little nicer touch. The course was in great condition, so the overall experience was as good as you can ask. And the city has so good gastronomic options that visiting the Saltire and missing this part its a big sin! Click to read my full story: 13 Courses in 13 Days.
July 12, 2012
10 / 10
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Jim McCann

I couldn’t believe it when I checked my old notes to find out it had been all of six years since I last played here. A few things had changed – including a wonderfully refurbished old clubhouse (check the notes from the original secretary of 1832 displayed in the entrance hallway) – but then a lot had stayed exactly as I remembered it, not least of which was the warm welcome from the caddie master, starter and professionals. North Berwick (West) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerTalk about being made to feel a member for the day!

As to the course, my last review from December 2004 mentioned the relatively bland nature of holes 4 to 9 – was I on some sort of hallucinogenic drugs when I wrote that?

What a brilliant stretch, including two cracking par threes at holes 4 and 6 and a tight, slightly doglegged par five at the 9th with some lovely bunkering down the right side of the fairway.

Holes 13 to 17 are simply fantastic; each and every one a unique, semi-eccentric celebration of all that’s good about playing traditional links golf. If you don’t feel exhilarated playing these natural, lie of the land holes that tumble across some very uneven ground then I suggest you’re already clinically dead.

Many reviewers remark on North Berwick’s exceptional value for the green fee paid. Well, what about paying 35 quid on a decent winter’s day like today, playing from proper tees and putting out on green velvet carpets? Now that has to be an absolute bargain for a course that currently stands within the Scottish Top 10 rankings.

Just goes to shows there are great winter bargains to be had for a very modest outlay if you look hard enough.

Jim McCann.

January 30, 2012
10 / 10
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Portpatrick
A truly great golfing experience. A beautiful victorian town, with jaw dropping views across the water towards Fife. Truly magical and ticks every single box
November 20, 2011
10 / 10
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Matthew Adams
My favourite course on a recent trip to Scotland, and possibly more of a treat to play than Turnberry. The starter at North Berwick like so many other Scottish courses has the natural ability to make everyone feel welcome and get you on North Berwick (West) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer your way without feeling nerves. The wide open first fairway is a contributory factor too. The course is an out and back links where the best holes are found nearer to the clubhouse: the weakest holes being round the turn in my view. Given the universal acclaim in which the course is held the following will sound silly, but it makes you wonder why more courses cannot be designed this way: in harmony with the land, with great variety, full of innovative features that work, with options aplenty from the tee and around the green. Of course the excellent views to the town, Bass rock and the sea elevate the course beyond what most courses can offer. To come back to the clubhouse in the dying rays of a beautiful sunset made it that bit more special.
September 13, 2011
10 / 10
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Chris Hull
Played here last week, very friendly welcome on arriving at the club. Starter also very welcoming too. What a wonderful challenge my partner and I thorougjhly enjoyed the course, some very memorable holes and the greens were in tip top condition. Would reccomend to all.
September 12, 2011
10 / 10
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Mac Plumart
Truly a weird golf course. I love the unique features, but I don't think all would. 15 gets all the acclaim, but 16 green maybe the best I've ever seen. It is a must play, just to see if this is your style of golf.
August 12, 2011
8 / 10
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