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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Mondeo
A real old fashioned 9 out and 9 back golf course in excellent condition with fast and true greens. There are a couple of holes that are a bit mickey mouse - due much to modern equipment and the ability of an average golfer like me to drive the Par 4's.Clubhouse very welcoming and good food.
September 24, 2008
6 / 10
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adam wade
July 07, 2009
i'd like to know which of the par 4's you can drive apart from the 18th? i've played this course twice and personally its the best course i've ever played and i've played the Belfry, Forest of Arden, Woodhall Spa and a few others around North Berwick.
Butch Branscome
My brother and I played here in Sept. of 2006 and loved the course. We were very fortunate to play with a local who grew up playing the course. We basically had a caddie as far as knowledge of the course, he was great and told us numerous wonderful stories. We visited the clubhouse with him after our round and were treated like Kings. If there was one course I could join and play for the rest of my life it would be here at North Berwick.
August 12, 2008
8 / 10
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kcbritton
We made our second tip to Scotland this year. As evidence of the high opinion we have of North Berwick...it is the only course we made an effort to play again this year. Tons better than Gullane and a much more interesting course than Muirfield. If you have one day in East Lothian, play North Berwick!
July 20, 2008
10 / 10
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Grahame
The all round experience at North Berwick was excellent from the friendly and attentive service in the clubhouse through to the brilliant course.A very enjoyable day
August 28, 2007
10 / 10
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michael logue
Although we didn't get to see much of the views until late in the back nine due to the mist, what a tremendous course, not long but miss the fairway or under estimate the greens and it will be a big score. The condition was outstanding and the clubhouse and pro shop staff couldn't have been more helpful. We will be back soon. Don't miss this course it is certainly in my Top 10.
June 21, 2007
8 / 10
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Adrian Gaspar
Brilliant little course. Yes it is very quirky but that simply adds to the charm. I sat in the clubhouse thinking that every serious golfer should play this course as they are likely to come across two or three holes that they may not see anywhere else in the world. There are a couple of relatively bland holes early doors but overall this is one of my most memorable golfing experiences. Yes the course is relatively short, no they don’t grow the rough particularly long but that doesn’t matter one bit, North Berwick is all about fun, fun and for those of a serious disposition….FUN!
September 17, 2006
10 / 10
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Gary Popovich
I can't say that North Berwick West is perfect - the first hole is kind of hokey - but it's as much fun that a person could have playing golf and not worry about his/her score. The inward half in particular has some wonderful, unique holes, including #13 (The Pit), and #14 (Perfection). I've heard the comment that an architect would get strung up for designing holes like some at North Berwick West, but then again, is having a stone wall guarding a green any different than #17 at Sawgrass?
August 18, 2006
8 / 10
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Sas Mahadeva
Played North Berwick on the 7th August 2006. Great course, fantastic views and the greens were in great condition. The staff were very friendly and made us feel really welcome. At £60, felt it was great value compared to its illustrious neibhour Muirfield. I have played in excess of 30 courses in the top 100 and for views this course is among the tops for me.
August 08, 2006
8 / 10
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Jim Robertson
What an excellent course this is! Ok it's quirky and occasionally a bit silly (the 1st, anyone) but an awful lot of super holes. The 9th is one of the finest holes in Scotland and there are many other delights. Play here as often as you can but watch out for the cars at the 18th!
February 04, 2006
8 / 10
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Jim McCann

I returned 18 months after playing in the summer to tackle the course in the winter this time – what a delight and pleasure to play on a day when the wind might have been in your face on the way out but the sun strove to break through the low lying clouds.

Greens were in lovely condition, the only pity being the fact that mats were in play (even when your ball was in the semi rough!) and the 13th green ('Pit') was out of action.

The bar service upstairs had improved dramatically from last time and we were able to order some food without any problem after our round.

The caddiemaster at the front door was very attentive and if there is a friendlier starter in Scottish golf then I have yet to meet him – take a bow, Sam Fox!

Well worth the half green fee for playing in low season.

Jim McCann

December 15, 2005
8 / 10
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