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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Richard Smith
If I was allowed to play one more round of golf in Scotland, I would choose the West Links at North Berwick without hesitation. This is a somewhat bizzare, quirky links that most players fall in love with.The first hole is dominated by a steeply banked creek that crosses in from the Firth. 2 and 3 are hard against the ocean and quite a challenge. The course turns inland, but the holes remain interesting. The back nine brings you back along the ocean, with high dunes and rough dominating the scene. #13, Pit, is probably the most unique hole I've ever played. The green is squeezed in between the ubiquitous wall that runs through the course and a high, steepley banked dune. Into the wind this may be the hardest 365 yard hole I've ever played. #14, Perfection, calls for an exhilirating shot over a hill to a green that sits down near the water. #15, the redan hole, is justifiably famous, but 16, with a bizzare split level green, is almost as unique.The course is fun to play. There are significant challenges and enough of the quirkiness that makes links golf such a challange and a unique adventure.
November 19, 2005
10 / 10
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Brett Robison
Pass up Gullane and go to North Berwick! A great layout with many types of holes. The rough is penalizing, but not as much as Gullane. The front 9 is good, especially the first par 3. The second 9 is fantastic! I can't think of a better 9-hole stretch in all of Scotland. The true out/in layout allows for scoring depeding on wind direction. The day we played the back 9 was down wind and scoring was possible. Number 15 - Redan - is a great hole and very difficult down wind. 18 is eerily similar to the 18th at St.Andrews although it is shorter and more easily driveable. If you play it, remember how much room there is behind and to the left of the 18th green. Hit driver and look to make eagle or tap-in birdie. Great course - I rank it in my top 5 in Scotland. A must play! --Brett Robison
August 14, 2005
10 / 10
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Jim McCann

Played the course in May 2004 and thought it was a delight to play. The starter could not have been friendlier, which is more than could be said of the catering staff but more of that at the end. I found the greens not up to traditional, slick, links standard (such as found along the coast at Gullane for a warm up earlier in the day) but what they maybe lacked in presentation ,they made up for in layout, with some wickedly sloping surfaces that would take errant approaches a long way from the pin.

After three great starting holes along the shore, the remainder of the outward half are pretty bland in comparison as they play in from the coast on flatter terrain. But on the return, and into the wind, the course was fabulous, with the last six holes in particular an absolute joy to play (especially Pit, the 13th with a low wall protecting the green, the golf world famous Redan, the 15th and the last hole which was reminiscent of St.Andrew's Old 18th played from an elevated tee). This is traditonal Scottish links golf at its best.

As there was nothing to eat after 6.00pm on a spring evening (the German guy next to me at the bar just about collapsed when the surly barmaid told me the chef had just gone home), this lack of concern for visiting golfers paying fifty quid a time to play would have left a bad taste in the mouth had there been any grub to be had!

Nonetheless, for the golf alone, this is a special track to play.

Jim McCann

December 24, 2004
8 / 10
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John Gooodman
This is thoroughly entertaining golf. Berwick has more than its share of quirkiness (the green at the 13th is sited immediately behind a stone wall, for one example), but the routing is superb and the holes call for a variety of shots. Any trip to the area ought to include a round on Berwick.
July 05, 2004
8 / 10
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Lee Abbey
Some great holes laid in a 9 out 9 in configuration with some playing close to the water, especially the 2nd – a classic bite off as much of the water as you can chew par four. The start is mildly reminiscent of St.Andrews from the first tee with the shared 1st and 18th fairways and the cars down the left-hand side – watch that slice from the 18th Tee. There is also an incredible green on the back nine with a gully actually part of the green – four-putt territory when the green keeper is feeling sadistic. I loved this course. It's the sort of place I could happily play every week for the rest of my life. If you're visiting this part of Scotland make sure you book a tee time here, it easily gives the more famous courses a run for its money.
April 22, 2004
10 / 10
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Billy
Most enjoyable course in the East Lothian area. Would rather play North Berwick than Muirfield. North Berwick has a fantastic collection of memorable holes and the clubhouse is so welcoming. A delightful, fun golf course.
April 21, 2004
8 / 10
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