Prestonfield Golf Club was originally formed as the Edinburgh Civil Service Golf Club in 1920, with Peter Robinson designing the club’s original 18-hole layout in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat in nearby Holyrood Park.
Less than a decade into the operation of the new course, the city council stepped in with a compulsory purchase order for housing, taking control of an area occupied by holes 15 to 18 and offering the club replacement land to the east of the property.
As authors John F. Moreton & Iain Cumming describe in their book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses, “It was time for an expert to solve the problems created. Enter Baird.”
The book continues: “Roughly half the holes were kept. Others were changed. New holes were created. The completely new holes are the 2nd, the 5th, the 9th and 10th, the first two inserted par threes, the second two on the new land.”
“The changes involved a reversal, the 11th, lengthening where possible, 4, 11 and 12. Obviously, some old greens were still available, and presumably, the 16th and the 18th greens were used, though the holes came from a different direction. It was a considerable challenge to Braid’s ingenuity…”
Today, the course extends to around 6,200 yards, with five par threes and only two par fives on the scorecard. On the front nine, the 138-yard 2nd, “Hunter’s Bog,” is a terrific short hole which plays to a heavily sand-protected two-tiered green.On the back nine, first time visitors should be aware of the strong trio of par fours between the 10th and 12th, where a big score can easily be run up at any of these holes. The slight right doglegged penultimate hole (“St Leonard’s”) is another tough par four that demands respect so extreme care should be exercised here too.
Heading south east from Edinburgh city centre, you pass the Royal Commonwealth Pool on your left before four-storey high tenement buildings loom on either side of the road as you drive further away towards the outskirts of the capital. If your car satnav didn’t tell you, you’d never guess in a million years there was a golf course situated just a couple of streets back from the main drag - what a concealed entrance to a golf course, literally two miles from Edinburgh Castle as the mortar round from the one o’clock gun flies!
The opening three holes and closing four holes are laid out on the most highly contoured part of the property, in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, so a round here starts and ends in spectacular style. The severely rumpled fairway on the short par four 1st is an unexpected delight, as is the downhill par three 2nd, with its battery of protective bunkers and a wonderful 2-tiered green. The 3rd is a fine par five too, its fairway doglegging left then tapering into a green that’s set alongside the boundary wall of Holyrood Park.
Holes 4 to 14 are then set out on flatter terrain, beginning with a terrific par four which presents the most wonderful set of cross bunkers as a hazard some fifty yards shy of the green. All four of the short holes on the card are beautifully appointed, with brilliant sand flashed bunkers surrounding the raised greens at three of them (holes 2, 9 and 13).
Quite simply, they were by far the best set of par threes that I’ve seen on a course in some time. The run for home begins with the par four that runs alongside Prestonfield House, named recently as Scotland’s only hotel to make it into a prestigious World Top 100 list. From there, the uphill, short par four 16th is followed by a long, right doglegged par four before the slightly downhill home hole is reached, bringing the round to a very satisfactory conclusion.
Don’t let the relatively flat terrain in the middle of the round put you off a visit to Prestonfield as the course routing is really interesting during that section and there’s plenty of movement in the greens to keep you thoroughly engaged.
The club is now offering early bird and twilight visitor tee times on its website, and these discounted green fees represent absolutely fantastic value for money. I’d like to think there are enough canny golfers in and around Auld Reekie who will recognise a bargain when they see one to snap them up.