Southerness Golf Club is aptly named because it’s the most southerly golf course in Scotland featured on this website. The course is set on the edge of a remote headland on the peaceful Solway coast and is virtually unknown by the golfing masses. The mountains of the Lake District are clearly visible on the opposite side of the Solway Firth and just across the water, about five miles away as the seagull flies, is the other excellent links course at Silloth on Solway.
A lighthouse was built not far from here to guide shipping entering the River Nith and they have used the lighthouse as Southerness Golf Club’s emblem. A panoramic view of Criffel peak (the highest of the local fells) is also on offer from this classic and natural links course, but Southerness is a relative juvenile in the scheme of things. The club was founded in 1947 and the links was laid out by Philip Mackenzie Ross, a former partner of Tom Simpson. Southerness is widely considered to be Ross’s finest 18-hole solo composition. Ross went on to become the first president of the British Association of Golf Course Architects.
On the surface of it, Southerness appears to be relatively short, measuring a little over 6,500 yards, but with a lowly par of 69, it’s one of the toughest golfing tests in the land. The standard scratch score of 73 suggests that par is an ask. On occasions, no doubt, the competition scratch score is even higher. There are two short par fives which offer realistic birdie opportunities, but there are eight par fours measuring over 400 yards and this is where shots will be dropped. The fairways always seem to be generous and inviting, but there’s gorse and heather waiting to catch wayward shots. Let’s be honest – with so many 400-yard plus holes, you can’t afford to leave the driver in the car.
Probably the best holes run along the shore, starting with the 8th, and the line to take is the lighthouse in the distance. The 12th and 13th are particularly strong holes.
Dumfries might not feature as a golfing venue of first choice, but if you include Silloth on Solway and Powfoot alongside the mighty links here at Southerness, you will be hard pressed to find better golfing and you will certainly get outstanding value for money.
Those who make the trek to this remote part of south-west Scotland will be rewarded with a stern but fair test. There is nothing easy about Southerness and the back nine, in particular, takes no prisoners. The best hole is the wonderful dogleg 12th played to a green perched close to the beach with the Solway Firth beyond. This is followed by two tough par fours and a long par three. Throw in the tricky par three 17th and a par five to finish and it all adds up to a demanding, but enjoyable, round. Southernesss lacks the charm of Silloth across the water but it is well worth a visit.
Simultaneously subtle and savage, serene and wild, Southerness is a classic design and only its location prevents it from even greater acclaim. It’s a demanding test of golf, the par 69 of 6,570 yards may suggest quirky, yet the standard scratch of 73 from the white tees confirms that it is no joke.
Whilst it is generally a flat layout in terms of elevation change from tee to green, unlike the undulating dunescapes through which many links courses are weaved, it is quite subtle terrain with plenty of complications by way of humps and hollows to cast doubt on approaches and greenside shots. On several occasions, particularly with chip shots, I found myself torn between carrying a certain point, whether it be a hump or a hollow, or trying to run it through. Judgement of the first bounce is crucial.
Indeed I can attest to the difficulty of Southerness, as I produced my worst score in all the rounds I played on my excursion, although it must be said that the conditions had a part to play in that, starting off nasty and becoming utterly horrific from the 12th hole onwards.
The course is broadly routed in an anti-clockwise configuration, heading west for the first four holes, then south until the 7th green, from where a shoreline run of holes takes you all the way to the 13th, before turning back inland for the homeward stretch. The fairways here are not exactly narrow but punishment by way of rough, longer rough or gorse can be very exacting and brings the pot bunkers more into play for recovery; so every shot is asking serious questions.
The first four holes were into a brutal wind. The 5th was the first downwind hole and better still a 495 yard par five, effectively playing as a par four. I did reach this green in two despite almost finding the cross-burn off the tee and it’s a great birdie opportunity provided you can get your drive into a safe spot. This and the 18th are the only two par fives here.
I stood on the 8th tee thinking I am entering the scoring section of the course, with four downwind holes in a row to come and five of the next six until the 14th tee. I did not find it that much easier. I only had a little wedge second shot to the 370 yard 8th but couldn’t hold the fairway as the wind, which was more of a cross-downwind off the sea than a straight helping wind, grabbed my drive and found some choppy rough that snagged my clubhead and tossed my ball into a greenside pot bunker. I had the exact same problem on the stroke index 1 9th.
The 10th was probably my favourite of the five par threes, 150 yards with seven bunkers scattered around making for interesting pin positions. After the run of four eastbound holes in a row, the signature 12th hole takes you firstly south, before doglegging west back into the prevailing wind to the exposed gaping mouth of the Solway Firth. It’s as aesthetically beautiful as it is brutally difficult, at 420 yards into the wind finding short grass is essential, with the gorse all around and three fairway bunkers, and even then there is much work to do to safely find the green with two more bunkers and contours in the approach and green surrounds to consider.
The difficulty on the back nine does not really relent whether you are into the wind or not, the 14th in particular a very difficult tee shot. The 18th, much like the other par five (the 5th) is a relatively friendly hole, measuring less than 500 yards and offering the chance of a redeeming birdie finish. Like the 5th, hold the fairway off the tee and you should be able to threaten the green in two as long you avoid the four bunkers scattered between 60-40 yards short of the green.
All in all, whilst I was impressed with Southerness, it was unfortunate that I caught it on a bad day of weather. My round became an absolute slog in the conditions, the last six holes especially. I would like to go back and find it on a nicer day too see it in all its glory.
Southerness is a perfect embodiment of lovely Dumfries & Galloway; overlooked, somewhat plain to look at but genuine, friendly, good value and not afflicted by the same volume of golf or motor traffic as further up the coast. It's a classic flat links, in a rustic location, with peaceful views across to the Lakes and the course itself is top quality. We've made great extended trips in the past including other less-travelled courses like Powfoot, Brighouse Bay, Kirkcudbright, Stranraer and Portpatrick and have always had a superb time and courses pretty much to ourselves. A great area to explore.
Southerness is to Scotland as Silloth on Solway is to England, both are very difficult to get to but are well worth the trip. While Southerness is not in the same class as Silloth due to the lack of variation in terrain, that does not mean it is not both a good test of golf or enjoyable. The golf course has its challenges with many lengthy par 4's, some tricky par 3's, heather, gorse and many raised greens. It does not have a lot of gorse but it has a lot of heather.
The course is always in good condition, particularly the greens. But even most of the fairways are of a championship course level.
The course wraps itself around a large field and so you play into, downwind, or have a cross wind as you play around the golf course. The course is primarily counter-clockwise.
I played the 6500 set of tees on this par 69 (five par 3's and only two par 5's) which plays to a SSS of 73. The championship tees are set at 6728 and SSS of 74. From either tee is can be a difficult golf course.
The golf course is at its peak from the ninth through the fifteenth with twelve, thirteen and fourteen as the standout holes for me due to the routing, defense and the views. Take your pick as to which hole you favor.
A round at Southerness is a treat. Perhaps there could be more fairway bunkers or green side bunkers. The land is flat with the exception of many raised greens so if you are wanting a course that has more humps and bumps and hollows in the fairway, then this course is not for you. Due to the remoteness of the golf course you feel very relaxed here despite the difficulty of many of the holes. I agree with many people who say it could easily be an Open qualifying course if it were nearer to more hotels and more restaurants as it definitely has the teeth to offer a stern test on a windy day. For me I found it to be one of the more playable golf courses I have ever played and I regret only playing it one time. I will likely go back once I have visited a few more that I have been curious about for years.
Is it worth the trip? If I had to choose a course closest to Trump Turnberry I would go to Silloth on Solway, but if someone choose Southerness than I would completely understand.
Had the pleasure of playing southerness on Friday 4th October 2019. For the time of the year and morning after hurricane lorenzo,the course was immaculate,credit to the green keepers,and staff.
A challenging and very enjoyable course,great views over to the lake district and surrounding coast,very warm welcoming staff,with food and beverages at very reasonable prices,highly recommended,will definitely go back.
We played Southerness on the 2nd day of a 3 day trip to the area and I have to say this is an absolute gem of a course. Whilst it may be a little off the beaten track, it is certainly worth the trip. As soon as you drive into the club you can tell you’re in for a treat. The immaculate grass lining each side of the driveway would have a higher stimp reading than most course’s greens and this level of quality is continued throughout the course.
The front 9 starts off with 3 fairly lengthy par 4s with gorse, heather and long grass bordering the fairways. An accurate drive is required and depending on the wind you are left with fairly tricky approach shots over some well-placed bunkers which will certainly catch a few people unawares. On the day we played, the conditions were perfect with little more than a breath of wind. Depending on the wind direction, I can imagine that the first 3 holes will pose a significant challenge to golfers of all abilities.
The front 9 features two par 3’s, both of which are challenging in their own right. The 4th hole, being the first of the par 3s, isn’t particularly lengthy but has a false front which results in a short approach ambling either back down the slope or feeding into one of four pot-hole bunkers which surround the two-tiered green. The 7th is much longer and requires a well struck tee shot all of 215 yards to a green which slopes from front to back. The back 9 is closed off with two interesting par 4s both of which can reward you with two well placed shots. Just make sure you carry the burn on the 9th.
The back 9 continues much in the same way as the front but features the 12th hole which is an absolutely stunning par 4. The hole is a left to right dogleg which favours the long hitters who can carry it over two bunkers to the right of the fairway. However, the true beauty of the hole is sprung upon you as you turn the corner and come face-to-face with one of the most picturesque greens you will ever play. A pond short and left with bunkers to the right, requires an accurate approach. Directly beyond the green lies the Solway Firth which provides the perfect backdrop to a, quite frankly unbelievable hole. Anything long is wet so make sure your caddie (rangefinder) is worth his salt.
The 12th, however, should not detract you from the holes which are to follow. Straight away, the 13th treats you to an elevated tee box with the Solway out to the right. You will need to bomb a drive down the middle whilst avoiding the sand in order to give you any chance of getting to the green in two. The remaining holes are equally as challenging but fortunately the par 5 18th should give you a good opportunity at birdie.
All in all this is a fantastic course. Much like Silloth over the over side of the Solway, Southerness is an absolute treat to play and is in immaculate condition. The greens are so receptive and true that they give you a sense of confidence that you can make every putt, this being despite the fact that they are contoured with hollows and swales. In my opinion, the only thing that gives Silloth the edge in this battle is the fact that it is a sterner test of golf. However, both of these courses are utterly outstanding and each offer up their own brilliance. Make sure you make the effort to play them both as you will be rewarded, especially for the cost.
This is the Scottish Silloth.... miles fand on anywhere but over the border.
Just like Silloth it is well worth the trek to play this course.
Plenty of gorse but a good layout.
Remember this as the first stop of a wonderful week's golf tour won from one of the magazines.
Played on a sunny day with a 1 club wind (so feel fortunate!). Loved the tranquility of the golf course, with a quiet opening few holes with the mountainuous backdrop. There are some decent holes on the front but the true excellence is saved for the back. Agree with Jim M. that 11 to 14 are top quality. Everyone talks about 12, quite rightly, but 13 and 14 are better holes. Only the short par 5, 18th can be considered an "easy" hole, however having a reachable 5 as a finish is a routing philosophy I completely support. Overall, a really good, enjoyable golf course which is worth the drive.
Except for the undeniable beauty of the 12th hole there’s nothing truly outstanding at Southerness. Please note that this isn’t meant with negative connotations though because everything about this true links course is of a consistently high standard and is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s sleeping gems.
In terms of quality the course flatlines at a very high level throughout the round. There aren’t the extreme highs and lows that other venues of a similar rating might dish up. Some people will like this steadiness whilst others may prefer a course that delivers a few moments of magic at the expense of a few dud holes.
I can think of few other courses that boast such a series of long and demanding par fours than here. Even from the 6,566-yard white markers (the blues stretch the courses a couple of hundred yards further) you will play no less than eight two-shotters over the 400-yard mark. Most of these holes are lined with dabs of gorse and gnarly heather; hit offline and your hopes of reaching the green in regulation have been well and truly dashed.
Another trait of Southerness is the deflecting greens, several of which are slightly raised and have the most wonderful natural contours, dips and hollows on the approaches to them. In my opinion the green surrounds, and associated run-offs, could be improved further by cutting back some of the fluffy semi-rough close to the greens. Quite often if your ball feeds down into one of the swales your ball is in the light rough whereas if it was cut tight it would provide more options on how to play your recovery shot.
Sadly, its outpost location and therefore lack of proximity to other top class courses means many golfers won’t ever see it - Turnberry is a 2 hour drive away and Silloth, although only 5 miles as the crow flies, will take a similar amount of time. But if you can build this course into a trip, or just fancy a good day out somewhere a bit different and willing to travel, Southerness would be an excellent choice.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Thought of writing something on Southerness until I came across this excellent review. Agree with every word.
Just back from playing Southerness. It was a course I had first read about over 40 years ago as being one of the best in the UK, and it certainly lived up to expectation. In terms of location, its not going to win any prizes, being an hour fro Carlisle, but its certainly worth the journey and a 'must play' if you in Cumbria or Dumfries area.
The condition of the course for early December was unbelievable...the greens were superb, and general course condition up with the very best I've played (about 500 around the world).
The real stand out for me were the wonderfully crafted greens and their surrounds...plenty of little swales and gulleys. Only the perfect line with the approach shot would leave you with a straightforward putt.
Plenty of long par 4's and a very strong wind are able defences for this course, and the only thing that didn't add up was the bunkering, especially the one's on the fairway...they didn't come into play. This would be my only minor gripe of what is a great test of golf.
As most have mentioned, the 12th is the best hole, and would not be out of place as an Open Championship hole. The drive needs to avoid bunkers on the rights, and the second shot shot needs to be accurate to find a green protected by a mound on the front left. Go left of that and you are in a pond, and overshot the green you're on the beach. Playing directly into the wind, this needs two big hits, and the green has some subtle borrows. A truly great hole. All the par 3's offer a stern test, and are mostly long and well protected.
How difficult the course is without the wind I cannot say, but I'll certainly be paying a return visit to find out.
Finally, this is a very friendly club, and I was made to feel very welcome, which all added up to a very memorable day.