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.
Pretty much all of the holes are of similar terrain so the opening and closing holes are a good cross section of the rest. The holes all run in a variety of directions. As a result, there is never a feeling of sameness and I have no doubt that if Southerness was located closer to the Open courses, it would certainly be used for qualifying rounds.
With five par threes, you might think it is a little on the short side. Surprisingly, it measures 6566 yards, even though the two par fives are just under 500 yards. The length comes from some testing par fours, of which eight of the eleven are over 400 yards.
Southerness is not as tough as nearby Silloth but it is still a very good test that is enjoyable for golfers of all standards. Most of the time, you will feel very much alone on the course in this quiet stretch of countryside. This is a very rare and precious commodity in the world of today so don’t miss out on experiencing Southerness.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.
Today was almost five years to the day since I’d last played here and this time, I managed to pick a sunny, almost windless day to enjoy the undoubted charms of Southerness. Fairways were firm and fast – you’d never know we’ve been having heavy rain for months now – and greens were in absolutely top class condition.
It was such an absolute pleasure to play a course as well presented as this at this time of year – and in such benign weather conditions too.
I’d forgotten that many of the fairways dog leg either one way or the other (they must number about half the holes on the card) and that many of the raised greens are fronted by swales which lie behind forward bunker positions – all very cunning and rather devious!
The stretch of four par fours from the 11th to the 14th is nothing short of epic, with the right doglegged 12th one of my favourite holes in all of Scottish golf.
I can imagine this course would bare its teeth in a strong wind as the routing changes direction after every hole but today, we were lucky to find it as tame as a purring pussycat.
Already one of the best value top ranked courses in the country, Southerness can be played for a remarkably modest winter green fee that should have serious golfers asking why it’s not included in their golfing itinerary between November and March every year.
And speaking of asking oneself a question, how on earth did I only give this place a rating of four balls on each of my last two visits?