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.
Four and a half years since I last played at Southerness and the weather was as bleak this time in February 2008 as it was back in September 2003 – blustery again but at least the rain stayed off despite the heavy, dark, low clouds.
Some things hadn’t changed much as I remembered - canisters of seed and sand for divot replacement, the warm welcome at the starter’s office, the springy turf on the fairways and the ever present gorse that keeps you on your toes throughout the round.
Mind you, I’d overlooked the nice wee white seashell paths that link many of the greens to the next tee box and I’d completely forgotten how tough the five par threes were – their average length of 189 yards from the medal tees goes a long way to creating a SSS that is four over the par of 69 for the course.
What I noticed also this time was the subtlety of much of the bunkering with many placed well in front of slightly elevated greens to disguise a swale in front of the putting surface – very clever!
It's wild, it's rugged and it's a wee bit off the beaten track but it’s also well worth a four ball ranking like last time.