Located on North Slipperfield Moor, West Linton Golf Club was formed in 1890 when a local teacher by the name of Robert Millar was the driving force behind the establishment of a 9-hole golf course close to the conservation village. Unfortunately, only one of the original greens (the old 9th, now the current 18th) is in play today.
When Sir George Sutherland took over ownership of the property in 1925, a decision was made to call in James Braid to advise on improvements to the layout and he drew up a map and compiled a report of suggestions, most of which consisted of constructing new tees and bunkers, though a new 4th hole was proposed, along with the combination of the 6th and 7th holes.
The course was extended to an 18-hole layout in the early 1970s, largely by the efforts of a 3-man sub-committee and a couple of green keepers, which allowed the new holes to be built at a surprisingly low cost. It was certainly a very proud moment in West Linton’s history when the official opening of the new course (involving professionals Eric Brown and Bernard Gallagher) took place in September of 1974.
Today, the layout measures a healthy 6,161 yards from the back markers, with only a couple of par fives on the card, at the 525-yard 4th (”Lucky Dip”) and 503-yard 15th (“Lang Whang”). Four long, testing par fours, each playing in excess of 440 yards, are spread out across the card and the last of these holes, “Crooked Jock” at the 16th, features a roller coaster fairway that leads to a lovely heather-fringed green.Interestingly, a round at West Linton ends with back to back par threes, each of which faces in the opposite direction to the other. “Wee Knock” at the 17th isn’t quite what its name might suggest as it measures all of 196 yards, requiring a well struck tee shot across an intimidating gully to reach the green. The 230-yard closing hole is an even tougher proposition, playing slightly uphill, back across the same gully to the old original home green.
Looking out from the West Linton clubhouse at the expanse of rugged moorland stretching into the distance, you can hardly wait to get out onto the first tee to tackle the course. Unfortunately, the only hole that really embraces this terrific-looking terrain is the heather-fringed 16th at the end of the round which was, for me, a huge disappointment.
I’ve since double checked the plan of the course via google maps and it bears out my assertion that the layout only flirts with what looks like the best part of the property, circumnavigating a huge swathe in the middle of the moor.
Now, in fairness, it’s probably a very boggy, poorly drained parcel of land that would have taken a great deal of effort to integrate into a more adventurous routing but my overriding feeling throughout was that of an opportunity lost.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy playing here because I did. Old-fashioned design traits like rectangular-shaped greens were a delight to see at the 1st, 5th and 7th holes and I loved the short par three 9th, where a simple ridge in the middle of the fairway obscures the green.
On the back nine, the two par threes that finish the round really fit the land perfectly and I’m sure many a tight match play game has been turned on its head over those two holes. I’m glad to have checked out West Linton as it’s a lovely little course. I just expected a little more from it on arrival.