Gullane Golf Club, No. 1 Course
Gullane No. 1 is one of numerous wonderful golf courses stretching along the east Lothian coast line. Other notable courses in the vicinity include Muirfield, North Berwick, Dunbar, Luffness, and Kilspindie all of which can be seen from various vantage points on Gullane Hill. Although perhaps not receiving the same acclaim as its more illustrious neighbour Muirfield, Gullane No 1 is a great championship course in its own right.
Gullane No 1. has been a regular open qualifying course and in 1998 jointly hosted the British Amateur Championship which was eventually won by Sergio Garcia. Furthermore, during its prestigious history, Gullane has been the selected venue for the British Boys Championships, the Youths Championship, the Scottish Strokeplay, and the British Ladies Championship.
Gullane prides itself on the fact that despite the inclement winter weather, the ball is played as it lies throughout the year. The greens and turf here are amongst the best in Britain and without question these are the best greens in Scotland during the winter months.
The first at Gullane is a fairly benign par four, which following a good drive, should leave only a short iron for the approach shot. However, do not be lulled into a false sense of security, for the second at Gullane is probably the hardest on the course. The tee shot is very tight, and being on the fairway is an absolute must for this 379 yard par four beacause it is all uphill and usually into the prevailing wind.
A good drive leaves a long iron to a narrow green with awkward gullies on either side of the putting surface. With the British Seniors coming to Gullane this summer, the green keeping staff have cut the rough back on the left hand side of the green, meaning that it may now be possible to bounce down off the left bank onto the green. Nevertheless, the margin for error is still incredibly slim.
The third at 521 yards is a genuine three shot par five with well placed fairway bunkers meaning that both the tee shot and the lay up demand concentration. The green is fairly flat but club selection for the approach is deceptive - all the trouble is short of the green so make sure you're up. The fourth is a short par three with a generously sized island green and provides some rest bite before the fifth; a demanding doglegged par four.
Once again the fifth fairway is well bunkered but at least all the trouble is visible from the tee. A good drive close to the left hand fairway bunkers leaves a long iron into the green. Shorter hitters will have to lay up in two. In order to go for the green they will need to cut the corner of the dog leg - a very high risk strategy considering the penal rough that lies in wait should you not quite catch your second.
Having come through a demanding opening to the course the reward undoubtedly comes on the 7th tee for the panoramic view that greets you has been described by the likes of Bernard Darwin as simply 'the best in golf'. The view is simply breathtaking: north lies the kingdom of Fife, while to the east you can see over Muirfield to the Bass Rock beyond. To the west you can see as far as Ben Lomond. On a clear summers day normally you will easily catch a glimpse of the Forth Bridges and Aberlady Bay, a haven for bird-life activity.
Pray that the wind is not too blustery for this tee is crudely exposed to the elements, and a strong wind in either direction can make the 398 yardage printed on the card completely irrelevant. With the hole dropping away steeply from the tee, the approach shot is deceptive and is actually longer than it looks. Trust your yardage's and take one more club than you initially think.
The final hole on Gullane's front nine provides another opportunity to see the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers enjoying the links at Muirfield. This 151 yard par three is well guarded by eight well placed pot bunkers and consequently, hitting the putting surface is almost essential as any sand save will require not only a great deal of skill, but also a large element of good fortune. Try your best to make par for the opening holes of the back nine are the two longest par fours back to back in Britain.
The tenth, at 466 yards, is unreachable in two for most mortals and hence be content with a five. Similarly the eleventh at 471 yards demands both length and accuracy. However, the second shot is downhill and thus a well struck fairway wood may well scuttle onto the front of the green.
The twelfth is arguably the best hole on the course. It is a demanding and tempting 480 yard par five which teases the longer hitters to take a risk and go for it in two. Accuracy off the tee is essential for there are five well placed fairway bunkers waiting to catch any slightly errant drive.
Even a good drive does not mean the job is done, for three bunkers short right of the green lie in wait of any wayward approach. That said, the hole does offer up a good birdie opportunity which may be needed to rescue the card after the tenth and eleventh.
Another good par five comes at the 537 yard fifteenth which is reminiscent to the third in that the green is out of reach in two, but well placed bunkers mean that you cannot afford to relax off the tee or with the lay up. In the summer months this green is treacherous sloping steeply from front to back.
Any putt from above the hole will require a great deal of feel and control to avoid even a three putt. It was on this hole that the legendary Babe Zaharis reached the green in two with a driver and four iron en route to the British Ladies Championship, a remarkable feat in the modern era far less in 1947 when the technology was far less sophisticated.
Following the fifteenth, the majority of the hard work is complete. Take the time to enjoy the view of the Firth of Forth for one last time as you progress to the sixteenth tee, a relatively straight forward par three.
The seventeenth tee provides a wonderful view of the village of Gullane itself and the clubhouse awaits below you. Enjoy the last few holes of a classic Scottish links that is steeped in history and where the game has been played for over 350 years.
The visitor facilities here are second to none as you would expect from a venue that welcomes over 30,000 visiting golfers per year. The visitors clubhouse provides ample refreshment but 'The Auld Clubhouse' is a great local pub that serves delicious bar meals and provides a very friendly welcome.
For greater variety try Scotland's capital, Edinburgh which is just over thirty minutes drive away. Purists will love Gullane and anyone planning a golfing holiday will play some of Scotland's finest links without having to venture more than half an hour from this quaint village.
Gullane Golf Club
Secretary's Office: 01620 842 255
Starter: 01620 843 115
Professional: 01620 843 111
Web page: www.gullanegolf.com