Little Kilspindie Golf Club in East Lothian is big on history and fun
Locals, however, adore a more understated, classic links in Aberlady: charming Kilspindie Golf Club.
"When I think about a golf course I could play every day for the rest of my life, this is one of them," said Malcom Duck, who owns the nearby Kilspindie House Hotel and Duck's Restaurant in town. "Courses are so long nowadays, but Kilspindie, while shorter, is great risk-reward. You can score, but it will beat you up, too."
The club stakes its claim as the world's 35th oldest, having been founded in 1867. Evidence shows golf was played here much earlier on a course known as the "Wanster Course," which shared the land with a volunteer rifle brigade. "A situation not only inconvenient but highly dangerous," according to Kilspindie's history book, "The First 125 Years." Evidence of the brigade is still at Kilspindie, with two outposts named "Magazine" and "Target" on the current course.
The opening stretch of holes at Kilspindie is as good as it gets in East Lothian. After an opening par-3 hole, No. 2 is the course's only par 5, playing 514 yards straight into the prevailing wind and with the fairway hugging the Firth of Forth on the right.
The firth is in view at practically all times, including large tankers heading into nearby Edinburgh, beached seals lounging in the sun during a low tide and flocks of birds on the sandy banks in the evenings.
No. 3 continues along the sea, while the fourth green is the most exposed on the golf course. You'll come back to the beach one more time though on the course's signature hole: The par-3 eighth hole plays over the beach from the white tees, it's nearly a 200-yard shot, practically all carry over Gosford Bay.
The back nine features mostly short par 4s, which can be birdied if you can avoid the deep pot bunkers in the fairways and especially around the greens. It was James Braid who suggested in 1928 the pots be deepened in order to keep the sand from blowing out, though that means your ball will have a difficult time, too.
With the prevailing winds at your back, the 18th is a very delicate hole somewhere between a par 3 and 4. It's just 250 yards, but a stone wall and out of bounds encroach the right side, while over-clubbing risks O.B. long, as the green sits just a few paces in front of the clubhouse. A small, grassy bunker beyond the green may coral tee shots, but if you're too aggressive here, you could be hitting three from the tee.
"The opportunity is there for a 3-3-3 finish," noted Graham Addison, former captain of the golf club. "But many matches have been lost on these final holes, too."
Kilspindie Golf Club: The verdict
Kilspindie may be best suited in your East Lothian golf tour as a warm-up round before playing Gullane No. 1 or North Berwick. It's just about 5,500 yards from the white tees (though the daily members tees play closer to 5,000), so it's not an overly punishing course, and a lot of par 4s are simple driver-wedges for most golfers, but your short game will surely be tested here. It's still going to be plenty difficult to shoot your handicap here, thanks to very good bunkering and rough that can get high later in the season.
Kilspindie's facilities include a practice net, putting and small chipping green. Whisky enthusiasts will enjoy a selection of more than 60 different bottles in the clubhouse pub.
Kilspindie is also woman friendly. The club has more than 200 active women members and the course will play very favorably to women from the red tees, so this may be the course you want to take the wife to if your group is bringing spouses along on the trip.
Stay and Play in East Lothian: Kilspindie House Hotel
Golfers looking for an affordable and convenient accommodation while staying in East Lothian should check out Duck's Kilspindie House Hotel (www.kilspindie.co.uk), a charming and comfortable inn in the heart of Aberlady.
The inn and restaurant features a very cozy pub that serves cold beer, wine and a variety of whisky. Rooms in this historic house have been renovated to have modern amenities but still keep all the historic charm of this house.
The restaurant also aims to use as much local ingredients as possible. In fact, eggs come from a local chicken just down the road.
From Aberlady, you're just minutes from Gullane and North Berwick. In fact, if you're in Gullane and would like to come to Duck's for dinner or a few drinks at the bar, hotel staff will come pick up your group and drive you home, too.
May 26, 2009