This year’s Scottish Open will be played at Gullane #1 from July 9-12. The course is in the town of the same name, in East Lothian, just seventy-six miles from St. Andrews across the Firth of Forth. Golf has been played over the links of Gullane for over 350 years and today there are three courses there, but # 1 is the gem. The course was designed in 1884 by Willie Park, Jr., whose other renowned designs include Sunningdale in England, Maidstone on Long Island, and Olympia Fields in Chicago, site of the 2003 US Open.
Gullane # 1 is magnificent. The greens are as fast and true as any you will ever play – hit the putt on line and at the right speed and it drops in the hole. The undulating fairways are firm and fast, with excellent links turf. Though Gullane is a traditional “out and back” layout, with the 9th hole far from the clubhouse, the inward and outward holes do not run parallel to each other, ensuring a constantly changing wind.
Holes 1 and 2, across the street from the welcoming clubhouse, play uphill to a plateau overlooking the sea, and the course stays there until the 17th tee. Each hole is unique, the shape and outlay intuitively directing the golfer where to play. Add the “links” weather – always wind and “occasional” rain – and the experience is total. The view from high on the 7th tee is out over the Firth of Forth towards St. Andrews, and it is breathtaking. To the right are the clearly visible links at Muirfield. There are large concrete cubes, five feet by five feet square by three to six feet in height, in rows all along the coast. They were put there during World War II to block German tanks had the Reich succeeded in invading the British Isles. They only add to the dramatic scene. Each and every hole is different and enjoyable. The 17th tee is the last stop at the top of the plateau, and the tee shot on this dramatic par 4 drops fifty feet down to the level of the first tee. The 18th is an excellent, strategic finishing hole that finishes next to the first tee.
After the round, head down the road a few minutes to the town of Aberlady, and have dinner at the warm and comfortable Duck’s tavern … along with a pint or two of Bellhaven, or one of the distinct local single malts.
In terms of playability, Gullane # 1 ranks with Royal Dornoch and The Old Course; it’s that good. It is an extraordinary, unexpected, authentic links experience that you will thoroughly enjoy. Don’t miss it.
Chris is an avid scratch golfer and online marketing manager for Fore Seasons Golf Tours, a U.S. based golf tour company specializing in golf tours and vacations to the British Isles and other select international and domestic destinations.