5 years, 8 months ago
Summer’s here, traditionally the time for British sport’s enthusiasts to get serious about stretching and bending and re-hydrating, preferably in front of a monster TV at the nearest pub offering a fine selection of beer and salty snacks.
Everyone watches the Wimbledon Men’s Final. The Tour de France is for dipping in and out over three weeks (mostly for edited highlights and the big crashes). The Ashes is quintessentially English and enjoyed at its best with real ale we believe. And as for golf it’s more often than not up to Scotland for some of that fine, bracing weather, magnificent scenery and The British Open.
If watching men in pressed slacks and pullovers spend an inordinate amount of time crouching down to eyeball an almost invisible hole in the ground is your thing, then you should be glued to Muirfield this week. That’s where the caddies and competitors are quietly fighting over the coveted Claret Jug and (although it’s not really about the cash obviously) several hundred thousand pounds in prize money.
Muirfield, Gullane (pronounced ‘Gull-In’) is home to ‘The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’ and one of the most celebrated golfing links in the world. Now what we’re about to say here might disturb the ardent golfer: not everyone understands your obsession. It’s hitting balls with sticks, right? Well if anywhere could convince a cynic to take up clubs and book a tee-time it’s Muirfield, a course with so many distractingly beautiful sea views it’s almost worth dressing like a 90 year old South Florida retiree just to enjoy them. But not quite …….
In honour of this year’s British Open at Muirfield, the enduring tradition of fine Scottish links courses and the undeniable fact that not every wants to play ‘the true sport of kings’, here’s our own brief guide ‘to golf or not to golf’ for summer 2013. No course is more than 30 miles drive from Edinburgh city centre, they’re all open to visitors, they all look great and they all come with alternatives.
Dunbar, East Lothian (Edinburgh 30 miles)
The first East Lothian course on what’s now known as ‘Scotland’s Golf Coast’ is Dunbar. With sea views towards the dramatic Bass Rock, a lighthouse, a very picturesque little East Coast town and a breathtaking route from Edinburgh, Dunbar is also the ‘Final Qualifying Course’ when The British Open’s played at Muirfield. Dunbar’s open to visitors all year round and on-line booking’s available http://www.dunbargolfclub.com.
OR NOT TO GOLF
East Links Family Park, Dunbar
This 20-acre family park has everything from pony rides and a petting zoo to go-karting, pedal tractors and a small gauge railway. The park’s open all year round and is just a few miles from the town of Dunbar. There are regular events throughout the summer months, the atmosphere is really relaxed and friendly and you’ll find activities for children of all ages http://www.eastlinks.co.uk/.
North Berwick, East Lothian (Edinburgh 27 miles)
Just along the coast from Dunbar is North Berwick Golf Club. Like The Royal Course, St. Andrews, North Berwick is a ‘traditional links’ so the course begins and ends in the town and a very pretty town it is too. The sea views from the course are vast and some of us with golfing dads remember many a happy childhood summer spent ‘caddying’ North Berwick – and we won’t admit that about many golf courses. North Berwick is open to visitors all year round and online booking is available http://www.northberwickgolfclub.com.
The Scottish Seabird Centre Boat Trips, North Berwick
A great boulder rising sheer out of the sea just off the coast of North Berwick, the Bass Rock is one of the town’s most iconic sights. It’s a protected bird sanctuary and every day from March to September The Scottish Seabird Centre has a range of Bass Rock sailings. For speed choose the super fast 1 hour RIB trip or cruise at a gentler pace for a few hours, take pics and be glad you’re not playing golf. http://www.seabird.org/book/boat-trips/16/54
Musselburgh Old Links, Musselburgh (Edinburgh 6 miles)
What golfer could resist playing on the ‘World’s Oldest Course’? Musselburgh Old Links has recorded games as far back as 1672 and the challenging (often with a stiff wind) links are still healthily in play today. If history and golf go hand in hand for you, Musselburgh Old Links can be played using traditional ‘hickory’ clubs – you don’t have to bring your own, you can hire them at the clubhouse. Musselburgh Old Links is open to visitors all year round and online booking is available http://www.musselburgholdlinks.co.uk
NO GOLF THANKS
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh
If you’re round and about Scotland’s capital during the first two weeks in August it’s the Edinburgh International Festival. For 14 days every year the city behaves as if a performance famine was imminent and uses almost every inch of space for some kind of entertainment. The Edinburgh Fringe is almost completely free of charge, there are loads of children’s events and activities and most of the city’s famous museums and galleries have festival exhibitions. http://www.eif.co.uk/
Gullane Courses 1,2 & 3, Gullane (Edinburgh 20 miles)
For a relatively small town just outside Edinburgh, Gullane lucked out on golf. Not only is it home to Muirfield, it also has another three distinguished courses and, unsurprisingly, it’s one of the most desirable places to live on the East Coast of Scotland. Gullane Course 1. is famous for its views and its 3rd hole is listed in the world’s top 500, Course 2. is popular for challenging ‘short holes’ and Course 3. is known to demand exacting levels of accuracy and precision from even very experienced players. Gullane also has a free 6-hole Children’s Course. All three courses are open to visitors all year round and online booking is available http://www.gullanegolfclub.com.
Greywalls Hotel, Gullane
The only Lutyen’s house in Scotland and the only house to sit right on the edge of Muirfield Links, Greywalls is also the best place to have Afternoon Tea in the summer. With its stunning Gertrude Jekyll influenced gardens, beautiful architecture and outstanding location Greywalls is now one of Scotland’s finest hotels. And if it’s not The Open and it is Tuesday or Thursday and you have a recognised handicap of 18 or under, you can play a round on Muirfield Links while Greywalls is setting the table for tea. http://www.greywalls.co.uk/ http://www.muirfield.org.uk
To golf or not to golf, it’s entirely up to you but bear in mind if you are swinging clubs and striding greens, most Scottish courses have strict (or strict-ish) dress codes for visitors. It’s a given that trainers aren’t on anywhere, but you might not have known that Muirfield only allows players to wear white socks with tailored shorts! If in doubt, ask when you’re booking.
Featured image by zaza_bj.