North Berwick Golf Club – May 2017 – Today I had quite the treat, golfing at North Berwick Golf Club, which I believe is the 2nd oldest golf course in the world outside of St Andrews that has had golf played continuously (no course relocation etc).
Founded in 1832 it is in a stunning location east of Edinburgh, overlooking the Firth of Forth and out across the North Sea.
I parked my car in front of the 18th green and headed into the clubhouse.
I asked the gentleman at the door if it was in fact the North Berwick Clubhouse as I didn’t see the sign yet he knew exactly who I was.
Dan Kelly, a friend I made on Twitter a few years ago and golfed with him at his home course of Kilspindie, met me as I came in the door and we went upstairs to meet George.
George, a member at North Berwick, is also the current Captain of Craigmillar Park and was our playing partner today.
We had a bite to eat as we looked over the ocean and watched groups play the 18th.
Danny asked me to tell George about my nearly 3 years golfing. I think George was a little bit taken aback from the amount of golf I have played in such a short time. We discussed Fairways and I showed them some videos of our Bolivian juniors.
I heard about the history of the club and some gentlemen sitting nearby also joined in our chat talking history of the course and the club.
Before we headed out to tee it up we had a look downstairs at the boards and historical photos and one of my favourite things in old clubhouses, the wonderful timber lockers, that lined the walls downstairs.
It was a little windy but the sun was out and it was going to be a great round of golf regardless. George told me about Matt Kuchar’s visit before last years Open getting a wee spot of links practice in.
As we headed to the starter hut, George popped into the pro shop and picked up a few trinkets for me and then we were off to see Starter Sam.
Now Sam has one of the best office views I have ever seen, big windows overlooking the sea and the first tee. I asked if I could take a couple of photos and he said I could do whatever I wanted. I was tempted to tell him I wanted his job but instead I headed out to tee it up.
George led the way and said regardless of who wins the hole would it be ok if the men tee off first as their tees are mostly in front of the ladies. I was delighted he thought I might win a hole.
What a wonderful afternoon! The course is fantastic and the run you get on a links is awesome. I nailed my first drive but thought it was a little too far left until we got down there as it had just rolled and rolled and rolled.
I was playing some good golf and was delighted when I parred the 3rd hole which is stroke index 1. Not bad at all!
Every hole on this course is so very different. The greens are in great condition and I was putting quite well. If not dropping them, I was getting quite close.
Besides the golf course there are the beaches, the islands of Bass Rock, Craigleigh, Lamb and Fidra, the Firth of Forth and the houses of North Berwick that combine to make this a visually stunning experience too.
I had a couple of blow out holes on the front nine. I had a terrible lie in a bunker on the 4th (my second shot as my tee shot was short on the par 3), I couldn’t actually get a club onto it. While I very nearly got it out it rolled back in then I duffed the second attempt and the third attempt but the fourth stopped about 12 inches from the pin. Carding a 7 although I was very happy with the final bunker shot.
I definitely need bunker practice and while I have had some great shots out of bunkers in the last six weeks, mostly (particularly in Scotland) the sand has owned me.
The 9th hole started very well with one of my best drives of the day into a sideways wind – which was about a four club wind. I then drop kicked my 3w but hit a great second 3w that rolled into a bunker. My first bunker shot, I was inches off sailing out but instead landed closer to the wall. This time I only needed one second shot but it didn’t go far.
I must say that while I did struggle in the sand, there were some enormous bunkers out here that I avoided. Ones that needed more than a stepladder to get out of.
The wind made the back nine quite difficult and I did have a bit of rubbish come off my club. I was a little further left on some holes than I would have liked (past the red makers and in the lateral hazard) and I did have some unlucky bounces.
That said I do love an old style links course with rolling, bumpy fairways that may reward a poor shot and could turn an awesome shot bad.
I also had some amazing shots on the back nine that the course helped me with. My second shot into the 12th ended up rolling down perfectly to sit between the bunkers and just off the front of the green.
We were stopping and snapping photos of our adventures as we had to wait for the duo in front who were in turn waiting for the group in front of them. Yet by the 15th that all cleared out.
The 15th hole, Redan is the name, and I learnt today is one of the most famous holes in golf as it has been replicated numerous times for courses across the Atlantic. I drove the green with an awesome shot but was on the far right side of the green while the pin was to the far left. I finished with a bogie that the boys told me I should be very happy with.
I am always happy golfing and lucky I am as my next tee shot was to go over a wall. Instead I hit the wall and it bounced very high, backwards over the 15th green and landed down in the gullies. I guffawed and as I waited for the boys to tee off the 15th, Dan deemed it unplayable so I whacked another drive then ran down the hills to retrieve my first ball.
When I came back and the Marshall was speaking with the boys.
I realised he was talking about slow play and I looked up saying we had in fact been waiting a couple of times for the duo in front of us, who were nowhere to be seen. Not on the 16th or 17th. I checked the time and we had not quite been out there for three hours and twenty minutes so we were not in fact slow but we hurried off to finish the hole nonetheless.
I played a good 18th but missed my near 30 foot par putt and carded a bogey.
I had played 14 shots over my handicap which I thought was good considering the conditions and that this was the first time I had seen this tricky championship course.
When we came in, one of the gentlemen I met at the door earlier asked me how I enjoyed it. I was grinning and said I had a wonderful afternoon and loved the course even though some of my golf was rubbish.
He chuckled and said that one of the members had come in saying he had carded an 86 on the front 9. When asked how he had done that his response was “with 12 and 13’s”.
I decided my 54 on the front nine was quite good.
It was great to spend the afternoon with Danny and make another new golf friend in George. We are all planning to tee it up again next week before I leave the country.
I look forward to golfing with them again.