Gullane No 1 Feature Review
Review by Golfshake Ambassador Rob Treanor, August 2019
Gullane Golf Club in East Lothian is one of the most prestigious and storied places in the game. With golf having been played at the site for over 350 years, Golfshake Ambassador Rob Treanor went to fulfil a childhood dream and play this historic links venue.
Unsurprisingly, Gullane is rated Highly Recommended on Golfshake.
Scotland’s Golf Coast is a place like no other. A microcosm of unbelievable golf, this 30-mile strip of land boasts the most concentrated number of top-quality courses in the world, all baked in rich history. The town of Gullane could well be considered the epicentre, with an embarrassment of riches within a 10-minute drive of the centre of town.
Gullane Golf Club is home to three outstanding courses, the oldest being No 1 which was laid out by an unknown architect in 1884. The standard of this exceptional course is demonstrated by the numerous professional events which have been held there, including the 2018 Scottish Open.
The club feels very connected to the town of Gullane; indeed, the club’s infrastructure is embedded within it! The course starts and finishes right in the middle of town, with the locals going about their daily business just a few yards from the practice and teeing areas which gives the place a real atmosphere and buzz. There is nothing fussy here, just a true passion and connection to the game which runs deep into the East Lothian culture.
Team Golfshake also visited Gullane ahead of the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club. You can see their VLOG.
Front 9 Overview
As golfers, the excitement of arriving at a new course is electric. When that course is a crown jewel in the world of golf, the sensation is truly euphoric! Thankfully the first hole on No 1 is a welcoming introduction, where positioning is favoured over distance. The magnificent 2nd was used as the opening hole for the 2018 Scottish Open which would have made for a more challenging start. Visually astonishing, the hole is played up a thin stretch of fairway which is framed by tall grassy banks as it winds uphill to a frighteningly thin green. These first two holes are very much about keeping the ball in play and finding the right positions to approach from.
Many, many good holes follow before golfers climb up to the tee box on the 7th, which is unlike anything else in the game of golf. Played from the very top of Gullane Hill, there is a 360-degree panorama featuring some of the best golf courses in the world. Complement this with the stunning, rugged coastline and famous landmarks such as Bass Rock, make this a spellbinding and awe-inspiring hole. Bernard Darwin called this “one of the best views in golf” … it is difficult to imagine a hole which could possibly supersede it.
The hole itself is very handsome indeed, beginning with an incredibly inviting downhill drive to a green which will be within reach for most. Watching the ball soar from the tee with this incredible vista in the background, willing it to make the green is an exciting and special experience. Maybe the ball will catch one of the greenside bunkers, or perhaps a wee bit of luck will see it bounce through, either way it is worth giving this truly memorable hole all you have got!
Back 9 Overview
The astonishing views continue throughout this magical course, with many of the tee shots played into very pleasing aspects. The par five 12th is only slightly longer than the previous par four, though wind will dictate the toughest on any given day. The hole sweeps grandly to the right with excellent bunkering in all the right places. The bunkers aren’t the only trouble though as my American playing partner found out. Visiting what the locals call “Jungle Rough”, he exclaimed of his shoulder high surroundings: “this is the worst rough I have EVER seen!!!" If the fairway is found there is an opportunity to reach the large green in two. A fantastic hole, there is the opportunity to score well here.
The 13th is another striking hole. With the sea bracing behind, this 170-yard par three is played over low ground to a raised green cut into the hill on the other side. The green is well protected by formidable bunkers to the front. All this trouble at the front means playing long is likely to be the favoured shot, though this will leave a difficult downhill putt. This is a hole which could be played all day without either tiring or mastering it!
The 18th is a fitting end to this breathtaking course. Played downhill back towards the centre of town, the descent from Gullane Hill is completed with a satisfying par four. This whirlwind of a course has the classical pot bunkers, wispy grasses and smell of the sea which make it a true sensory experience. Finishing the 18th is a nourishing and warming feeling akin to being dropped off after a ride on a magic carpet.
This golf course is a triumph. Everything about it is world class, from the layout and the scenery to the infrastructure and club which supports it. Big and bold, it has enough meat to test any golfer whilst remaining a joy to play.
The majority of links courses are played over relatively flat land, owing to their proximity to the sea. Gullane is the opposite and pits golfers against dramatic elevation changes both up and down. There isn’t a weak hole amongst the 18, nor could you wish for better conditioning on any aspect of the course.
I have wanted a to play Gullane for as long as I can remember. The alchemy of its simple course names, unique hillside location and the mystery surrounding who laid out No 1 (supposedly Old Tom Morris & James Braid were involved) have long made me want to play here. Despite my very high expectations, the course delivered on every level.
Gullane is a real bucket list location which lives up to its reputation. A seaside blockbuster, with superbly designed holes and beautiful views, I don’t think I could ever tire of playing it. What makes it such a special place is that the course has a little bit of everything, and the quality line is just a little bit higher than you had hoped to dream!
- Most of us aren’t lucky enough to play courses of this calibre every week, so make the most of the experience and hire a caddie.
- Keeping the ball low and maximising the run of the fast turf is how the locals play the course.
- Take on the legendary 7th hole, one good strike is all it takes!
Overall Rating - 10
Course (Conditions) - 10
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 10
Course (Green Condition) - 10
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 10
Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 10
Practice Facilities - 8
Friendliness/Hospitality - 10
Pace of Play - 10
Value for Money - 9
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