Gullane #2 Feature Review
Feature Review by Golfshake Ambassador Tim Hawkins
If this is your first trip to play golf in this part of Scotland then you are in for a very special treat! The drive towards Gullane is special and enchanting in it's own right with roads splitting courses, Gullane village, views across the Forth Estuary and situated amongst a list of illustrious golf courses.
The Gullane courses are located in the north of East Lothian, known as the Scottish Golf Coast, unsurprisingly as there are some 19 courses in 25 miles. As you approach the three courses, it becomes instantly clear that you are about to enjoy a classic Scottish links experience. We were booked to play the No 2 course, the middle child of the three, although as it dates from 1898 it’s no spring chicken, but golf has reputably been played there for 350 years so none of the three are.
As soon as you arrive you will see there are no manicured drives or fences hiding this away for privacy. The A198 cuts right through the complex, harking back to the late 1800’s when the courses were first built and the road had yet to be developed. The visitor clubhouse though is only a few years old and has a well finished bar and facilities, and although not huge fits in nicely with the surroundings on the edge of the town and offers the usual golfing menu plus daily specials.
Upon arrival we checked in at the golf reception within the visitor clubhouse before changing and getting ready in the changing rooms. We then added over to the No 2 course starters hut and signed in and got a complimentary bucket of range balls for a warm up which is located alongside the opening hole of the No 2 course.
Gullane No 2 is 5976 yards off the yellow tees, so not massive in modern terms and boasts 2 par 5’s and 3 par 3’s for par 71. However, any thoughts that it may be fairly easy are swiftly dismissed as you approach the course, starting with a fairly flat section and then a massive sand dune, known as Gullane hill, that from the road appears to rise at an alarming rate. The fairways you can see are neatly formed around and over Gullane Hill, which is a volcanic plug from the remains of a volanco, with some of the greens and fairways seemingly only feet off the roadside.
The opening par 4 hole sets the scene of the course and the challenge faced. Described as a gentle start in the planner at 356 yards, it has a couple of vicious bunkers on the right where you tend to drive, as its OOB all down the left. We all went right which leaves a shortish iron to the green, but with a road only a few yards to the right with buses, lorries and cars speeding both ways it messes with your perspective. The next problem is that the fairways provide a true links experience, very firm, so low running shots are called for. Finally, after nervously getting to the putting surface you find that the green runs true, are very quick and have subtle borrows all over them.
The 2nd, another par4, offered little let up on the nerves even though it’s even shorter than the 1st, it appears to perch precariously along the main road although in truth there is plenty of room.
The 3rd is a short 233 yard par 4 but up Gullane Hill with no bunkers. It’s steep. Very steep. And completely blind. A mid iron has just about enough elevation to get to the top of the hill and then a then a muscle busting hike up the hill to find it. Not a particularly difficult hole as it turns out, but what greets you is a spectacular view over the Firth of Forth to Fife.
From the 3rd the course drops into a hollow providing a wonderful links experience. At this point you are also likely to find that the wind comes into play and you also have to contend with the bunkers. Bunkers? Nasty, tiny little things that are deep and seem to suck your ball in off the firm fairways and often the only way out is sideways or backwards. The bunkers pepper the course, all 107 of them, and are often at driver distance and guard the greens plus you will find a lot are not visible from the tee or for a second shot.
It's worth mentioning the first 7 holes of the course run alongside the Championship Gullane #1 before turning to run alongside Aberlady Bay and the nature reserve and offering the spectacular views across the Firth of Forth. The whole course winds up and down the dune, providing a wonderful selection of uphill and downhill tee shots and provides an excellent golfing challenge and taste of Scottish Links golf.
Of the par 3’s the 11th is probably the stand out hole of the three, a long (194 yard) downhiller that plays a lot shorter than its yardage. It’s guarded by 3 little pot bunkers at the front but with a generous apron behind to allow a shot to be run in. It’s also possible to pitch on the green but when they are firm stopping the ball is a problem and behind, yes more bunkers!
The par 4’s are all good holes, although perhaps the least interesting is the 18th. The 13th has an evil two tier green and the 17th is a massive downhill drop back down to the road level. And everywhere are those bunkers.
Both par 5’s are interesting but not particularly long, however they do have small greens as they should, so two bombing shots are unlikely to have the same success as three more considered ones.
So, overall verdict? This is golf back to its origins. The wind, even though I suspect the day we played would be considered light, is constant. It takes its toll physically, makes you consider every shot and effects the ball fight as it clears mounds or dips below humps. This, and the surprisingly hilly nature of the course make it hard work but in an enjoyable way. The views and the superb condition of the course made it one of the most enjoyable rounds I have ever played. OK, I didn’t set the world alight with my score, but none of us did, but sitting with a warming brew after the round it was definitely grins all round.
To sum up the course provides a fantastic test of golf, a wonderful links experience, presented perfectly and set within a location that you will immediately want to go back and play golf at again.
Would I go back? Definitely, without hesitation, it would be a lot easier now that I’ve gained some course knowledge. But, right next to it is Gullane No 1, Open qualifying venue and Scottish Open host. And No 3. And the rest of the courses along the Golf Coast. A couple of weeks should just about do it justice!
If you are thinking of a trip to Scotland or East Lothian then Gullane #2 is a course well worth playing in a fantastic setting providing a warm welcome. Plus if you get the chance Gullane #1 provides a true championship course experience having hosted the 2015 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and host of the 2016 Scottish Open Amateur Championship Strokeplay Championship which takes place from the 26th-29th May 2016.
For more information and to plan your round on this fantastic course visit: www.gullanegolfclub.com
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