Rated 40th best course outside of the US
North Berwick Golf Club Course Review
If your planning a golf trip to Scotland, North Berwick should be near or at the top of your list, located 15 minutes from Muirfield its one of the best and most enjoyable courses you’ll play in UK. Where else can you find a course where you have to drive your ball over stone walls or play one of the most famous par 3’s in all of golf, Redan. If that doesn’t catch your fancy, how about a plateaued green split in two by a giant swale or maybe hole called Pit where the green is guarded by a rock wall, who needs bunkers. North Berwick is a throwback to an age when architects used the lay of the land and incorporated features found onsite like the rock walls that line the opening and closing holes. The back nine at North Berwick is probably the most entertaining back nine in golf it has a mix of everything from those rock walls guarding greens, the most copied hole in golf, the 16th’s double plateaued green to home hole that resembles the 18th Hole at St Andrews. If you like a refreshing golf North Berwick is the place to play ohh and by the way there is a sign on the front door of the Tee masters building that reads “A round of golf should not take more than 3 hours” and members usually can keep to that time. If only that where true on the left side of the ocean..
I had the chance to play with three members and had more fun and learned more about the course than I would of on my own, so if you only have a two some request a pairing with members and be prepared to play a four ball match and they might even give you a few putts!! Sorry about the pictures this was before I had the idea for the website so some where taken with my camera and some with an Iphone.
1st Hole 322 yds Par 4 – Point Garry (out) – The first hole and North Berwick is a short hole that lets you acclimatize with the start of your round, the hole doesn’t have any bunkers, the only hazard in the sea on the right. The drive is straight away and you have lots of room to hit your drive just be aware of the people coming down the 18th hole. The best drive hugs the right side of the fairway giving you the shortest shot into the green. The second shot is played uphill 15 feet to a large green, avoid the right side as its marked with red stakes all the way up to the second green. The green here slants from left to toward the ocean below so shots should be played left of the flag.
2nd Hole 429 yds Par 4 – Sea – The second hole has probably the most intimidating tee shots on the course and at 429 yds is one of the longer holes. The best shot here is to stay right avoiding the water and the large mounds on the left in the landing area. The one great feature of North Berwick is even if your drive finds the rough, it is cut down fairly short and gives the player a very reasonable chance to get out of, another reason why golf here is played fairly quickly, it would be nice if more course would follow this simple philosophy. Your second shot here is to a green guarded by two bunkers 25 yds short of the green left and right and one near the green left. If you can get your shot past these bunkers you’ll have a good chance at par even if you miss the green.
3rd Hole 460 yds Par 4 – Trap – Your drive here is straight away favor the left side of the fairway for a flatter second shot. The closer to the rock wall you can get the shorter your second shot will be. This may be the only blind shot into a green you’ll find on any golf course where a rock wall is the main feature to as why your shot is blind, you can see the green between the opening in the rock wall. Your second shot must again stay left to avoid trouble, there is a bunker 20yds from the green on the right. Again if you miss the green here and are in close proximity you’ll have a good chance at saving par if your short game is good. The green has lots of small contours on it but no major slopes.
4th Hole 178 yds – Carlekemp – This hole is a good example of a hole that is built within the contours of the land surrounding the hole, it basically looks like part of the land was flattened for a green and a few bunkers on the right dug out. The hole has a very natural feel to it. The green is guarded by four bunkers three right and one left. The green is narrow and long so there will be a few clubs difference between a front and back hole location.
5th Hole 371 yds Par 4 – Bunkershill – This is a relatively short hole and the ground here is relatively flat all the way to the green. There are three bunkers in the landing area two right and one left. You can’t see them from the tee but you can see the fairway gently dogleg to the right. Your second shot will probably be with a short iron in to a green with one bunker front right. The left side has a grass bunker hollow that will test your chipping abilities if you miss the green on that side. The green is fairly level with minimal elevation change.
6th Hole 161 Par 3 – Quarry – Playing with members you get to here lots of stores, North Berwick is often used as an qualifying course when the Open is held at Muirfield. One particular story on this hole revolves around Ben Crenshaw, the day of the qualifying Crenshaw hit a two iron on this hole and put his shot into the bunker short of the green on the way to a 6 and overall score of 81, needless to say he didn’t enjoy the course very much. There is virtually no bailout here, from the tee you must carry the gigantic hollow and bunker that fronts the green and the green is guarded on all sides by 4 narrow long bunkers. If this hole plays into the wind your in for a crazy ride, just remember Ben Crenshaw.
7th Hole 365 yds Par 4 – Eli Burn – This short par 4 is straight away there is a bunker at around 190 yds from the tee on the right, the best shot is one that can get as far down the fairway as possible, your second shot must be flown onto the green as there is a small burn that runs perpendicular across the entire hole that will catch any shot not hit onto the green. The green has three small pot bunkers right and a rock wall left that is OB. If you can hit two solid shots you’ll have a good chance at birdie here.
8th Hole 506 yds Par 5 – Linkhouse – The first of two back to back par 5’s, from the tee your drive must avoid the bunker down the left side of the fairway, other than that bunker you can hit your drive almost anywhere here and still have a good chance at recovery, your next two shots are where the hole has its teeth, your second shot must stay short of the four cross bunkers in order for you to get your next shot onto the green. The longer hitters can have a go at the green but they must navigate the six bunkers that front the green. The green itself is fairly large for a shorter par 5 and their is minimal undulation. This hole is another reason why North Berwick is so popular it gives players of all abilities to make par or birdie.
9th Hole 519 yds Par 5 – Mizzentop – Unlike the 8th hole where your drive only has a small bunker left this hole has two bunkers right smack in the middle of the fairway. For most of us if we aim directly at them we most likely end up missing them. If you take away the bunkers the fairway is very generous in size. There is a rock wall down the left side but there is so much fairway you shouldn’t be thinking about it. There is a small pot bunker in the layup area on the right side of the fairway about 90 yds from the green. For the longer hitters that can reach in two there are three bunkers that front the green the two on the right are 20yds short of the green and have deep lips so they must be avoided.
10th Hole 173 yds Par 3 – Eastward Ho! – This short par 3 requires an accurate tee shot, its a downhill shot to a green that has 5 pot bunkers guarding the green. This hole can be very challenging if the wind is up but if you can stay out of the bunkers you’ll have a good at making par.
11th Hole 546 yds Par 5 – Bos’ns Locker – The longest par 5 at North Berwick, its a slight dogleg to the left, your hit from an elevated tee down to the fairway. There are two fairway bunkers on the right side in the landing area. If you in the rough here again you’ll have a relatively good chance at playing a nice recovery shot to inside 150 yds. The fairway is lined with four more bunkers at various lengths from the green two on each side that have to be avoided. The green is guarded by one long bunker on the right and the green itself it narrow and long.
12th Hole 401 yds Par 4 – Bass – A challenging drive on this hole awaits you. There are 4 bunkers in the landing area three left and one right, you can either lay up short of these bunkers or drive you ball down the middle of the fairway. If you miss in the rough you’ll still have a easy recovery shot. The green has two bunkers left and right at the front of the green to protect incoming shots.
13th Hole 387 yds Par 4 – Pit – We started out with a downpour on our tee shot here so the first two pics aren’t that great which is ok because its the second shot into the green that makes this hole so special. The tee shot here is straightaway, avoid the bunkers left as you might have to chip out, you won’t find any trouble if you go right. The second shot is where it gets interesting, the green is protected on the right side by a rock wall that runs from the bunkers to the next tee. In a way its similar to St Andrews road hole where to road is in play. If you don’t get over the wall your left chipping over it or backwards if your too close. There are breaks in the wall where you can chip through or maybe deflect your ball onto the green if your lucky. The green itself is long and narrow, its surrounded by slopes on all sides except for the wall of course which allows you to maybe a get a members bounce back onto the green.
14th Hole 374 yds – Perfection – This short par 4 requires an accurate tee shot avoiding the three pot bunkers on the right and two bunkers at the end of the fairway. Your second shot is uphill and blind to a fairway that slopes towards the green, the best shots here land short of the green and role on. There are no bunkers surrounding this green but there are red hazard stakes surrounding the green. The green itself also slopes towards the ocean so those chip shots from short of the green can be tricky.
15th Hole 190 yds – Redan – The word Redan means – “A defensive fortification work in the shape of a V. It is a work in a V-shaped salient angle toward an expected attack ie from right to left in this case.” One of the most famous holes in all of golf, no other par 3 has been copied around the world more than this hole. From the tee you can only see the flag stick here, and for the majority of players the best shot is to take aim at the right side of the green and let the contours do their job, aiming at the left bunker closest to you is the safest angle. The hole has 5 bunkers on it two aren’t really in play but the bunker that fronts the green and the 3 small pot bunkers behind the green are to be avoided at all costs if you want to To show you how much it slopes I hooked my ball (lefty) away from the right edge of the green and my ball came to rest on the right side of the green – that’s my ball on green in the second picture. The elite player can go right at the pin here and what people fail to realize that if you go long when the pins far left its actually a very straightforward chip back to the pin.
16th Hole 378 yds Par 4 – Gate – Well there’s not much to say about the tee shot here, its the second shot and the green where the hole is defended. The green is angled at 45 degrees from the fairway so take that into consideration a tee shot left of the pin will leave a straight shot into the green. The fun begins on the second shot, the green doesn’t have bunkers around it instead its elevated 3ft on all sides and is bisected by a hollow that makes one green into two greens. The way you play your second shot depends entirely on which way the wind is blowing, if its down wind you have no choice but to play a low running shot that will climb up onto the green. The green is very narrow so you have to play a delicate shot in or a chip back onto the putting surface here. The putting surfaces are flat here but getting onto the green is more than half the battle. Its a fun hole, if your not pressed by the group behind have take a putt from the other half of the green and see if you can get the right angle going through the green hollow, supposedly if you aim directly at the pin you ball should end up fairly close to the hole.
17th Hole 428 yds Par 4 – Point Gary (in) – The longest par 4 on the back nine and one of the more challenging par 4’s at North Berwick. Your drive here is straight away hit is as far as you can, the line here, your aim point is at the giant rock out in the ocean. You’ll notice that from the tee the fairway has lots of humps and bumps and your second shot will most likely be from an uneven lie. There is one bunker on the left that comes into play for the longest hitters and a long thin bunker that catches any shot no landing on top of the hill where the green is located. If you can’t get to the green in two I would recommend laying up short of the bunker at the bottom of the hill as your score might go a stroke higher if you find that bunker on your second shot. The green is wide open and if you can get it up on top of the hill you can make par from anywhere with a good chip.
18th Hole 277 yds Par 4 – Home – Well after this hole my next round was at St Andrews so its kinda funny that I should get a preview of the home hole North Berwick style, it looks very similar with the buildings surrounding the hole and the white fence and parked cars on the right. This is a short hole and loads of fun can be had depending on where you tee ball lands. This is a hole that every player could make a par or even a birdie, from the tee the line for those laying up is down the left side, you’ll have a really good look at the huge putting green from here. For those who want to go for the green the be aware this is a large hollow on the right side on the green that is well below the green, if your ball ends up there your have a difficult chip. Your second shot will be just a chip, the front of the green is elevated so you must carry your pitch over it to make sure the ball doesn’t deflect to the right or left.