When I received the invitation to play at Archerfield Links, I knew very little about the course, and had only heard the name in conjunction with other East Lothian courses. After doing some research, I found that Archerfield was a private member’s club that catered to wealthy golfers looking for full five star treatment. I was eager to play the round and compare it to other “full service” American clubs that I have played such as Kiawah Island Cassique or Grandfather Mtn. Golf Club.
Upon arriving at Archerfield, the Ferrari surrounded by Porsches, Mercedes, and other luxury cars let us know we would be sharing a locker room with the upper end of society. We dropped our bags at the entrance where they were taken around the back and a host of concierge figures showed us to the locker room. While this sort of treatment may come standard in high-end country clubs and resorts in the US, it is a rare experience here in Scotland.
After changing shoes in the locker room, we made our way to a large driving range (another course feature not often enjoyed in Scotland) followed by a visit to the massive short game practice area. When we proceeded to the first tee, I was expecting to play a large, modern links course, built to combat the old classics and one day fight its way onto the Open rota. I found the Fidra course to be on the other end of the spectrum, and was pleasantly surprised.
The locker room was extremely spacious and an attendant immediately offered us fresh fruit and ice water upon entry. The locker room had everything a golfer could want. Despite a slightly feminine décor, it served as a great place to relax pre or post round in order to discuss business or the days’ happenings.
The Fidra Course at Archerfield Links is hard to categorize in terms of links course vs. parkland course. After playing the round, I would agree with most that the course falls into the category of links. That being said, it has many parkland characteristics. In many ways, it reminded me of Pinehurst, in North Carolina, with pine tree lined fairways and frustratingly difficult to hold, crowned greens. The first eleven holes are in the trees with the remaining seven holes venturing out into a more “linksy” design.
The opening hole eases the golfer into the round with a broad fairway and massive crowned green. We came to find that massive crowned (upside down bowl) greens were found on nearly every hole… This made for extremely challenging approach shots when down wind. It was incredibly difficult to make an approach shot stay or “hold” on the firm and sloping greens. The second hole is a picturesque dogleg right working through thick groves of pine trees. Dogleg style holes were extremely common. This put a premium on placing drives on the correct side of the fairway in order to have a suitable angle into the gargantuan greens.
Something for which I respect the designer, David J. Russell, is his choice of length in the course. We played from the medal tees reaching 6,550 yards, only outstretched by the championship tees at 7,000 yards. The length was extremely fair. The biggest guard of the course was strategic bunkering and crowned greens with deviously subtle breaks.
In a day where every new course’s goal seems to be hosting a Major or a tour event, it was a nice change to play a course that seemed to have been designed purely for the enjoyment of the members and their guests. Not to be misunderstood, the course was challenging and long in places, but it was not a 7,400-yard beast designed to conquer tour players while destroying the average golfer in the process. Archerfield won’t be hosting a tour event, but it is an undeniably enjoyable round of golf.
The finishing hole was a long, dogleg right, par 5, featuring massive fairway bunkering right in driving distance (as seen in the photo above). The bunkers were so massive (as seen in the photo below), that the golfer’s only choice was to play out backwards or sideways. Once past these bunkers, a single trap guarded the green. I really liked this finishing hole, realizing that a good drive could yield a birdie, but a bogey was almost guaranteed if caught by a bunker.
While the golf at Archerfield was enjoyable and challenging, it is the overall experience that I will remember most about the day. The full service treatment, the good round of golf, the massive locker room, good food, and everything else that accompanied the round all added up to a great day.The Archerfield Links website says, “We’re certainly not about clubhouse cliques, old-fashioned dress codes or petty rules. After all, this is the 21st century. We like to think we play a different game: more relaxed, more welcoming, more about you and your enjoyment of two great golf courses.” This sums up the course well. They have managed at Archerfield to successfully model their course off the modern high-end clubs in America. It is a relaxed atmosphere with staff that can cater to your every whim.
Post-round, we entered the locker room where the attendant immediately offered to shine our shoes. Then came the best part of the day: the shower. The showers in the locker room of Archerfield received a nearly unheard of 9/10 on the PowerShower rating system. An extremely warm, spacious, and luxurious PowerShower after the round was the perfect way to thaw out after the round.