Lesser-Known Golf Courses Of… East Lothian, Scotland

Graylyn LoomisFeatured Post, Scottish Golf Travel4 Comments

Earlier this year, I sent out a survey to everyone on my email list. One of the most common responses was a request for more content about the lesser-known courses of Scotland. Those requests have inspired me to start a series of articles called “Lesser-Known Golf Courses Of…” that features underrated courses around Scotland. I’m going to group courses by region, and this first article is focuses on East Lothian, the golf haven just east of Edinburgh, Scotland.

East Lothian is circled in a dotted-red line in the Google Map screenshot above. Note the proximity to Edinburgh to the west and St. Andrews at the top of the map to the north.

The 30 miles of East Lothian coastline has 22 golf courses, and when you mention the area, minds usually go to Muirfield and North Berwick. But, if you begin to dig deeper, you’ll find enough terrific golf to spend weeks in the area exploring what’s on offer.

The courses that I’ve highlighted below only touch my favorites and some that are still on my bucket list. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and I strongly suggest you check out the Scotland’s Golf Coast website, which highlights all of the golf East Lothian.

Dunbar Golf Club

Dunbar is the furthest east golf course that I’ve included on this list. It is under 30 miles from Edinburgh, and is easily accessible by train, which is how I arrived at the course when I played it. The course dates to 1856 and Old Tom Morris, James Braid and Ben Sayers have all worked on the design. The course is squeezed between the Firth of Forth / North Sea and a large stone wall that borders the course. It’s a fun challenge and very underrated. If you have time, visit the Belhaven Brewery in the town of Dunbar. They make Belhaven Best, which is my go-to beer order in Scotland.

Gullane Golf Club

My friend Scott Ruby and I the first time I played Gullane No. 1 in 2011.

I debated whether to include Gullane on the “lesser-known” list because it’s become increasingly popular (it hosted the 2015 Scottish Open) and is so hard to miss when you’re driving to Muirfield and/or North Berwick. The club has three courses (No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3) that play up and over a hill and down toward the Firth of Forth. No. 1 is the most famous of the courses, but Nos. 2 and 3 deserve attention, too. The main road through East Lothian splits the golf courses, so you literally cannot miss Gullane if you’re traveling through the area.

Kilspindie Golf Club

Kilspindie flies under the radar for most American golfers. The course is 5,400 yards with a par of 69, so it will never make a list of championship venues. A handful of the holes play alongside the Firth of Forth and you can see the Edinburgh skyline from points on the course. I have never played Kilspindie, but it’s very high on my Scottish bucket list. I have friends who include it as an afternoon 18 on many of their trips. The hyperlink above goes to the UK Golf Guy’s review of the course, and I really like how he sums up the place.

Luffness New Golf Club

Luffness is another course that I haven’t played, but hold very high on my bucket list. The course has interesting history, having moved from its original course to a new one designed by Old Tom Morris in 1894. The course is directly beside Gullane Golf Club, and the views across Gullane Hill are beautiful, even from the road as you drive by. Luffness oozes quirky Scottish character. The website states, “You may be asked to commence your round from the 1st, 5th or 13th tee but these are all located in close proximity to the Clubhouse.” So cool…

Longniddry Golf Club

Harry Colt designed Longniddry and the course opened in 1921. The course has no par fives, eight par fours longer than 400 yards, and a par of 68. Longniddry is just down the coast from Kilspindie, so you have some of those same views of Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat, and the outline of Edinburgh Castle. 

Musselburgh Old Links

Musselburgh (Old Links) – Note the white fence of the horse track in the background.

The Musselburgh Old Course sits inside a horse-racing track very close to the city of Edinburgh. Golf may have been played there as early as the 1500s. The course hosted the Open Championship on six occasions and the place is full of interesting history. The course was once home to The Royal Musselburgh Golf Club, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (who now play at Muirfield), The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh, and The Bruntsfield Golfing Society. Musselburgh was the birthplace of some of golf’s great clubs.

If you play Musselburgh, choose to rent hickory-shafted golf clubs. It’s with the effort and it makes the experience so much better. You don’t play Musselburgh for the views – play it for the history and experience.

Even More – Archerfield, Renaissance Club, Craigielaw, etc.

As I mentioned above, there are many other courses in East Lothian that I haven’t included. Two are members’ clubs – Acherfield and Renaissance Club. Archerfield has two courses and I have played the Fidra course there. It mixed a links feel with tree-lined fairways. The facilities are top notch – especially their showers.

Archerfield (Fidra Links)

Renaissance Club has gained notoriety in recent years by hosting the Scottish Open. It is a Tom Doak modern links course in the dunesland adjacent to Muirfield. Craigielaw is another modern links next to Kilspindie. 

Renaissance Club

I’ve included the modern links above in a separate category for various reasons. In some cases they’re private, or very expensive, or don’t quite meet the “lesser-known” qualification in my head.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first in this new series of articles. Let me know in the comments below what you think of the article and which region I should feature next!

4 Comments on “Lesser-Known Golf Courses Of… East Lothian, Scotland”

  1. Dunbar is an undiscover Gem! I stumbled upon this course 20 years ago. 14 holes by the water! I played it on a moderate wind day. Nothing could have made me happier! A sea breeze that delighted my senses; visually and the smell of the sea air was delightful. The members could not have been more welcoming!

    Ever since that day, I have over and over told my friends that Dunbar is at the top of my list of underrated golf experiences.

  2. When is Glen Golf Club? That course, adjacent to North Berwick is very underrated. It has a few beautiful holes along the water, and is a good companion round NB. I’d never go to East Lothian without squeezing in a round at the Glen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *