After quite a few failed attempts to play there, I finally managed a round at North Berwick recently!
I was well aware of some of the more famous holes (or infamous holes, depending upon your opinion?) like 13, 15 and 16, but had no real idea what most of therest of the course had in store for me? It is for this reason that although there have been many pictures of the famous holes posted here, I thought Iíd put up some of the pictures I took of the whole course.
I had visited North Berwick before, but without my clubs, so I new where the car park was located. We therefore parked around the corner and walked, much to the moaning of my playing partners, who didnít understand why till several hours later when we stood on the 18th tee!
This is the view of the starters hut and the Ďundergroundí pro shop (could put a grass roof on that one to help it blend in, or is that just the eco friendly architect in me talking?)
Looking back over the raised up 18th green with the car park beyond
Point Garry (Out)
323 yard Par 4
I get the impression that this is not a well loved hole on here. However, I actually thought it a good introduction into the character of the course and liked the hole, though my birdie three may have something to do with that? North Berwick is the sort of course where a mid iron tee shot to lay up short of the public path to the beach, followed by a short iron to a huge but blind green, is just a perfect start. As an alternative you can have a crack at the green if you are long enough, or finish up on the beach if you fall short and right! Its exactly the type of quirkiness that makes this course something special.
This is the view of the tee shot
This is the pretty much blind approach
The big green with its left to right slope
432 yard Par 4
So having been eased into the round, how about test of your driving on the second? Thatís exactly what you get here, with the challenge being to bite off as much of the beach as you can, driver in hand, beach waiting to the right again. Here is the view from the tee.
View of the approach from the left side showing the contours of the fairway.
An interesting question arose after one of my playing partners decided to spend a bit of time on the beach, from where he hit the green and made his par. As itís a lateral water hazard that is so much in play, do wise locals plan to tee off around low tide, so that if they make a mess of their drive here they still have a shot?
Closer view of the green, showing that there is actually room behind the short right bunker to run a ball in
460 yard Par 4
A good solid long par 4, with a dry stone wall crossing the fairway. This wasnít in play when we played but I imagine if there is a strong wind behind it may make some of the bigger hitters think about laying back from it?
The only bunker on the hole (and I manage to find it!)
178 yard Par 3
Now we start to get into the holes of the course that were unknown to me. The big distraction on the tee here is not the green up ahead, but the view across to the Redan as they share the same tee. However, once finished being distracted, this is not a bad par 3 itself. The green starts off pretty wide on the lower front tier but gets narrower towards the higher back tier, with bunkers to either side.
370 yard Par 4
A short medium length par 4 with several bunkers in play from the tee, so its all about finding the fairway, though it wasnít that clear from the tee what the best line was.
View of the green, with its little but deep pot just short right
160 yard Par 3
This par 3 plays over an old quarry as the name suggests, to a large green where a two putt is probably not a certainty. Though in case you think I had a case of the three putts, I managed to get it down in two.
354 yard Par 4
Another shortish par 4 and this time the challenge is up at the green as the tee shot looks pretty uninspiring though there is a lone bunker on the right
You have to hit your approach over the wee Eel Burn running across the front of the green, but the green looks big enough so you can easily err on the side of caution and go a bit long. Its then when you get to your ball, that you realize that a huge green like this with plenty of slopes, is like the previous hole, not a guaranteed two putt. And I know from experience in this case! Add to all that, unless you have hit a very big drive, you canít see the burn or the front of the green
The view from a little closer to the green
Looking back at the green from the 8th tee
506 yard Par 5
The first of 3 par fives and they are all within 4 holes of each other. No real trouble for the tee shot, though there is an old style cross bunker not far from the tee which I think has been recently reinstated as it doesnít show up on the aerial photo?
Plenty of bunkers though around the layup and the green.
520 yard Par 5
The ground began to change a little on the 8th, being a little more flat and a touch more meadow like under foot, and this hole continues the trend. I believe they run through what was previously farmland until it was aquired by the golf club for the course to be extended in 1932, thus creating this cluster of par 5s near to each other to lengthen the course.
Though the land may be flatter than some of the rest of the course, the challenge is still there, in the form of two bunkers sitting in the middle of the fairway, with a narrow strip between them and the out of bounds. Shades of the 6th at Carnoustie and Mr Hoganís favourite spot. If you are as good as Hogan, you can thread your tee shot through here to give you a chance of reaching the green in two, otherwise itís a layup.
View from short and right of the two fairway bunkers
View of the green for your approach should you decide to lay up, showing the green sitting up on the dune ridge
Öand finally for the front nine, looking back down the hole
171 yard Par 3
The distraction on this par 3 is not the bunkers around the green, but the view of the linksland you have just played out along and the view of the beach off to the left
548 yard Par 5
Again, you are distracted by the view over the Firth of Forth from the tee
And the dune ridge on the left and bunkers on the right make for a tight drive
Quite a tricky green this one, long, narrow and running from left to right
397 yard Par 4
In his Confidential Guide, Mr Doak tells us that this is a simple but effective par 4, however I think it has been changed a little since he wrote this, with the bunkering from the tee changed into a cluster of pots on the left hand side of the corner of the dogleg
View of the green from just past the bunkers
That ends the run of holes that many will not be familiar with, but now we are heading back into the territory of the well known holes, Pit, Perfection, Redan, Gate, Point Garry (In) and finally Home.
388 yard Par 4
What a great par 4 this is! ďNo one builds them like this anymoreĒ is probably what you will say after walking off the back of the green? But whether it be as golfers or course designers, we should all perhaps be embarrassed that we have allowed the game to develop in such a way, that we are unlikely to see holes of such simplicity and character being built ever again?
The tee shot, doesnít need to be huge, but the closer to the two fairway bunkers on the left, the better
Having managed to stay up the left hand side, you get a view of the green, nestled in behind another old dry stone wall. This is the view my brother had
I had actually come up just short of the bunkers in the left rough, and had the advantage of looking virtually straight up the green. What I also noticed was how the green sits on a narrow strip of land between the wall and the beach, with many people wandering along the edge of the beach, oblivious to the small white objects about to be hurtling in their general direction!
And here is the green, surrounded by dunes back and left with the drystone wall to the right
Finally, looking back down the hole, the pilgrimage was worth it for this hole alone, and yet there is still more to comeÖ
376 yard Par 4
Not sure if its perfection, but its probably not far off? Main trouble off the tee is actually the 4th green off to the right. There are then two fairway cross bunkers sitting at the base of a dune ridge that runs across the hole, making the approach blind.
And its here that we then realise the beauty (and perfection?) of the blind golf shot, as we walk over the ridge to see the green before us with yet another stunning view behind!
190 yard Par 3
Probably the most copied hole in the world? Its certainly one of the most talked about on here. As I knew how to play it, I was pretty chuffed with my low drawing 3 iron that ran just off the back of the green leaving me a 20ft putt or so, but perhaps the biggest disappointment on the tee here is that you donít actually get a view of the green from the tee, as there is another dune ridge probably about 40 yards short of the green, with a couple of bunkers just below it
However, the view from just past this ridge makes it very clear what you either should have done, or will do next time, run one in from right to left, and you will avoid the bunker short left, and those way over the back right which you canít see in this picture
Looking back up the green from behind, its actually quite a big green, but I wonder how many different hole positions there are with all that slope? Not that it matters though as you want to play it to a back left position as it was meant to be played!
379 yard Par 4
A drive over another dry stone wall with the choice of laying up short or going over another wee burn, keeping your shot up the right for the best angle in
The bunkers short left donít really come into play, but with all the undulations in the green, it naturally seems to set up for another low running right to left shot
THAT hollow in the middle of the green!
And looking back from behind the green. The real challenge can be seen here is that there is a small ridge just short right of the green that will slow up any undercooked approach shot, and also that the green sits diagonally to the direction of play but the hollow is perpendicular to your approach
Point Garry (In)
428 yard Par 4
Afraid the main thing I remember about the tee shot is how many people there were wandering over the links! But then it was Easter Sunday and a beautiful day, but still it made the 10th at St. Enodoc look emptyÖ
This is the approach to the green sitting up on Point Garry, with the first green beyond that. It must have been a real brute many years ago when it was played to the first green!
Very wide cross bunker short of the green
And a view of the green
278 yard Par 4
You probably wont want this round to stop, but it has to at some point and like the first, with which it shares a fairway, the 18th also doesnít seem to get much love. This is probably because itís a short 4, that with wind behind can be driven by even modest hitters. Though there is plenty to love hereÖ The challenge of not hitting a dreadful slice into the car park, the hollow short right of the green which your approach has to run through, and it feels like you are finishing off almost in the centre of North Berwick town itself? The similarities with the 18th at The Old Course are obvious, though this one is much easier, and its perhaps that which adds to the mental challenge. It really should be a birdie, shouldnít it?
And its very own Valley of Sin with the recently refurbished clubhouse behind
Finally I nipped back into the starters hut to thank the very friendly and welcoming chap in there for such an amazing course to play round. I also took a picture of the old course map they had in there, which I think a few of you may be interested in. I donít thinks there is a date on it but its before the 1932 extension out at 9, 10 and 11Ö
Iím sure most of you are all familiar with many other aspects and history of the course, but I could add more details if anyone is interested. Also, Iíve just read up in George Peperís 500 Worldís Greatest Golf Holes that he lists 7, 9 and 15 in there. Nice to see one of the more unknown holes getting recognition, but though I love the green on 7, itís a fairly bland drive, so is it top 500 material?
Anyway, hope you enjoyed those pictures and I look forward to your comments.