Top 5 Hidden Gems in East Lothian and Edinburgh

The region's best lesser known golf courses!

With so many of the courses in East Lothian running alongside the same strip of coastline, you would be hard pressed to identify any definitive hidden gems. However, with Muirfield, Gullane and North Berwick in the region, there are a number of course that are overlooked by people who literally pass them by en route to one of the more revered venues. Here are five of the best of those under-appreciated courses.

  1.        The Dirleton, Archerfield

The second course at the majestic Archerfield estate is a more conventional links than its excellent neighbor, the Fidra, which routes through imposing trees and plays more like a firm heathland track. The Dirleton features some of the most carnivorous bunkers that you’ll find anywhere, along with stunning dunes that frame many of the holes on what is a very fine modern links course.

It is unfortunate that The Dirleton is not on the top-ten list for the Lothians, as many would attest that it is actually superior to the adjacent Fidra. It has continued to improve over time as the course slowly begins to naturally mesh in with the landscape.

DJ Russell has designed two modern classics at Archerfield, and this combined with the hospitality and professional welcome provided by the club makes every visitor feel that little bit special.

  1.        Gullane 3, Gullane Golf Club

Considering the numerical ordering of the courses at Gullane it would be easy to dismiss the third of the three, however, that would be a shame. Though lacking in yardage, and with the depth of the challenge not quite matching the examination of Gullane 1 and 2, Gullane 3 is a terrifically enjoyable course; beautifully conditioned with some stunning views and some lovely holes.

Now nearly 120 years old, Gullane 3 measures a mere 5,279 yards on the scorecard, resulting in it being significantly easier than its two sisters. However, don’t let that fool you into passing it by; it features stunning views of the Firth of Forth, with a number of the holes – particularly the par 3s – being of a very high standard.

The lack of length on the course is compensated by testing, fast greens, supported by an overall sense of relaxation and tranquility. Gullane 3 is unquestionably a joy to play.

  1.        Glen Golf Club

The West Links at North Berwick understandably attracts the attention and plaudits, but just a few hundred yards away is the truly wonderful Glen Golf Club. Laid out on a clifftop, the course offers stunning panoramic views of the Firth of Forth and Bass Rock, making it one of the finest locations of any course in the region. In terms of value and simple enjoyment, Glen is an absolute winner.

At just 6,000 yards on the visitor’s tees, this traditional links is certainly playable for all standards of golfer, with the holes not being particularly punishing. The greens are fairly flat and receptive, while the rough isn’t especially thick, so there isn’t any concern about losing balls from wayward drives. If a pleasurable and relaxing round is what you’re seeking, then this is absolutely perfect.

The beautiful views are certainly the main-selling point of Glen, and few courses can rival them.

  1.        Musselburgh Golf Course

Musselburgh is the largest town in East Lothian, situated just a few miles from Edinburgh. Well-read golfers will be aware that it holds a great history within golf, with the 9-hole course of Musselburgh Links having hosted the Open Championship on six occasions in the 19th century. The old course is certified as being the oldest in the world, while nearby Royal Musselburgh is the fifth oldest club. However, though lesser known, The Musselburgh Golf Club is home to the best course in town.

The legendary James Braid designed this charming parkland course ahead of its unveiling in 1938. Situated on the banks of the River Esk, it is a course that has continued to grow in stature throughout the decades, culminating in it being selected as one of the final qualifying venues for the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield.

The course is generally wide off the tee, with the majority of the trees simply framing the holes rather than directly interfering with the majority of your shots. However, it is fairly lengthy in yardage and is extremely well-bunkered, ensuring that it remains a test for even the best players.

It may not be a marquee name, but The Musselburgh is an enjoyable, quality course.

  1.        Winterfield

Something of a wildcard on this list, Winterfield is a largely unknown links course in the seaside town of Dunbar, sitting on the opposite side of town from the more revered Dunbar Golf Club. However, it is an enjoyable and traditional test of seaside golf, with many of the holes featuring stunning views of the sea and rocky coastline. The very best of which actually play directly alongside the water, making it a fun and memorable course to play.

The layout begins with a lengthy par 3 of almost 240 yards, with the ominous sea waiting to consume any hooked tee-shots. A challenging but beautiful start to the course, it is fair to say that the majority of the front nine is fairly nondescript. However, the experience comes alive on the back nine, which is surely among the most stunning stretches of holes in the Lothians.

The holes on the second half of the course feature the traditional pot bunkers and undulations that we come to expect from a links. The sea views on these holes are truly stunning, particularly on the brilliant 14th, which is a par 3 that plays directly towards the water.

Unquestionably a course of contrasting holes; however, the wonderful second nine makes it a worthwhile visit.

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Kieran Clark

Author, Kieran Clark

I began playing golf at the age of five on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. It was the start of a relationship that hasn’t waned, with it becoming a mission to tick off as many courses as possible, with the Old Course at St. Andrews being my favourite. I love everything that it represents. After securing a degree in history at the University of Stirling, I have attempted to establish a career as a freelance golf journalist to express my love for the game and Scotland. And I relish any opportunity to share that adoration with anyone willing enough to read.