North Berwick West Links---North Berwick, Scotland
Rankings as of 5/15/2011—
-93rd best course in the world (Golf Magazine)
-40th best international course (Golf Digest)
-15th best Classic course in Great Britain and Ireland (Golfweek)
Now this story is kind of funny. Please humor me, while I tell it and describe the course.
This was my wife and my first trip to Scotland and it was all a bit new to us; driving on the other side of the road,
tight twisty roads with tailgaters constantly riding your bumper, towns with one roundabout after another. When I
pulled into the town of North Berwick, I was already running a bit late. I tried to find the course but the stress of
driving, the roundabouts, and the construction were causing the time to tick away too much. So, I pulled into a
Supermarket, parked the car, and made my way to the sea to find the darn course. But I only had 20 minutes to
make my tee time; I had to run with my clubs strapped to my back.
[Sidebar, those who know me know that I have two fake hips. I am not a fast runner, anymore, and running is
painful. I forgot my pain pills and Advil back at hotel and I hadn’t taken any in quite a few hours. So, add that to
the mix with this story.]
Back to the story…I am hauling ass through the town of North Berwick trying to find the golf course with a full bag of
golf clubs strapped to my back. I am getting weird looks from the town’s people, but there is no way in hell that I am
travelling 4,000 miles to tee it up at North Berwick and missing my tee time. So, I keep running. Soon I find out that
I am on the complete wrong side of town and I have to run the length of the town to get to the West Links.
Running, running, running…here I go. I finally see something that looks like it might be the golf course. I ask an
elderly lady, between my panting and gasping for breath, if that is the West Links. She says, “Yes.” And off I
go…only a few hundred yards left. I storm into the starters hut and ask, “Is this the West Links?” “Yes” is the reply
I get. “I have a 1345 tee time. Did I make it?” I suppose the golf gods were smiling on me, it was precisely 1345
(or 1:45 in the afternoon for all you Americans). I did it…I made it. 20 straight minutes of running with my freakin’
clubs on my back through town and here I finally was. Dripping sweat, running on adrenaline, I stepped to the first
Tee shot, chunked 4 iron. Second shot, 4 iron to 20 feet. Third shot…DRAINO…I nailed that 20 footer. My caddy
2nd hole…BLAMMO…nutted driver. From there things get hazy. But I went birdie, bogey, par through the first
three holes, supposedly the hardest holes on the course. Pfft…not for the long distance runner.
I really liked the front nine, but I wasn’t blown away. On hole 10, I caught the group in front of me and I had to sit
down for awhile. I suppose the adrenaline was wearing off at this time and I was a wreck; exhausted, hungry,
aching, in general…a mess!! So I sat down and tried to gather myself. I slopped the ball around 10, 11, and
12…and maybe recouped a little of my bearings…but still I had some pain issues.
But whatever issues I was dealing with almost disappeared on hole 13. You see the magic of North Berwick
grabbed hold of me on the 13th and the stretch of holes running from 13 to the last hole just might be the best
holes of golf I’ve had the good fortune to play. In fact, I wrote on “In My Opinion” piece for Golf Club Atlas called
“Extreme Golf”. These golf holes are precisely what I was talking about in that article. They were unique, amazing,
interesting, intriguing, and special.
Here is a photo of the approach shot I had on 13, after hitting a near perfect drive…
Here is my chip shot on 13 after hitting a not so perfect approach…
Here is the view of the green after walking off the green…
15 is The Redan. The most copied hole in all of golf. And here are a few photos.
Here is the tee shot on 16…
And the incredible green…maybe the coolest I’ve ever seen.
And the 18th tee shot…
But let me close this review with another funny story.
Holes 13-17, I was lighting it up and really hitting the ball well. (Except that approach shot on 13). So, I stood on
the 18th tee box full of confidence. I proceeded to hit my worst tee shot of my entire Scotland trip and I sliced that
ball so badly that I just knew I was going to break a window of the flanking cars. My caddy and I watched the ball
slice, slice, and slice some more; hit the road, bounce of the stone fence of the surrounding houses, hit the road
again, bounce over the cars, and land right here.
Dead center fairway, just before the North Berwick version of the “Valley of Sin.” Funny, funny, funny, and without
doubt the biggest break I’ve ever had on a golf course. My caddy and I discussed how to hit the approach; bounce
a 7 iron off the “Valley” wall and run the ball on the green, putt through the “Valley”, or flop one up there. Of
course, the flop was my idea and the caddy thought it was a bad one. Eh…I did it anyway. I just carried the
“Valley” and I mean JUST. The ball rolled to 3 feet. I drained the putt. Birdie. Man, I’m good at this game!!!!
Now there was only one problem. I had to get to get back to my car.