We all book our golf trips for different reasons.
Maybe it’s an annual ritual with family and friends? A weekend getaway with a spouse? Or a jammed packed once-in-a-lifetime bucket list adventure. Who you’re going with is just one consideration, of course; the other big one is where you are going.
The sheer enormity of options available to you when you are heading to the UK or Ireland can be overwhelming. Do you go to North or South Ayrshire? Can you squeeze in both? What about Dornoch and The Highlands, can you play the best golf courses on the NC500? What about Aberdeenshire or Fife and St Andrews. The distances, flights, the itinerary, the accommodation – it all makes your head spin.
East Lothian, however, offers a wonderfully convenient solution. Known, affectionately, as Scotland’s Golf Coast it boasts an extraordinary density of golf along its pristine coastline. From Edinburgh to North Berwick, you’ll find 22 golf courses in the space of just 30 miles an – thanks to a seemingly endless selection of inns, hotels, or Airbnb’s – you can play golf non-stop without needing to change your accommodation.
The bounty provided by the Firth of Forth keeps all restaurants in the area supplied with fresh seafood while the nearby farms make for delicious choices from the land. To top it all off the public transport, East Coast Buses 124 and x5, make most golf courses accessible in a hop-on hop-off manner. Meaning a post round pint or sampling of the local whiskies can be done without concern of who will drive you home. The bus, or train, can take you all the way from Edinburgh to this golfing haven without ever needing a rental car.
Whether you choose Musselburgh, Aberlady, Gullane or North Berwick as your base you won’t be disappointed by the possibilities. Even a non-golfing companion will find plenty to do. Musselburgh’s proximity to Edinburgh makes it a great selection for those looking to balance city and east coast experiences. Musselburgh Old Links is one of the can’t miss courses. If you time it right, you might even catch a horse race taking place on the perimeter of the course as you come up the last.
From Aberlady, Kilspindie and Craigielaw Golf Clubs are within shouting distance, as is the local nature reserve which is often used by the Ornithologist society and multiple farm shops. Fancy a dram of whisky? Glenkinchie distillery is in the nearby fields or skip the trip out there and help yourself to all the joys of life at Ducks Inn. The Ducks is a must for any golfer in the area, nearly every inch of the bar is covered in golf memorabilia from its global fanbase. While at the inn its tradition to try one of the iconic putting bar games available. Play against your friends or a likeminded wanderer with everything from the hickory putters to Scotty Camerons in the bag at the bar.
From a golfing standpoint, Gullane is the most densely populated town on the coastline. You can spend an entire week playing golf in Gullane without having to leave the boundary here. Gullane Golf Club boasts three courses including the championship No. 1. On shared land with Gullane Golf Club is Luffness New Golf Club. The Renaissance Club and Archerfield Links are here as well and just on the way out of the village, along a small lane you’ll find one of the world’s great links – Muirfield, home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Golf is very much the main event here, but the food and drink scene is also wonderful with the likes of Tom Kitchin’s Bonnie Badger here, as well as the Old Clubhouse – in truth, there’s no poor choice.
While in Gullane, do not miss a chance to stop in the Jack White shop to peruse or purchase one of a kind ready to play hickory clubs. The shop owner Boris will even let you hire the clubs for a round to help convince you they are worth the investment, or just try them out during your trip to play one of the local courses in a way they were originally designed to be played.
At the eastern most point of this trail is North Berwick. Internationally renowned for the West Links of North Berwick Golf Club, this area is a bucket list destination for any passionate golfer. A tee time at North Berwick is worth whatever effort is required, the hospitality of the club and course itself are world class. On the opposite side of the Harbour Promontory from the West Links is the Glen Golf Club, perhaps a less well-known course, yet storied and challenging that will provide a proper links test.
While in North Berwick there are plenty of beach sport activities available as well as the opportunity to hike The Law, a mountain to most or hill to some that makes its presence known from any angle of the town. Many a seabird enthusiast can be seen along the coastline observing Bass Rock out in the Firth of Forth, and for those interested there are boat tours that may make a naturalist out of any visitor. Like much of the rest of East Lothian the seafood is wonderful with The Puffin, on the High Street, boasting an eclectic menu and delightful atmosphere. For lunch, the Rocketeer or Lobster Shack out in the harbour will make you feel like you are on a beach vacation.
East Lothian is a humbling area of coastline, rich in options and filled with down to earth people that quickly make visitors feel as welcome as locals. When considering an extended stay somewhere in Scotland, there are not many places to beat this stretch of golfing paradise.