The village of West Linton may not spring immediately to mind when you’re planning an golf trip to this part of Scotland.
Edinburgh and the wider East Lothian region boasts an embarrassment of riches when it comes to golf. The likes of Muirfield, Gullane, Royal Musselburgh and North Berwick are world-famous and vastly popular. But they are also understandably expensive and not always easy to play so if you are prepared to venture off the beaten track, West Linton Golf Club is a place that will give you a warm welcome, a wonderful test of golf and have you coming back for more.
West Linton sits in a conversation area, 17 miles south-east of Edinburgh.
The village sits in the stunning Pentland Hills. And a short drive up the hill from the heart of it, lies a golf course enveloped by some of the most beautiful countryside you will find anywhere.
West Linton Golf Club began life in 1890 when Robert Millar, a local teacher, established what was a 9-hole golf course on this stunning piece of land.
Sir George Sutherland took over ownership in 1925 and immediately sought out the much heralded-designer James Braid, who drew up a plan for an improved course. It wasn’t, however, until 1974 that West Linton became the excellent golf course it is today.
It may only be 6,161yds but it packs a punch with its motto ‘Cherish the Good Turf’ an indication of things to come. From the car park the view across the moor to Mendick Hill are immediately captivating. The clubhouse is warm and welcoming, the food is great and the laughter audible. It’s not fancy or opulent but then it doesn’t need to be. Golf is the star of the show here.
The opening three holes are a gentle introduction. The 1st, a short par-4, is no more than a fairway wood and a wedge, but with out of bounds to the right and thick heather to the left it is immediately obvious that placement is going too be rewarded over power.
The 2nd is a gentle par-3 and the 3rd should be straightforward if you can get a good drive away up the right and short of the two bunkers. The 4th, know as Muckle Knock, is the start of an excellent run of holes. Like the 3rd, there is out of bounds all along the right but this is one of two par 5s and it’s demanding even in firm and fast conditions at 525 yards. With the fairway sloping right to left and bunkers challenging the long drivers on each side, the tee shot must be long and straight. To get to the green in two requires a well-struck second to a putting surface which sits against the slope and on which balls will race to the left and into the deep bunker on that side of the green.
The 5th turns back towards the clubhouse and is a brute of a par-4 at 470 yards with a relatively small green. The 6th and 7th are beautiful to look at it and, once again, demand precision. The 8th is arguably the hardest hole on the course at 447 yards, with a blind tee shot that must avoid OB and thick rough to the right and stay on a fairway that takes everything left. The approach must avoid a gaping bunker on the front left waiting for anything that running into the green. A good leave is front right of the green here.
The par 3 9th is an excellent hole. The green, an upturned saucer, is shallow and difficult to hit. And the 10th, which turns back towards the clubhouse looks far more straightforward than it ever seems to play, with the slope running right on this short par-4.
The back nine is an excellent test of golf and features a number of strong par 4s starting with the 10th- which demands a powerful drive to the corner of the slight dog-leg right and then a fizzing iron shot to carry the bunkers short of the green. This is one of four par-4s in excess of 440 yards that are spread out across the scorecard. The last of them is the start of a fierce finishing stretch. I stood on the 16th tee at 1 over par.
Three holes and three bogeys later any hope of breaking 70 was gone. And it was easy to see why. “Crooked Jock”, as the 16th is known, demands plenty. The fairway rises and then falls down a green that sits surrounded delightfully surrounded by heather. The drive is partially blind to a fairway that slopes left to right. It’s a wonderful hole where a 4 is always a good score.
And your round at West Linton ends with back to back par 3s which face in opposite directions and present different challenges, both stern.
The 17th, ‘Wee knock’, is the easier of the two even if it is far from a wee knock for most. Measuring 196-yards it requires a long accurate iron shot to a small green that slopes subtly and demands absolute precision.
Arguably the hardest hole on the course is 18. Very few clubs finish with a 230-yard uphill par-3 but West Linton is one of them. The hole is further complicated by out-of-bounds right, the club car park within yards of the back of the green and heather and nasty rough down the left. Only a really well-struck long iron or wood will get you home to a green that slopes back to front. Good luck. You will need it. A 3 will almost feel like a birdie here.
As I mentioned earlier, the motto of the club ‘cherish the good turf’ may have more to it than the obvious. But it speaks of the beautiful grass you will play off on the immaculate fairways here. The greens are fast and true – it really has the whole package.
On the day we played final preparations were going on for the arrival of the pros on the Tartan Tour the following day. And it is easy to see why this is a course that is often chosen for events such as these. So when you next find yourself planning out trip to Edinburgh and its beautiful golf courses, make sure you place West Linton Golf Club firmly in your plans.
You’ve been told about a well-kept secret here, so make the most of it.
- Best hole: The 18th – 230yd Par 3. A brute. Quite frankly. As tough a par 3 as you will find for all sorts of reasons. Are you brave enough to take enough club and avoid all the trouble around you off the tee? Four is not a terrible score.
- Most memorable hole: The 8th 447 Yard Par 4. A fantastic hole. Long. Challenging. It has the lot and a blind tee shot to boot. Fire over the marker stick and then aim your second to the right edge of the green regardless of flag position.
- Best par 5: The 505-yard 15th – Lang Whang. An excellent hole and an even better name.
Phone Number: 01968 660970
Designer: James Braid and Robert Millar.
Green Fee Range: £20-£50
Length: Par 69 – 6161 Yards