It was 2004, my first golfing trip to Scotland. The agenda included foursomes at Musselburgh, at match with the members of Dirlton Castle and the Scottish Hickory over Gullane 3. There was also another round, one at Kilspindie between Gullane and Musselburgh along the East Lothian coast, that was as enjoyable as anything that memorable trip. Wonderful springy turf, lovely fairways and testy greens with lovely views of Gosford Bay, Gullane Hill in the distance and an overall impression of green land, blue skies and water. Links golf.
The course is a few hundred yards away from the Aberlady village along a private road, hidden among the nature reserve of Aberlady Bay and the great Firth of Forth. While lining up a mashie, you might be accompanied by the cries of sea birds, migratory geese or the sight of seals sunning on the sand. Edinburgh can be spied in the distance and, perhaps, the iconic Castle on Arthur’s Seat.
I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the air, the open views, the generous fairways. It was great fun. The Hickory Grail was contested here, in 2000. I can see why. There is nothing pretentious about the course, you read of no historic matches here, but there is something about the course that, as one visitor put it, is both “magical and cunning.”
According to the club’s history, golfers were prowling its lush turf prior to 1850. In 1867 it was formed as Luffness Golf Club, the 35th registered golf club in the world. The course and its clubhouse were on the far side of the Peffer Burn on land that is now a Nature Reserve. Scant evidence remains of that early course or its clubhouse.
Club history tells the tale of George Hope, the landowner, who wanted to create a new golf course slightly closer to the village of Gullane. Apparently, the golfers from Aberlady were not amused. Hope prevailed and the outcome was a “non-acrimonious” division that saw half the club staying to form Luffness New Golf Club (1894). The rest accepted an offer from neighboring landlord, the Earl of Wemyss and March, to build a golf course on the links land bordering Craigielaw Farm. This club became Kilspindie in 1899.
According to the club’s website, the links were designed by Willie Park and Ben Sayers with minor modifications over the years. (Another source for Kilspindie history suggests that another player was involved in the design. As of this writing, we are checking the facts with one of the older, former Captains of Kilspindie who, we are told, will set the matter right. We’ll update in the next newsletter.) The 11th hole, The Magazine, and the 4th, The Target, feature small buildings that served as exactly that up to the end of the First World War. It seems the local army unit used the course in conjunction with the golf club. And these features were once shared with the local rifle club. As the club history relates “One had to be aware of other hazards in those days!”
The signature hole is the 8th, a par 3 called Gosford Bay, that plays across a sandy bay from the medal tees. According to the Kilspindie website, “Some years ago, during an Assistant Professional’s competition, there were two holes in one on consecutive days – the first with a wedge, the second with a 3 wood. The joys of the local weather!”
Kilspindie has worked hard to build a hospitable reputation and, judging from online reviews, they’ve largely succeeded. The clubhouse is a older, traditional one. The locker room is just what you want… a few benches and lockers. It’s perfect. The members are kind and seem to enjoy hickory golfers. The course is a treat for hickories, only one par 5, and eminently fair, at 5500 yards, with regard to length. As the website suggests, try the High Tea after golf or the other good stuff at the Golfers Grill.
As they say at Kilspindie, “Welcome and haste ye back!”
Club pro Graham Sked has been overseeing golf at Kilspindie for many years and it is thanks to him and his staff that the members are so loyal and the guests feel like they’ve come upon a true Scottish gem of a course.
The Clubhouse, Aberlady, EH32 0QD
Telephone: 01875 870358
Fax: 01875 870358
8th hole, par three overlooks Gosford Bay and demands a shot that will carry over the beach – a challenge on a windy day.
- Established 1867
- 18 Holes
- Gents Par 69, 5502 yards
- Ladies Par 70, 5107 yards
- Course Architects Ross and Sayers
- Round weekday: £42.50
- Day weekday: £68
- Round weekend: £55
- Day weekend: £78
Visitors are welcome every day. Bespoke days can be tailored for corporate outings. Booking recommended, contact the General Manager’s Office by telephone on 01875 870358 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bits from online reviews
“Magical and cunning.”
“Old, traditional clubhouse.”
“The 8th is a little devil.”
“Great place to sit on the veranda with a drink and look at the sunset.”
“If you get the chance to play this course, enjoy.”
See another review of Kilspindie at Golfclubatlas.com