The No. 1 course at Gullane Golf Club in Scotland is links golf at its purest. It doesn't get much publicity, often hidden in the shadow of its famous neighbor, Muirfield. American golfers rarely stumble across this treasure, which is unfortunate.
I thoroughly enjoyed Gullane No. 1 during a 2004 visit. Just as enjoyable was seeing buddies Bryan and Scott play their first round in Scotland. Like most great Scottish courses, Gullane (pronounced 'gullen') plays along the sea, though that's not evident until cresting a large hill behind the second green.
At that point, a dramatic view of the Firth of Forth smacks you in the face. And if you look hard enough, you can see across the water to the Kingdom of Fife, home of St. Andrews. Not to disparage the first two holes -- they're solidly designed -- but the real treat is making that hill and seeing the lion's share of holes resting along the shore, virtually untouched since 1882.
I'll never forget Bryan and Scott soaking in the moment on the third tee. It made the all-night flight and hurried car ride from Glasgow worth it!
I'll also never forget Scott, a low handicapper, struggling with the nuances of links golf. In the Old Country the game is played low to the ground, beneath prevailing winds on bumpy fairways and firm greens. America's aerial game is out of place here, along with 60-degree lob wedges. Scott eventually adjusted after lofting several shots at pins, only to have them bound on by. He also learned to avoid pot bunkers.
From that third tee the course plays down to the sea, crosses hither and yond, and works its way back up the slope to the 16th green. If memory serves, the 17th is a short par-4 from the mighty hill down to the flats where the course begins. Three large pot bunkers protect the green, discouraging attempts to drive the putting surface.
The 18th is a rolling par-4 with its green not far from the first tee. I think a couple of menacing pot bunkers punctuate that fairway, too.
Gullane, steeped in tradition, has a members' clubhouse just to the right of the first fairway. The clubhouse is just what you imagine one would look like if you've never been to Scotland before. Unfortunately, we weren't able to sample its ambience, nor its ales. It was late and there was a hotel to locate across the firth.