The historic capital of Scotland is a festival city with an array of more than 20 challenging courses
While golfers landing at Edinburgh Airport often head for the links of East Lothian and Fife, the charms of “Auld Reekie”—“old smoky” in Scots—make the Athens of the North a compelling destination for a golf trip in its own right. Four miles from Edinburgh Airport, the Royal Burgess Golfing Society is home to the oldest golf club in the world, dating to 1735. The current course in Barnton was fashioned by Willie Park Jr. in 1895 and redesigned by James Braid in the 1920s. The Burgess is a demanding parkland test swarming with tree-lined par fours. You won’t forget the 11th, a gripping downhill dogleg with a walk across an eye-catching stone bridge. The Victorian clubhouse is not to be missed with much golf memorabilia on display.
Two miles along Queensferry Road sits the Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society, another venerable club, founded in 1761. Also the work of Willie Park Jr., in 1898, it’s been modified over the years by James Braid, Alister MacKenzie, and Fred Hawtree. The most recent redevelopment in 2019 by Mackenzie and Ebert, the R&A’s preferred architects, brought six new holes and eight greens. Don’t be fooled by the name, this is another strategic parkland layout with delightful views over the Firth of Forth. Its refurbished clubhouse is as elegant as any in Scotland.
Stop for a terrific two-course set lunch for under $25 in the heart of the city at La P’tite Folie in Randolph Place before completing the 40-minute drive east, where Duddingston Golf Club nestles in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, the ancient volcano which dominates Holyrood Park. Formed in 1895 by Edinburgh’s financial community, Duddingston is another Willie Park Jr. course, modernized in the 1970s by John Shade. Regarded by many as the best inland course in the Lothians, there isn’t a weak hole on this 6,466-yard layout, which tests every shot. The Braid Burn snakes through most of the holes and the trio of daunting par fours from the 11th to the 13th culminates at a raised green adjacent to the Doric columns of the Temple monument built in 1768.
It’s back into the city center for dinner at Rico’s, a fashionable new Italian restaurant in North Castle Street. The next golf stop is Mortonhall Golf Club, five miles west of Duddingston but still on the south side of town. This is Edinburgh’s oldest course, dating to 1892. One of the 400 or so designed by Braid, it occupies similarly undulating terrain to nearby Braid Hills, with any number of breathtaking views, but is longer and more varied. From the elevated tee at the 2nd, for example, the Elf Loch lurks on the left, chasing a sequence of bunkers toward the green while trees burnish the other side of the framed fairway.
Head nine miles west to Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club, the resort where President Biden set up camp during a visit to Scotland last year, and where Europe’s women won their first Solheim Cup match against the U.S. in 1992 on the East Course. The layout has changed significantly since Braid delivered one of his best designs in the 1920s. A major renovation in 2005 added two new holes, the 13th and 14th, which are tree lined and formidable. The hotel has nice rooms, a leisure center, and restaurants, and it’s all just six miles from the airport. Haste ye back!
Mike Aitken is the former golf correspondent of The Scotsman and a lifelong resident of Edinburgh.
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