GULLANE, Scotland - Famed U.K. golf writer Bernard Darwin once described the view from Gullane No. 1's seventh tee as among the best in golf.
It's high enough to see the Bass Rock to the east, Muirfield next door and the city of Edinburgh, including the castle and Arthur's Seat, the highest peak in Edinburgh.
That view, of course, varies depending on the weather, but at least one thing is constant about Gullane No. 1: it's East Lothian's top championship test not called "Muirfield."
Gullane is one of East Lothian's many 19th century golf clubs located on the A198 Coastal Route, and Gullane No. 1 was the first of three 18-hole courses and a children's course at the club.
Gullane No. 1 is unique in the area because it has significant elevation change. Some holes play sharply up or downhill - a feature many links don't have.
This is a result of the 200-foot-high Gullane Hill, the volcanic rock upon which much of the course sits. The sand blown onto the hill from the beaches around East Lothian has given Gullane No. 1 the firm, sandy soil of any links course, but the elevation of a heathland on many holes.
The hill makes an early entrance. No. 2, "Windygate," heads straight up the hill to a skinny green tucked between dunes (and often into prevailing winds). From here, No. 3 is one of several elevated tee shots. The next comes on the gorgeous No. 7 tee box, another par 4.
No. 17, "Hilltop," tumbles downhill and would be drivable if not for the large bunkers fronting the green. Instead, you'll have to hope for a flat spot on the steeply sloped fairway.
Some of the best traditional links holes start at No. 9, a par 3 along the sea that is short but well-bunkered with steep, sod pots. No. 12, "Valley," is a short par 5 (beside a newly built medal tee) that sits tucked behind dunes that block the sea to the right and another dunes wall to the left.
For such a stern test overall, the first and last holes are relatively tame, both flat, shortish par 4s that are drivable in the right wind.
Gullane Golf Club No. 1: The verdict
A frequent Open Championship qualifying course when Muirfield hosts the event, Gullane No. 1 is a top area links that has added new back tees in recent years for tournament play. Gullane offers many different looks, from the hill holes to the lower-lying holes, and other beautiful tests like the short, par-3 "Island" fourth, which features a small, table top green guarded by small pot bunkers.
Gullane has two clubhouses. The members' clubhouse is open to guests who play the No. 1 course and was recently refurbished, so it's quite comfortable.
There are also a practice area and several putting greens, as well as a children's course across the street near the Old Clubhouse, now one of the area's most popular pubs.
As for the club's other two courses, No. 2 is highly regarded, while No. 3 is a short Harry Colt design that plays just about 5,000 yards. It's worth checking out for a more relaxed, shorter round.
Gullane No. 1 has visitor restrictions, with small visitor blocks of tee times in the late morning and afternoon. Green fees are £85-100 for 18 holes. Day passes are also available.
Stay and play in East Lothian
If you want to stay near Gullane, check out the Kilspindie House Hotel in Aberlady. It's a cozy inn with a small and friendly pub, and a restaurant that's a favorite in East Lothian. For a more luxurious option, stay in North Berwick at the MacDonald Marine Hotel, which overlooks the West Links. The hotel is fresh off a multi-million pound restoration and features a spa, fitness center and pool, as well as numerous bar and dining options in the heart of the historic golf town.
Though today it's a golf town, the game wasn't always assured a prosperous future in Gullane. Between 1842 and 1892, racehorse exercising on the hill was commonplace until banned by Lord Law in 1892, allowing the golf course to be expanded.