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FAMOUS GOLFERS

Ben Sayers

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NORTH BERWICK
GOLFING PIONEERS

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NORTH BERWICK
LINKS IN THE 1890s
by DOROTHY CAMPBELL



North Berwick Golf Club


Visitor Times
Mon. - Fri.
10.00 am - 4.00 pm
Sat. - Sun.
12.00 pm - 8.30 pm

Green Fees: April-Oct
Weekdays:120 (Day); 90 (Round) Weekends:
95
(Round); n/a (Day)

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21st Dec.-26th Feb.
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West Links - North Berwick
Advanced Booking   Course History   Views   Score Card
Muirfield  - Gullane  - North Berwick East Course  - Dunbar  - Musselburgh  - Archerfield

North Berwick Golf Club
Beach Road, North Berwick
Managing Secretary: Christopher Spencer
secretary@northberwickgolfclub.com

[13th on West Links]
13th 'Pit' on the West Links
© Digitalsport UK

[14th on West Links]

14th 'Perfection' on West Links
© Digitalsport UK

 West Links Score Card

  West Links Course
By Douglas Seaton
North Berwick Factfile

THE WEST LINKS was originally six holes and a seventh was added before it was extended to 18 holes in 1877. By 1895 the course was lengthened, and today measures 6464 yards S.S.S 71. Not the longest, but the trickery of the course requires the full repertoire of shot making. A true links course laid out on a raised-beach, laden with brown sand forming the undulating links land 10 to 30 feet above sea level.

The course has been described as from a 'Primitive Age' relating to a period from the beginning of the game to the invention of the gutta-percha in 1848. The West Links is of great antiquity and has it's place among a very special group of courses which evolved naturally and owe little to the hand of man.

A golfing experience not found anywhere else, with blind holes, drives over walls and burns, shots over the bay and bunkers deep enough for the golfer to disappear from view. Many of the holes have been copied by designers all over the world, including the 376 yard 14th named 'Perfection' and the 192 yard 15th called 'Redan'. All the holes have fascinating names such as Mizzentop, Bos'ns Locker, the Pit and Linkhouse (8th) where a ginger beer stall was erected in 1895.

Point Garry Out is the first hole and at one time shared the green with the 17th Point Garry In. This double-green was described by Bernard Darwin, the doyen of golf writers as a " Terrible place where the green slopes away to the rocks and beach." Although not as daunting as in Darwin's day, the opening and finishing stretch requires some thought.

Booking: Tel 01620 892135 Fax 01620 893274

[Bunker at 10th
hole]
Traditional revetted bunker face
© Digitalsport UK

[12th on East Course]
Eil Burn and Centenary Bridge, West Links
© Digitalsport UK

  The Bass Rock Golf Club (1873), Tantallon Golf Club (1853) and North Berwick Golf Club (1832) all play over the West Links. The latter is the thirteenth oldest golf club, second only to the Royal and Ancient Club in St Andrews for continuous play over the same course.

In the early days, Challenge or Brag matches between the leading professionals attracted thousands of spectators to the West Links. One such match was held in September 1875 between Willie Park and his brother Mungo against Old Tom Morris and his son. The match ended abruptly when a messenger boy handed a telegram to Old Tom with the news that Young Tom's wife was seriously ill in St. Andrews following the birth of their child.

Mr. John Lewis, an Edinburgh businessman in the gallery, offered to take the Morrises across the Firth of Forth to St Andrews in his twenty-eight foot ketch anchored in North Berwick harbour. As the yacht slipped her moorings a second telegram arrived which read 'Mrs. Morris had a son, both mother and child are dead'. On reaching St Andrews they broke the sad news to Young Tom and the effect was so devastating he never recovered. His health detriorated over the next three months, and he died of an internal haemorrhage on Christmas morning, at the age of 25 years.

The West Links is one of the qualifying courses when the Open Championship is played at Muirfield in 2013, and over the years has hosted the British Senior's Open Championship, Scottish Boys' Championship (1935-1972), Vagliano Trophy and several Scottish Professional Tournaments.

Views of the West Links

Course Record Pro 63: Trevor Immelman Am 63: Colm Moriaty 2002
Am Record equalled by Frenchman Oliver Rozner 63 2010
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Among North Berwick's famous golfers was Ben Sayers who had a successful professional career before establishing a golf club manufacturing business in 1883, which continued to produce innovative golf clubs for over 120 years. The clubmaker Thomas Dunn first worked on the West Links in 1869 as a greenkeeper. The present pro's shop beside the first tee was designed by Tom Dunn in 1888 as his clubmakers workshop, with lockers for rent by visiting golfers. The adjacent building was the caddie shed where the Caddie Master organised his flock. Among the caddies were Jack Hobens and James R. Thomson who in 1916 were founder members of the PGA of America, and Hobens helped to draft the constitution.

Tom Anderson was the first to be appointed to the new position of head greenkeeper in 1890. He had responsibility for collecting the visitor green fees, organising the starting times and supervising the course maintenance. His son Willie Anderson won the US Open four times. Jack White captured the British Open in 1904, and a month later Willie Anderson won the US Open, both national titles were in the hands of North Berwick men. A remarkable achievement for two clubmakers from such humble beginnings.

'The West Links being at sea level the air is thicker and the ball is effected more by the wind than on American courses such as Torrie Pines' - Phil Mickelson

Fred McLeod, a North Berwick postman won the 1908 US Open and from 1963 was by tradition first off the tee to begin the Augusta Masters each year. Another North Berwick postman, Jack Forrester qualified for the 1921, 1923 and 1924 PGA Championship of America and for a decade of US Open's was never out of the top twenty.

The finest amateur golfer from North Berwick was Dorothy Campbell, the only player ever to win four national championships at the same time, - Canadian, Scottish, British and American titles. Dorothy lived with her mother and sisters in Inchgarry House opposite the 18th tee on the West Links. Over 80 years would pass before another North Berwick girl Catriona Matthew won the Centenary British Amateur Championship in 1993. Catriona is currently competing on the LPGA Tour and won the Ricoh Women's British Open in 2009.

One of the earliest golf pro's to emigrate from the town was Harry Gullane who laid out the courses at West Chester Golf and Country Club and St Davids in Pennsylvania. Robert Johnstone opened up golf in the North West, laying out the course at Seattle, while George Turnbull who often played in a 'Palm Beach Suit' was hired by more golf clubs than any other pro in his short but colourful life. Jimmy Thomson at the age of sixteen began to compete on what was to become the US PGA Tour. He was runner-up in both the 1935 US Open and 1936 PGA Championship and appeared in the movie 'The Caddy' with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. His father Wilfred Thomson was the last of the traditional teaching professionals on the West Links in the 1950s.

1st Green on the West Links
Golf at North Berwick '1835 ' by Sir Francis Grant   Copyright © North Berwick Golf Club

Famous Redan Hole

Like many of the great holes in golf, first impressions of the 192 yard, par 3 15th are deceptive, and only by playing the hole several times does it reveal it's hidden subtleties. The mounds, ridges and depressions left after the sea receded gives the West Links it's natural contours and the 'Redan' was part of that evolution. In those days the constraints of the feathery ball determined the length of each hole and the green was positioned on the nearest flat ground. Often a ridge crossing the path of play was used for the green and that is how the 'Redan' was created by nature. The green is laid out on a diagonal sloping plateau with bunkers on the face of the ridge and under the shoulder of the green, on the left and right. The 'Redan' came into play as the 6th hole in 1869 when the course was extended over a stone wall known as the March Dyke to make nine holes.

North Berwick is the fourth oldest to make reference to golf
St Andrews (1552), Leith (1593), Perth (1604) and North Berwick (1611)
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The name 'Redan' comes from the Crimean War, when the British captured a Russian held fort or in the local dialect, a redan. A serving officer John Whyte-Melville is credited on his return as describing the 6th like the formidable fortress or redan he had encountered at Sebastopol. Conquered only after nearly a year of attrition which left over 20,000 British soldiers dead and four times as many French. The word 'Redan' is now part of the English language, and the definition given by the Oxford Dictionary is 'Fort - A work having two faces forming a salient towards the enemy.'

The Redan became the 15th hole when the course was extended in 1877. At that time the 14th was a short hole measuring 176 yards with the green situated in front of the present 'Perfection' cross-bunker. The 15th tee was on the sand dune above, and according to Horace Hutchinson, a cleek or iron shot was used to pitch just over a wall, so far and no further, and then a full drive or brassy shot to carry over a bunker escarpment not inaptly called 'the Redan'. The hole measured 266 yards in 1895 before the teeing ground was moved forward.

In November 1889, the bunkers were strengthen with railway sleepers (railroad ties) to allow the green to be enlarged. The green is blind from the tee and the player has to shape the shot into the prevailing wind, allowing for the ball to finish below the flag stick. The slope of the green runs diagonally from right to left, and anything above the hole is in three putt country. The bunkers on two sides, deep enough for the player to disappear from view add to the difficulty of securing par. The wind direction plays an integral part on every hole and the 192 yards can be covered from an eight iron to a driver, depending on the conditions.

[Redan 15th West Links]
'Redan' with the March Dyke, Craigleith island and Bass Rock in the background   © Digitalsport UK

The 16th hole, named 'The Gate', a 314 yard, par 4, has the most unique green in Scotland. The drive from the tee over a stone wall, has to clear a burn crossing the fairway at 195 yards. The green has a deep swale bisecting the middle and Tom Dunn the former greenkeeper at North Berwick used this three level layout on several of the greens at Biarritz in France in 1888. The design is now called a 'Biarritz Green', but the original can still be played at North Berwick. This was the green where Phil Mickelson practiced his putting during the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield while staying in the Marine Hotel overlooking 'the craziest green in the world' as Mickelson described it.

Ladies Links

The Ladies Course at North Berwick is the oldest nine-hole ladies course in Scotland. The North Berwick Ladies Golf Club was formed in 1888 and that year Tom Dunn redesigned the ladies course, known today as the Children's course situated adjacent to the West Links and Marine Hotel. The ladies play all their competitions over the West Links and in 2005, became full members of the North Berwick Golf Club.

Since the 1860s junior golf competitions have been played at North Berwick when boys over ten, but under fifteen years, competed in a stroke play tournament over the seven-hole course on the West Links, while those under the age of ten competed on the Ladies Links. In August 1867 Major A. Smith Sligo, The Vale, North Berwick organised a junior competition and the following year Lord Elcho donated a silver medal for the best handicap score and the first winner was Andrew Peacock. The Elcho Medal for boys under fifteen years is still contested today and is the oldest open junior golf competition in the world.

David Huish the golf professional and course manager at North Berwick for over forty years retired in April 2009 and was succeeded by his son Martyn Huish who heads up the club's teaching programme. Martyn has worked for his father as assistant since 1989. He has a first class reputation as a teacher, and as a club pro.

"Drive the ball over Robert Louis Stevenson's Cressy Burn"
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Charles Stevenson the cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about the holidays they shared at North Berwick. The Longskelly beach and Eil Burn (called the Cressy Burn in RLS's novel Catriona) was a favourite play area. In the 1860s the burn lay a mile west of the end of the golf course but today the Eil Burn is an integral part of the course, cutting through the 7th and 12th fairways.

" That part of the beach was long and flat, and excellent walking when the tide was down; a little cressy burn flowed over it in one place to the sea; and the sandhills ran along the head of it like the rampart of a town. No eye of ours could spy what was passing behind there in the bents, no hurry of ours could mend the speed of the boat's coming: time stood still with us through that uncanny period of waiting."

In 1990, BBC golf commentator Andrew Cotter played for the Scottish Schools against English Schools over the West Links at North Berwick. In the foursome match it was Cotter's turn to drive at the last, and he put his ball out of bounds, hitting a car belonging to one of the Scottish selector's. Cotter from Troon managed to win his singles match but the final result was a win for the Auld Enemy. You too can experience standing on the 18th tee with out of bounds to the right and the sound of ball on metal as a row of parked vehicles come into range.

Many well known celebrities have played the West Links but none more humble than Neil Armstrong (1930-2012). He was such a quiet and unassuming gentleman his party were on the third hole before his caddie recognized the most famous astronaut in the world. Eighty year old Armstrong was playing with three friends and was described as a very polite and quiet spoken man who enjoyed his round of golf at North Berwick in October 2010.

Designers inspired by the West Links
Designer
Course
West Links
George C. Thomas
Riviera Country Club, California
4th hole (238 yards, Par 3).
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Charles Blair Macdonald
National Golf Links, Southampton, N.Y.
4th hole (197 yards Par 3).
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Donald Ross
Seminole, North Palm Beach, F.L.
18th hole.
11th hole, 550 yards, Par 5,
" Bos'ns Locker "
Willie Dunn Jnr.
Shinnecock Hills, Long Island, N.Y.
7th (189 yards) and 17th (169 yards)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Seth Raynor
Fishers Island, Long Island, N.Y.
2nd hole (170 yards)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Harry S. Colt
Toronto Golf Club, Ontario, Canada.
4th hole (190 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Willie Campbell
Brookline Country Club, MA
12th hole 'Redan' (130 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Jack Nicklaus
Valhalla Golf Course, Louisville, K.Y.
16th hole (444 yards, Par 4)
16th hole (381 yards, Par 4)
" Gate "
Seth Raynor
Morris County Golf Club, NJ
13th hole (178 yards, Par 3)
15th hole (192 yards)
" Redan "
Robert Trent Jones II
Poppy Hills, Monterey, C.A.
15th hole (193 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Seth Raynor
Fishers Island, Long Island N.Y.
5th hole (225 yards, Par 4)
16th hole (318 yards, Par 4)
" Gate "
Albert W. Tillinghast
Somerset Hills Country Club, N.J.
2nd hole (180 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Charles Blair Macdonald
Mid Ocean Golf Club, Tucker's Town, Bermuda
5th hole (433 yards, Par 4)
2nd hole,(431 yards)
" Sea "
Dr. A. MacKenzie
Alwoodley Golf Club, Leeds, Yorkshire
14th hole (206 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Harry S. Colt
Swinley Forest, Ascot, UK
4th hole (185 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Seth Raynor
Fox Chapel Golf Club, Pittsburgh. P.A.
6th hole (192 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Devereux Emmet
Trump National Golf Club, Briarcliff Manor NY.
9th hole (446 yards, Par 4)
16th hole (318 yards, Par 4)
" Gate "
Peter Thomson
Ocean Course, National Golf Club, Victoria, AUS.
11th hole (186 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Charles Banks
Oneck Course, Westhampton Country Club, N.Y
9th hole (190 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Seth Raynor and
Charles Blair Macdonald
Gibson Island Club, Maryland
3rd hole (181 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Jack and Gary Nicklaus
Prospector Course, Superstition Mountain, AZ
17th hole (192 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Charles Blair Macdonald
Lido Country Club, Lido Beach, N.Y
16th hole (216 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Seth Raynor
Oakland Country Club, N.Y
13th hole (190 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Jack Nicklaus
Spring Creek Ranch, Collierville, TN
8th hole (190 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
James Tinlin
Mount Lawley Golf Club, Perth, AUS
15th hole (178 metres, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "
Seth Raynor, Tom Doak
Yeaman's Hall Golf Club, SC
6th hole (180 yards, Par 3)
15th hole,(192 yards)
" Redan "

[17th Green]
Left to Right: George Thomson, John R. Whitecross, Edward Blyth, George Sayers, Ben Sayers, Jimmy Glass, Peter Brodie, Rev. FLM Anderson, Peter Brodie Jnr. Jack White, Robert Johnstone, (Speeder), Rev.Valentine (visitor). Putting on the 17th green circa 1895
[*]
 Travel Route

Driving from the North and Edinburgh Airport

From Edinburgh take the A720 City By Pass (South) - follow sign post Berwick-Upon-Tweed (A1). Continue on A1 (South) and take the A198 - sign post North Berwick. Pass through the villages of Longniddry, Aberlady, Gullane to North Berwick. Then follow signs for Town Centre and Golf Course. Drive time from Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh Airport 45 minutes.

Driving from the South

From the A1 motorway take the A198 - sign post North Berwick.

Copyright © Douglas C. Seaton 1997-2014, All Rights Reserved.