Goswick Golf Club
Berwick-upon-Tweed, England
United Kingdom

Eighth hole, 420 yards, Cheswick; A nest of four revetted bunkers handsomely reside in the elbow’s crook at the last of front’s five doglegs. It takes a sturdy drive to have a decent view of the flag, let alone the green. With Goswick’s prevailing wind blowing out to sea, the man who can draw his tee ball around the dogleg has a decided advantage on this southerly facing hole.

The fluttering yellow flag ahead indicates the hole's typical right to left breeze, the very conditions that love to shove one's tee ball into one of these bunkers on the inside of this dogleg left.

The fluttering yellow flag indicates the hole’s typical right to left breeze, the very conditions that love to shove one’s tee ball into these bunkers on the inside of this dogleg left.

Shifting backdrops enhance the playing experience. The copse of trees in the background were planted in the 1960s.

Shifting backdrops enhance the playing experience. This copse of trees in the background was planted in the 1960s.

Tenth hole, 420 yards, Lang Whang; Wind is an obvious factor yet what does it mean to proclaim Goswick as a course that plays well in the wind? Look no further than the tenth hole green complex. Great architecture tends to promote – and even encourage – bold play. Seeing a well-struck low iron clear the bunker below, race onto the green, take the bank at the back and retreat to nestle close to the hole is pure joy.

A large bunker some 40 yards short right of the green works in perfect concert with a small bunker front left and the tightly mown back right mound to create challenges - and opportunities - for all caliber players.

A large bunker some 40 yards short right of the green works in perfect concert with a small bunker front left and the tightly mown rear right mound to create challenges – and opportunities – for players of all caliber.

Eleventh hole, 560 yards, Goswick; The longest hole on the course is also one of the most interesting, a neat feat that rarely happens. Two things make it so: the most humpy-bumpy fairway, bobbing up and down like a roiling sea, is sandwiched between out of bounds right and a burn left and there’s a proper cross hazard, completely encased in short grass, 60 yards short of the green. Herbert Fowler, the great English architect, made famous by such bunkers at Walton Heath, would be proud of this old-fashioned, timeless, confrontational hazard.

If either of the first two shots don’t go according to plan, this fairway bunker 60 yards shy of the green looms large.

Twelfth hole, 365 yards, Pilgrim’s Way; On the most adventurous hole on the course, the tee ball is played over the burn on a diagonal to a billowing fairway, which is bisected by a dune for fifty yards some 255 yards from the tee. An ideally positioned ball, right center, provides a good view of the  green but those golfers that steer a bit more conservatively to the left often face a blind approach.

What golfer in their right mind wouldn’t relish playing the game in this setting?!

Thirteenth hole, 200 yards, Lough; An obvious hole to build, the tees are benched into the dominant dune line and the green is placed two hundred yards ahead in the most intoxicating direction. If the twelfth doesn’t convince the player of this being an ‘end of the world’ course, then this hole will.

No outside disturbance – just the golfer and the wind.

Fourteenth hole, 395 yards, Dune; Three fairway bunkers make this one of the most precise driving holes on the course. Nonetheless, the more enchanting shot is the approach to a green nested in the dunes. A true links connoisseur will (eventually) sort out a way to use the tight grass on the right side of the green complex to his maximum advantage. With so much tight grass right, silly is the golfer who visits the solitary left greenside bunker. Why this hole isn’t more heralded is a mystery.

The high sweep of tight grass to the right is another example of the club and greenkeeping staff getting the details correct. If the bank was thick grass, so much fun would be snuffed out of the approach.

Looking back, the long narrow fourteenth green begs for an approach along the ground.

Fifteenth hole, 150 yards, Bide-a-Wee; More times than not, downhill one-shotters feature better views than golf because the green is bland relative to the quality of the scenery. Not here – this green features the most slope and contour of any on the course.

The golf seamlessly moves from the wilds and turns inland at the downhill fifteenth.

The golf seamlessly moves from the wilds as it turns inland at the downhill fifteenth.

This five foot eight inch lady provides perspective as to the punchbowl nature of the front half of the green.

This five foot eight inch lady provides perspective as to the punchbowl nature of the front half of the green.

Seventeenth hole, 520 yards, Stonehenge; Its tee high on the dune affords a clear view of the distant clubhouse, a very agreeable sight and one that doesn’t happen often on penultimate holes (Sunningdale Old being an obvious exception).  Three bunkers that bifurcate the fairway 160 yards from the green are also clearly visible and clearing them in two is contingent upon a good drive. It’s worth highlighting that each of the four par 5s enjoys support from various members as being the course’s best three-shotter. Not many links can claim the same!

A commanding view from the seventeenth tee. The clubhouse is just left of the photograph.

In searching for flaws, some people cite the closing hole on each nine. The ninth is a 200 yarder and the Home hole is a 270 yarder played from an elevated tee. Critics sniff that the holes feel ‘jammed in.’ That opinion may be exacerbated by the expansive views afforded on so many of the other holes. In each hole’s defense, the ninth is undeniably sturdy and it has a feature that the author enjoys: out of bounds lurks just a few paces from the back right edge of an angled green. Hats off to the player skilled enough to successfully chase after back hole locations, especially in the hole’s typical right to left cross breeze. Regarding the Home hole and its nine bunkers in a span of 50 yards, the worst thing that can be said is that doesn’t feel like any other hole on the course. As a 1/2 par finisher in the tradition of North Berwick, Prestwick and Kilspindie, anything can happen, especially here as it tempts good players into dumb decisions. Coming up short in one of the revetted bunkers might actually be preferable to going long, from where even professionals routinely card an aggravating 5. The author favors such a risk/reward hole far ahead of dullish, standard fare two-shotters.

In Volume 1 of The Confidential Guide, I wrote that England is ” ... my favorite country in the world for golf.” Goswick Golf Club is further validation of that sentiment. No other course of its class is within an hour’s drive, so list-checkers aren’t prone to include it on their mad dash trips. It’s their loss. How improved might our lives be if we could play here on a regular basis?! Give the founding members kudos for following Dunn’s suggestion and selecting the remote site that set a path for future generations to expand the course in an intelligent manner while keeping it cocooned in nature.

The End