Castle Park Golf Club
Par 71, 6,443 yards
GM Verdict An entertaining course of two halves in a lovely foothill setting
Favourite Hole The par-4 14th - only a drive and a flick, but down to a beautifully-sited green with the hills beyond
A few miles due south of the world-famous West Links at North Berwick, a personal favourite in the Golf Monthly Top 100 Courses of UK&I, the setting at Castle Park Golf Club at the base of the Lammermuir Hills could hardly be more different. Originally a very pretty and characterful nine-holer, it opened in 1994 and was more recently expanded to a full 18 with a quite different loop of holes to the west of the clubhouse.
The two nines complement one another well, and it’s possible to play either on its own for a reduced fee. The length and greater challenge is on the front with three par 5s, while the back is shorter, undulating and very easy on the eye.
THE FRONT NINE
The course opens with the newer holes and a testing par 5 that works from left to right around a couple of ponds to a raised green. This is followed by a drive and pitch short par 4
A short par 3 - short from the yellows that is - comes next. This is at very pretty corner of the course.
Following a lacklustre drive at the fourth over by the bunker on the left of the fairway, an odd thing happened. From around 200 yards, I took a 5-wood and struck it as well as I possibly could. Even so, it was still a complete surprise to find my ball in the hole; my first eagle in a very long time.
The second par 5 comes next, Himalayas, and then the strong par-4 6th which again plays beyond the wall, this time to another one at the boundary. This time a single-putt bogey, and so back to normal!
The par-3 that follows gives you your first full backdrop of the Lammermuir Hills, and this is followed by tricky par 4 played up a gentle rise.
The final hole on the new loop is the longest hole on the course. Here, you must be careful as there is a ditch in the dip, about 100 yards short of the green.
THE BACK NINE
The back nine opens with an appealing dogleg to the right, and the 11th has a marker pole for the drive before a drop down to the green. This is quite different in nature to the front nine, with more elevation changes and less certainty about where you are heading.
The 12th is a cracking, uphill par 3, played over a ravine and up a steep slope to a green perched on the hill. This is followed by another blind drive and a slight dogleg left.
Don’t be dismayed by another marker pole for the tee shot at the 14th as it’s really a lay-up hole with a ridge at about 180 yards before the drop to a beautifully-sited green and backdrop of rolling hills. A very pretty hole.
The 15th heads back up the slope before the final short hole is played to a raised green protected by sleepered bunkers. Sandyknowe is stroke index two, the reason being that it is a whopping 233 yards from the white tee. I can attest to the fact that it is still easily possible to muck it up from the yellows!
The 17th is a short but severe dogleg to the left to a green that you cannot really see for the approach, and the 18th is a really good two-shotter up the hill where it’s safest to stay right from the tee.
Scotland’s Golf Coast is packed with top-quality seaside golf, but there are times when it’s good to escape the exposed nature of the links, there are times when you want to enjoy more pastoral views and conditions, and there are times when you might just want something more informal or friendly on the wallet. It may not head the list of the best golf courses in East Lothian, but Castle Park Golf Club is just the place. With two very different nines, and with the more scenic and shorter loop coming second, this family-run endeavour is focused on the future, and is just the place for a fun, friendly and quite different game of golf.
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Rob Smith has been playing golf for 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012. He specialises in course reviews and travel, and has played more than 1,200 courses in almost 50 countries. In 2022, he played all 21 courses in East Lothian in 13 days. Last year, his tally was 81, 32 of them for the first time. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! Of those missing, some are already booked for 2024. He is a member of Tandridge in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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