By Jeremy Ellwood published
Southerness Golf Club Course Review
GF £45-£70wd; £55-£90we
Par 69, 6,566 yards
GM Verdict – A number of strong par 4s and just two par 5s make this links a challenging par 69 in any sort of breeze
Favourite Hole – The par-4 12th, with its exciting green site set very close to the Solway Firth
Take the M6 all the way to the top, turn left at Gretna, left again at Dumfries, and 15 miles later you will arrive at one of the best golf courses in the Southern Uplands of Scotland. From the fine links outpost at Southerness it may be just nine miles as the crow flies across the Solway Firth to one of the best links courses in England at Silloth on Solway Golf Club, but it’s 72 miles and an hour and 45 minutes by road on account of the geography in this part of the UK. Its relative remoteness also makes Southerness a great value option as one of the best courses in Scotland you can play for under £100.
The vast majority of links courses within these shores were built in golf’s formative days, the early boom years at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, or in a more modest wave over the past 20 years or so in certain parts of Scotland and Ireland. Southerness is a rare exception, having opened for play shortly after the Second World War in 1947.
The links plays in an anti-clockwise loop, starting out away from the shore in a north-westerly direction, before hitting the Firth on the green of the long par-3 7th, guarded by a particularly devilish pot bunker front right. It then stays on or close to the shore for a splendid stretch until the 13th hole before finally looping back for home.
Southerness was the brainchild of Major Richard Oswald in 1946, with Philip Mackenzie Ross, the former assistant to Tom Simpson who would go on to rebuild the Ailsa course at Turnberry in 1951, enlisted to create a suitable golfing test. And a test it could be too, stretching to 7,000 yards from the tips even then. The course has undergone a number of changes, and the club has had its ups and downs over the years, but the past couple of decades have witnessed considerable efforts to improve conditioning, restore the original Mackenzie Ross layout, stabilise shifting dunes and counter the threat of coastal erosion.
It is perhaps no surprise that the greatest threat from the sea should have been to the exposed green on the dogleg-right 421-yard par-4 12th, which sits between two mounds perilously close to the beach. But a new retaining wall, sleepers and some dedicated volunteer labour mean this golfing treat towards the end of the shoreside stretch at Southerness is still there for you to savour.
And a good test of golf Southerness is, too. If you choose to venture off the whites, you’ll have to negotiate eight par 4s over 400 yards and just two par 5s (thankfully the 18th is one of them!). And of the five par 3s, two of them - that 7th hole and the 15th - will probably require the removal of a hybrid or fairway wood headcover for most at 215 and 217 yards respectively. All in all, it’s as tough a par 69 as you’re likely to encounter if the wind gets up.
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
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