Archerfield Links Golf Club (Dirleton)
It’s easy to understand why so many people love to visit and play at the semi-exclusive Archerfield Links when the opportunity arises.
The very fact it is set in the heart of established real estate for golf, on Scotland’s Golf Coast in East Lothian, and has proven to be so popular, since it was created in its modern day form just after the turn of the millennium, is testament to the quality of the venue.
The entire set-up is undeniably exceptional; two contrasting golf courses, a luxury clubhouse and world-class practice facilities all make this an enviable place to spend time. I experienced a high and attentive level of service over my two days here yet there is still a beautifully relaxed feel and atmosphere around the establishment.
The Dirleton on the other hand is a much more consistent course and billed as a traditional Scottish Links. The ground is certainly very firm and fast running but it may take several decades of settling down and good agronomy before you could class it as a pure links experience. One thing that you will find here though, as you would on any true links, is an exposure to the wind!
Nearly every hole is flanked by impenetrable gorse and although the runway flat fairways are generous you don’t have to stray too far offline on some holes for your ball to never be seen again. It’s not dissimilar to having a lateral water hazard running down the side of each hole, with the exception that you cannot drop at the side under penalty. I think I only fell victim to it once but had plenty of close calls!
You are continually asked to drive the ball straight, rather than favour one side or the other, and this is my main criticism of the course because I felt this became a little monotonous as the round progressed.
That’s not to say there aren’t some good holes. I liked the opening hole and loved the green complex at the short third where you are asked to work the ball in from the right. Indeed the entire collection of one-shotters is impressive with a wonderfully fluid green at the short 13th a notable highlight. The 420-yard ninth is also a superb hole as it wanders through some of the low dunes.
If the course doesn’t ask too many differing questions from the tee the greens and their surrounds do their best to make up for any lack of variety. Several of the aprons feature steeply graded slopes that will sweep a ball away from the interestingly contoured putting surfaces.
Both golf courses have a par of 72, both are routed in two returning loops of nine, both have four par-threes and four par-fives, both stretch to the 7,000-yard mark from the championship markers along with four sets of tees. It’s all very standard for modern golf courses. DJ Russell has created a wide range of holes across the flattish estate, along with many differing bunker styles, but throughout the 36 holes there isn’t one tempting, driveable par four; that’s a missed opportunity in my book when effectively starting from scratch.
There’s a lot to like about Archerfield, especially the fast running nature of both courses, and I’m sure their members are extremely proud of their home. Personally, I’m never going to fall in love with a place like this but I suspect, and can see why, others will tumble head over heels.
I think if I was offered ten rounds here I’d use six on the Fidra, three on the Dirleton and may just cheekily sneak off down the road to play one of the Gullane courses for my tenth.
Read the review of Archerfield (Fidra) here.