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 Fidra course plays through mature pine trees for the first two thirds of the round before venturing out onto linksier land for the remainder. The woodland holes have a lovely enclosed feel to them whilst the “links” section of the course enjoys a more open vista, particularly compared to the gorse-riddled Dirleton course, but more on that later.
I put the word links in quotation marks above because I’m not 100% convinced it is true links golf although the course is particularly fast running and the ground game can be utilised around the greens. It’s certainly not classic links golf in its purest form; an almost faux-links style would perhaps be the best way to describe it. And although you are close to the coast you don’t ever really get the feeling that you are playing seaside golf.
A stray drive on the first 11 holes of the Fidra is likely to find Augusta-esque pine straw where you will easily find your ball and be able to advance it but not always in the direction you would like to. Hit an errant tee-shot on the closing seven holes and you will be playing from well below or above your feet on the side of a dune ridge!
I thought one of the best holes on the Fidra was the twisting par-five second, with a crafty central(ish) bunker just shy of the green. This is something we see regularly throughout both courses and a feature I quite liked; a number of the greenside bunkers eat into the entrance of many greens and pose a real conundrum. Several fairway bunkers also encroach well into the fairways, again something I thought added to the challenge and made a refreshing change to many other modern courses where the bunkering simply lines the fairways.
Other holes that impressed me on the Fidra were the tough seventh (don’t run out of room on the right), the 166-yard eighth, where a bunker short of the green really messes with your depth perception, and the 12th which has a surprising green setting after rounding the sand dunes. The tough closing stretch also makes you earn your score.
I also enjoyed playing into a number of the green complexes which are generous but not easy to hold as many are domed and fall away at the sides; the 11th and 16th were particularly memorable.
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 (Dirleton) here.