Just let that sink in for a moment. In 2035 this historically consequential golf club will become the first in the world to turn 300-years old!
As you might expect, days-of-yore exude from every nook and crevasse in the clubhouse which is an outstanding example of ‘Arts and Crafts’ architecture from the late Victorian period combining glorious period detail with contemporary comfort. Inside it is adorned with golfing memorabilia and an abundance of priceless silverware. However, this is also a club moving with the times and a recent £1m refurbishment has made it the envy of many a golf club in the area and beyond. It’s a building the membership must be extremely proud of.
As previously mentioned the society was instituted in 1735 with evidence of golf played at Bruntsfield Links before moving to the links at Musselburgh in the 1870s – sharing it then with the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society and Royal Musselburgh Golf Club. Inevitably overcrowding ensued and each organisation went their separate ways with Burgess purchasing their present site in 1895.
Old Tom Morris surveyed the proposed site but it was Willie Park Jnr who is credited with designing the actual course before James Braid made significant revisions in 1925. Only minor tweaks have been made since.
The view from the upstairs balcony, with an inviting view down the first and third fairways, whets the appetite for the current-day course which is a gently rolling parkland layout played over fine turf. It’s a much uncluttered affair with minimal rough and clean bunkering throughout. The Club are currently in the process of renovating their sand traps; the ones they have done thus far have increased their visibility and added to the options that the course presents.
There is plenty of strategy throughout with some really well-placed fairway bunkers and sloping greens. The par-71 layout (from the back ‘red’ tees) is a fair test and rarely will a good shot be punished.
The gently rising opener is a lovely 392-yarder with a trio of fairway bunkers to avoid and is the first in a long succession of excellent two-shotters. I personally enjoyed the strategy of the second, where bunkers and an angled cundie must be negotiated, and also the drive at the third where bunkers nip-in to the fairway at driving distance to push you down the dangerous right-hand-side. And the strong start continues at the 4th where your approach is played towards a green flanked by tall specimen trees.
And so it continues…. strong hole followed by strong hole. There is nothing truly outstanding at Royal Burgess, nothing that will take your breath away, but it provides a consistently high quality parkland test. You should also expect this well-manicured course to be presented in top-class condition.
The four short holes are all well-bunkered, however, the last of them – the 18th – relies more on brawn than sand to defend its par. At 244-yards this brute of a finishing hole, with the clubhouse and proshop in close proximity to the right, is a tough closing act. I don’t think I’ll be last golfer to happily record a bogey here!
The greens as a collective also deserve special mention. Whilst I enjoyed an Autumnal afternoon on my visit – where the putting surfaces weren’t close to their quickest – the contours and trueness still enhanced the experience.
The unmanned ‘honesty’ halfway house is also a wonderful experience; a steaming pot of soup and an oven with a selection of warm pies are just two of the highlights here where you simply help yourself and pay for what you’ve had in the bar after the round.
The regular rumble of planes arriving at and departing from Edinburgh airport reminds you of the proximity to the city centre. For any overseas visitor heading to East Lothian for a links-fest this location would make it a convenient course to play on the first or last day of a golf trip and will offer something slightly different.
Scotland is not well known for high quality parkland golf but here at Royal Burgess we have an exception to that rule. Of course it would be difficult to recommend it above the plethora of top-notch links courses in this part of the country but for somebody who loves his golf by the sea it made a pleasing and refreshing change of pace.
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.