In terms of quality this sturdy course flatlines at a very high level throughout the round. There aren’t the extreme highs and lows that other venues of a similar rating might dish up. Some people will like this steadiness whilst others may prefer a course that delivers a few moments of magic at the expense of a few dud holes.
Either way you look at it Southerness is an excellent golf course and a supreme test, particularly of your driving; not only in reaching this remote location 15 miles south of Dumfries but most notably from the tee. Despite the par of 69 there is a definite championship feel to the holes and this is backed-up by the SSS of 74! Indeed with a three-club wind rattling down the Solway Firth, as it was on my most recent visit in October 2016, this ‘relatively’ new links (founded in 1947 and designed by Mackenzie Ross) is an extremely tough assignment from a scoring perspective.
The course is situated in Dumfries & Galloway on the Solway coast giving panoramic views of the Firth, the Cumbrian Lake District and the Galloway Hills. It’s no surprise that it has hosted the Scottish Amateur Championship, the Scottish Ladies Championship, the British Ladies Championship, British Youths, Scottish Junior Ladies Open Stroke Play, Scottish Amateur Stroke Play, Scottish Boys and British Boys Home Internationals.
I can think of few other courses that boast such a series of long and demanding par fours than here. Even from the 6,566-yard white markers (the blues stretch the courses a couple of hundred yards further) you will play no less than eight two-shotters over the 400-yard mark. Most of these holes are lined with dabs of gorse and gnarly heather; hit offline and your hopes of reaching the green in regulation have been well and truly dashed.
Another trait of Southerness is the deflecting greens, several of which are slightly raised and have the most wonderful natural contours, dips and hollows on the approaches to them. In my opinion the green surrounds, and associated run-offs, could be improved further by cutting back some of the fluffy semi-rough close to the greens. Quite often if your ball feeds down into one of the swales your ball is in the light rough whereas if it was cut tight it would provide more options on how to play your recovery shot.
Once on the putting surfaces they are relatively flat with hardly any major undulations but if you are putting for birdie, or even par, this is well deserved and they fit the course well.
Not a single hole at Southerness is weak, however, the three best par-fours come in a short stretch of holes with the ninth, 11th and 12th all out of the top drawer. This is mostly thanks to the brilliant green complexes; the ninth is raised, angled and banked at the back but drops off steeply towards the front-left. The 11th also has a pronounced green with a steep swale at the front whilst the 12th features an approach played towards a nestled green that kisses lips with the sandy bay of the Solway Firth and is absolutely divine – it’s one of the prettiest holes you’ll play.
The set of par-three’s, five of them all told, are each very good and pleasingly play a variety of yardages with the 175-yard 17th stealing the show thanks to its brilliant green complex with a narrow entrance and drop-offs on each side.
There are only two par fives on the course. The fine, but unremarkable, last and the excellent fifth where a wonderful curving drive is bettered only by the magnificent hogs-back approach to the green and if you are lucky enough to play to a back-right pin the hole will be cut on a slightly raised portion of the green adding another layer of challenge.
Southerness is definitely a course for the links connoisseur and one which the purists will enjoy. Sadly, its outpost location and therefore lack of proximity to other top class courses means many golfers won’t ever see it - Turnberry is a 2 hour drive away and Silloth, although only 5 miles as the crow flies, will take a similar amount of time. But if you can build this course into a trip, or just fancy a good day out somewhere a bit different and willing to travel, Southerness would be an excellent choice.
It's a long time since I've walked off a golf course and been as impressed and surprised, compared to what I was expecting, than at Newbiggin.
A family holiday brought me to Whitby Golf Club. After stuffing myself with fish & chips, losing most of my money on the penny slots and catching umpteen crabs in the harbour it was time for a round of golf!
Planning a round of golf in late October can be a dicey affair, especially in my home county of Yorkshire where the vast majority of courses are built on heavy soil or clay, so it was very refreshing to discover when venturing down south how well East Berkshire played at this time of year.