The real star of Open Championship week: North Berwick West Links. Everyone who played there raved about the experience and in a shocking twist of fate, the architecture. Long held by Americans and even some Scots as too fluky and strange, while generally punished in rankings by panelists because of its lack of, well I don’t know what, this masterpiece impressed with its cinematic setting and enjoyment.
“It’s so fun,” were the operative words heard over and over again.
But even more than the purest golfing pleasure imaginable, there seemed to be a newfound appreciation for the importance of studying the West Links as a model for design and as the ultimate community course.
“You can’t call yourself a student of architecture until you’ve played there,” said Geoff Ogilvy, who played North Berwick Tuesday afternoon after his morning practice round.
Other pros spotted there during the week included Stewart Cink (using a trolley!), Bubba Watson and Johnson Wagner. Other dignitaries like USGA Executive Director Mike Davis went for morning or evening strolls to take in the sacred grounds and all came away either reminded of its genius or newly infatuated. Even the often maligned Redan hole, whose offspring tend to be more fun to play, was savored thanks to the firm conditions which made the approach function beautifully.
The other frequent reaction: if golf had more places like North Berwick, with its character rich design and neighboring children’s course, the sport would be much healthier going forward.
As I noted in my East Lothian pilgrimage story for the July Golf Digest, this is a masterpiece that must be the centerpiece of any visit to this grand golfing mecca. Oh, and don't be shy about playing the "East Links," aka The Glen. It overlooks the town and while not featuring as many interesting ground features (what course does?), it's a great alternative, especially late in the day as the sun sets.
Some photos from 2012 and 2013: