LONGNIDDRY, Scotland -- Craigielaw Golf Club is still a baby compared to other nearby clubs. A handful of its closest neighbors along Scotland's Golf Coast -- Gullane, Muirfield, North Berwick -- are among the oldest golf courses in the world, dating to the 1800s.
Craigielaw might be 12 years young, but the course looks like it's been around for ages. British architect Donald Steel did a masterful job making a modern links fit into the flat landscape like it's always been there.
"We are the new kid on the block, but in a short span of time we've been able to blend in with the older courses," Craigielaw General Manager Derek Scott said.
Craigielaw opened in 2001 just prior to the crush of the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield. Scott said Tiger Woods, who was staying nearby, came out several times early in the morning to play a few holes. In preparation for the Open's return to Muirfield in July, Craigielaw extended the back of its clubhouse, adding 25 rooms for stay-and-play packages. The new Lodge at Craigielaw opened in May.
"East Lothian has a lot of accommodations but not at different (price levels)," Scott said. "We took the plunge. We see it as a crucial part of our business. Play with us. Stay with us. Eat with us."
Steel didn't have much land to work with and virtually no dune cover, so he incorporated deep sod-walled bunkers and plateau greens to give the 6,601-yard course definition and personality. Several ponds come into play, and a burn crosses the fairway of the par-5 11th hole. Scott said Craigielaw was designed for the wind.
"There is a real requirement to be good at the pitch and run," Scott said. "Downwind if you try the floating shot, it will not work. The modern game you are used to playing it up in the air. You can't do it here."
The views down to the Firth of Forth, past Kilspindie Golf Club located right on the water, make for an enjoyable day.
"The course is lovely," said new member David Dawson, of Haddington. "It's a course by the sea where it should be. The club is friendly. It is forgiving off the tee. You need to think quite a bit going to the greens. They are protected by pretty deep bunkers."
The rooms in the lodge are spacious enough to stay for at least a few days, if not longer.
The best features, perhaps, are the overhead rain shower and the heated towel rack in the bathrooms. Both will feel like luxuries after a wet, cold day battling the elements of links golf.
The views from the 13 rooms facing the coast and the course are quite special, as well. The breakfast and dinner menus in the clubhouse restaurant will satisfy, and the bar serves as a good hangout spot with expansive windows that let the outdoors in on those fine sunny days.
Convenience and value are what sells Craigielaw Golf Club and the lodge. Neither are the best in the region but both are still an excellent choice.
Golf groups will especially love Craigielaw's centralized location just minutes from some of Scotland's greatest links. Craigielaw could be the perfect home base for a few days exploring East Lothian.
June 17, 2013