Archerfield is an exclusive golf club, formed in 2004. It offers a first class golfing experience for debenture holding members and their guests who play over the Fidra and Dirleton courses which are located within the massive Archerfield estate. Situated between the long established East Lothian links of North Berwick and Muirfield, these two new courses have much to live up to if they are to bear favourable comparison with their illustrious near neighbours - and from early impressions, they are doing rather well.
Golf has been played on the Archerfield estate for a number of centuries and the original 6-hole course was increased to 13 holes in the middle of the 19th century. North Berwick professional Ben Sayers then extended this layout to a full 18-hole track just before the First World War.
The Ministry of Defence used the grounds during the Second World War then the whole estate seemed to go into hibernation for over fifty years before local businessman Kevin Doyle bought 500 acres through his company Caledonian Estates. He enlisted senior tour professional David “D.J” Russell to create two courses as the centre piece of a multi million “gated community” development which involved the complete refurbishment of Archerfield House and the building of over one hundred luxury houses.
The Dirleton course measures from between 5,503 and 6,946 yards, depending on which of the four sets of tees is selected for play. There are over sixty sand traps on the course, many of them old-fashioned pot bunkers with revetted faces and wooden stairs at the rear. Like the Fidra course, many of the large, links quality greens have run-up areas in front, enabling the execution of traditional bump-and-run approaches along the ground - putting on such green baize surfaces, incidentally, is an absolute joy.
After a fairly quiet start to the round on the opening holes playing away from the clubhouse, the 5th and 6th holes at the most easterly corner of the course are very strong and worthy of the low stroke index attached to each. The round really goes up a gear or two from the 9th, heading back to the clubhouse at the end of the outward first loop of nine – the swale in front of the green here, with minimal bunkering, is so simple but so effective.
The holes continue to get even better on the back nine with great use of cross bunkers and ditches on several fairways plus swales before some greens with subtle contouring - apart from the wickedly undulating par three 13th hole. Many of the fairways are bounded by low, gorse covered mounding - resembling the esker ridges to be found on the Kings course at Gleneagles – so a feeling of semi seclusion from other golfers is created on these holes.
The signature hole may well be the 463-yard, right dog-legged 16th which has four bunkers lined up one behind the other on the bend with a dry ditch further up the fairway to catch errant second shots – a par four on the scorecard will be well earned at this hole.
Many little touches and attention to detail help to create a premium golfing product on the Dirleton – whether it be the yardages to the hole marked on all of the fairway sprinkler heads, the use of white sea shells on many of the walkways or the low sleepered bridges over drainage ditches – they all combine to give the Dirleton a lovely feel.
An enormous clubhouse is due for completion in 2007 by which time both new courses will be well bedded in. Like Loch Lomond, the Archerfield courses are difficult to get on because of their member and guest playing policy but if the opportunity comes your way to play here, jump at it.