Mary Queen of Scots is reported to have played golf in the Longniddry area around the mid-16th century. Three hundred and fifty years later, just after the First World War, the 11th Earl of Wemyss asked the renowned golf architect Harry S. Colt to design an 18-hole course over a hundred and fifty acres of his estate. Many of the trees that were cleared to create the course were in what was called Boglehill Wood, reported to be a site of worship for local witches and warlocks – now the location of the 6th and 10th greens.
There have been many changes to the original Longniddry golf course layout. James Braid was invited in 1936 to improve the 2nd hole, following which several modifications were made to the course, though none of them involving hole number two! Philip Mackenzie Ross was asked in 1945 to repair holes damaged during the war years and some major alterations were made, including the disappearance of three holes by the seaside. More recently, Donald Steel advised on further course improvements, resulting in the removal or relocation of many of the original fairway cross-bunkers.
Longniddry golf course now occupies a more modest one hundred and six acres with an overall length of 6,230 yards, but with four of the very best golf course architects having left their distinguished marks on the course layout, it is a rather special place to play golf. Indeed, it is a unique blend of parkland and links, located to the east of Edinburgh at the end of a wonderful sweep of East Lothian courses on the south side of the Firth of Forth, taking in, to the east, Aberlady, Gullane, North Berwick and Dunbar.
There are no par five holes from the gents tees here, but more than half of the fourteen par fours are in excess of 400 yards long and many are very testing, particularly when played into the prevailing wind – the degree of difficulty at Longniddry is easy to see from the fact that the standard scratch score is two strokes greater than the par of 68.
The course is designed to reward the player who plots their way around the course. Fairways are relatively open, putting surfaces are fairly large, but there are a number of obstacles - cunning bunkers, gorse, sea-buckthorn and punishing rough - to contend with along the way. There are many strong holes at Longniddry, including the short 314-yard par four 5th, named “Cadell’s Neuk” which is reachable for the really big hitters. This hole requires accuracy and length off the tee, otherwise the approach will be difficult – offline left and you will encounter bunkers, trees and thick rough - miss the fairway right and you face a fearsome chip to the two-tiered, elevated green.