Founded in 1903, Magdalene Fields Golf Club is the most northerly in England and only two miles from the Scottish Border.
The initial layout of nine holes was designed by Willie Park Junior, the Professional at Musselburgh who was responsible for 170 golf course designs throughout Europe, the United States and Canada including the well known Sunningdale courses near London.
The course was extended to 18 holes in 1914 but had to revert back to nine two years later for financial reasons.
In 1974, “The Fields” was re-opened as 18 holes and to this day, is a firm favourite for visitors and holidaymakers to the region.
With stunning coastal views, don’t forget to take a camera with you – the views are a photographers dream. Be it northwards over Marshall Meadows Bay towards the towering cliffs at Eyemouth or south over the mouth of the River Tweed with Lindisfarne in the distance, you are really spoilt for choice.
There are a number of gentle inclines to negotiate, but on the whole the course is easy walking and ideal for those that want to play more than one round.
The fairways are generous and although the semi rough is kept short, you may well end up dropping shots if you are too wayward from the tees.
But it is the history of the area where “The Fields” is located that is particularly significant.
Berwick’s strategic position on the English-Scottish border led to numerous raids, sieges and takeovers as the two countries fought for control of the town.
Between 1147 and 1482, Berwick changed hands more than 13 times and was the location of one of the most brutal sackings by King Edward I, which set the precedent for the Scottish Wars of Independence.
On reaching the 13th green and looking at the old town wall defences, I couldn’t help but wonder how many had lost their lives on the very spot I was standing.
Back at the clubhouse, phases one and two of a redevelopment programme have been completed. The lounge/bar and dining area is now open plan and can cater for much larger parties. Phase two has seen a new entrance way and patio built and finally, a shop and ladies locker room are to be added in the not so distant future.
Set between the coast and the Elizabethan walls of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the course is best described as parkland on a cliff-top setting. It now measures 6575 yards of the backs and 6246 yards from the yellows and is a very good challenge for golfers of all ability.
The course record of 65 was set by James Patterson in 1995, an indication of how good a test the course is – modern day equipment has not made any difference.
The first is 340 yards and a gentle par 4 start to your round at “The Fields”. The drive is slightly uphill to a fairway that dog-legs left with out of bounds on the left. A steady tee shot to the left side of the fairway will leave only a short pitch to a small bunkerless green.
With trees and bushes to the right, a good tee shot to the left side of the fairway should leave another short approach shot at the second. This hole dog-legs right and the green is guarded by one bunker front left. Try and keep your second shot below the hole as the green slopes quite steeply back to front.
At 546 yards, the par 5 third hole is the longest on the course and aptly named “Sea View”. The second shot is downhill and although the green may be in range for the longer hitters, two good strikes and a short approach will result in a birdie putt.
The next two holes are both uphill par 4s, played usually into the prevailing wind.
The fourth hole is 362 yards and a slight dog-leg left. The green is bunkered to the left and should you leak an approach right, the ball may well receive a friendly kick from a grassy bank, back towards the putting surface.
The fifth is fairly straightforward however; the small green can be a tricky target and falls steeply away at the rear. Better to come up short at this one and rely on a chip and putt to save par.
Measuring 414 yards, the next par 4 is stroke index one on the course. An accurate drive down the centre of the fairway will leave a long approach to an elevated green, protected by a very deep bunker front right. With the green sloping quite severely left to right and back to front, there is no guarantee of a two putt here – a par at this hole is a very good score.
There is out of bounds to the right of the seventh hole and a new bunker on the right 40 yards short of the target to watch out for, but all the trouble at this 393 yard par 4 is around the green. The fairway dog-legs right towards a green guarded by two small bunkers short left. Any approach short of the green will kick right down a steep slope and if long, you will be heading for the North Sea.
The first of the par 3 holes is the eighth and a cracking one at that. It may only be 160 yards, but it’s played over a cove to a well-defended green with very little room for error on the right. If you hit the ball left to right, I would suggest that you aim well left of the green and settle for a chip and putt.
The front nine finishes with a tough uphill par 4 and plays a lot longer than its 401 yards. The perimeter of the course is on the right, so favour the left side of the fairway. Only two big straight hits will find the slightly two-tiered green and many will find it difficult to get home in two.
Running parallel to the railway line, the 10th is a par 5 measuring 504 yards. With the fairway sloping right to left, aim for the right side from the tee and the ball should gather back towards the centre. There is no real trouble at this hole and no greenside bunkers to worry about – you should be looking for a par or better at this hole.
The next is a downhill par 4, played from an elevated tee to a fairway sloping right to left. Get a good tee shot away to the right side of the fairway and you will be left with a short to middle iron approach to a green guarded by bunkers of both sides. There is no guarantee of a flat lie at the 358-yard 12th.
The tee shot is played to a rolling fairway and then the approach to a green sloping away towards all sorts of trouble – not easy from a downhill lie.
At 303 yards, the 13th is a good birdie chance, which you may well need with three very tough holes to be negotiated in the finishing stretch. Watch out for the bunker front left, it is some 20 yards short of the green and tends to foreshorten the hole.
The first of the real testers is next, a 216-yard par 3 played to a very small target guarded by two bunkers. The green is only 22 yards in depth and slopes very severely back to front. A good shot could be spoilt if you get beyond the pin and leave a very quick downhill putt.
There is some respite at the 15th hole, a reachable par 5 measuring 503 yards. A good drive followed by a downhill second and you should be putting for birdie or better.
The 16th is another matter altogether, a 383 yard par 4 running along the coastline with a very intimidating, totally blind tee shot. Any ball leaked right will find out of bounds, so aim left of the marker post and hope for a good strike. Having found safety, the approach is no more than a middle iron to a bunkerless green, sloping slightly left to right.
Make a par at the 17th and it will feel like a birdie – the hole measures 442 yards and is a monster of a par 4. Unless you get a big straight drive away, there is no chance of making it in two and is best played as a par 5. The small green is tucked away behind three bunkers, so sensibly, play for position with the second shot and hope for a chip and putt to make four.
And finally, a 150 yard par 3 played from an elevated tee to another well-protected green and another reminder of days gone by. An old grassed moat is on the immediate left of the green and should you find that, you will have one very difficult up and down to save par.
It’s then onto the clubhouse, where the good wholesome catering and a friendly welcome awaits – the Magdalene Fields experience is one worth enjoying and well known in golfing circles.
Name: Magdalene Fields Golf Club
Address: Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 1NE
Telephone: 01289 306 130
Fax: 01289 306 384
E- mail: secretary.magdalenefields @hotmail.co.uk
Web Site: www.magdalene-fields.co.uk
Location: Follow The A1 to the roundabout at Morrisons Supermarket at the North End of Town. Follow the signpost to Berwick-upon Tweed.
Take the first left after crossing the railway and head for Berwick Holiday Centre along Northumberland Avenue. At the entrance to the Holiday Centre, turn right to the Magdalene Fields Clubhouse
Green Fees: Winter Rates 1st Nov 2010 to March 31st 2011
Weekdays Adult – £12 a round, Junior – £7 a round
Weekends Adult – £14 a round, Junior – £8 a round
Membership: Available (No entrance fee)
Male £380, Female £360, Seniors £290, Country (five-day) £225
Student (18-21) £185, Junior (12-17) £50, Under 12’s £25,
Visiting Parties: Welcome – Various packages available
For details contact the Secretary on any of the above numbers
Buggies: Available – £15 a round (subject to course conditions)