A 60-MINUTE drive north from Newcastle you will discover Berwick-upon-Tweed – England’s most dramatic walled market town, along with a quartet of excellent golf courses, all worth playing.
A golfing break to Berwick is highly recommended as it can be combined with many cultural delights, amazing architecture and turbulent history.
Lancastrian painter LS Lowry was a huge fan of the town, and there is a Lowry trail for those who want to explore his favourite holiday resort.
The town’s Elizabethan walls were built in 1558 to keep out the invading Scots and, at the time, were the most expensive building project of England’s “Golden Age”. From the top of the walls, you can take in some spectacular views over the Tweed estuary, including Stephenson’s viaduct bridge – carrying the railway line – hailed as one of the finest in the world.
Inside the walls, Berwick is a charming town with a huge range of things to do and enjoy. There is also a wide range of accommodation, with everything from small, homely bed and breakfasts to fine hotels and self-catering cottages.
One such hotel is the Kings Arms in the centre of the town, and within a short walking distance of the harbour and main shopping area. It has 28 spacious, well-appointed bedrooms, all ensuite and furnished with all the expected comforts and facilities. Prices start from £69 for a single room and includes a full breakfast.
The Kings Arms offers two restaurants, both providing fantastic food, and wine from a well-stocked bar. Fresh, locally-sourced fish is the main ingredient found on the evening menu in the ll Porto Di Mare restaurant, while the Old Stables restaurant serves a delicious, lighter option for lunch or dinner.
As for the golf, our shores are blessed with coastlines where, over the centuries, the sea has receded to leave the perfect locations for some of our best courses. And, undoubtedly, one of these stretches can be found a few miles south of Berwick – GOSWICK GOLF CLUB.
Starting at Cocklawburn Beach and running south past Cheswick to Goswick and on towards Lindisfarne, this championship links course is a wonderful test of golf – an experience you will never forget.
The club was founded in 1889, and golf architect James Braid was commissioned to design and lay out the first nine holes, which opened a year later. In 1894, another nine holes were added and then, in 1964, the original nine were modified by Frank Pennick to give extra yardage.
Since then, the course has remained very much the same but, in recent years, further length has been added, bringing Goswick up to full Championship length and a worthy Open qualifying venue.
Goswick is a true links course where you have to take into account the changing sea breezes, the humps and hollows that can deflect a good shot into the many steep pot bunkers, and the superb, quick putting surfaces with their subtle borrows.
The views from the course are pretty good as well. To the west are the Cheviots, Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle are to the south and, to the north, the Low Lammermuir hills dominate the skyline.
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 US 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.
There are a number of gentle inclines to negotiate but, on the whole, the course is easy walking and ideal for those who 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 take-overs 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 1, 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 on which I stood.
Established in 1894, EYEMOUTH GOLF CLUB is to the north of Berwick and features some of the most picturesque and remarkable golf holes in Scottish golf.
In the early 1990s, the club was approached by the district council and the opportunity given to build a new course. At the time, the council was looking to build a road through the existing nine-hole course, creating better access to the harbour area and the new fish market.
The £1.3m needed to construct the new course and clubhouse was subsidised by grants from various agencies, including the Sports Council, R&A, local authority and lottery funding, and the finished product can only be described as visually stunning.
Nestling on the cliff tops overlooking the cobbled streets of Eyemouth and the small fishing village of Burnmouth, this 18-hole course – designed by local architect Jim Bain – opened on August 23, 1997.
The USGA specification large sloping greens are a particular feature of the course, and demand your full attention.
Although Eyemouth is a cliff-top course, in many places it has a “links feel” to it, with fast running fairways, deep pot bunkers and an unhelpful prevailing wind which has to be mastered.
Off the course, the modern clubhouse has been built on a raised area and provides panoramic views of virtually the whole layout and beyond. There are excellent changing facilities for visitors and the club’s restaurant has a reputation for high-quality food and value for money, with locally-caught fresh fish and shellfish being a special feature of the menu.
Eyemouth’s signature hole – aptly named A-Still-No-Ken – has been voted Britain’s Most Extraordinary Golf Hole.
This fearsome and demanding 167-yard par three is played across a deep gully and, with the sea waves crashing below, you can be excused for failing to make the carry.
A good tip is use an old ball and, if you don’t make it, head for the drop zone. There are no bunkers defending the two-tiered green but there is a wall to the right to take into account.
The par five 13th is a monster and, at 607 yards, a true three-shotter. And if you fancy a real test, head up the path behind the medal tee and have a go from a new tiger tee, which extends the hole to 656 yards – the longest hole in Scotland.
Approximately half an hour away is Coldstream and the HIRSEL GOLF CLUB. Some describe this course as the Augusta of the Borders. Set in rolling woodland with thick shrubbery, fierce rough, water and other hazards in abundance, the course is always presented in pristine condition and offers a stern challenge to the accomplished, while being sympathetic to the beginner.
This parkland course was founded in 1948 and nestles on the outskirts of Coldstream.
A combination of 18 very different holes, the Hirsel course has been designed to make the most of the undulations of the hills and valleys and the natural hazards presented by the large mature trees, aided and abetted by the winding River Leet.
For non-golfers, Berwick is home to a thriving arts and culture scene, which includes the Maltings Theatre and Arts Centre, some great museums and art galleries, as well as events such as the riding of the bounds and border marches.
Kings Arms Hotel
Address: Hide Hill, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 1EJ
Telephone: 01289 307454
Fax: 01289 308867
Goswick Golf Club Address: Goswick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 2RW Telephone: 01289 387256 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.goswicklinksgc.co.uk
Magdalene Fields Golf Club Address: Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 1NE Telephone: 01289 306130 Fax: 01289 306384 Email: email@example.com Website: www.magdalene-fields.co.uk
Eyemouth Golf Club Address: Gunsgreenhill, Eyemouth, Berwickshire, TD14 5SF Telephone: 01890 750551 Fax: 01890 750131
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.eyemouthgolfclub.co.uk
Hirsel Golf Club
Name: Hirsel Golf Club
Address: Kelso Road, Coldstream, Berwickshire, TD12 4NJ
Telephone: 01890 882678