Golf Course Review: St Boswells Golf Club, Scotland

From the initial cheery phone conversation with the breezy secretary of the golf club to book the tee time, everything about the trip to St Boswells Golf Club promised much. The course is reputed to be one of Scotland’s hidden gems. A short but tight, 9-hole private course that runs along the banks of the River Tweed for much of the opening six holes and set amidst the famous rolling hills of the Borders, it was easy to see why several people had recommended the course.

 

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As an amateur golfer more used to hacking around local municipal courses, St Boswells was a holiday treat. Playing a private course is a rare pleasure for this group of golfing friends, so driving into the tree-lined car park amongst dappled, hazy sunshine (all too rare in Scotland) to see your names and tee times displayed on the clubhouse door, gave all present a feeling that somehow we were going to experience ‘proper golf’.

After a quick change into golf shoes in the small but well-resourced changing area, it was just a short walk to the first tee and a first real look at the course.

The first at St Boswells takes you from behind the clubhouse along a ridge on the hillside. The hole is not a particularly difficult one, a 148 yard par 3, but what makes the hole tough is that the tee shot is blind, due to a large ridge in the fairway and that the general lie of the land wants to take any shots hit short of the green, down the slope of the hill away from the green. It may not be a lengthy opening hole, but with out of bounds left and right and a fairway that wants to feed your ball away from the green instead of into it, it still proves a tough opener for the average hacker.

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The second hole is where the course really begins to open up beneath you. After the tough opener, the second gives you a chance to take out a lower iron or even a pitching wedge as although the hole is listed as 161 yards, your tee position is highly elevated and some 60 to 80 feet above the green below. This radically alters the club you need from a mid to low iron and a well hit 8 or 9-iron is plenty to reach this unusually shaped and well protected, undulating green.

Behind the second green, the rest of the course is now visible for the first time as it winds its way alongside the banks of the glittering River Tweed. Indeed, on a gloriously sunny day, it can be a disarming sight and worthy of the green fee alone.

The third tee requires a short walk from the second green and allows you first chance to take out a driver. The 316-yard par 4 generally plays into the prevailing wind; so reaching the green is not really feasible for the average player. A well hit 5-iron being a much more sensible shot, leaving a mid-low iron to reach a very quick and undulating green.

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Indeed, on the course at St Boswells, it is the greens that really gave our group the most test. While the fairways are tight, many fairways run parallel to one another, especially from the 4th hole onwards. This meant that even an errant tee shot wasn’t punished too harshly (unless you hooked it into the river or onto the adjacent farm out of bounds). The greens however were a different story with all kinds of mesmerising breaks, hills and ridges that meant they were a real test of putting skill.

A 198 yard par three provides a test for the fourth hole, especially when the green is well protected with bunkers while the final two holes alongside the river, the 425 yard 5th and 321 yard sixth give you plenty of scope to give the ball a thrash down the fairway, provided you can avoid the dreaded hook that will leave your ball the newest inhabitant of the River Tweed.

The 7th hole is the longest at 442 yards and sees you turn for home, the tee shot is particularly daunting for the high-handicapper, over a collection of bogs and ponds, with a lengthy expanse of rough to negotiate before the fairway, definitely not the place to top your tee shot.

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Two relatively benign holes finish off this beautiful course, a 370 yard par four is relatively straightforward, but the 256 yard 9th hole is a real test, with such a narrow fairway and green providing a stern test and trees placed strategically making you really think hard about how best to approach the green.

If you have paid for 18-holes, then it is just a short (but steep) walk up from the 9th green back to the first tee and to get the most from this beautiful little course, it is well worth paying the extra for the second time around.

In short, St Boswells Golf Course is a great test of golf for all handicappers, it is great value for money (especially if you have a two-fore-one voucher) and is set amidst some of the areas most beautiful scenery. The course is popular with locals and is tight, requiring accurate mid-long iron play to shoot a good score. It isn’t really a test of the driver, but your approach play and putting skills will certainly get a stern workout on and around the courses outstanding greens.

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Image by Stuart Caie, Gorilla Golf Blog©

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