Agreement has been reached over the finalised lay-out of the composite course at Gullane which is preparing to host many of the world’s leading players at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open next summer.
As expected, the championship lay-out for the first professional event to be held over the famous East Lothian links since the club was established in 1882 will predominantly feature the holes which currently make up Gullane No 1, a venue previously utilised by the Royal and Ancient for Open qualifying.
However, with over 1,000 acres of land at the club’s disposal and 54 holes of overwhelmingly attractive seaside golf available, the European Tour has opted to test the professional elite with a composite course featuring 16 holes from No 1 and a brace of holes from No 2.
The lay-out will start on the second hole of No 1, a demanding uphill par 4 with a narrow fairway leading to a steep green, before following the lay-out of the main course up to the 14th.
At that point, the composite will move to encompass two holes from No 2, the 7th and the 8th, before returning to No 1 for the 15th and 16th (the 16th and 17th of the composite) before finishing off on the 18th with a redesigned closing hole featuring a new tee currently being built on the left of the 17th fairway.
According to the captain of Gullane, Robert Dick, agreement with the organisers on the lay-out was only reached in the last week or two. “This has taken some time because the European Tour and the club wanted to ensure all the detail was in place before publication,” he said.
“The course will now start on the second on No 1, playing all the holes to the 14th. The next hole will be the 7th on No 2, teeing from the blue tee on the 15th on No 1. You would think that tee had been designed for the purpose. A new tee is being built for the 8th on No 2, lengthening the hole by 25 yards.
“Many of us find the 8th [on No 2] a tricky hole and the extra distance should challenge the best as well. After finishing this hole, the players will walk a short distance to a new tee for the 15th on No 1, to the right and behind our other [existing] tees.
“No change to the par 3 16th – the 17th on the composite – then over the hill to the new tee for the final hole, currently being build on the left of the 17th fairway. This is a spectacular hole which will be a real test from the new tiger tee.”
A practice range is also being constructed to the right of the 18th fairway on No 3, some considerable distance back from the current facility. “These fellows,” Dick observed, “do hit the golf ball a long way.”
Addressing the concerns of Gullane members on whether any additional bunkers or, heaven forbid, deeper rough was planned before next July, Dick responded: “The European Tour officials are very happy with the lay-out and have made no requests for extra bunkers or more punishing rough.”
The lay-out is notably different from original speculation which suggested the par-3 fourth on No 1, as well as the first and the 17th holes, would be omitted for the Scottish Open to include the 4th, 5th and 16th from No 2. In the end, that draft proposal fell by the wayside.
It means the fourth on No 1, a short par 3 with an upturned saucer green, has been restored to the fold while the fourth on No 2, regarded by many aficionados as one of the most beautiful and intriguing par 4s at Gullane, misses out.
Mike Stewart, tournament director of the Scottish Open, explained last night how the Tour had some reservations about the original routing of the composite because of the location of the greenkeepers’ sheds behind the 5th on No 2 and the lack of greenside bunkering on the 16th.
He felt the decision to go with 7 and 8 from No 2 was less problematic logistically and believed that the combination of the views from the 7th as well as the challenge of the 8th would enhance the composite course.