Heading South from Edinburgh City Centre, you will find Mortonhall Golf Club tucked away off a quiet residential street in the middle of the suburbs. The challenging par 72 course is 6,530 yards (5,971m) long from the white tees but in playing the course you will cover considerably more distance as there are a number of lengthy walks between some holes. The course is laid out across the tail end of the Braid Hills and as such there are substantial elevation changes but only a couple of blind shots required.
The course is absolutely immaculate throughout and clearly very well maintained. Whilst we were playing the ground staff were tending to the course but they were very aware of the golfers and they never disturbed our play.
The James Braid designed layout encompasses four relatively short par 3s, 4 par 5s and 10 lengthy par 4s (average length being over 380 yards).
The tee boxes were all cut very short and the course has obviously been designed to ensure that regular rotation of the tee boxes is possible with a number of different tee areas at each hole. There is a good deal of variation between the yellow tees and white tees and the course changes dramatically depending on which tees you play off. Fairways were also very well maintained and despite some heavy overnight rain they were not waterlogged at all. The greenkeeping team should be applauded for the visual impact that their precise maintenance has had on the aesthetics of the course. We all agreed that this was one of the most visually impressive golf courses that we have played in Scotland. The bunkers were suitably full of sand and a number of deep green side bunkers presented challenging recovery shots if found. The greens were also in excellent condition and amongst the toughest we have come across this year. The roll is very true and consistent but lightning quick. Couple the speed of the greens with the strong winds that are usually blowing on the course and you really need to think about the pace of your putts. This was one of only a few courses we have played where the wind needed to be seriously considered on the green. The condition of the course really was excellent which made for a thoroughly enjoyable round.
The 2nd hole offers perhaps the most picturesque tee shot in Edinburgh and the Lothians (as seen in the title image) and is probably one of the most challenging holes on the course. At 461 yards it is stroke index 1 and rightly so. You play from an elevated tee to a wide fairway about 30m below the tee boxes. Down the left there is a lake and a series of trees which mean that if you need to bail out somewhere you are better off down the right. If you play it down the left hand side of the fairwaythen you will be in perfect position for your second shot but you should be careful to avoid the three menacing bunkers lurking just to the left of the fairway. About 150 yards from the green the hole narrows dramatically and if you have played down the right hand side of the fairway you will have a very challenging shot to hit the green and the smart play is to chip across to the left hand side of the hole. As the hole narrows it enters a small valley with the green at the end and thick gorse down the left hand side and scraggy rough all the way down the right hand side. Make sure you don’t go left as you will lose your ball in the gorse. The green is relatively small and thin, but as it is in the middle of the valley it was one of the few holes where wind was not a factor whilst putting. Walking away with a par on this hole is no mean feat and requires both an accurate and lengthy tee shot and an accurate approach shot and, on a hole which should be played as a par 5, a par often feels like a birdie.
Another highlight is the 513 yard par 5 8th hole. Not many courses can boast a 500+ yard hole as stroke index 17, but where the 2nd hole should be approached as a par 5, this hole should really be approached as a par 4. Played downhill in its entirity with the strong prevailing wind behind, the only real danger on this hole is that you do not hit the ball out of bounds over the wall on the left hand side of the hole. If you are brave you can go for the green in 2 or lay up just short of the two fairway bunkers to leave yourself an easy short chipnto a pin usually cut on the left hand side of a long narrow green. Be careful not to go over the back of the green as there is a steep drop of approximately 1metre immediately off the back of the green. This hole is relatively simple however and offers some excellent views across East Edinburgh and East Lothian.
The course is very challenging and short hitting high handicappers are unlikely to have a particularly enjoyable experience. The distance coupled with very quick greens means that it is very easy (even for single digit handicappers) to rack up some high scores.
There are a couple of bells and shared fairways worth mentioning for first time players.
There is a bell located on the path to the 2nd tee which should be rung to alert players that the green is clear and they can play their shot on to the green. The second bell is located at the dog leg bend on the 18th hole and should be rung to alert players on the tee that the fairway is clear for driving. You should not drive from the 6th tee until you see the players from the green and you should make sure that there are no players walking down the 4th fairway which cuts across in front of the 6th tee.
There were only a couple of areas at Mortonhall which we felt were less than perfect. The 9th hole is played entirely on the side of a hill and almost feels a little bit silly. Your tee shot needs to reach the corner of the dog leg which is approximately 30m above the tee box. The second shot is then played to a raised green about 15m above the fairway. It was a very strange hole that we didn’t really enjoy playing.
As previously mentioned, there are quite substantial walks between many of the holes. In particular the walk between the 17th green and 18th tee was very steep and a bit of a slog after a long round.
However, the 9th hole and distance between holes aside, Mortonhall is one of the best courses we have played in Scotland.