On the tee
Heading South from Edinburgh’s 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. The James Braid designed is laid out across the tail end of the Braid Hills, comprising four relatively short par-3s, four par-5s, and ten lengthy par-4s.
During our visit, there were plenty of ground staff tending to the various areas, and their continual hard work was evident; as the course was absolutely immaculate throughout.
The tee boxes were pristine. They were cut short, and the course had obviously been designed to ensure regular rotation of the boxes was possible, with a number of different tee areas on each hole. Further, there is a good deal of variation between the yellow and white tees. The holes change dramatically, not only in length, but also hazards in play, difficulty/angle of approach shots, etc. depending on the tees you play off.
The fairways were also well maintained. Despite some heavy overnight rain, there were not signs of standing water. The ground staff should be applauded for the 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 we have played in Scotland. The bunkers were suitably full of sand, and a number of deep green side sand traps presented challenging recovery shots if found.
The greens were also in excellent condition, and amongst the toughest we have come across. The roll is 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 overall condition of the course really was excellent, which made for a thoroughly enjoyable round.
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 it is very easy (even for single digit handicappers) to rack up some high scores.
Another point to highlight are the two bells, and shared fairways, which are worth mentioning to first time players.
The first bell is located on the path to the 2nd tee, which should be rung to alert the group behind that the green is clear. The second bell is located at the dog-leg bend on the 18th fairway, and should be rung to alert players on the tee that the fairway is clear for driving.
There is a shared fairway across the 4th and 6th holes. The 6th hole plays 333 yards, and therefore you should be careful to make sure the group in front are up on the green before teeing off with the driver. Before playing, you should also make sure that there are no players walking down the 4th fairway, particularly if only taking an iron off the tee.
There were only a couple of areas at Mortonhall that we felt were not quite top notch. 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 20m above the fairway. With 50m of elevation in one hole, it just seemed like a bit of a slog up a hill, rather than a true test of a golfer’s skill.
Finally, there are substantial walks between many of the holes, which is never an ideal aspect of a golf course. The worst one has to be the walk between the 17th green and 18th tee, which is a good 200 yards up hill, and a bit of a trek after a long round.
Better than most
The 2nd hole offers perhaps the most picturesque tee shot in Edinburgh and the Lothians (as seen in the title image), and is definitely one of the most challenging holes on the course. At 461 yards, and S.I 1, your journey begins 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. More so, there are three menacing bunkers lurking just to the left of the fairway, which you should also do your best to avoid. However, where there is risk, there is reward. If you play it down the left hand side of the fairway, you will be in perfect position for your second shot onto the green. About 150 yards from the green the hole narrows dramatically, and if you have played down the right hand side of the fairway, it will be a very challenging shot to hit the green. The smart play would be to play across to the left hand side of the hole, before attacking the green (although that is easier to say in the cold light of day versus the heat of the moment, when out on the course). 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 on your approach, 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, with both accuracy and length required on all shots from tee to green. Unless you play off scratch, this is a hole to use your shot(s) on and play as a par-5. You don’t want to ruin your round, so early on, with an 8 on the 2nd!
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 entirety with the strong prevailing wind behind, the only real danger is that you do not hit the ball out of bounds on the left hand side of the hole. If you are brave, you can go for the green in two, or, alternatively, lay up just short of the two fairway bunkers to leave yourself an easy chip into 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 2m immediately off the back of the green. This hole is relatively simple however and offers some excellent views across East Edinburgh and East Lothian, as well as scoring opportunities.
Weekday – £60
Weekend – £70
Twilight – £40
HotShotGolfScore – 74/100
Planning your trip to Edinburgh, why not check out some accommodation options here!
Mortonhall Golf Club
231 Braid Road
Tel: (+44) 131 447 6974
To book a tee time you must call the pro shop on the number above, visitor booking through the Mortonhall Golf Club website is not available.