Archerfield is an exclusive golf club, formed in 2004. It offers a first class golfing experience for debenture holding members and their guests who play over the Fidra and Dirleton courses which are located within the massive Archerfield estate. Situated between the long established East Lothian links of North Berwick and Muirfield, these two new courses have much to live up to if they are to bear favourable comparison with their illustrious near neighbours - and from early impressions, they are doing rather well.
Golf has been played on the Archerfield estate for a number of centuries and the original 6-hole course was increased to 13 holes in the middle of the 19th century. North Berwick professional Ben Sayers then extended this layout to a full 18-hole track just before the First World War.
The Ministry of Defence used the grounds during the Second World War then the whole estate seemed to go into hibernation for over fifty years before local businessman Kevin Doyle bought 500 acres through his company Caledonian Estates. He enlisted senior tour professional David “D.J” Russell to create two courses as the centre piece of a multi million “gated community” development which involved the complete refurbishment of Archerfield House and the building of over one hundred luxury houses.
The Dirleton course measures from between 5,503 and 6,946 yards, depending on which of the four sets of tees is selected for play. There are over sixty sand traps on the course, many of them old-fashioned pot bunkers with revetted faces and wooden stairs at the rear. Like the Fidra course, many of the large, links quality greens have run-up areas in front, enabling the execution of traditional bump-and-run approaches along the ground - putting on such green baize surfaces, incidentally, is an absolute joy.
After a fairly quiet start to the round on the opening holes playing away from the clubhouse, the 5th and 6th holes at the most easterly corner of the course are very strong and worthy of the low stroke index attached to each. The round really goes up a gear or two from the 9th, heading back to the clubhouse at the end of the outward first loop of nine – the swale in front of the green here, with minimal bunkering, is so simple but so effective.
The holes continue to get even better on the back nine with great use of cross bunkers and ditches on several fairways plus swales before some greens with subtle contouring - apart from the wickedly undulating par three 13th hole. Many of the fairways are bounded by low, gorse covered mounding - resembling the esker ridges to be found on the Kings course at Gleneagles – so a feeling of semi seclusion from other golfers is created on these holes.
The signature hole may well be the 463-yard, right dog-legged 16th which has four bunkers lined up one behind the other on the bend with a dry ditch further up the fairway to catch errant second shots – a par four on the scorecard will be well earned at this hole.
Many little touches and attention to detail help to create a premium golfing product on the Dirleton – whether it be the yardages to the hole marked on all of the fairway sprinkler heads, the use of white sea shells on many of the walkways or the low sleepered bridges over drainage ditches – they all combine to give the Dirleton a lovely feel.
An enormous clubhouse was finished in 2007, two years after the Fidra course opened. Constructed in a colonial style, the new building complements on course activities perfectly. Like Loch Lomond, the Archerfield courses are difficult to get on because of their member and guest playing policy but if the opportunity comes your way to play here, jump at it.
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Average Reviewers Score:
I actually prefer this to the Fidra course. Forgive the rather vague review as I have only just stumbled upon this site and played the course a few years ago now. Very enjoyable but not quite the sort of course that holes stick in your mind. There was a short par 4 early on that dog legged left to right which was fun. Staff were great as you would expect at a private members club- I believe in quiet times people can get a round here now but I could well be wrong!! Makes sense to get exposure I am sure. Adrian W
1st time playing the Dirleton course and I have to say it was simply amazing. The course looked perfect all over and was a true test of golf. The attention to detail on the course is clearly evident throughout and you can see why so many people who know of the course and have friends who play there speak so highly of this place. From the drive in passing a practice area which would match any course around the globe and the pyramids of pro v 1's help set the scene to a step into luxury.The club house and surrounds are spectacular at Archerfield with a touch of class around every corner. I was especially surprised at the warm welcome from the staff, members and professionals within the club. All in all a very magical experience which I won't forget in a long time.
I visited Archerfield for the first time in the third week in March and my initial impression as I made my way down the isolated road was one of great anticipation. After all, I had heard great things about the complex at Archerfield and passing the grand Archerfield House and then the gates of the neighbouring Renaissance Club only added to the excitement about my imminent arrival at the clubhouse.
Once I turned on to the short driveway up towards the Archerfield clubhouse I was greeted by pyramids of Titleists at the practice green and driving range on either side of the road - it was just like beng a player at one of the Tour events on TV. One word of advice for anyone visiting Archerfield - make sure you get there in plenty time for your round as the facilities, including short game areas, putting greens and a two-way driving range, are as good as any I've seen and it would be a shame not to make the most of them prior to heading out for your round.
Anyway, I think we've already established that the off course experience at Archerfield is exceptional but what about the most important thing - the course. I was playing the Dirleton course on this particular day and due to my tee off time being right in the middle of a busy period my group started off at the 10th - which had positive and negative aspects as I didn't get to play the course in the proper layout but we also didn't have any other golfers on the holes either side of us for our entire round which made the day all the more leisurely.
My first, the 10th hole, was a tough opener. A near 500 yard par 5, the green couldn't be seen from the tee and an accurate tee shot was needed to find the left hand side of the fairway to have a look at the green with the second shot, and with a burn guarding the front side of the green this was one of the best holes on the back nine. The 11th and 12th were both solid par 4s with the dry ditch protecting the 12th green one of the most prominant features on these two holes. I enjoyed the next two holes, the first being a 155 yard par three with a heavily sloping green followed by the dogleg par five 14th where again there is no sight of the green from the tee box. The 16th was the best in my opinion on the back 9 and contained great bunker positioning, as I found to my cost off the tee, as well as a burn skirting the entire length of the hole to the right and OB to the left. Any approach going through the green will leave an extremely difficult up and down.......if only I had known this prior to hitting my approach shot! All in all it wasn't the longest par 4 ever but there is plenty of danger throughout that could lead to a large score being racked up if the golfer is not careful. The final two holes (and last two on my first nine) were played directly into the wind and this made them particularly tough to negotiate. I have to say that I wouldn't have found the 18th to be a great finishing hole if it was my last on the Dirleton and I would consider the 9th, which coincidently was my final hole, to be a much better way to end the round.
We passed the halfway house but didn't venture in on this occasion as we were keen to get on to our second nine. I would have liked the first as an opening hole and at 399 yards it would have been an ideal chance to open the arms to begn the round although the raised green and congregation of bunkers around where drives are likely to land. The tight par five 2nd and compact par three 3rd with it's lightning fast green cranked up the difficulty at the start of my back nine before we arrived at my favourite hole on the course, the driveable (for some) par four 4th which is a great strategic hole where the options are to try to cut the corner and drive the green or to take an iron from the tee to leave a favourable angle from which to hit the approach. Although the green can be seen from the tee the burn/ditch that sweeps round the right hand side of the hole cannot and the golfer must beware when launching the tee shot towards the green. I unfortunately ended up in the gorse to the right of the green with my overly ambitious first attempt before playing the hole more conservatively second time round - had I done this to begin with a par or even birdie would have been perfectly within reason. The next is another fine hole - an uphill par 5 which plays longer than its 510 yards off the blue tees due to the rise in elevation between tee and green and bunkers around the lay up distance and several large mounds add to the challenge on the hole. The 6th is an exposed straightish par 4 perched on the side of the hill before moving on to the 7th, a mid-range par 3 with the wonderful Archerfield House in the backdrop. A snaking fairway and three tier green were features to note on the 8th before playing my last hole of the day - the 9th. As the number 2 S.I. hole and at over 425 yards and no help whatsoever from the blustering wind this was a pretty good hole to finish off, even if my attempt to win our match faltered on the last green when my putt slid past the hole!
Then it was back into the bar for a drink and to talk about the goings on of the previous few hours play in the comfort of the luxurious clubhouse. It has a traditional feel to it with it's wooden decor yet at the same time is quite state of the art and spending time in there was a fantastic way to end a great day of golf. Ultimately whilst the day as a whole was a six-ball experience, I tend to score my reviews based primarily on the course and I would say that the Dirleton is a very good course that I had an enjoyable time playing but due to there being a collection of good holes rather than any which truly stand out I will have to award it five balls as opposed to the full six. Nevertheless, if you get the chance to play here, make sure that you take up the offer. DM
I've just come back from playing the Dirleton course and must say I enjoyed it enormously. The surroundings are wonderful and as a members-only club it gives the great sense of tranquility and then there's the marvellous clubhouse and a level of service which normally lacking in this day and age. Only downside was the sense of a links course that was inland - I like my links golf to be at the water's edge but I'm just being picky now! CJY Lawrence
It was with great anticipation that I re-acquainted myself with the Dirleton. I am so glad to say that it turned out to be even better than I had remembered it. Lush fairways with velvet greens ably guarded by uncompromising bunkers, just magnificent.
Then again, you wouldn’t expect anything less from the Archerfield brand.
The Dirleton is definitely a cerebral course as you have no option but to think and plot your way around if you want to score well. If you are tempted to open your shoulders on the tee box your reward more often than not is likely to be a sandy grave.
The tone for the course is set from the offset with a short, but tough, par 4 (try and keep left). The 4th,(don’t be tempted to cut the corner) and the 9th, a tough 400 yrd right to left dog-leg, are the stand out holes on the front 9.
After replenishing your body and soul at the superb half-way house you enter a back 9 which is even in quality, if not better, than their front 9 counterparts with the 14th, 16th and 18th slightly a cut above the rest.
I loved my day at Archerfield. It is neigh on impossible not to be seduced by the glitz and the glamour of the place thankfully courses at Archerfield also have the substance to go with the undoubted style which, coupled together make for an unforgettable golfing experience.
I recently played Dirleton and was thoroughly disappointed having played Fidra in the morning, which although not a fan of tree lined courses, I found it to be an interesting mix of design inspirations taken from other long established courses, with some new twists. Having played Fidra and enjoyed it a great deal I found Dirleton quite simply dire. It is a very samey experience with each hole merging into the next with no real challenge. The fake dunes are a real joke, not looking realistic and to call the course a links is the ultimate irony. The greens are a nice speed, although wooly but the types of grass around the greens kill the ball when hitting a traditional bump and run so it was much more efficient to hit a lofted shot with a sand wedge. The signature 13th is the most absurd hole i have ever played, as there is no risk and reward it is more like crazy golf, as a thinned tee shot will put you in as good a position as a well struck iron into the heart of the green. If DJ was going to design a 'signature' hole he could have learnt a lot from the 16th green at North Berwick West Links as this is very memorable but still fair. I am also unsure about the necessity to have to cross a road 4 times in one round just so people can get to their houses! We left Archerfield thoroughly disappointed and flat having enjoyed Fidra greatly but felt let down by previous reviews of Dirleton. If we went back we would play 36 round Fidra and not bother with Dirleton. Time may help it 'age' but not much. To have this course rated higher than Dunbar, Murcar and Lundin is absurd.
At first glance the Dirleton is a tougher test of golf than the Fidra and the opener is definitely more challenging with a high, longish second shot needed to hold a green which always seems to encourage the ball to fall off the the left. Certainly, compared to Fidra you need to hit the ball straighter to score - there are no forgiving trees to hack out of, rather manmade dunes knee deep in rough to gobble up your ball. Having said that if you can keep it in play the greens are generally accessible and there is less risk of being faced with a 20 yard chip if you just roll off the green than on Fidra. One other important factor is that the prevailing wind plays across you on most holes rather than up and down meaning that if it is a windy day you are probably likely to score better on Dirleton than on Fidra. The holes seem to have a better variety in many ways than Fidra - 15, 16 and 18 are all great long par 4s while 4 and 12 may be short but can both wreck a scorecard. The course is stunningly presented and the staff are as good as anywhere you can play. Archerfield isn't to everyone's taste - there is no history and of course it is exclusive - but the Dirleton must be one of the best presented courses in the country and is a far better test of golf than many of those ahead it in the rankings.
My return visit to play the Dirleton course was well timed, as it turned out, because the splashes of yellow gorse around the course are a sight to behold in early Spring. You have to keep reminding yourself that the course is such a fledgling on the Scottish golf scene as it has bedded in so well in such a short space of time.
The opening holes were a lot more challenging than I had remembered first time around (indeed, my opponent was quickly two up after five holes) and I’d forgotten what a strategic hole the downhill short par four 4th really was. Holes 5 and 6 are both beautifully bunkered from tee to green whilst the penal swale in front of the green on the 9th must surely be the reason why the hole is ranked stroke index 2.
After a mandatory 10-minute pit stop at the cosy wee halfway house, it was on to the back nine (match play all square) and, to my mind, the toughest set of holes on the estate. Fairways are still relatively generous but if you do stray too far from the short cut grass then you are almost certainly in deep trouble (two lost balls right off the tee at 15 contributing to my ignominious 4 & 2 defeat). I still think the 16th is easily the best of all 36 holes at Archerfield – the four bunkers in a line at the kink in the fairway, followed by a ditch running diagonally across in front of an elevated green make it a very memorable hole. It’s such a shame that an access road has to be crossed several times during the round and that housing now sits beside the fairways at holes 13 to 16 (though natural growth of gorse on the bund walls should soften the intrusion of real estate over time) as it just seems the privacy of such a private place should remain intact for the full round. The Dirleton may be more a manicured than a wild links experience for some purists but, nonetheless, it delivers a surprisingly enjoyable game of golf. Jim McCann
A grade "A" addition to the first class development. The Dirleton is fast becoming rated by most as the better of the two courses at Archerfield Links. Outstanding condition given its age - somehow the course doesn't feel as young as it is. Overall experience is difficult to beat given the immaculate condition of the courses (greens, tees, fairways and bunkers) and the level of service provided by ALL the staff I encountered. Dirleton is thought to be a potential Open Qualifying course of the future --- I would certainly rank it up with others in that field, as have several different colleagues that have accompanied me there. Doesn't seem to matter what time of year we visit, it is a consistent gem.
I returned to Archerfield nearly eighteen months after playing the Fidra to see if the Dirleton really was going to be the better course of the two. My conclusion? Yes, overall I prefer the newer of the two courses, particularly the inward half on the Dirleton where the holes just got stronger and stronger from around the turn. However, if I was to play my IDEAL 18-hole course at Archerfield, I would settle for the front nine of the Fidra followed by the back nine of the Dirleton, creating something like a Scottish equivalent of Formby. The tees are enormous, fairways wide and firm (and feeling nothing like brand new) and the greens - well, no other word can be used than immaculate; green velvet, absolutely pristine and a real indulgence to putt on. If only the course had more wild, bearded bunkering like the large one on the left of the fairway at the 18th which looks like it’s been there for ever – and is one of the best designed sand traps I’ve ever seen. My three favourite holes were 1) the par three 7th in front of the magnificent, restored Archerfield House, 2) the par three 13th where the green must slope over seven feet from back to front, and 3) the tough 16th which is a classic, dog-legged par four with several fairway bunkers on the bend. When the clubhouse is completed sometime in 2007, it will be just the place to look back and savour the round just played, whether on the Fidra, Dirleton or the MacFormby composite course! Jim McCann
Archerfield's Dirleton Course is named for the village that borders that side of the estate. The other side is Muirfield. David J Russell has created a beautiful testing challenge,with fiendish pot bunkers guarding fast greens. Four sets of tees mean a variety of challenges for golfers of all abilities. A classic links layout with some great par 5s offer a real test of golf. There are some fantastic practice facilities so arrive a little early and get your game in shape (from the sand particularly). The green fee is £60 a little steep for a new course, but the condition is fantastic and the staff welcoming. DB
With regards to the green fee - Archerfield is a private members club and you must be invited to play. There is no pay and play facility and the practice areas are for members only.
30 October 2008
i have been fortunate enuough to playboth these courses and rate them very highly.as for £60 green fee. its for nothing compared to the likes of turnberry, glaneagles, carnoustie, the carrick and victoria in portugal.played all these as well and the dirleton right there amongst them for golf and surpasses them for V.F,M on all fronts
12 October 2011
DC's comment is out of date. Visitors can play if there are free tee times.
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