Sublime by Design
Over Goswick’s long and storied history, visionary course designers have transformed our rugged sand dunes into a refined links masterpiece.
Note: Some of the historical milestones cited on this page were drawn from Bill and Ian McCreath’s book 130 Years of Golf at Goswick. It is available for purchase at the club.
This pedigree extends back to the club’s earliest beginnings in 1890 when, as reported by the Berwick Advertiser at the time, ‘the well-known golfer Tom Dunn of North Berwick was called in to give his opinion’ as to where the fledgling club should build its course. He was first shown Magdalene Fields within close proximity of Berwick-upon-Tweed. But Dunn concluded that the parkland setting was ‘not very well suited, as a considerable sum of money would have to be expended in putting it into playing order.’ The next place visited was Goswick and its vast links land to the south of town. ‘Mr Dunn’s opinion was that if a club was to be formed in Berwick, Goswick was the place for it to play on.’ Very good call, Mr Dunn.
The club proceeded to lay out a rudimentary 9-hole course on that fertile sandy soil in the spring of 1890, aided by Mr R. Collins, the professional at Ryton Golf Club. Then in October 1891, it was decided that the course needed to be extended to 18 holes. A member of the Greens Committee, Mr F. Henderson, was appointed Goswick’s first ‘greenranger’ and was tasked with supervising the work on the new holes.
Below: Tom Dunn
In 1904, the club’s managing committee decided to invite Willie Park, Jr of Musselburgh to inspect the changes. Park was a two-time winner of the Open Championship (1887 and 1889) and the son of Willie Park, Sr, who claimed that prestigious title four times. The younger Park made ‘certain suggestions to its re-arrangement,’ lengthening the course to 4,880 yards. This plan was presented to the membership at an extraordinary general meeting and it was approved unanimously.
Below: Willie Park, Jr
As was the case at many of the golf clubs that arose during the game’s boom in England at the turn of the 20th century, Goswick struggled to survive during the Great War when over a third of its members were on active military service. But by 1930, it had recovered sufficiently to proceed with an ambitious plan to once again lengthen and strengthen the layout. The powers that be engaged James Braid, whose reputation as a course designer now rivalled that of his playing prowess, to guide the transformation. In exchange for his fee of £8.80 per day plus expenses, Braid produced a detailed plan with recommendations for improvements to each of the holes, including extensive revision of 13 of them. The work was started without delay and was completed within two years. Braid’s masterful imprint on Goswick Links remains largely intact to this day.
As the turmoil of World War II receded, membership once again increased, inter-club matches resumed, more visitors started to appear and incremental improvements to the course moved ahead. The most significant of these changes were implemented in the 1960s. For example, in 1962, the 18th tee was moved eastward by 100 yards to its current location, making for a more challenging finishing hole. Similarly, the tee on the 12th was taken back 36 yards and improved drainage removed the threat of flooding near the green.
Below: James Braid
Then, in 1964, Frank Pennink — a top class amateur golfer —was consulted in how to lengthen the front nine. His contribution was the creation of two new holes, the present-day par-4 5th and par-5 6th. These changes are credited with making Goswick into a course of championship calibre and one of the premier courses in the north of England.
Below: Frank Pennink
Now, nearly 60 years later, Goswick has embarked upon a process to significantly reimagine five of its first nine holes. To this end, the club has engaged the services of Mackenzie & Ebert, which has advised the updating of eight out of the 10 Open Championship venues over the past few years, among many other top-rated courses.
In many ways, we see this new undertaking as a return to our cherished heritage of Dunn, Park, Braid and Pennink. We invite you to join us as we take these next steps on this very exciting journey in course design, ensuring that Goswick continues to challenge and inspire generations of golfers to come.
Below: Tom Mackenzie