TravelApril 19, 2010

My Town: Catriona Matthew

This major champion's home is a hotbed for the game despite a population of less than 7,000

Muirfield has hosted the men's British Open many times, most recently in 2002.

Muirfield has hosted the men's British Open many times, most recently in 2002.

The royal burgh of North Berwick is in the ideal golf location. Just a short 25-mile hop east of Edinburgh, it sits on the East Lothian coast, looking across the Firth of Forth to Fife. In addition to the three courses within the town, it is virtually surrounded by great places to play.

Little wonder then that with a population of less than 7,000, it has always produced a string of fine players. The latest: Catriona Matthew, the reigning British Women's Open champion and five-time European Solheim Cup player, who still lives in the town with her husband (and caddie) Graeme and their two daughters, Katie and Sophie (born less than three months before her Open victory).

COURSES

Only a couple of miles away is Muirfield, where the men's British Open has been played many times. Then there is Gullane, where I am a member and where the club has three wonderful courses. I like them all, but especially enjoy No. 3. It is shorter and easier than its big brothers but still quite fun.

Same for Kilspindie, which is in Aberlady. It's not the longest course, but the holes provide a charming mixture of shots in a picturesque location on the water.

I'm biased, but my real favorite is the course I grew up on, the *West Links. *It's a true links -- eight holes out, one across and nine back in. Lots of visitors love it because of its quirkiness. Stonewalls ("dykes" to we Scots) come into play on several holes. There are a few blind shots and one or two funky greens, most notably the 16th, which has a huge dip between two plateaus.

The Glen is worth a visit too. It's a terrific test and affords wonderful views of historic Bass Rock a few miles offshore and the town. The back nine is especially good, with the short (and blind) 13th the highlight.

Then there is the Children's Course, which is where I first picked up a club. No adults can play unless they are with a kid younger than 16. The longest hole is about 110 yards, and the whole course provides enjoyment for all ages. Can't wait to take the girls out there when they're a bit older.

DON'T MISS

When not golfing, a fun place to visit is the Scottish Seabird Centre by the harbor. Queen Elizabeth opened it. From there, you can view the bird colony on Bass Rock by camera. And for a closer look, you can take boat trips around the rock.

One thing that is hard to miss in North Berwick is The Law, the large hill that overlooks the town. It isn't as high as it looks though. You can climb to the top in maybe a half hour and enjoy a spectacular view of East Lothian, Fife and, in the distance, Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh.

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