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Southerness

Yardage
6566
Par
69
SSS
73
Built
1947
Architect(s)
Philip Mackenzie Ross
Nature:
Classic flat championship running-game links with heather and gorse and beautiful fescue/bent greens.
Location/Address:
On North shore of Solway Firth, 15 miles south of Dumfries. (postcode: DG2 8AE)
http://www.southernessgolfclub.com
Secretary
Peter Scott
Telephone
01387 880677
Professional
-
Green Keeper
David Woodbyrne
Tell a friend
Access Policy:
Visitors always welcome
Dog Policy:
Dogs on a lead with members
Open Meetings:
-
Fees in 1960s
25p
Fees today
£50

Review

We can all be thankful for the vision of Major Richard Oswald who founded Southerness in 1947 with the help of Philip Mackenzie Ross (who also redesigned Turnberry Ailsa in the same period), whose aim was ‘to do nothing that would erode the natural beauty and character of this tract of wild land by the sea’, and the consultant agronomist Jim Arthur, who described Southerness as representing ‘the essence of links golf’.

Criffel behind the 10th green

Criffel behind the 10th green

The course and Clubhouse have been through many evolutions usually ‘on a shoe string’ and it is a monument to the Club’s leaders that they have achieved the creation of a true championship course along fully traditional lines that has gained recognition so long denied by its youth and relative lack of accessibility.

The pursuit of sustainable greenkeeping methods with only the use of sulphate of iron six times a year on the greens and no other fertiliser has encouraged and maintained the fine grasses.  This in the area of wet South West Scotland gives a ‘speed’ to both fairways and greens (cut normally at 4.5mm) that is dependent on the weather, changing with the seasons.

It is perhaps at Southerness that the strongly opinionated and leading golf agronomist Jim Arthur quipped his famous quote “Firstly that the poorest Clubs have the best courses and second that in greenkeeping one should ask a farmer what to do and then do exactly the opposite’.

the 3rd green

the 3rd green

The development of excellence on a shoe string made big impressions on some other Scottish courses who noted the philosophy and changed their management back to austere lines.

Turnberry was nearly ruined by overfeeding and overwatering made possible by the deep pockets of the owners British Rail coming up to its first Open in 1977 when the famous Nicklaus/Watson ‘duel in the sun’ took place.

They only just succeeded under Jim Arthur’s guidance in the mid ‘70s in restoring some semblance of links character from a meadow grass course by emulating what was routine at Southerness.

The abundant heather and gorse at Southerness help to make this a tough test particularly in the wind.  The beauty of the Solway Firth coastline and the breathtaking Galloway hills give a backdrop to an area holding many rare plants and bird life. This enhances the joy-to-be-alive factor that gets you away from life’s toils.

It helps you concentrate on the brilliance of Mackenzie Ross’s design that can be enjoyed by high handicappers as well as the experts.  The back tees stretch this Par 69 course to over 7000 yards.  Most will prefer to be tested from the white tees of 6566 yards and an SSS which with Royal St David’s is one of the few courses with an unusual plus 4 at 73.

the 8th green

the 8th green

As in many links courses on level ground, the greatness in the design is hidden within the long Par 4s which – many being slightly doglegged – give a strategic choice from the tee, sometimes more in the mind than in reality, as to how much of the corner should be cut to set up the best approach to the green.

A slogger will soon lose balls here while the shot maker negotiating the subtle bumps and hollows, who has his bump and run working, may save his par.

The five excellent short holes, with 2 over 215 yards and all well defended, should be mentioned and they give the better player the opportunity to win a few holes from those who are receiving strokes.

It is a tough run in from the 13th with 3 Par 4s over 433 yards but they are quite fair and primarily require a good straight drive, which, if you can’t achieve by this time in the round, your view of Southerness may be coloured with a certain amount of exasperation!

12th green and the Galloway hills

12th green and the Galloway hills

And so I leave to the last the one really great hole, the 12th, which I can describe no better than the course guide: “A 421 yard left to right dogleg running away from the Clubhouse, towards the sea and into the prevailing wind.  The drive is tough, calling for both length and accuracy, but is nothing compared with the approach which follows.   A long iron or fairway wood is usually placed to a semi-blind green sitting atop what appears to be a small shelf set amidst some decidedly uninviting humps and bunkers.  Hit it well and you will have a reasonable chance of securing your par, a bogey at worst.  But strike it poorly and all sorts of horrors await.  The scenario is typical of Southerness.  Your bad shots are punished, your good shots get their just reward”.

Because of his close association with Southerness I think it is worth noting another of Jim Arthur’s commonsense quotes, to help us  understand why the colour green is not always great:

“It is just possible to run a golf course on sandy links in a drought without irrigation, providing there is virtually no golf and the few golfers accept a steadily deepening shade of khaki on the greens to match the conditions over the whole course, but clearly limited irrigation makes life easier for golfer and greenkeeping staff alike.

However, it should be stressed that drought does not kill fine grass which rapidly greens over again with rain.  Indeed, an old adage has it that a ‘good drought gets rid of a deal of rubbish meadow grass'”.

Review by Lorne Smith 2008.     Leave us a comment or review below

Reader Comments

On May 23rd, 2011 Bruce McClure Said:

I was fortunate enough to play Southerness last spring. What a treat. I was on my way back from Cumbria and decided to call in and play. I was not disappointed. The facilities and welcome were top notch. On the first a deer ran across a field parallel to the fairway and by the second it was blowing a hoolie and hailing. I personally love challenging golf conditions and Mother Nature didn’t fail. Next were the rainbows, the views of the Galloway Hills and The Solway. The course was pristine and I stopped for a chat with an Irish green-keeper, to compliment him on the condition. I ended up playing the final holes with the women’s captain who treated me to a G&T in the 19th. Thoroughly recommended.

On August 13th, 2013 Alastair Russell Said:

I first heard about Southerness when I was a student in Glasgow and a bloke across the landing in halls of residence told me all about the place where he was a member. Over 20 years later I joined too after coming down with my then club’s team and falling in love with the place. Now my golfing buddy and I are both members and it’s a testament to the charms of Southerness that we can’t think of anywhere we’d rather play in Scotland – he lives in Helensburgh and I live in Edinburgh so it’s at least 2 hours each way. The place is unpretentious and welcoming with nice bar food. The locker room and showers are just what you want after a couple of rounds. And the course itself is one of the finest in the world. A true links experience with fast greens and firm turf on the fairways. The views are spectacular and whatever the weather, you’re guaranteed a wonderful day out.

On March 14th, 2015 tom coulson Said:

Played this course today for the first time. A strong course that plays difficult due to yardage rather than being overly penal . On a cold March day with little run I found this course very long off the championship tees. Very reminiscent of ganton on and around the greens. Would like to see it in summer when it’s firmer and faster.

What people say about the turf here is true, it’s superb. In golfing terms I’m not sure I’ve played better, fairways predominantly fescue , very little poa or rye kicking about. I have come to believe that whilst not desirable in some schools of thought that the mosses that underlay some of the fescue fairways seem to provide great playing turf and I feel that with poa invasion often being based upon available space within the sward , that moss is actually a viable poa deterrant.

Greens were high in fescue content and had very little poa, not sure I’ve ever seen better from a botanical perspective. They putted great despite not being cut recently by the look of things which is a testament to the quality and sustainability of the finer grasses on golf courses. The course would play great if it was untouched for a month. As mentioned above everything was softish, so will be great to return in the summer

Tom