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Hedderwick Hill Golf Course, East Lothian. (1897 -1937)

The following is a report from the Edinburgh Evening News Friday 6th June 1890. “PROPOSED NEW GOLF COURSE FOR DUNBAR – Hedderwick Links, about two miles west from Dunbar, has been visited by several of the professional golf players of note, as well by a few of the members of the Ancient Honourable Company of Golfers, Edinburgh, with a view to securing a lease of those extensive links. The result is, it is stated, that a lease has been obtained, and immediate steps are being taken to lay out the course, and erect a clubhouse. The expense is estimated at £1,000.”   

Thanks to John Harris, who published “Dunbar Golf” in 2006, for the following contribution regarding the Hedderwick Hill course.

The Hedderwick Hill golf course (sometimes Hedderwick golf course) was located on West Barns Links, about a mile west of Dunbar. It is not to be confused with Winterfield golf course, which still operates nearby today. Golf is recorded on West Barns Links as far back as 1794 when an organisation calling itself The Dunbar Golf Society played there. Nothing has ever been heard of the Society since that date.

The Hedderwick Hill golf course dates from just after 1896. In this year St Clair Cunningham, an enthusiastic golfer and member of the Honourable Company, took a farm lease at Hedderwick Hill and laid out his own course. Cunningham had married an heiress to the wealthy Usher family of whisky-blenders and brewers. The first recorded visit by any golfers was by the East Lothian club in June 1897 and shortly after East Linton Golf Club were granted the courtesy of the course for their competitions. The ELGC had hitherto played elsewhere but continued at Hedderwick Hill till 1937. Numerous other golf clubs, including Dunbar Castle GC, Dirleton Castle GC, the West Mayfield GC and the Watsonian Club also visited.

Many famous golfers also visited the course, including local MPs, the Edinburgh intelligentsia and famed players such as Ben Sayers and Maud Titterton, the 1908 British Ladies’ Champion.

In 1912, Open Champion James Braid, created great excitement by playing the 18-hole course in just 57 strokes, probably a world low-score record for the time (*see below).

The course had some interesting feature holes, including the Island Hole, lying just offshore and the Bunker Hole, which required the ball to clear a huge, natural bunker.

Tragically, in 1906 St Clair Cunningham died from pneumonia, brought on after having played golf in the rain at nearby Gullane, he was just 48. His widow, Elizabeth Usher Cunningham decided to keep up the golf course until the First World War (1914-1918) resulted in disruptions from military manoeuvres across the dune land.

After the war the course took some years to recover, but by the early 1920s golf was recommenced. In 1924, another local club to be granted the courtesy of the course was West Barns Golf Club and Mrs Usher appointed a local man Will Kerr, to add the greenkeeping work to his farm duties. Finally by 1937, Elizabeth Usher and one of her farmer sons, Alan Cunningham, decided they would no longer support the upkeep of the course and announced its closure.

As the nearby Winterfield course had opened in 1934, a ready alternative existed for displaced golfers. The East Linton Golf Club decamped in 1946 to the current Dunbar golf course (they are required to be Dunbar Golf Club members) and the West Barns Golf Club effectively ceased in 1937.

Sadly the dunes that the Hedderwick Hill course lay upon, known as Young’s Knowe, were excavated and removed in the 1960s for glass manufacture. The levelled land was then planted with straight regiments of conifer trees which blanket the land today. Not a trace remains of the former course.

(The above was extracted from Dunbar Golf, J V Harris, 2007)

* Interesting addition. The following is from an article written by Arthur Croome from the Morning Post (date unkown - probably just after WW1); "James Braid and I were both staying in a hospitable house at Gullane. On the afternoon of his last day we played on opposite sides in a four ball match at Hedderwick, a charming private course which was ploughed up during the war. I went out in 32 and my side turned 6 down. Braid's score at that point was 28 and his partner had come in twice. Braid completed the round in 57. Before we went out Braid had taken my John Low iron and waggled it appreciatevely. In the course of his round he borrowed it, I think twice, to lay a long second stone dead. After dinner that evening, he took me aside and told me he thought it would be a pity if that club should be denied opportunity to contribute to the winning of a championship or two. I said rather grudgingly but at the same time more than half pleased; "Oh all right, I suppose you've got to have it! I'll go and fetch it for you." "You needn't trouble," replied James, "it's in my bag. I just thought I would tell you about it!" 

Hedderwick Hill Golf Course, East Lothian. St Clair Cunningham.

St Clair Cunningham (picture supplied by J V Harris)


Hedderwick Hill Golf Course, East Lothian. Golf course location.

Location of the Hedderwick Hill course. Grid reference NT64325,79100, co-ordinates 364325,679100.