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The 13th hole at the Glen Golf Club in North Berwick is one of the most popular of East Lothian golf courses.
The 13th hole at the Glen Golf Club in North Berwick is one of the most popular of East Lothian golf courses.

A golfer’s sightseeing guide to the British Open Add to ...

Like everyone who loves the game, you’ve fantasized about attending the British Open, the oldest and most prestigious of golf’s four major championships.

Tickets are still readily available for this year’s tourney, played July 18 to 21 at Muirfield, a wind-buffeted Scottish links regarded by many as the best of the nine Open courses. Located just outside Edinburgh, Muirfield is the marquee attraction on Scotland’s Golf Coast – a collection of 22 courses on or just inland of a gorgeous stretch of Firth of Forth coastline.

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As many as 160,000 fans are expected at Muirfield for the Open. Many will extend their holiday by playing rounds at outstanding nearby East Lothian links. If you’re lucky enough to be one of them, follow these tips for getting the most out of our your visit. After all, it’s not just about the golf.

SEE THE SIGHTS

After watching the action at Muirfield, explore the nearby historic towns and villages – most memorably Dunbar (with its double harbour and broad high street), North Berwick (a fashionable holiday resort since Victorian times) and tranquil Dirleton (known as the prettiest village in Scotland) – that dot a still largely unspoiled region defined by stunning coastal scenery.

But most visitors will choose to stay close to the bright lights of Edinburgh and commute to the Open on the special GolfLink train service. Take time to admire the capital’s Georgian splendour and be sure to visit the magnificent crown-spired St. Giles’ Cathedral, lovely Princes Street Gardens and the lavishly renovated Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Jazz fans are in luck: Overlapping with the Open is the critically acclaimed Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival from July 18 to 28.

EAT LOCALLY

One of Edinburgh’s hottest, most stylish restaurants is Hadrian’s Brasserie in the Balmoral Hotel, where the emphasis is on Scottish produce, game and seafood.

Another red-hot bistro focusing on local flavours and influences is Honours on North Castle Street.

Got a thirst for a downtown Scottish pub-crawl? Raise your first pint at lively, modish Cambridge Bar on Young Street and end the night with a journey back in time at Pear Tree on West Nicolson Street, a beloved local institution for more than 250 years.

A popular and convivial stop for dinner close to Muirfield is the Old Clubhouse in Gullane. Be sure to save room for the sticky toffee pudding.

SLEEP WELL

Not more than a pitch shot from Muirfield’s clubhouse is Greywalls Hotel, an intimate and luxurious retreat favoured by Tiger Woods (rooms from £205). Also popular with the players is Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa, a recently renovated Victorian-era jewel overlooking the fairways of North Berwick Golf Club. Rooms start at £109.

Far more likely to still have rooms available during the Open are hotels in downtown Edinburgh. A local landmark is the Caledonian, a refurbished former Victorian railway hotel now part of the Waldorf Astoria chain (rooms from £399). An equally luxurious option is the Scotsman, a boutique hotel housed in the baronial former offices of The Scotsman newspaper (from £225). And a good bet for the more budget-conscious is popular Point Hotel, offering views of Edinburgh Castle (from £76).

A ROUND OR TWO FOR YOU

The pros might have Muirfield to themselves, but East Lothian is ripe with brilliant courses; golf has been played here since at least the early 17th century. A must-play is famously scenic North Berwick Golf Club, overlooking the Firth of Forth, with stirring views of Bass Rock and Craigleith Island. North Berwick is also home to one of the game’s most copied holes, Redan, a heroically long par three that plays to a sloped plateau green.

Of the three excellent courses at Gullane Golf Club, the best is No. 1, a classic links that hosted the local qualifying round for the Open. Equally historic and thrilling to play is Dunbar Golf Club, a wind-swept links laid out in 1856 on the thin strip of shoreline where Oliver Cromwell encamped his troops before the Battle of Dunbar in 1650.

THE ESSENTIAL SIDE TRIP

Almost impossible to resist is a visit to starkly beautiful St. Andrews, the cradle of the

game and a town as recognizably Scottish as the kilt and sporran.

Less than two hours from Edinburgh by car or train are the Old Course, the British Golf Museum, Scotland’s oldest university and the palpably present shades of Old Tom Morris and other golf immortals.

Once settled in at Rusacks Hotel or the Old Course Hotel, enter your name in the ballot to play the Old Course, the experience of a lifetime.

Or purchase a three-day unlimited pass (£70 to £145) and play to your heart’s content on the six other courses managed by the St. Andrews Links Trust here on the old sod where it all began.

Daily tickets to this year’s British Open start at £15; weekly passes from £260. Book in advance at tickets.theopen.com. Tickets will also be available at the gate.

Brian Kendall is a veteran golf journalist. He travelled courtesy of Golf East Lothian and VisitScotland. The organizations did not review or approve this article.

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