St. Boswells: Who knew golf on the down-low could be so uplifting?
After a physically demanding day of moving the base camp from the flat on the Kelso Square to a cottage facing the Ancrum Commons, I was anxious to get back to my regularly scheduled programming. And with a minimum of channel surfing, I dialed up exactly what I was looking for at St. Boswells Golf Club just six miles away.
I’d seen the generic “Golf Club” sign with its tantalizing arrow pointing up a steep hill several times while passing through St. Boswells en route to the A68, the main drag in these parts. But it wasn’t until today that I accepted its invitation and followed the single track road that led to a modest clubhouse and car park, as well as the always reassuring words “Visitors Welcome” on the entryway.
Inside, I met Sue, who keeps a watch over things part-time. When she’s not on duty, patrons are expected to deposit their green fee (just 10 pounds for nine holes) in the “Honesty Box” near the first tee. Turns out Sue lived most of her life in Liverpool but now happily makes the Scottish Borders her retirement home—when her husband and she aren’t on holiday in Orlando, Fla. While chatting, I noticed two framed items on a nearby wall: a flyer announcing St. Boswell’s grand opening in 1899 and a photo of those who were on hand for that momentous occasion. Sue said the current course remains much the same as it did back in the day, save for the tweaks wrought by downpours that cause the River Tweed to overflow its banks.
Far more often, though, the Tweed provides a picturesque backdrop for this refreshingly pleasant little golf course. At just 2,637 yards, it’s not a particularly demanding test. But it is thoroughly enjoyable and downright scenic. In fact, as I made my way around it in just an hour and a half, I found myself taking more shots with my camera than with my sticks—or at least it felt that way.
The signature hole (not that St. Boswells would ever be so precocious to call it that) is clearly the 2nd, a downhill par 3 of 161 yards. Given the elevation change, you’ll need little more than a short iron to get home. But the postcard setting! That’s what sets this place apart.
Americans would classify St. Boswells as an executive course with its mix of three par 3s, five par 4s and lone par 5. Once you get past the 2nd, the remaining seven holes play along mostly level ground bordering the Tweed. But that’s not to say par or better is a foregone conclusion. You still need to hit quality golf shots. There’s plenty of room to pound the driver. And most of the greens are guarded with bunkers. Your game might not be taxed here, but it will definitely get a solid workout—topped off with a heart-pounding hike up a steep hill from the 9th green to the clubhouse.
Bottom line: St. Boswells just plain fun!
In fact, if the Borders should someday become my long-term home (excuse me while I light another votive candle and say another prayer!), I could see paying the 200 pounds required for an annual membership (roughly $27/month). Then, if I had a two-hour break in my daily routine, I could run over and play a quick nine. Rather than beat balls at a driving range (assuming such a thing existed around here), it’d be the perfect way to keep my game sharp for those longer sojourns to St. Boswell’s more famous links cousins.
If all goes as planned, I’ll be doing the latter tomorrow. But I’ll also circle back to St. Boswells several times before this stay in Scotland comes to an end. Who knew golf on the down-low could be so uplifting?