When one approaches Winterfield Golf Course, on a summers day, from a westerly direction what a marvelous vista enfolds. St. Margarets, the present clubhouse, stands out like a monolithic sentinel mistress of all she surveys. Twin-blue backdrops, an azure sky and cerulean sea, shimmering sands and verdant fairways create a picturesque setting by which even confirmed cynics and stoics have been heard to be impressed.
Dunbar town council aquired the 70+ acres of Winterfield in 1935 and a municipal golf course run by the burgh was founded. The first greenkeeper-cum-”professional” was Henry Anderson from Gullane, but he soon went to pastures new and the incumbent of the position was Andrew Dishington – later to make his name at Dunbar Golf Course.
The physical boundaries of the golf course were much the same as the present. The public park on its Eastern periphery, North and Back Roads to the South, Belhaven bay to the West and the esplanade wall, affording bield and providing the Northern boundary. Oddly enough the sea to the North of the Promenade was called the German Ocean (not the North Sea) during the mid-eighteenth century maybe as a strange foretaste of possible future events.
Originally the layout of the “parkland” holes – today’s opening half – were quite different focusing on the old clubrooms, now part of the town’s rugby clubhouse, with the 1st hole running from a point behind the 7th tee to a green near the now 2nd. Subsequent holes on the front nine run in a direction counter to the present with a couple of pitch-and-putt par threes thrown in. The configuration of the, now inward half, the links area of the course in the thirties was not dissimilar to today’s excepting the 10th, 17th and 18th, which by more recent acquisition of extra ground were extended.
When the golf course reopened in 1946 the course, or the upper half of it was radically transformed – gone were some acreage of the public park to the playing fields association for rugby and hockey pitches, and the layout as we know today was created. The hole sequence was different prior to the acquisition of St. Margaret’s (opened as clubhouse in 1973) the 7th was still the 1st and today’s 6th the eighteenth. Some minor hole sequence was affected during the seventies. Today’s 16th was temporarily the 1st but with the opening of the professionals shop in 1978 the “Wilkie” became the 1st Hole.
Winterfield golf course was requisitioned during the second world war years and was closed between late 1939 and 46. Searchlights, troop barracking, look-out posts and many hundreds of anti tank blocks were emplaced.
Winterfield Golf and Sports Club has had many creditable members, these include John Huggan Jnr – course record holder with a 61 – now a journalist and budding co-author with David Leadbetter, Stephen Easingwood, Raymond Russell and John Grant all good amateur golfers.
Members play annually for an host of trophies ranging from the prestigious club championship played first in 1961 – when Jimmy “Hooky” Cameron defeated Bob “Trunk” Smith in the final – to more ephemeral monthly medals. Major amateur open competitions are played over Winterfield. Firstly the Craig-en-Gelt instituted in the early 30′s, and coincidentally presented to the club by a Mrs Emily Craig is open to members and bona fide visitors. Secondly the St. Margaret’s Rosebowl (handicap) and Fiona Smeed Salver (scratch) played for first in 1973 to mark the opening of the new clubhouse and possibly, if not probably, the best sponsored amateur tournament in the Lothians. Thirdly the Belhaven Brewery Trophy(ies) generously donated in 1991 by the local brewery with complimentary “pie and pint” plus extravagant prizes to the fortunate few who play.
Another highly prized item of silverware is the Wingate Cup an handicap matchplay competition. It was presented by general Sir Francis Reginald Wingate, governor general of the Sudan, Dunbar’s most famous adopted son who took a keen and active interest in golf. Under his aegis one of his protegees, a certain Mr Hastie a native of Dunbar, became professional at Gezira Club in central Cairo.
The weather is particularly clement in East Lothian, Dunbar’s annual rainfall is 24 ins. (60cm) and the towns proud boast is that of sunshine capital of Scotland. However when the bar breeze blows and the prevalent south westerlies often do this, quite often Winterfield becomes a true test of Golf. In mitigation the trees at Belhaven School and the Promenade wall do offer some protection. The golf course has seldom, if ever, been closed because of frost/snow. Therefore one is guaranteed a feast of golf all year round.
All in all if one enjoys a test of golf on a course steeped in history with both parkland and links style holes – more a walk than an hike – with excellent services in the bar, dining room and professional’s shop – Winterfield Golf Club merits more than a cursory glance.