Present day Sauchie grew from Holton Village and Newtonshaw, which was built to house servants of the Schaw family. The Schaw's moved out of Sauchie Tower to a new house at Schawpark in the 1700s but there is nothing now left of that grand design. At least the spacious grounds remain and it was here that James Braid routed 18 holes for Alloa Golf Club in 1935.
Situated in one hundred and fifty acres of beautiful parkland estate in the shadow of the Ochil Hills, the 6,200 yard, par 70 layout at Alloa Golf Club is a fine test of golf that offers a strong challenge to even the most accomplished golfer. With fairways laid out on rolling terrain, the course has more than enough visual appeal and strategic interest to keep golfers thoroughly engaged from start to finish.
There are no fewer than five short par fours on the card – measuring from 313 to 333 yards – between the 1st and 13th holes and they each offer birdie opportunities. There are few chances to pick up shots against par on the final three holes though, as the round ends with two long, demanding par fours and a tough par three closing hole; the 221-yard, slightly uphill “Beechwood” which is played to a plateau green with rough, bushes, sand and trees all around to pressurise the final tee shot of the day.
It’s always a pleasure when playing a course for the first time with zero expectations and it turns out to be way and above what you might have anticipated. Alloa was just that course for me yesterday, the latest in a line of ”second tier tracks” I’ve recently visited which have turned out to be far better than their reputation might suggest.
The course is spaciously laid out on a sizeable estate so it never feels cramped or constricted and it’s beautifully routed, with parallel holes only occurring at the 14th, 16th and 17th.
You’ll not find a single level fairway here as the landscape doesn’t allow for it and the plunging tee shot off the first tee sets the tone for the round as it’s then followed by a semi-blind approach to a green that’s benched into the hillside - welcome to Alloa, you now know what you’re in for during the rest of the round!
The short par four 3rd is a terrific hole, again played semi-blind to a heavily-bunkered green that sits below a ridge, and holes 7 to 9 end the front nine in fine style: a par three played across an intimidating gully, a slightly doglegged par four (stroke index 1) then a long downhill par four with two protecting bunkers to the front of the green.
The par three 15th, which plays to a lovely elevated green, starts a wonderful run for home. It’s followed by a testing par four that kinks to the right, with the last 100 yards of fairway rising onto a ridge in front of the green. The long par four 17th does have a sneaky ditch immediately in front of the sunken putting surface but the approach to this hole’s only blind the first time you ever play it!
For some, ending with a par three is something of an anti-climax but not when you face one as challenging as Alloa’s. I don’t know for certain, as I haven’t played all the other courses in the combined SGU districts of Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire, but I doubt if there are many tracks in this area that are better than this little beauty.