Completely overshadowed by the world-famous Gleneagles Resort next door, the village of Auchterarder was offering golf as a sporting amenity to its locals more than thirty years before the arrival of the Caledonian Railway Company’s Grand Design in 1924.
Formed in 1892, Auchterarder Golf Club acquired the services of Ben Sayers to set out a 9-hole course in 1913 and this layout from the 1888 Open runner-up remained in play until a major expansion at the end of the 1970s resulted in the course that’s still in use today.
Measuring a modest 5,750 yards from the back tees, the layout at Auchterarder is arranged with six par threes, four of which are encountered on the back nine – indeed, a round here concludes in a somewhat unconventional manner, with testing short holes played at the 16th (“Gully Brae”) and 18th (“Hame”).
Auchterarder GC sits in the shadows of it's more illustrious near neighbour, but it is worth making the time to play this lovely, short easy walking parkland course, sharing the same amazing views across the moorlands and highlands which surround the area, but without the dramatic terrain of Gleneagles.
Played the morning following Gleneagles Kings, making 1st tee off and this plan worked a treat as we cantered round in less than 3 hours. But don't let the shortness of the course put you off. This is a very traditional golf course and whilst some of the holes are short, the fact there are 6 par 3's mean that the par 69 is not generous, especially when one of the par 3's is 235 yards!
I haven't been able to find out which holes made up the original 9 hole layout, but it felt like holes 1-5, then what is now 14 -17 would be my guess - happy to have it confirmed to me. It did feel that holes 6 - 13 had been added later.
The course starts with an open 1st hole, played from a tee to the left of the clubhouse, back over a stone wall and down a wide open fairway. At 390 yards a chance to get off to a good start, as long as you don't let the line of members waiting for their turn at the clubhouse intimidate you.
The 2nd is also a straightforward short par 4 played slightly uphill along the side of the property, but at 313 yards a real early birdie opportunity. Houses line the 2nd hole and having played in the US on numerous occasions the course reminded me of a few I have played in New England, which are traditional, old school architects (like Donald Ross) but have housing around the perimeters. The homes also line up alongside holes 7 and 8.
The pick of the 1st batch of holes is the 362 yard dog leg left par 4 3rd, which dips down into a valley before rising to the green, then the 1st of the par 3's, the 4th, only 140 yards but with bunkers and banking to the front and a long and narrow green, picking the right club is key.
The designers have done wonders squeezing all the holes into a relatively small piece of land, so you occasionally don't get a natural flow of green to tee. The 5th is an example where you walk around 120 yards to the tee box. Also the par 3 12th where you play to the green in what is effectively a cul de sac. In addition there are a few tee boxes close together - 3rd and 9th and 12th and 13th.
The 5th is a strong 425 yard sweeping left to right downhill par 4, before you head onto the 6th, a medium length par 5 played uphill alongside the Gleneagles PGA Centenary course. There is a nice plaque to commemorate the view the members of Auchterarder had when watching the Ryder Cup in 2014 being played on the 4th best course in the area!
You then head into a more wooded area of the course with heathland touches - birch, oak, gorse - playing a lovely par 4 354 yard right to left par 4, followed by a 151 par 3. Flanked by trees either side, a straight tee shot will find a large green.
The greens were not Gleneagles speed but they did run true and had been cut and cleared of leaves.
The 9th is the 2nd of the par 5's playing downhill to a green that slopes front to back. Hole 10 plays back up the slope before the 11th, a dogleg left to right, in amongst the trees. At 331 yards a driver will get you up close and personal providing you play a gentle fade, otherwise a long iron off the tee will set up a straight forward approach. Then the dead end 12th, the 1st of 4 par 3's in the last 7 holes.
The 13th is a very short par 4, played downhill at only 289 yards. After that you walk past the 5th green and to the 14th, my favourite of the par 3's. 205 yards long, the green is not visible. A bunker is in your eye line, but play over this or to the left and when you wander up to the green you will find a sunken dell and your ball hopefully sat on the green near the pin!
The last of the par 5's follows, the best in my opinion. It is straight alongside the road at the edge of the property, but the slope is all left to right and there is a ditch before the green to swallow up your 2nd shot. The green has a stone wall to the rear.
And then the longest par 3, played into a stiff breeze, at 235 yards this was driver all day for me.
The 17th played with the wind behind, shortening the 441 yard par 4, which also has a gentle downhill slope towards the green, before a tough par 3 finisher - uphill, into a left to right cross wind, OOB down the right hand side, at 184 yards an accurate and wind adjusted tee shot required to finish your round on a high.
The course is attractive, scorable but it has it's challenges and needs to be respected. The woodland areas were my favourite parts of the course, plus the views you get as you wander around make this a wonderful setting. At £40 it also represents really good value and worth playing if you're in the area along with the Kings and Queens at Gleneagles.
We played here the day after having a knock next door, and the welcome was just as warm as at Gleneagles. The course was very different however, with the space maximised to fit in 18 holes. A couple of shared tees, and hole running alongside each other mean you are never far away from company (or danger). Sadly, our visit coincided with recent green maintenance work, so we didn't get to see the course in its prime. Nevertheless, the course design is appealing. An opening tee shot between two trees and in full view of the clubhouse gets the nerves sharpened. There are a plethora of par 3s of varying lengths, up to the beast of the 16th, at 235 yds from the whites. The pro is a true Scotsman taking our 2's club money before we realised you had to score a 2 on one of the 3 'magic holes' to get a return. He was obviously in collusion with the green keeper who had put the pins in inaccessible spots (for mortals) on all these holes.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed our round, which finished off our mini break and would all return to play again when the greens were in better condition.
One of my favourite courses in the Gleneagles area, strong layout especially the holes that run through the wooded areas and close to the Centenary course. Very scorable and great traditional club welcome, definately would recommend playing the course if ever in the area to play its big name neighbour.
A party of 12 visited Auchterarder for a game on a travelling day and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The clubhouse is a pleasant place to sit and contemplate the course to come, and it's a relief that the First tee shot isn't as tight as it appears between two mature trees and over a stone wall.
It's a fun course with some challenging holes on a sloping site with many trees in play.
The conditioning was good, and as an aside it was enjoyable to play the strong uphill sixth whilst looking down on those toiling on the PGA Centenary (a local has previously observed that it's strange that the Ryder Cup was hosted by the 4th best course in Auchterarder).
Located next to the PGA Centenary course, the short, but perfectly formed 18 holes at Auchterarder Golf Club offer a surprisingly enjoyable round of golf for a fraction the cost of a Gleneagles green fee. This is good, old-fashioned moorland/parkland golf at its very best in a setting where you’ll be totally engaged from start to finish.
Only two of the par fours measure longer than 400 yards, two of the three par fives are comfortably less than 500 yards and there are half a dozen par threes to be played – four of which are encountered over the final seven holes on the scorecard.
It’s an unconventional but highly entertaining layout that deserves far wider recognition than it receives at the moment. I wonder how many golfers who play on the three courses next door know what they’re missing with this wee beauty?
Having just discovered the charms of this place, I’ll certainly be back again.