Balmore Golf Club was established in 1907, when founding members arranged to have a golf course set out within the Glenorchard Estate, near Baldernock. The fairways were routed around a beautiful parkland property that contained a variety of specimen trees, including giant sequoia, copper beech and blue Serbian spruce.
Harry Vardon, who at that time had already won four of his six Open titles, was commissioned to lay out the course and his design at Balmore is one of the very few that the great man ever put his name to in Scotland. In fact, we think the course at Kingussie is the only other one north of the border to bear his architectural stamp.
The course layout hasn’t changed much in over a hundred years, though all eighteen greens have been relaid to USGA specification since the start of the new millennium. Measuring only 5,542 yards from the back tees, there are no par fives and six par threes on the scorecard so the par mark is 66. Golfers shouldn’t underestimate this little beauty however as the standard scratch score is set at two strokes above the par.
Only four of the par four holes play longer than 400 yards and three of them are played consecutively, starting at the downhill 3rd, “Torrance Turn”. Negotiating this little stretch of holes in par figures will certainly set golfers up for the remainder of the round though a birdie at the semi blind short par four 7th (“Mary’s Well”) might also help.The back nine plays almost four hundred yards shorter than the outward half, with four of the par threes located here. Two of them, the 217-yard “Temple” and 150-yard “Wee Gem,” are played back to back at holes 15 and 16, and their cross over fairways prove that good old-fashioned golf design still has a part to play in the modern game.
Balmore’s a lovely little track, measuring only five and a half thousand yards from the medal blocks, with not a single par five hole on the scorecard. The course is laid out over rolling terrain so there are plenty of gentle uphill and downhill slopes to contend with, though the elevation changes are not unduly taxing.
The most difficult stretch arrives early in the round at holes 3 to 5, where these three comparatively long par fours are laid out parallel to one another, so mark three pars on your card here and you may well end up with a decent overall score. The short par four 7th presents a definite opportunity to pick up a stroke, as does the 308-yard 9th.
By far and away, though, the main feature at Balmore is the quality of its six delightful par threes, which only seem to improve the further the round progresses. Four of these short holes appear on the back nine, giving the round something of an imbalanced look, but the holes fit the landscape perfectly, even down to the way the fairways crossover at the 15th and 16th.
The 18th is also a terrific finishing hole, where a downhill tee shot is followed by an uphill approach across a burn to the home green situated right in front of the main clubhouse windows. Balmore’s well worth a game but make sure you have your short game in good order before tackling it.