The Boat of Garten Golf & Tennis Club is located at the gateway to the Highlands. It’s an enchanting place. Flanking the course to the west is the quaint Strathspey Railway, which runs from the popular ski resort of Aviemore, through Boat of Garten, which is also known as the Osprey village. The lovingly restored steam trains, occasionally puff and pant their way past the course. The River Spey lies to the east of the heath and beyond that are the distant peaks of the Monadhliath Mountains. Dominating to the south are the mighty, snow-capped Cairngorms. This is some location.
Boat of Garten Golf Club was founded in 1898 and the celebrated Scottish architect, James Braid, was asked to convert the original 9-hole layout to an 18-hole course in 1930. Make no mistake – this is fun golf. This lovely course wends its way, up and down, through heather, whin, pine and birch. The fairways pitch and roll – sometimes alarmingly in the summer when the ground is hard – making for awkward stances.
It’s a short course, measuring slightly less than 5,900 yards from the back tees. There are a couple of long par fours and two short par fives, but apart from those holes, your driver will not be required. Unusually, Boat of Garten opens up with a par three – always tricky early on in the round – followed by a short par four, where the fantastic views really begin to grab the attention. If a good golf hole is a memorable one, then the par four 6th, called “Avenue”, will remain etched in the mind for eternity. The hole doglegs to the right – pine and birch trees tightly flank the fairway. Cutting off the dogleg is fraught with danger, but a lay-up will leave a 200-yard approach to a hogback green. It’s a beauty.
Some regard Boat of Garten as holiday golf. It's so much more in our opinion. Clearly it’s a short course, but on the other hand, it’s also a difficult course on which to score well. We think it’s an absolute delight and we’d happily become lifetime members.
What a brilliant, brilliant golf course. If you make your way to the Highlands for a golf trip, be sure to tag this gem onto your itinerary. It is stunning, and one of the best inland courses I have ever played. So enjoyable, and so interesting. Tight fairways, tough green complexes, huge elevation changes, all with the snow capped Cairngorms as a backdrop. Inland golf doesn't get much better than this, and after 3 tough days on the links, it was a welcome respite to have some shelter from the winds!
Fully expected this to be a fun knock around before the flight back south, but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable rounds of golf I have ever played.
So pleased that this place has shot up the rankings, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it creep up further over the coming years. I cant wait to go back. At £25 it was also, without doubt, the best value round of golf I have ever played. To think you could play this course every day for a fortnight for the same price as one hit around the West at Wentworth is astonishing. I would prefer to fly up there at the crack of dawn, play 36 here into the evening, and then fly back that night than play the West again - and it would be cheaper!
Having read a number of golf magazine articles describing The Boat as one of Scotlands hidden gems, it was one of the courses on The Digger Bucket list. When a course has such a reputation, sometimes the actual experience does not meet the expectation and leaves you wondering what all the fuss was about. We finally played in the The Boat's Greensome Open on Sunday 29th September and the experience was, by far, way way better than I anticipated.
On arrival, you just know it’s a friendly and welcoming club and has a strong community spirit about the place. Having played a number of courses in the Highlands, my only regret was not to have played it before this year. The only hole that you would say is not outstanding is actually the 1st, which is a 169 Par 3. However I expect James Braid designed it this way, as a simple entre to introduce you for the waiting feast ahead. And what a feast it is. When you face the 2nd hole, a 351 yd par 4, you are faced with a mogul-filled fairway, severely slanted landing area, and a plateaued green. Stunning. From there it just gets better, or as Digger's misty-eyed playing partner would later pronounce on the 18th fairway. "Every hole just gets fabulouser and fabulouser, a wonderment". yes Indeed, my vocabulary challenged friend. Hills, heather, the abundance of trees, the Cairngorm mountains always in the background and a steam train that blows its whistle as it chugs past the 4th and 6th holes from time to time. A real wonderment.
The member in the car park will tell you to keep your driver in the trunk, however playing off the whites and into the teeth of an ever increasing wind, The Boat tempts you, at ever turn, to get out the big dog and have a lash. Yes, the fairways are tight, but not over severe. Hitting on the short stuff and you are rewarded with the pleasure of hitting into superb greens, with your mid to short irons, giving you every chance of birdie. But beware, don't be fooled into thinking that this course is just about the breathtaking beauty that surrounds you. For the seriously errant shot, this course has nasty teeth, in rough gorse, bunkers and the strategically placed heather and trees, which will bite you deep. To the point where, yes, after hacking your way back onto fairway, you then know you should listened to the member in the car park, or at least ask yourself the question and pull a long iron or fairway wood. The Boat will ask you the question at every tee-up and, unfortunately, The Digger and his playing amigo were found wanting on a number of occasions. But it mattered not a jot, as this stunning course will test, challenge and ultimately bring you back time and time again to try and "best it". More importantly, it is a fun and enjoyable experience. The way Braid designed it to be, no doubt about that.