We think it's worth pointing out that the exclusive village of Cardrona is the first new community development in the Scottish Borders since the 18th century. It's a brave new building programme in an area that is rich in history with its standing stones and abbey ruins.
The Cardrona course is situated in the heart of a truly magnificent country setting where the valley meets the gushing River Tweed. Dave Thomas designed this 6,856-yard par 72 course and it opened for play in 2001. Cardrona bears Thomas's hallmarks - numerous large, sculptured bunkers and huge, subtly contoured, but sometimes narrow greens. Thankfully, there's little in the way of artificial mounding around the edges and consequently the course blends nicely into the natural landscape.
There are some fine holes, especially those on the front nine, which follow the meanderings of the river. And we have two favourites. The 6th is a great driving hole and you'll need to hold your nerve on the tee to avoid finding the magnetic burn, which has a habit of attracting golf balls. If you can do this and play a sensible second shot on this 527-yard par five, you'll be pitching on with your third and hoping for a birdie. Measuring 402 yards, the 7th is probably the signature hole and it requires an accurate drive, with trees on the right and bunkers to the left. The approach shot is even more of a challenge, to find the elevated and well-protected green.
It's hard to classify the Cardrona course. Some holes have a moorland feel, while others feel more like parkland and some are American-styled. We think it's a great resort course, which requires stout and straight hitting to score well. The facilities at the Macdonald-owned hotel and country club are first class and Cardrona is definitely a welcome golfing edition to the Borders.
This was a very young course when I played it in April 2003 on an absolutely beautiful, sunny day. The hotel was still being built and the club were using a Portakabin as a temporary starters hut. But I was there to play golf, not worry about facilities still under construction.
Five things stick in my mind about that day:
1) the huge, sloping USGA greens would have been brilliant to putt on had they not just been top dressed!
2) the heavy, strategic bunkering that was built into a large number of the holes
3) the size of the nursery plantations around the course - a real investment in the future when those saplings mature
4) the views which felt as if the course was encircled 360 degrees by hills (which it probably is!)
5) the enormous size of the newly built houses in Cardrona Village which backed onto course over the last few holes.
This was a real golfing treat and a worthy addition to the Roxburghe as a top flight Borders course. Would like to return some time to see how the off course facilities shape up in relation to the course.