Established in 1888, Cathkin Braes Golf Club is the second oldest club in the Clyde Valley and its course is now the oldest that’s still in play in the Glasgow area. Modified by James Braid in 1921, this layout sits at an elevation of more than 200 metres above sea level in the hills to the south east of Glasgow.
The opening five holes and closing couple of holes are moorland in character, with gorse and rocky outcrops flanking the fairways as they pitch and roll across uneven terrain. The remainder of the course is more parkland in aspect, where tree-lined holes gently rise and fall across an undulating landscape.
Highlight holes on the front nine include the short par four 2nd, requiring an uphill approach from a rippled fairway to a plateau green, where an early birdie might just be on offer. It’s followed shortly after by a beautiful short par three at “Loch,” the 118-yard 5th, with tee shots having to carry a small pond to the green.
On the back nine, the 164-yard 11th is another terrific par three. This time, the green sits on top of a rocky crag, protected by three little bunkers to the front. “Laigh,” the downhill 419-yard 18th ends the round in fine style, with its fairway narrowing towards a home green that’s defended by a front bunker on either side.
I made my first visit in a while to Cathkin Braes last month and came away wondering why it had taken me so long to make a return trip as there’s lots to like about this place. The opening five holes and closing two holes are a notch above the others due to the craggy terrain they’re routed across but nearly all those in between are none too shabby either.
The short par four 2nd is a great hole to arrive at so early in a round, played into a valley then up to a ridge-top green. It’s followed shortly after by a lovely par three at the 5th (the only short hole on the front nine) which plays across Muir Loch to a raised green that’s protected in front by three intimidating bunkers.
Holes 8 and 12 lie in parallel, playing in opposite directions, and they act as (weaker) transition holes for the three-hole triangulation on a slightly separate property at the 9th to 11th, with the last of these holes a wonderful downhill par three playing to an elevated green which is benched into a crag and guarded in front by three menacing bunkers.
The remaining pair of par threes on the card (at 13 and 16) aren’t quite as eye-catching as the two earlier short holes but, in fairness, it’s never an easy task to make an uphill par three hole appealing from the tee so these two examples of such a hole are more functional than fascinating.
The final two holes bring the round to a rousing conclusion, each of them played as 400-yard+ par fours. The 17th fairway slides from left to right along the top of an escarpment that falls off to the right, before the tee shot at the last plunges down to a fairway that narrows considerably as it reaches the home green.
The use of eco bunkering is not to everybody’s taste (some will question whether having plastic embedded in the ground can ever be termed “eco”) but its application in many of the greenside bunkers here looks the part, giving a very crisp definition to the sand hazards.
Currently #2 in the Glasgow listings, Cathkin Braes is one of several courses located just outside the Scottish Top 100 that have to be knocking for recognition on the door of the national rankings.