Designed by James Braid and constructed by
John R. Stutt, the architect’s trusted contractor from Paisley in 1925, the
18-hole layout at Crow Wood Golf Club was once part of the parkland landscape
within the Garnkirk Estate, on the outskirts of Glasgow.
Garnkirk House, which was built in 1820 on the site of an older mansion, was sold in 1937 and rebuilt by its new owner but it was re-acquired by the golf club eighteen years later then converted to serve as a very grand clubhouse for the membership.
Today’s course is much as Braid laid it out, except for holes 6 to 9, which were constructed in the 1930s when more land became available to extend the overall length of the tree-lined layout by around six hundred yards.
A round at Crow Wood starts with a rather intimidating par three, where the green is surrounded by bunkers, then the next short hole is played at the 5th, measuring a meaty 193-yards from the back markers, and the advice here is to “aim for the left of a large green”.
The Garnkirk Burn comes into play at the 6th and 7th and a recent island green has been created on the 8th so exercise extra care here to avoid a dropped shot (and a lost ball) then short par fours at holes 10 and 12 offer the chance of a birdie at the start of the back nine.
The signature hole at Crow Wood is “Auld Hoose,” the 449-yard par four 13th, which doglegs left from the tee to an elevated green, with out of bounds along the left side of the hole - there’s also a tree in the middle of the fairway where it veers to the left to further complicate things!
It’s more than twenty years since I last played Crow Wood and I couldn’t remember much from my previous visit… apart from the fact that it opens with a downhill par three to a heavily sand-protected green on quite a tough opening hole.
The run across heaving ground from the 2nd to the 5th is very good, starting with an uphill, right doglegging par five and ending with a downhill par three to a large, inviting green.
The following four holes in the north part of the property (which were not part of the original design) are all solid but they’re laid out in parallel on flatter around the Garnkirk Burn, which slashes diagonally across the 6th and 7th. The 9th then plays uphill from tee to green, returning play to the higher ground where the opening and closing holes are located.
The back nine is characterised by an entertaining mix of par fours – there’s only one par three at the 15th and one par five at the 18th – and these vary in length between 287 yards at the 10th and 449 yards at the 13th. It’s just a pity the raised green of this terrific second hole is back dropped by the rather unglamorous rear end of the local hotel.
I was surprised by Crow Wood, after arriving with zero expectations. It’s always nice to discover (or in this case rediscover) a course that isn’t quite the run of the mill layout you maybe thought it was going to be.
The clubhouse lies just off the very busy road north out of Glasgow in the town of Muirhead. Within a few minutes of teeing off at Crow Wood, however, you forget the urban surroundings. Mature trees abound here and it is a particularly attractive place to be in autumn. The course itself is accessible to all with a lot of shortish par fours to appeal to the average golfer. Amusingly, the start of the course video shows a golfer teeing up then smashing a driver into the distance. You would not be doing this at Crow Wood as the 1st is a short par three! Standout hole for me is the downhill 4th which provides magnificent views of the Campsie Hills. It is nature in the form of the trees and the views which are the abiding memory to take away from Crow Wood but the course itself plays its part in an enjoyable golfing experience.