Edzell Golf Club is set most delightfully at the gateway to the Grampians in the foothills of the Angus Glens. The mountains provide a stunning backcloth to this heathland cum moorland cum parkland course. It’s not one of Scotland’s better-known courses, but it really should be because it is an enchanting experience.
Originally, Robert Simpson – the same architect who fashioned the Balgownie links at Royal Aberdeen – laid out the course in 1895. Edzell remained relatively anonymous until James Braid came along in 1933 and re-designed the layout. Little has since changed. If you are a member of a club inaugurated in 1895, then you will be able to play Edzell by way of the 1895 Club – a reciprocal courtesy agreement that extends to some 25 clubs up and down the UK.
Today the Old course at Edzell is set in more than 120 acres of ideal golfing terrain. The turf is notoriously good for golf and consequently Edzell has quite rightly received many accolades. In 2001, an additional nine holes were laid out – the new course is called the Westwater – and it’s a good warm up track to play prior to tackling the Old course.
Edzell is set in the most beautiful surroundings; this is surely one of the best settings for an inland course anywhere in the British Isles. One of the best holes on the course is called “Majuba” an exacting short par three at the 14th which requires a well struck short iron to reach the putting surface. But beware, there’s a deceptive back to front tilt to the green and you’ll be in three-putt territory if you find yourself above the hole.
Over the course of two winters, starting in 2014, a remarkable amount of work was carried out on Edzell's Old course layout. Three new tees were constructed (at holes 5, 9 and 18) and a new green was built on the 4th hole, with the course lengthened overall by 125 yards from the back tees.
A major earth moving exercise, together with new bunkering, gave the course's signature 15th hole an entirely new look and further re-shaping on the river bank at hole 9 and the removal of a timber plantation at holes 13, 14 and 15 created some delightful new views, especially from the 14th green.
In the final phase of the program, visibility at holes 2, 3 and 4 was improved with further earth shaping activity. While some of the above work was done by outside contractors, much of it was carried out by Course Manager Graham Mackie and his dedicated team of green keepers, conforming to a course master plan drawn up by architects Mackenzie & Ebert.
If you are visiting this part of the world, we thoroughly recommend a trip to Edzell as it’s a wonderful golf course set in magical surroundings and, if that’s not enough, it’s great value too.
Edzell is an enjoyable course to play set, as it is, in very attractive surroundings. None of the holes have a 'wow' factor but it is a good example of a small-town course that its staff and members make the very best of.
I returned to the Old course at Edzell last week, eight years after my previous visit, to see for myself the recent course improvements that have taken place. My last review mentioned the neat and tidy aspects of the course and it was no different this time around – indeed, some additional hard wearing new rubberized paths at holes 1, 3 and 16 have improved matters even further in that regard.
The work done to lower the fairway at holes 2 and 3 might easily go unnoticed as you’d be hard pressed to find any tell-tale scars on the landscape. And those earth moving changes are positively subtle when compared to the alterations to the 15th, where the old carry in front of the elevated tee positions has been totally removed to reveal the full majesty of the hole.
Another telling improvement is the repositioning of the green at the left doglegged 4th hole, where the old elevated putting surface has been replaced by a lie of the land green that’s far more in tune with its surroundings – the best I can say about it is that golfers visiting Edzell for the first time would never know the green had ever been moved!
Then again, that compliment can also be given to all the other changes that were pointed out to me during my round. You really “cannot see the join” and such a statement is a big feather in the cap for Graham Mackie and his team who have done a wonderful job getting the course back into shape so quickly. It’s not difficult to understand that a lot of love and care goes into course presentation here.
Although the fairways are tree-lined, there’s plenty of width to be found on the layout so it never feels too tight or constricted. Greens are sensibly contoured with only one of them (the short par four 3rd) marked in my notes as a two-tiered construction. The overall length from the medal tees is now 6,570 yards so Edzell is certainly no pushover (even if the SSS from the regular tees is two strokes under the par of 71).
I was duly impressed by the new green on the 4th hole but the best is kept until near the end, where the sequence of holes from the par three 14th to the par three 17th – with two terrific par fours sandwiched in between – is outstanding. Hole 15 has been totally transformed after its major earthworks and hole 16 remains a marvellous short two-shotter played up to a plateau green.
Observant golfers will have noticed the Old course dropped out of the Scottish Top 100 chart when it was last updated a year ago. With all the upgrading work that’s been carried out over the last couple of years, I’d be more than surprised if Edzell didn’t make an immediate return to the listings when they’re next re-ranked. For sure, the club should be commended for taking the steps deemed appropriate to maximize the course’s full potential.
Initial impressions of the Edzell off-course facilities in the clubhouse and pro shop were reflected on the Old course - neat, tidy and very well maintained. I expected a fine example of a James Braid course and was in no way let down by what I found. Large greens were beautifully manicured and the sizeable fairway and greenside bunkers (around a hundred in total) were excellently positioned – and I found a good few of them to prove the point!
The trees around the property (copper beeches in particular) were a delight to behold and the whole place just had a very comfortable feel to it.
The stretch around the turn from the 7th to the 10th was the highlight of the round (involving a lovely change in elevation at hole 7, a tricky two-tiered green at 8, a testing dog leg at the par five 9th and cross bunkers along a ridge at hole 10). I also liked the way the old railway line was incorporated into the design on seven of the holes.
Not that many visiting golfers to Angus might consider a trip inland from the links courses but Edzell is well worth a visit.