Forfar Golf Club was established in 1871 when the original course was laid out by four times Open Champion Old Tom Morris. It remained in this form for over fifty years until James Braid made alterations in 1926. The course as it is today is virtually untouched in design since then.
In the new millennium, Stuart Wilson is making a very good effort at representing Forfar Golf Club nationally. He played at Ganton in 2003 on the winning Walker Cup team for Great Britain and Ireland against the USA. Stuart also won the Silver Medal for leading amateur in the 2004 Open at Royal Troon, joining only five other Scots – Reid Jack, Ronnie Shade, Dick Smith, Barclay Howard and Charlie Green – who had previously achieved that feat.
The links-like undulations of many Forfar fairways are a mystery to visitors as the course is more than ten miles from the coast. One story is told to explain the lie of the land – it is said that the ground on which the course is routed was used years before to dry long rows of flax, this process causing the distinct undulations - urban myth or fact, does anybody know?
The 15th hole – “Braid’s Best” – is the signature hole on the course. A dogleg right, measuring 412 yards, it favours a fade from the tee. Three bunkers protect the front of the raised green and a steep slope to the left will punish any pulled approach shots.
It is the intoxicating amalgam of links-like surface, parkland avenue, heathland heather and gorse that makes Forfar such an interesting course to play. The holes are carved through eighty acres of wooded estate and each fairway is played largely in isolation to the others. Length off the tee is not an issue here with ten of the thirteen par fours under 400 yards in length – accuracy is what matters and keeping the ball in play is the main objective at Forfar.
Almost ten years since I was last here, I pitched up at Forfar a couple of months ago on my way further north to play in Aberdeenshire. When comparing my personal Scottish Top 100 against the official Top 100 chart, this course is way lower than where I have it ranked so I thought a little “quality control” might be in order. I’m so glad I called in to Forfar, as it confirmed what I’d thought all along – this place is way under rated compared to others in loftier chart positions.
Getting the negative out of the way first, the course is let down by two weak holes, the par four 8th and par three 9th, but at least they’re played consecutively and you can look forward to a really solid back nine once they’re out of the way!
What’s best about Forfar is the movement of the land. It’s far from flat here – a “rolling landscape” if ever there was one – but changes in elevation are short and sweet, with nothing too strenuous to contend with. And the holes are beautifully routed around the wooded property, making full use of a very limited parcel of land that extends to less than 90 acres.
My favourite holes included the following: the 393-yard 4th (“Cat Law”), where the green lies on a ridge; the 359-yard 10th (“Gate”), with a wall running along the left side of a raised green; the 412-yard 15th (“Braid’s Best”), which doglegs slightly right then up to the raised green; and the 344-yard 17th (“Piteuchie”), with wonderfully-positioned bunkers guarding the front of the green.
Forfar’s as solid a 4-ball course as you will ever come across and with its reputation for offering reasonable green fees there’s no real excuse for not giving it a go if you haven’t already done so.
As the descriptions say, a surprisingly linksy feel miles from the sea.
Well worth a visit.