There’s uncertainty regarding the provenance of the Glencruitten course. According to the John F. Moreton & Iain Cumming book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses, “The Polivinster course started in 1890, was nine holes and council-owned. The council sought another site, in 1905… In 1907 they start to talk to Mr. Bontein who already has a private nine hole course on the Glencruitten estate. Negotiations falter… The council looks elsewhere, to Ganavan on the coast. This nine hole opens in May 1908.”
“Meanwhile, Bontein goes ahead with the extension to eighteen… This course is opened on 1st June 1908. Immediately after the 1920 St Andrews Open, Braid, Fernie, Taylor and Vardon travel overnight by train to Oban… This is ‘to fulfil an arrangement made some time ago’. The Oban Times gives a detailed account of the golf, and says that the course was ‘laid out by Mr Bontein of Glencruitten’. Now it would be unusual, though not without precedent, for an owner of land to design a golf course…”
The authors go on to question why Braid and the other three eminent professionals should open the course two years after it opened, hypothesizing that perhaps Braid either had had a hand in the design or that he suggested improvements after playing it. As they say, “it is a mystery yet to be solved.”Regardless of who actually designed the course, it is one of the most unique 18-hole layouts you will play anywhere, with blind shots galore, big dipper fairways and no fewer than ten par threes on the scorecard. “Hilly parkland” doesn’t come close to describing the course at Glencruitten and neither does “eccentric and sporting”. As unique golfing venues go, this is up there with the very best and not to be missed if you like your golf to be both entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable.
Very happy to see Glencruitten on the site ! An ideal place to play if en route from Machrihanish, The Machrie or Arran to the more numerous delights of the Highlands. We played in late Spring for a pittance, so didn't begrudge the damp conditions, and as always in out of the way Scotland we received a great welcome. Super fun, you'll get more exercise per yard than any other golf course other than Stewart Island, and don't forget some seafood on the harbour before heading North or South.
Now, that is a golf course! Heading back from days at Machrihanish to Glasgow Airport, we stopped at Glencruitten. Check your blood pressure medication to make sure it's up to date. I played with a friend...and on the first hole, the starter said, which was a clue to what was coming...."it takes 3 good shots to get on in 2!" And, by golly, he was right. Up the hill...no, way up the hill. Then, down the hill....no waay down the hill. Over and over. I likened it to trekking for gorillas. Fun, sometimes exhausting, and always interesting. Great grass and scenery. Try it. Nice Scots from Oban abound here...and it's great Scotch to drink too!
Glencruitten is a fascinating golf course I whole-heartedly recommend anyone should play.
It’s certainly not a course for the faint-hearted, in more ways than one, but will give you the chance to manufacture an infinite amount of different shots unlike you will get to experience anywhere else, especially on your ‘run of the mill’ type course.
And whilst it’s a course that I can imagine some people (the unadventurous) wouldn’t like… I absolutely loved it.
Despite its modest length of just 4,434 yards the course plays much longer than this which is in large part due to its par of 62, as well as a number of uphill shots; some of which bring a wide smile to your face.
Glencruitten is certainly a hard walking course – there’s no disguising that – with many changes in elevation during the entire round. I can’t really recall a flat hole, but this is what makes it so exciting, at times amazingly crazy and quirky golf…
The layout and routing of the course is bewildering and how such a fun and challenging course was designed over this stunning terrain, in the heart of Glencruitten Estate, is a real credit to the designer; the famous James Braid. I would have loved to have been there in the early 1900’s to observe how it was routed.
Glencruitten also came across as a really friendly club. We were welcomed warmly and after chatting to a group of members it was clear they are very proud of their unique course.
If one is ever staying in Oban playing here is an opportunity not to be missed but Glencruitten is also a course I would recommend you travel further afield from to sample. It’s an absolute gem of a golf course in Argyll.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I’ve been wanting to return here for a long time so when a proposed visit to another course fell through this morning due to bad weather, I took the opportunity to drive a couple of golfing chums to a drier spot up the A82 and A85 and introduce them to Glencruitten’s golfing delights
Since I last played here in 2001, the 6th hole has been extended to a short par four so the overall par has increased to 62, with ten par threes now played during a round. The overall yardage has also increased by almost 200 yards so it measures 4434 yards from the white tees but a standard scratch score of 63 for the course indicates this is no easy track, believe me.
So much for the statistics as they’re not what matters here.
Focus on the fantastic topography and you’ll enjoy three hours of undiluted fun on a layout that no modern day architect would ever contemplate designing. Blind or semi-blind approach shots (at holes 1, 3, 8 and 10 ) and thrilling downhill tee shots (at holes 2, 4, 5, 9, 13 and 18) are highlights during a round that also features old fashioned crossing fairways at holes 5 and 6 then 12 and 14.
Apart from the holes around the clubhouse, it’s a wee bit hilly on the estate but the effort involved in climbing one hole is immediately rewarded with a descent at the next hole so go with the flow and enjoy the switchback ride.
I was delighted to find Glencruitten’s nomination as a gem on the website. There may be plenty of good courses in Scotland as a whole but in the western Highlands they are few and far between and this is one of them. Measuring only 4,255 yards, it has eleven – yes 11! – par threes (three in a row from the 5th and the 9th), two par fours under 300 yards and another three under 360 yards!
So what relevance does an old fashioned golf course like this have in the modern golfing era? Well, if it was good enough for a professional game between Braid, Taylor, Vardon and Fernie in 1910 then it’s good enough to play in the new millennium, I say!
Laid out on flat links land it would be a pitch and putt course but located as it is in a craggy glen with blind shots, elevated tees, pulpit greens, burns and sloping greens, it is the 18-hole equivalent of Shiskine, in my golfing book – check the club’s website for photos at the 3rd, 9th and 15th to get some idea of the terrain. It’s old fashioned golf at its very best which should be played for the sheer enjoyment.
Glencruitten may be a long way off the more well-trod golfing tracks (I like to side track, occasionally!) but if you are ever in the Oban area, set aside a few hours where you can step back in time to an era when golf really was fun to play.