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20 miles S of Perth
Book at least 8 weeks in advance
In 1908, the idea for an hotel at Gleneagles came to Donald Matheson, general manager of the Caledonian Railway Company. He had a dream to build a “Palace in the Glens” which would attract noble and wealthy railway travellers. James Braid (the five times Open Champion) was commissioned to design the King’s course, assisted by Major C.K. Hutchison and Matheson himself.
In 1919 the championship King’s course opened for play and in 1921 the King’s course hosted the first informal Ryder Cup match between Great Britain and the USA. No half points were awarded for this fledgling event and a strong British team that included James Braid won the competition 9 points to 3.
Gleneagles is the perfect mountain setting for a game of golf; the King’s course is surely the best moorland track in the world. The sweeping views of the Ochil Hills and the peaks of Ben Vorlich and the Trossachs are simply ravishing.
Braid was given the most perfect terrain upon which to build a golf course and he built a very special golf course. The holes blend perfectly into the landscape. The springy fairways wind their way through punishing rough, strewn with heather and gorse. Many mature pines, silver birch and rowan provide natural amphitheatres on a number of the holes.
You cannot help but be enchanted by this golf course. Even the named holes are evocative: Silver Tassie, Blink Bonnie and Wee Bogle. But it’s the views that will probably interrupt your concentration on the game. In Golf Between Two Wars, Bernard Darwin wrote: “The beauty of the place is beyond all question; the exact merits of the course perhaps more difficult to decide”. Darwin went on to say that the ground was once slow; this made the course very long, even for the likes of J H Taylor and Sandy Herd. Then the ground hardened under the feet of thousands, and the ball ran further and further and consequently the scoring became lower.
The book, Classic Golf Holes, features the 18th hole: “From the tee boxes beside the little hut just beyond the 17th green, the drive should ideally clear the crest of the ridge over a line between the twin bunkers. It will then catch a downslope which will speed the ball on towards its ultimate destination. Thereafter, again ideally, the player will repair for the night to the splendour of the hotel.”
A number of important events have been played over the King’s course, including the Curtis Cup, Dunhill Trophy, Scottish Open and the WPGA Championship of Europe. Lee Trevino, standing on the 1st tee of the King’s course, remarked: “If heaven is as good as this, I sure hope they have some tee times left”.
In October 2016, Gleneagles staged the 100th
edition of the Scottish PGA Championship. The event was played on the King’s course, which has
been returned to how it was 100 years ago. The restoration work has reversed most of the
changes that were made in the late 1980s with the most significant alteration focusing
on fairway width – increased by 40% – resulting in bunkers moving
from the rough and back into the fairways.
Gleneagles is one of our Top 100 Golf Resorts of the World
I returned to the King’s course at Gleneagles in April 2018 just a little over a decade after I first fell in love with it.
The reason for this more recent visit was to play in their popular Spring Open. A card and pencil competition off the white tees in the early season was deemed a good idea… at least during the winter planning months!
The unique and brilliant routing of the King’s course over dramatic and undulating moorland meant that even though ten years had passed it was still possible to vividly recall every hole before stepping onto the tee.
The layout and land forms certainly have something about it. There are so many fantastic driving holes you will never get bored from the tee and the approaches into the wonderfully located green sites are equally pleasing.
Clean bunkering, plenty of width and an array of colours, which any artist could only dream of having on their palette, greet you at Gleneagles. And if the internal beauty of the course is to be admired then the external views are its equal. Golfing at Gleneagles is an uplifting experience.
The putting surfaces weren’t at their best, hardly surprising that just a couple of weeks prior they had been under snow, but this did not detract from the sheer quality of the course.
I’m not overly a fan of the opening hole with its steep incline to a sloping green but it gets us to the best of the golfing terrain and from then on Gleneagles is at its brilliant best.
The outstanding holes on the property in my view are the hidden-green third which is quickly followed by the brutish par-four fourth, thanks largely to the diagonal ridge that runs in front of the green and deflects anything left of centre down to well below the level of the green. The ninth is a real treat too with a seemingly dubiously positioned marker post to aim at (albeit it is in the correct place) before playing across (or from within) a deep valley to a ledge green.
On the back nine and the par-four 13th is probably the standout hole, “Braid’s Brawest”, with a demanding drive and another excellent approach shot. One is not quite certain of what lies down the undulating fairway except for a glaring bunker at the perfect driving distance; laying back to avoid this leaves a long approach. The green on the 15th is also worth a special mention with a severe slope from front to back and a basin to the back-right.
The set of one-shotters are truly wonderful and display Braid at his very best. The volcanic nature of the fifth, the green complex at the eighth, the grandiosity of the 11th and the quaintness of the delicate 16th all add up to a delicious feast of varied and taxing short holes.
There are only two par-fives on the property (holes 6 and 18) and with the exception of the drive at the last they are perhaps the weak link of the course… but both are far from poor and add to the eclectic mix that the King’s has to offer.
The King’s at Gleneagles is a match for all but a handful of inland courses in the British Isles. Indeed, if I’m not golfing at the seaside in Scotland I can’t think of anywhere else that I’d rather be.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
A James Braid design, The Kings opened in 1919. The first hole is inviting with the challenge being an elevated green that slopes significantly from the back to the front. Make sure you hit enough club. The 3rd hole is unique, with a steep hill, thus a blind approach shot. The 4th hole is a long par 4 where everything, drives and approaches, will roll left. The 5th is a relatively short par 3. It is a table top green and if you miss it, especially short into the greenside bunkers, par will be real difficult. The 6th is a short par 5 dogleg left and a great birdie oppty, The 7th is another dogleg left, I was glad to be a hooker. Don't get greedy.. The 9th can be a tricky little hole. You do not need driver, but you must be well left on your tee shot or your approach will be in the gunch. The backside starts off with a long par 4 with a well protected green. Upon completion you are met with one of the most ridiculous halfway house rules in golf. There is a mandatory ten minute wait!!! Ridiculous. Why? After sitting and stiffening up you then a face a mid length uphill par 3 with 5 greenside bunkers, even though you can only see a couple from the tee box. The 12th is a par 4 with a blind tee shot. Aim left of the marker and take an extra club to carry to the elevated green. the 13th is a long tough par 4. Aim your tee shot at the right hand side of the left fairway bunker. The 14th is probably my favorite hole. A short reachable par 4 it is a great risk reward hole. With 9 bunkers you will need a little luck to find the green but a fun hole regardless. The 16th also has 9 bunkers and it is a short uphill par 3. The 18th is a rewardable par 5. A good drive should catch the downslope and give you a chance to be on in two. It has a HUGE green and while it appears that there are three greenside bunkers the middle two create an optical illusion. There is more real estate behind them than you think.
Overall, grossly over rated and overpriced. If you get a blue light special have at it otherwise, move along.
A 3 ball rating is “average”. What do you think it is about the course that fails to justify its lofty reputation?
Just checked their website and see that as of 16th October you can get a 36 hole ticket here as a visitor (can be used over consecutive days) for £160. That would surely be good value for the Kings and a Ryder Cup course - or the Queens if you’d prefer.
We played the lovely Kings this Summer.
At 4pm a 4 ball was £300 with lots of light.
If you plan ahead it's great value.
Along with blairgowrie rosemount this is my faborite course, has a host of differant style holes, beautiful wildlife and scenery and the course is in always good condition. This is far better than the ryder cup course in my eyes and always fun to play plus very friendly staff and people and family type atmosphere which is what golf is about. If you have the money well worth it but if in budget roaemount blairgowrie is just as great.
Gleneagles King’s is an underrated course in Scotland – should be closer to rank #12 or #13 in the country. It’s the toughest, most impressive 6,000-yard golf course I’ve ever played. It’s an extraordinary piece of land that reveals the holes to you.
Specifically, there are at least 12 tee shots where you play over a rise in the land and can’t see the landing area. As you progress down the fairway unbeknownst as to what awaits you over the gentle hills, gorgeous views down to magnificent green-sites are divulged to your senses.
I was thoroughly impressed with how natural the property felt and a prime example of how the holes fit so logically onto the land. Plenty of width has been returned to the fairways, and the holes are constantly changing direction and elevation. The views of the Scottish countryside and glens are spectacular adding the immense amount of charm this club offers.
My main critique of the course was that we played the same club into the first three par 3s. We waited until the 16th hole to use a different club on a short hole. While each of them look very different, the lack of variety was a little disappointing. The green-sites appear to be naturally discovered and shaped into undisturbed land and ridges from hundreds of years ago.
The hugely enjoyable short par 4s (number 3 is an absolute corker!) and the challenging (but enjoyable) blind shots make the King’s course an upper echelon course serving as an excellent complement to the vast number of links courses available for play.
It’s always a pleasure to tee it up at Gleneagles and my game on the King’s a few days ago was just that. Ahead of celebrating the King’s centenary in 2019, a lot of work has gone into presenting the course as it would have looked back in James Braid’s day, with particular emphasis on widening fairways (at the 9th and 15th in particular), renovating bunkers and over seeding greens with bent grass.
The yardage from the regular yellow tees is a rather benign 6,057 yards (playing to a par of 68) but a standard scratch score of 71 lets you know you’re not in for a gentle moorland stroll in the Perthshire hills when you play here. Holes 3 to 8 head in a westerly direction generally and it’s a really tough stretch if the wind is in your face when playing these six holes.
I’d forgotten how good the short par four 9th was, played semi blind to a fairway that’s been widened on the left side before rising to a lovely raised greensite. As with several other features on the front nine, including the uphill blind approach to the 3rd, the design of this hole had me thinking “they just don’t make holes like this nowadays, more’s the pity”.
On the back nine, “Braid’s Brawest,” the par four 13th is a wonderful, gloriously-bunkered hole and one of the first played during the round where the green can be clearly seen from the tee. It’s followed by a pair of contrasting downhill par fours, the first measuring only 309 yards from the back tees, before a very short par three at the 16th starts the thrilling three-hole sequence for home.
The moorland landscape of the King’s is unsurpassed, the course blending in beautifully with its surroundings. Heather and gorse-fringed holes fit the terrain – bringing ridges and gullies, humps and bumps constantly into play – with nothing forced onto the property. If the lie of the land entails a semi-blind or blind shot to be played then so be it.
Combine a round here with 18 holes on the Queen’s and you have the most stunning 36-hole golf day away from Scotland’s coastline.
Great experience and some legendary, epic holes 3, 5, 7, 12 and in. Tough course physically and mentally with the huge undulations and blind shots. Felt battered, in a nice way, when I walked off and unfortunately could not face playing the Queens in the afternoon ! (I am planning to play Queens next year). In summary, you definitely feel that you are playing golf at a very special place.
Played here many times and by far the best gleneagles course 2nd is the queens, dislike the pga tbh. But the kings is a beautiful proper scottish golf course. varying holes all being different and leading through the natural scottish countryside. The kings and queens if you play in the evening you will see a lot of deer and wildlife which is real good touch. The course has many tees to make it fair for all levels and is a quirky lovely challenge and enjoyable. real good mix of short and challenging par 4s 3s and 5s the only reason this wasn't on the european tour is fans couldn't get round it. condition is normally good to average which for £190 is a bit disappointing considering the price you'd expect pristine but all good and would recommend the kings and queens anyday to anyone.
Played this course today in Strong winds and what a challenge! Have played Turnberry, Troon, Western Gailes and the West at North Berwick. In my opinion this course beats them all. Has everything you want in a Golf course. Tough but fair, quirky and every hole has something different
I returned to the King’s, more than a decade after first playing here, and the course confirmed my previous impression that it’s a tough track (with the scorecard listing a SSS of three over par for each of the three gents tee positions). The opening hole really serves notice of the challenge ahead; it’s not a long hole by any means but what an imposing site for the first green, looming high above the fairway on top of a sand-protected ridge.
Thankfully, the ferns that were once close to the 3rd green have since been removed, but it’s still a very tough hole to play into the wind – as are each of the next five holes, played in the same general direction. It’s only after reaching the halfway house at the 10th and turning for home that you feel slightly more in control of your golfing destiny, with the severe undulations from tee to green on the great par fours at 12 and 13 beginning the run for home.
I’m not a fan of the short par four 14th, which appears a little too contrived to me – I’d love to know if this hole is a Braid original or was it perhaps modified in the recent past? Many of the greens had just been top dressed when we played today, reducing the art of putting to lottery level, but sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth when you’re out and about early or late in the season.
Some claim the likes of Blairgowrie (Rosemount) or Downfield could be ranked as the second best inland course in the country - behind Loch Lomond, which is out in front by a mile - whilst others think that, given time, the gargantuan layouts at Spey Valley or The Duke’s might usurp the King’s. I think the course probably punches above its weight slightly as a standalone 18-hole layout but combine it with the shorter Queen’s course and Gleneagles offers one of the best 36-hole configurations in all of Scotland.