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20 miles S of Perth
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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.”
|In a recent poll we asked: “Have you played all three courses at Gleneagles? If so, which one do you prefer?” The King’s came out on top with 42.9% of the vote followed by the Queen’s with 38.1% whilst the PGA Centenary could only manage 19%.|
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
As far as I’m concerned, the King’s course at Gleneagles is one of the best inland courses I’ve ever played. Everyone who visits Scotland rightly wants to head to the coast, that’s where the magic happens. But if you can make time for one inland course, please make that course the King’s at Gleneagles. It’s an incredibly majestic place with a tumbling landscape amongst the most idyllic surroundings. I visited this August just past, and the course was playing wonderfully fast and firm, so I therefore can’t comment on how the course would play in Winter or after a long period of rain, but in the ideal conditions that I enjoyed for my visit, the place was just rolling perfectly.
I like a golf course that starts with a gentle handshake opener, and the vast, wide open fairway on the 1st tee is the equivalent of hitting the fairway at the driving range. From there on though, it’s a case of buckle your seat belt as you’re in for a ride, the tabletop green sat intimidatingly above the fairway means that any sense of ease doesn’t last for long.
I’m a die-hard James Braid fan, and the 3rd is a brilliant example of Braid’s creative work. Braid uses rolling land like no other course architect to my knowledge, and this is a perfect example of his taste for the wicked. He found a hidden and sunken dell that was ideal for a green site, and how you access that point is almost secondary in his thinking. How this plays out in practice on the 3rd is the most bizarre piece of land that climbs uphill with a deep hollow half way, before hiking up another section over a grass wall before you reach the putting surface.
Braid was not one for taking half-measures in his course design with the 5th, the volcano design par three probably being the King’s most famous hole and with that, a do-or-die test of accuracy, although it’s a shame that the cart path blights the visuals from the tee on this hole – admittedly a minor grumble, but a grumble all the same. The 9th is another beautiful example of Braid’s brilliant work, on this occasion using visual deception. A marker post above a deep chasm of a fairway provides directional guidance to the line from the tee, but this line at first appears to be skewed too far to the left so your instinct tells you to aim further right. Trust the marker post would be my advice and then you’ll be ideally positioned to play a short iron to another tabletop green with rolling moorland providing the scenic backdrop.
After ten holes, you’ll reach the halfway house. One of the previous reviewers criticises the compulsory ten minute break. Personally, if I could have made my visit to the halfway house a full hour, I would have. The variety of pastries, drink and particularly, their cookies are fit for a king, and the views from the patio outside of the chalet style building are of course, wonderfully scenic. If you can’t take time to take to stop for a pause and breathe in this most natural of settings, then when can you?
One aspect that sets the course apart from other inland courses I’ve played is how you play across some incredible folds in the fairways and how the bunkers are embedded within them in a manner that appears quite unforced. This is best characterised with the consecutive holes at 13 and 14 which may well be when the course really hits its peak. The former being a brute of a par four with two fierce strikes needed to reach the green, whilst a much friendlier short four comes next, quite reachable with a well struck drive, but fraught with danger around the green. I could probably speak as glowingly about the closing few holes, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll jump to the turbulent par five 18th which is another one of the glorious roller-coaster holes that you’ll have become accustomed to at this point around the King’s course. This hole tumbles down towards the green like one of those funfair slides where you ride in a hessian sack at the fairground. It’s a quite eccentric way to finish, and in the same manner with how the round starts with an inviting drive, it concludes with a gigantic green accepting of a well connected, long-range shot.
You can tell from my review that I liked the King’s course a lot. And I make no apologies for this. It’s one of my favourite places where I’ve played golf. Gleneagles is one of few household names in UK golf, and it amazes me that a course with such a revered history surpassed my expectations, but surpass my expectations it did.
Luxury. That is what first comes to mind at Gleneagles. From the minute you drive in, you know you are in for something special and it delivers that at every turn.
From the vast club shop, the expansive practice grounds (only downside is they are a 5-10 minute walk from the first tee) and the warm welcome provided by the starter, you already know this is going to be a special round.
As you stand out on the first tee, a very generous fairway awaits before an uphill approach into the green which means anyone with a slightly nervous disposition should be able to get away safely.
The course itself is neither particularly long, nor tight and is very scorable as long as you aren't totally wild (I scored -2 through the last 6 holes playing off 11!). That doesn't mean it isn't challenging however. There are lots of run off areas and strategically placed bunkers to contend with and you have to put your ball in the right positions to avoid having really awkward shots.
The lasting memory of the Kings course however is the backdrop to the place. Mountains, immaculate green grass and views for miles makes this a place where you can forget about everything for the day. It really is nirvana. To top it off, I played on a summers day at about 2pm and from the 4th hole to the 8th (towards the back of the course tucked away) I don't think I saw another person.
If you get a chance to play here do it. It's well worth it and if you stay in the hotel it is fantastic. It is hugely expensive even for a single night, but it is worth every penny. The grounds, restaurants, bars, shops, spa - all first class and with a customer experience to match.
One final interesting note is that there is a compulsory 10 minute wait in the halfway house, something I initially found quite annoying until I realised how well this does at respreading the course out and speeding up play (not that this was an issue with how few people were playing on my day) but certainly is an interesting idea.
I don’t know whether my view of the Kings course is bias as I’ve enjoyed the most amazing stay at the hotel or as it’s just a truly great course! I think it’s actually the latter and I have to say straight into my personal top 10. I teed off this morning in a haze of Scottish fog that threatened my round before it had even started but by the 4th the sun broke through and the rest was just pure joy. Condition of the course was amazing and some of the fairways are truly amazing if nothing else for the amazing shifts in the topography. I am already looking forward to the prospect of returning. A real must if looking to stay and play in Scotland in my opinion.
I have hesitated in giving this course a 6/6 rating, mainly due to not playing every other course in the world, so there may be better courses (Trump Aberdeen?) but for the moment this is my zenith. The whole resort is so welcoming, and customer focussed. We had booked a twilight tee time, and were concerned at the pace of play, and getting round before dark, but we shouldn't have worried. We even had time for a pie and a pint at the half way house, which was kept open until we had passed.
Onto the course. Wonderfully manicured, as one would expect, but the course design shines through. Each and every hole stuns the visitor. The beauty of a blind tee shot is when the hole reveals itself as you advance over a hill, or around a bend. I was left repeatedly stunned at the vista presented to me. I am an unashamed James Braid fan, and this has to be his masterpiece (I even loved the approach on the 3rd). Bunkering that tricks the eye is a bit outdated due to our measuring devices , but adds so much to the landscape of each hole.
There are some incredibly tough holes, but everything feels 'fair' . Blind fairways open up, and marker posts are well positioned. The risk and reward 14th yielded 3 birdies (after 3 missed eagle putts) for our 4 ball, but there were holes where we all struggled to score par (or bogie).
A tap in birdie for this correspondent meant my smile as i walked off the 18 was a little bit wider, but if I'd returned an NR I'd have still been giving the Cheshire Cat a run for his money.
I must declare an interest in that I regard the Gleneagles Resort so highly that in 2009 I purchased a week’s time-share stay for virtual perpetuity in a house on the Glenmor Estate in the Resort. My reason was so that I would get to play the King’s and Queen’s course every year in early May.
I simply adore the place, it’s old-fashioned dignity and style, the refreshingly cold almost magical air, and the feeling of space and quiet calm in a playground framed by the mighty Ochil Hills. In my view, the English language does not have a word that adequately describes the beauty and sheer majesty of Gleneagles!
And the King’s Course is the crown and probably my favourite golf course anywhere. For sure it has its faults, 3 of the 4 par 3s are of similar length and the greens in early May are normally ‘bumpy’ as the grass is not by then growing strongly due to a micro-climate which means that Gleneagles seems to be colder than the surrounding area. But these are minor gripes.
The variety of the holes designed by James Braid over 100 years ago takes the breath away and the challenge is unremitting from the moment you’ve driven on the opening hole ‘Dun Whinny’ and are faced by a mid-iron shot to a hilltop green with a cavernous bunker halfway up the slope. To my mind the intoxicating assortment of traditional holes here does not include a weak one, although generously wide fairways are a constant reassurance.
As a youngster I got in to golf watching Lee Trevino, Tony Jacklin, Sean Connery, Bruce Forsyth ‘et al’ playing Pro-Celebrity Golf on the King’s Course at Gleneagles in glorious technicolor on my tv screen. Now over 40 years later, I am indeed fortunate to tee it up here every year. It is the fulfilment of a boyhood dream best summed up by Trevino’s immortal words all those years ago as the intro on this website ‘if heaven is as good as this, I sure hope they have some tee times left’.
I’m not sure what it is about the kings course but it doesn’t really do anything for me. Don’t get me wrong it is not a bad course. But for some reason I just don’t see all the praise it gets.
Condition wise every time I have played it it has been very wet and very soft. I find it a bit of a slog in places as well. I do like the short par 4 14th. That’s a fun little hole. Overall though I would rather play rosemount or ladybank if given the opportunity
A tremendously fun course woven into beautiful scenery, but it's a real test. Each time I've played King 's it's felt harder: you've got everything here with blind drives and approaches, long par 4's, drivable par 4's etc, but the 18th is one of those annoying holes where the whites are only a little way back but a par 5. The hotel is up there with Turnberry and The Old Course, and the twilight rate is amongst the best value to be had.
I admit that I love everything about Gleneagles from the hotel to the driving range to all of the activities. But of course, the highlight is the golf on the King's and Queen's courses.
I do not think the King's is the best inland golf course in the UK; that is a worthy debate between Walton Heath Old, Swinley Forest, the two courses at Sunningdale, Ganton, and Woodhall Spa Hotchkin. However, the King's course is a must play if you want something different from a links course in Scotland and you can't get access to Loch Lomond. It is certainly and unquestionably the best inland course in Scotland.
And those views! One cannot help but feel happy and joyful when playing the King's course on a good weather day. The views are spectacular. It is a stunning setting. The only prettier golf course is the Queen's course, but it is not nearly as challenging.
There are not many weak holes on the King's course; I counted four There are exceptional holes however to balance this.
I liked the uphill green on the first hole. A three putt is a strong possibility if you are not within 20 feet of the pin or coming downhill.
The second hole is weak due to the downhill nature of the tee shot to an average green.
I liked the third, another short par 4 with a partially hidden green due to the high ridge in front of it.
The fourth is another strong par 4 although I wonder why the green was more heavily guarded by bunkers.
Most of the people I played with liked the very short fifth hole due to the elevated green that is well bunkered and has a very good green on it. A gem of a hole.
The sixth hole I thought was a bit weak because it is not very interesting. As a par five, it is very easy.
The sixth is a sharp dogleg of some length with a definite penalty shot if you go left off the tee. If you can navigate a good tee shot, it is pretty simple from there on it.
Then follows a medium length par 3 that I thought was only average despite the shallowness of the green. Others in my group liked the hole much more than I did.
The 9th and 10th are holes that I thought was pretty average as well despite the beauty of it. I found them to be too simple.
I liked the 11th hole, either a medium length par 3 or a beast at 230 yards to a well defended green. Arguably the best par 3 on the course.
12 was another hole I thought was a bit weak, a medium length par 4 except from the back tee to a green I found to be a bit too easy.
13 is a gem, a longer par 4 with a fairway bunker pinching in on the left side and also well defended. Arguably the best hole on the golf course.
14 is a very short par 4 and is a weak hole despite all of the bunkers that do not really come into play. I've missed a 3 feet putt for eagle here (not that I don't still think about it!).
15 is a long par 4 but plays shorter than its length. It has one of the best greens on the golf course due to the two levels and slope.
16 is a fine short par 3 that is very well defended with bunkers surrounding the green. It's best not to take on the flag here and just go for the middle of the green. The bunkers on this hole are pretty difficult.
I liked 17 a lot, a dogleg left with trouble all down the left side and a fairway bunker right designed to catch the person trying to play it safe. It also has a very good green due to its length and tiers as well as a false front. A gem of a golf hole.
To finish is a very fine downhill par 5 with lovely views, although not as dramatic as earlier in the round. Yes, people joke about which green to play into given the ending to the Queen's course, but it is pretty obvious what one is to do here. You have a chance at birdie unless the wind is against you. It is the largest green on the course, so hitting it in three does not guarantee a birdie or par.
Gleneagles King's is an amazing golf course. It is clearly the best inland course in Scotland. Go pamper yourself and stay at the hotel!
You rated Loch Lomond higher!
Such a great golf course built into the Scottish moorland that is worthy of a higher rating maybe? The Kings course routes its way through magnificent countryside and almost every hole is a gem. And what a place to stay! Expensive yes, but also quite outstanding in every particular. The Kings course is far superior to the PGA course designed by Jack Nicklaus for the 2012 Ryder Cup... but that is also a decent day's play albeit that I would take a round on Queens course in preference.
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.