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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.”
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
The first, "Dun Whinny", is the iconic first hole that every course should have! An easy start with a wide fairway and short Par 4, however the imposing raised green and bunkers surrounding it really make it special. A great start! The second, "East Neuk", from the back tees is nothing short of a brute! Par 4 436 yards with bunkers in play off the tee and on the approach. I ended up in one green side bunker and was happy to take a 6! The 3rd, "Silver Tassie", is a mad hole… Huge humps and hills rise up infront of you and somewhere a fairway is too be had. Then the second is completely blind over a cratered hill to a bowl green. Complete and utter madness but great fun. Then the 4th, "Broomy Law", for me has to be the hardest hole on the course. Par 4 466 yards long uphill the whole way! An incredibly wide fairway that stops the ball immediately on impact, leaves a 200 yard plus approach for most into a narrow raised green, not visible from some parts of the fairway. The 5th, "Het Girdie", Par 3 of 178 yards from the back is one of my favourite Par 3's in golf. The iconic green sits above cavernous bunkers deep below and thick rough over the back. Both of us missed the green and neither scrambled for a Par, but such was the immense beauty of the hole, I don't think we minded! The 6th, "Blink Bonnie", is a real birdie chance which is rare on the Kings course. It plays differently from whatever tee you play. From the blue back tee the angle is very different from the regulation tee. The line straight over the large fairway bunker, is intimidating but if struck can leave the green hittable in two, as the approach is played downhill with only 240 yards roughly remaining. The views from this green of the surrounding mountains are also simply stunning! My excuse for a 3 putt Par… The 7th, "Kittle Kink", some may say is the kind of risk/reward hole suitable for the Ryder Cup. However, I shan't degrade it with such terms. The tee shot is all about how much you dare to carry it, as the fairway lies almost at a complete 90 degree angle to the tee, so an approach of 210-160 yards can be had here however also if too much aggression is taken off the tee a shot of 200+ yards awaits over bunkers from thick rough… The green is surrounded by bunkers at the front, which in all make it a very tough hole indeed! The 8th, "Whaup's Nest", is a cracking Par 3 again of 178 yards. The green lies again a a 90 degree angle to you about 10 yards below you, so yardage is vital. Then the green itself has a huge slope from front to back so depending on the pin position distance is even more important! I reckon not many birdies arise here! The 9th, "Heich o' Fash", is all about the drive, an absolute imperative to find the fairway, other wise thick rough awaits. If the fairway is hit then an easy approach to raised green awaits, but if not… high numbers lie in the depths of bunkers and rough!
The 10th, "Canty Lye", has a nice touch on the tee where you order through what you want to the Halfway House. However, once that is done, a long tee shot awaits for the second Par 5 of 499 yards. Apparently as it is S.I. 1, it is a hard whole but both of us hit a bad shot on the hole and both walked off with a 5. But it is still a great hole as the scenery once again is spectacular, and the green is surrounded by deep bunkers. The 11th, "Deils Creel", is a huge uphill Par 3 measuring 230 yards from the back tees. Played to a sloping green surrounded by bunkers once again, a 3 is an achievement indeed! The 12th, "Tappit Hen", is the start of 4 holes with simply incredible tee shots. Here a carry of 235 yards off the back tees is required just to carry the hillock with bunkers inset on its face. Then once you find your ball over this ridge, a approach of 180 still awaits! A great hole, but nothing compared to what was about to come… I read somewhere that James Braid always assigned his name or something to do with him, to the hole that he thought was the best on the course. And he certainly he got it right! Off the back tee the fairway seems miles away, and is hidden by even more capacious bunkers. This 464 yard Par 4 is amazing! A thin sliver of fairway rolls over humps and dips, through bunkers, the whole way to a raised green. The fairway bunkers were so big that one actually blocked me from seeing a bunker infront of the green. Just brilliant! Or as Braid himself named it, "Braid's Brawest". The 14th, "Denty Den", is a lovely hole with decisions to be made off the tee. At only 309 yards off the back this hole is drivable. However danger lurks everywhere if you stray. However, a real refreshing hole which often yields birdies. The 15th, "Howe o' Hope", is the last of the run of imposing Par 4 Tee shots. As you hit over the brow of a hill, fate decides where your ball ends up. However, then a great approach lies ahead. Downhill to a split green running away from you fast downhill, from 180 yards, so most end up at the back of the green where the pin happened to be when we played, however at the front and suddenly 3 putts loom. The 16th, "Wee Bogle", a Par 3 of 158 yards off the extremely raised tee, plays much shorter to a tiny green surrounded by small deep bunkers. Gleneagles' answer to the Postage stamp at Troon. I loved it! The 17th, "Warslin' Lea" is a dog leg left Par 4 of 377 yards that requires a tee shot to be as close to the right as possible in order to see the green therefore bringing in thick rough and the one fairway bunker into play. Then the 2nd is a short shot played up to a raised green and a regulation 4 awaits most if the green is hit. Then you prepare yourself for one last hole, the 525 yard Par 5 18th, "King's Hame". Off the normal tees this is a Par 4 of 453 yards, however the ridge in the middle of the fairway is carryable. But off the back a drive of 275 yard carry is required, otherwise a long iron/5 wood is the shot, making the Par 5 a true 3 shotter. Then over the ridge blind to leave yourself a wedge into the biggest green on the course. Depending on your shot into the green birdie or bogey awaits.
In all despite horrible weather, and the group infront playing in a different time zone, perhaps in Japan…. I thoroughly enjoyed the Kings course and playing with a 2-Fore-1 voucher it was good value for money, which not many have said about Gleneagles before…! The course was unlike any other I have played. Completely wacky in parts… But more eccentric that psycho. One of the best courses I have played of that parkland/heathland hybrid cross. Great! And the off course facilities weren't bad either…! SLH