Few places in Britain can boast three courses, let alone three nationally ranked Top 100 courses, but then, there's only one Gleneagles. James Braid and C.K. Hutchison were the master architects behind the King's and Queen's but the PGA Centenary is the course that Jack Nicklaus built with Ron Kirby, so it goes without saying that this is an American-styled layout.
The PGA Centenary (formerly known as the Monarch) opened for play in 1993 and it's a big stadium course. In fact, it's the longest inland course in Scotland, measuring nearly 7,300 yards from the back tees. There are five tee boxes to choose from, so select carefully to ensure maximum enjoyment. We're not buggy lovers, but there are some long walks between the greens and tees. If the PGA Centenary is your second round of the day at Gleneagles, a cart comes highly recommended.
“The finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with,” was how Jack Nicklaus described the rolling moorland. This is Nicklaus's first and only design project in Scotland and he's done a fine understated job. Only a couple of holes feature water hazards, and these are for practical, irrigation reasons rather than for effect. The PGA Centenary definitely complements, but also contrasts markedly with the King's and Queen's. The usual Nicklaus features are in place – huge undulating greens, bold bunkering and, of course, a number of risk and reward holes.
The key to scoring well on the PGA Centenary is to avoid coming up short with your approach shots. Invariably, much of the trouble is at the front of the greens, so take enough club. Our favourite holes are those adjacent to the King's course and the 5th is a cracker. The long par four is called "Crookit Cratur" – it's a fun rollercoaster of a hole with a bottle-necked entrance to the green. The 9th is also worthy of mention – a par five which has trouble in the shape of water and bunkers (one of which is huge) lurking down the right.
In consultation with Jack Nicklaus, the PGA Centenary course closed for renovation in October 2011 and reopened at the end of April 2012. Click here for full details.
We wonder what Bernard Darwin might have thought of the PGA Centenary course. We do know that he loved the King's and the Queen's. We suspect he might have said something along these lines: “The PGA Centenary course was intended to test the rampaging animal to the full. Jack Nicklaus has unquestionably made of the PGA Centenary a 'big' course on which it was enthralling to see the big men, from both sides of the Atlantic, stretch themselves during the 2014 Ryder Cup.” The PGA Centenary returned to centre stage in 2019 for the Solheim Cup, which Europe won by a single point. Europe 14½ USA 13½.
Gleneagles is one of our Top 100 Golf Resorts of the World
Spring had apparently sprung when I played the PGA Centenary. It felt more like mid winter, a covering of snow capped the hilltops and it was damp and dreich. No buggies today, only shanks’s pony. Ah well, at least the course was empty.
Is this the fourth best course in Autotrader? Maybe. I’d perhaps be persuaded to replay it when there’s at least one full ball roll on the PGA’s fairways and the greens were a little less receptive.
Until (or if) Ury Estate near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire gets off the ground, the PGA Centenary remains Jack’s only branded Scottish effort, with Ron Kirby being his able assistant. The Golden Bear and his design team have stamped the Nicklaus name on a few (six) layouts south of the border. Some of these are architecturally OK, but on the whole they’re synthetic, perhaps with the exception of St Mellion and maybe the old back nine at Hanbury.
By our own reckoning Jack Nicklaus is one of golf’s greatest architects, with layouts such as Muirfield Village, Monte Rei, Cabo del Sol, Sebonack (with Tom Doak) and Harbour Town (with Pete Dye) in his bulging design portfolio. But, as yet, he has nothing in the UK – apart from his three Open wins – to write home about. Maybe his crowning glory will be Ury.
Are cart paths really needed here in Scotland, and if so do they need to be so obtrusive? Those who’ve driven further north (by car) will have experienced narrower main roads.
Jack still describes the PGA Centenary on his website as possessing “The finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with.” If that’s genuinely the case, the end result is disappointing, but frankly the land on which the PGA is laid out is not perfect.
Yes there are some highs, such as the undulating angled green at #11 and the risk and reward short par four called “Nebit Knowe” at #14, but my fancy wasn’t tickled by much else.
Ultimately I found it impossible to get over the scars of the hideous cart paths. Perhaps I’d have liked it more from behind the wheel, zooming along the curving motorways.
However, I absolutely adore the Gleneagles experience and I can rejoice and pour more love over the “Palace in the Glens” now that the PGA is a dim and distant speck in the rear view mirror.
We played the Ryder Cup course in overcast conditions but after it had monsooned down with rain for the preceding two days before we teed off. That meant that the greens were pretty wet but still played really quick so it befuddled our minds and we never got the pace of them for the entire round.
It was a great buzz playing off the first after being given a very welcome introduction from the Starter and some local course knowledge, knowing we were following in the footsteps of some of the greats in golf. A three putt bogey to start summed up my round and even though I scored horrendously, I left feeling that the course was there for the taking.
The course is very well manicured and as others have mentioned it is an American style resort course with lots of pristine bunkers in a Scottish setting. Whilst the locals may not love it, we all enjoyed the course. Although there are not really many stand out holes, we enjoyed the following:
Par 3 6th, a lovely hole from a slightly elevated tee with a nice Scottish view in the background. The hole played longer than it looked in reality.
Par 5 9th, is a really good snaking, S-shaped hole with water most of the way down the right and strategically placed bunkers dotted around the picturesque hole.
Par 5 16th, is a strong potential risk reward hole which slopes downwards towards the green which is perched behind a stretch of water. Again there are bunkers guarding certain areas including one in the middle of the fairway from the tee.
Overall we enjoyed playing the PGA Centenary course even though there were not many standout holes on the course but it was a good start to our trip to play all three Gleneagles courses.
Obviously a Ryder Cup course...everything is big.
Bunkering on 18th impressive.
Some great holes and views with many opportunities for the course to beat you up !
Frankly, this is an American style design superimposed upon the Scottish landscape. As others have correctly opined, why would you play PGA Centenary when the King's and Queen's courses are on-site?
The essence of Scottish golf is being able to facilitate character and having, at times, some interesting quirk that excites the imagination. The layout is not geared towards that. It is simply a formulaic design which team Nicklaus has done countless times in other locales.
When I read the quote from Jack Nicklaus that this was the finest land he has ever been able to work with -- I wonder who crafted the PR statement for the Golden Bear? The Nicklaus team must have forgotten the land they had with the creation of Cabo del Sol's Ocean Course in Mexico! There are other more notable sites that the Nicklaus team has had the opportunity to create clearly superior courses than here.
Sad to say, hanging one's hat on the fact you hosted a Ryder Cup Match is not exactly a ringing endorsement. Other deadly dull layouts have done likewise. The Belfry (Brabazon) and Celtic Manor's (Twenty Ten) come quickly to mind. But facilities interested in hosting Ryder Cup Matches -- especially on the European side -- need to shell out plenty of financial capital to secure the nod. Quality architecture is a good bit ways down on the list.
Gleneagles is a first rate resort -- but the Nicklaus addition stands clearly apart from what should have been something of real stature. A pity.
by M. James Ward
Played in a open day and the range and facilities of the changing room and staff are first class. Now onto the golf, bit disappointing the started wasn't there to welcome us firstly but we teed off and the course starts off with a gentle par 4 then a birdie-able par 5 second. Lovely views all round of Scottish countryside but the course is a bit bland and you can see if was built to host events as doesn't have the Scottish charm like the other two gleneagles courses, its a very generic Americanized course. The fairways were a bit bare in September which is quite bad and the greens very bumpy but alright. The course itself is nice dont get me wrong and a few nice holes like the 5th and 6th which take you more through the countryside near the kings course but too many bland holes and I would say i prefer playing cardrona or dalmahoy which are far far cheaper and nicer in my opinion. I would not play here again but the kings and queens courses are beautiful ( althou also not always in pristine condition for the price ) but very good courses with varying holes and the Scottish charm. So to sum up i would say overpriced, avoid and play the other two :)
A fair review. I was in the area again recently and was having a pint with some locals in Auchterarder, a nice place for a night out. As one said "I can't understand them holding the Ryder Cup on the fourth best course in Auchterarder". That doesn't include the G West by the way, which is apparently being brought back to life. Still, it's an exclusive members only facility like Loch Lomond, Skibo and the Renaissance. Pfft.