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.
Date: September 13, 2019