Having played the King's several times I had always pretty much avoided Centenary as I had heard stories of the hard slog it could be and never really fancied it. By chance though I played it twice in the last 6 weeks. My first visit was fairly horrific. We played it on the Bank Holiday weekend at the beginning of May. I was staying at Glenmor and a friend joined me for a round. He paid £75 for the round and we shared a buggy for, I think, £40. At the time of booking there was no mention of the horror of what to come. The greens were to all intents and purposes unplayable. Two months of snow and frost at the beginning of the year had left them holed and pitted. In all my years of playing, growing up on council courses in Edinburgh, I had never seen anything like it. There was no way it was possible to move the ball to avoid the holes - they were everywhere. What was so galling was that no-one at Gleneagles had mentioned this to us. It epitomises so much of this place these days - they are out for the money and don't really care about your experience. The fairways were all cut to aid drainage I guess and again there was no mention of this.
As for the course itself, it wasn't as bad as I had expected! While nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as the King's or Queen's it is quite a plesant track with a handful of memorable holes but also some pretty weak holes - surely they are going to have to do something to 18 before the Ryder Cup as it is hard to imagine the hole generating much in the way of drama. The back 9 is probably the more interesting stretch with some short par 4s which require more than brute force and the par 5 16th is a very pleasant hole with a real risk or reward across water. There have been changes on the course over recent years - notably the 12th becoming a long par 4 (3rd longest on the course from the yellows) rather than a shortish par 5. However, and excuse me but this really annoys me, they have not changed the stroke index of the hole. It plays as stroke index 14. That is just laziness for a course which has prentences to be world class.
I was invited back a month later and for sure the greens had come on a lot and they may be just about playable for when the tour comes in August. I walked the course on the second visit and while some of the 400 yard plus walks between green and tee were annoying it was just about doable so don't feel you absolutely need to take a cart if you have a basic level of fitness.
To have the Ryder Cup in Scotland in 2014 is a great event for all of us fans who live here. The course will no doubt accomodate spectators very well and hopefully it will be in acceptable condition by then. However, to look over so many great courses in the country and to follow the money to Gleneagles is a real shame. The course is just about acceptable as a Challenge Tour venue and we will be portraying it as the Pride of Scotland and that just isn't right.
Date: June 02, 2010