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
I played the Queen's on a morning in October 2003 as a warm up for the PGA in the afternoon. There could not be two more contrasting 18 holes at the one venue. The scenery may be the same but the whole ethos of layout, presentation and atmosphere are totally diffferent. Carnoustie has been described in the past as a great big shaggy monster.
Well, move over, pussycat, the PGA is the new contender for that title. It is enormous. The walks from green to next tee will tire you out, never mind the yardage on the course itself. I played with a single figure handicapper who revelled in the challenge (scoring especially well on the back nine) but this stadium golf leaves me cold.
I've spent time working in the Sahara desert in Libya and I thought I'd gone back there when I played the 9th hole here which has a bunker that must be 120 yards long by ten yards wide – an overblown, out of place design that doesn't quite fit its Perthshire surroundings.
As for the 18th, it will have to be completely flattened around the green for the Ryder Cup in 2014 as the hillocks do nothing for spectating – and one wee word of warning for that event; the weather can turn nasty here, even at the end of September so don't take for granted that there will be glorious sunshine.
If you like your golf big, bold and brash this is the course for you. The Dormy Clubhouse is a tip top place for changing, eating, drinking and relaxing but expect to pay a price for the pampering.