Formed in 1872, Hamilton Golf Club moved to its present location on the outskirts of the town in 1925 when James Braid was enlisted to lay out a new course for the members. Despite one or two modifications down the years, Braid’s original design remains largely intact.
A major tree planting exercise in the 1970s certainly added definition to the fairways but the arboreal overgrowth from this process resulted in the club undertaking a recent tree removal program to open up certain areas – around the 18th hole in particular – and this now allows more wind and light into these parts of the course.
The layout features only two par fives (played back-to-back at holes 4 and 5, “Lang Gait” and “Woodyett”) so it’s Hamilton’s solid set of par four holes that form the major challenge here – apart from maybe the rather weak, semi blind short par four 8th hole, where the green sits in something of a dip at the most southerly part of the property.
The four par threes on the card are nicely spread out and they’re a rather diverse quartet with yardages varying from a mere 133 yards at “Hoolet Row,” the pretty little 3rd, to a mighty 220 yards at “Perfection,” the downhill 12th, which demands nothing other than pinpoint accuracy at a well-bunkered hole.
I only played Hamilton once before, in the club’s Gents Open in August 2013, so I didn’t remember much of the course before visiting again last month. The rumpled fairway on the 1st hole certainly hints at what lies ahead – plenty of movement in the land with lots of uneven lies to keep you on your toes.
It also seems that just about every square inch of a 100-acre property has been utilised. Unfortunately, laying out eighteen holes within such a relatively confined space leads to parallel fairways at a number of holes, most notably between the 5th and 11th.
There’s been a fair amount of tree removal taking place in the last eight years or so and the club is actively striving to improve the presentation of the golf course with the assistance of St Andrews-based architect Brian Noble.
Many of the bunkers have been renovated with capillary concrete lining and a new irrigation system was brought into use only a few years ago so nobody can say the club isn’t doing all it can to keep the course in the best possible shape.
Favourite holes for me on the front nine were the first of the par threes at the 133-yard 3rd, along with the downhill par four 6th, which is physically sandwiched between the 5th and 7th holes. On the back nine, the left doglegging 16th (the longest par four on the card) is an epic 459-yard beast that’s well worthy of its stroke index 2 rating.
Still largely a work in progress in many ways, Hamilton improves leaps and bounds as time goes by and it has to now be included in the list of contenders for an appearance in the national Top 100 chart.
I have played a few rounds at Hamilton Golf Club over the last couple of years and never fail to enjoy it. The course is challenging (a vast number of bunkers have been well placed) with a variety of uphill and downhill holes to keep the interest.
After a gentle opening hole, the tough 2nd awaits which, with a ditch running across the fairway, means choice of club off the tee is important. Two par fives back-to-back at holes 4 and 5 is unusual to see but if you can stand on the 7th tee having navigated the opening stretch you are on for a decent score.
The 8th is a strange hole as a fairly short, downhill par four where you can't see the green which is surrounded by bunkers so an iron or hybrid is the club of choice off the tee here. Others holes which I like are the downhill 200+ yard par 3 12th and the lovely closing hole where a right to left drive will see you pitch in to a hard to hold green overlooked by the clubhouse.
A vast amount of trees have been taken down around the course in the last twelve months which has apparently considerably improved the drainage - the course certainly held up well to two days of constant rain which had fallen before my last round there.