Hilton Park Golf Club was formed from the demise of two local clubs – Glasgow North Western and Bankhead – which lost their playing facilities due to housing developments by the municipal authority.
No doubt due to the fact that so many potential members had to be taken into consideration, it was decided to set out two 18-hole courses – the Hilton and the Allander – on the moorland site offered to the new club by the Duke of Montrose.
To this day, Hilton Park is the only club in the county of Dunbartonshire to have two 18-hole golf courses operational on the same site, as Loch Lomond’s second course, Dundonald, is situated forty-seven miles away from its sibling in Ayrshire.
James Braid designed both courses which were built by the construction companies of John Stutt and Hawtree & Taylor and they opened for play within months of each other in 1928, the year after the club was established.
The layouts were closed during World War II for military purposes and a number of the holes never reopened (leading to a course redesign) so the modern day Hilton course has changed quite a bit since it was first conceived by its eminent designer.
Holes 7, 8 and 9 form a tricky trio of short par fours on the front nine, and there’s many an unsuspecting golfer who’ll come to grief at this rather innocuous little stretch of holes.
On the inward half, the signature hole appears at “Muckle Drap,” the 184-yard 17th, where the tee shot is played from an elevated position to a green nestled beyond a burn, over 100 feet below.
Like the previous reviewer, I was also slightly perplexed at the number of uphill shots to be played here (my notes for #16 read “yet another u/h tee shot!”) but, in fairness, there are several holes where the tee shot is played sharply downhill before an approach is then made uphill to a green positioned on a ridge – and three of the four par threes (not just #17) are very good downhill holes.
Only four of the twelve par four holes measure in excess of 375 yards (and three of those are played in the first five holes) so it never feels like a slog playing here, despite some of the elevation changes. And for a moorland track that must have to handle a lot of rain annually, the underfoot conditions from tee to green were excellent so I can’t see drainage ever being much of an issue here.
The course guide mentions tens of thousands of fir trees planted in the past twenty years “to give shelter from the wind” but, in actual fact, there’s quite an intense programme of tree removal currently under way to thin out the trees and allow more light and wind to reach the playing surfaces, thus improving the general agronomy of the course.
My favourite holes on the Hilton included the par four 5th (rated stroke index 1) where the fairway drops down and slightly right to the green, the downhill par four 14th which also turns right to the green, and (of course) the signature par three 17th, easily identified as one of the best short holes in the local area.
The course is currently ranked at number 3 in Dunbartonshire district (immediately behind two courses already listed in the Scottish Top 100) and that tells you all you need to know about the high quality of golf on offer here.
You seem to spend an awful lot of time at Hilton Park hitting (and walking) uphill. Whereas at most courses the uphill holes are counterbalanced by a similar number downhill, at Hilton park the recompense for all the climbing comes at one hole! To be fair, the 17th is spectacular but it does not compensate for all those long uphill par fours. I actually prefer the shorter and prettier Allander course here.
I have played Hilton Park numerous times, with friends who are members. It is not an overly long course, just over 6000 yds from the medal tees, but many of the holes play tougher than their yardage would suggest. Driving accuracy is key on many of the holes, with mature pine trees bordering the fairways.
On the front nine, after a relatively gentle start, the course starts to toughen up from the 4th, an uphill par three, where anything short will find an invitation into deep bunkers & a shot past the pin will leave a slippery down-hiller.
The next hole, index one, requires a tee-shot down the left side to counteract the camber of the fairway and then a well struck long to mid-iron shot to a narrow green.The 8th is another solid hole with an uphill drive and an approach played to a plateau green that nestles into the trees.
The back nine, in my opinion, is tougher than the front, with four holes (10,11,13,16) all requiring uphill second shots where one or sometimes two clubs more than normal are required to find the green.
The signature hole on the course is arguably the 17th, a long par 3 from an elevated tee with the green, guarded by a burn at the front, around 200 feet below. I've hit anything from a 6-iron to a 3-wood here, depending on the wind.
I would rate courses like East Ren & Kilmacolm in the Glasgow area higher, but Hilton Park is invariably in good condition and worth a visit if you are looking for a game north of the city.