The Kilmacolm Golf Club has been called “the finest village golf club in the country” by a former club captain and “a very pleasant golfing place” by none other than Walter Hagen when he played an exhibition match here in 1937. Whatever the description that best applies to this “miniature Gleneagles,” Kilmacolm is, without doubt, a wonderful example of a traditional Scottish moorland course.
Willie Campbell, the greenkeeper and professional at nearby Ranfurly Castle, laid out the first 9-hole course in 1891 and this was very quickly extended to a full layout. The 18-hole routing over the hilly terrain was not to everyone’s liking (a mountain goat adorns the club crest) so when more land became available in 1908, Willie Fernie of Troon redesigned the course to eliminate the hill climbs.
James Braid recommended some further changes in 1924 and they were the last major modifications to be made to the layout. With only one par five on the scorecard, the course measures a modest 5961 yards from the back tees. Indeed, only three of the par four holes play longer than 400 yards so length off the tee is rarely an issue at Kilmacolm.
Situated adjacent to Glenmoss Nature Reserve, with stunning views across Gryffe Valley to the Duchal Moors and Knapps Loch, Kilmacolm is one of the hidden upland tracks in Scotland that deserves to be bracketed alongside other endearing courses such as Portpatrick and Pitlochry, which are well known for their golfing charm.
I can’t believe it’s almost four years since I last played this lovely track as it’s a real favourite of mine. Participating in the club’s Gents Open competition this morning, I was able to reacquaint myself with the wonderful array of terrific holes that make Kilmacolm such a delight: from short par fours on the front nine at holes 3, 5 and 8 to the punishing 472-yard 7th, which we played into a stiff 25 mph+ wind today - not many (if any) “4s” marked on scorecards at that hole, I’ll bet!
The back nine doesn’t disappoint either, with “Kirkton,” “Quarry” and “Barlogan,” in particular, forming a formidable trio of demanding par fours, beginning at the 13th. The run for home into the wind, from the 15th onwards, was a real test because, when it’s blowing a hoolie as it was today, there are few hiding places up on the moorland of Renfrewshire to seek respite.
Anything wide of all eighteen fairways was being gobbled up by really heavy rough so, in such demanding conditions, I’d be surprised if many golfers managed to match, far less beat, the par of 69 on this wee beauty - starting and finishing with the same ball was quite a feat today!
I also played in the Open at Kilmacolm in 2013.Rather disappointing overall, but the greens were the biggest shame. I didn't putt on slower greens during the rest of that year, including the winter months.I see the open is now later in the year, I may try it again this year.
Kilmacolm has been on my hit-list for several years now as I found its tag of “Mini Gleneagles” both intriguing and appealing and after playing (badly), in their Gents Open several weeks back, I am delighted to confirm that Kilmacolm lived up to its billing, and more.
A delightful throw back in time when Wodehouse wrote on golf and Henry Longhurst provided the soundtrack for BBC golf, Kilmacolm is unashamedly old fashioned and all the better for it meandering ‘(a bit like this review) at its own sedate pace, Kilmacolm is simply wonderful.
Kilmacolm is no soft touch with lots of gorse to snag errant shots and countless opportunities to find out of bounds underestimate Kilmacolm at your peril. A gentle par 4 gets you underway followed by a short par 3 where the wall comes into play should you go right.
Pick of the front 9 for me is the very difficult 4th which, I am led to believe the members don’t like. The fairway slopes steeply from left to right so make sure you aim well left from the tee box. The second shot is played to an elevated green to make this tough hole even harder.
Best holes on the back 9 include the 10th, the 13th where, I had an inglorious 10, the 14th whose green sits proud atop a rocky outcrop and the magnificent short 17th, my favourite hole on the course. I would never have the temerity to question the great Walter Hagen but I think that the great man undersold Kilmacolm when he called it a very pleasant place, it is better than that.
I think that the captain for the club’s centenary was closer to the mark when he called it the finest village course in the country. Hyperbole? Maybe, but play this little beauty once and you will see where he is coming from.
What a delightful place this is and what a cracking course! Located in the hills to the south west of Glasgow airport, Kilmacolm has barely registered on any golfing radar screens that I have looked at before and I have to ask the question “why not?”
I loved everything about the course from 1st tee to 18th green, with one of the most imaginative routings that I have every played. No hole faces the same direction to the one just played with the consequence that the next fairway is only revealed when standing on the tee box - and some think that this a modern design feature?
Kilmacolm will never host a major championship because it’s not long enough but therein lies its strength as a shot-maker’s course - it can be penal too for the wayward with OOB on at least a dozen of the holes so it’s far from an easy track. The four par threes are as varied as you will ever find, playing from between 137 yards (downhill at “Misty Law,” the 17th) to 230 yards at the 6th.
Some of the elevated tee positions offer fabulous views of the surrounding countryside (though not at the intimidating 8th which is played blind over a heather clad mound). The 4th is fantastic, proving that a difficult hole can be fashioned out of a fairway clinging to the side of a hill followed by a green perched on a ridge at the top.
And “Quarry,” the fabulous 14th, is such a bonny looking hole from the tee box with its green sitting on top of a rocky outcrop in the distance. Strange as it may seem to say, crossing the single track Houston Road several times during the round somehow seems to add an extra element of enjoyment to the playing experience too.