Most golfing Sassenachs won’t know where Lanark is and even fewer will have played this remarkable course, which is located some 15 miles to the southeast of Glasgow. The course is sited 600 feet above sea level and the ground is sandy and links-like thanks to Ice Age glacial sands. Is Lanark the finest moorland course in Scotland?
Founded in 1851, Lanark is one of the world’s oldest golf clubs and a rudimentary 6-hole course was laid out in these early days. In 1897 Old Tom Morris was paid the princely sum of three pounds and ten shillings to extend the course to 18 holes, assisted by George Sayers. James Braid made further revisions in 1926 and little has changed since.
Lanark measures 6,428 yards from the back tees and it opens up gently with a straightforward par four and then it begins to show its mettle. The next three holes are brutal par fours, each stretching out in excess of 400 yards from the back tees. The 4th hole – called “Houston” – is the stroke index 1 and it measures 446 yards. Invariably the hole plays directly into the prevailing wind and a par here is certainly one to be savoured.By today’s standards Lanark is relatively short, but playing to handicap on this former Open Championship Regional Qualifying course is another matter. The greens are deceptively tough to read and the putting surfaces are fast and true. Lanark prides itself on course conditioning and you can expect to play on perfect turf – from tee to green – for much of the year. This delightful moorland course is totally in tune with Nature and should be included on any serious golfer’s itinerary.
Lanark is a superb layout, but a really tough challenge. The Moorland has an open feel to it but with the ideal number of mature trees that are rarely in play but frame the scenery nicely. The terrain undulates comfortably with only a couple of severe uphill holes (6 & 9)
There is a collection of strong par 4s around the 400 yard mark, which will separate the ball strikers from the decent amateurs. 2 are around the 450 yard mark!
Plenty of fairway bunkering, that in the main will catch the eye of the longer hitters. There is a great diversity of hole that is a feature of a good moorland layout, with no 2 holes similar.
The main feature is a number of greens perched on a plateau, most are a decent size, other than the narrow 12th.
After the brutal 450 yard par 4 15th, there is a collection of 3 shorter finishing holes, with the 16th being the standout. These will give most golfers the chance to salvage their round after a tough stretch of holes from 11 to 15.
I played here twice in early October 2021. Despite some typically wet weather, the course was extremely playable with reasonably firm conditions. Unfortunately the greens were in very poor condition, even allowing for the time of year. Having been cored and sanded, they were also extremely patchy and unfortunately not a pleasure to putt on. I'm sure just a temporary set back.
There is so much to take into account when reviewing a course and deciding its rating, and it’s difficult to separate the purely golf based critiques from other influencing scenarios. My playing partner didn’t rate Lanark, he lost his ball on the first, had to wait for walkers on the 2nd, and then for a group of ladies playing their 17th drives, not a great start. But let us put that aside and relish what Lanark GC presents, a wonderful array of golf holes, magnificent views and a selection of challenges that enthral for almost 4 hours. The turf is so soft and easy walking, you almost want to “cuddle” it (to quote my other playing partner).
The course design, as a James Braid fan, is just as expected. It fits into the landscape like a hand in a glove. Nothing appears contrived or out of place (I enjoyed the 16th with its burn, but haven’t played the hole without it), and the challenging 14th pin position, where both my playing partners de-greened their putts, was due to long approaches rather than a poorly designed hole.
The closing hole, a 200+yd par 3, right in front of the clubhouse is a nerve tester indeed.
Just back from a visit to one of my favourite golfing venues in Central Scotland - Lanark. With one glaring exception nothing has changed and I still love the place. The fairways were as good as ever and the greens quite splendid...everything just fine...then we reached the 16th. A short par 4 (every course should have one) so the big-hitters can have a go but well-bunkered and with trees and rough on both sides of a narrow fairway, And the bombshell : my playing companion (a member) informs me they have put a ditch just in front of the green!!! With the contours of the land this is hidden from both the tee and where most drives finish. Sure enough as we approached the green there it was. An ugly, contrived monstrosity that completely ruins what had been a really lovely golf hole. Tom Morris and James Braid would be horrified to see what has been done to 'their' course. I was told that most members hate it. Those responsible should hang their heads in shame and undo the damage asap.
A quick stop-off at Lanark, to break up the journey on the way home from St. Andrews, proved to be a very enjoyable few hours out on one of Scotland’s premier inland courses.
There is some fabulous undulating terrain on this moorland-parkland hybrid and it has been used exceptionally well to create an interesting and varied layout, albeit quite a demanding walk.
The first thing you might notice by looking at the scorecard is that there is just one par five and only three par-threes. That leaves us with a grand total of 14 par-fours, however, the mix of these two-shotters doesn’t give us the feeling of hitting drive followed by approach on a regular basis.
The green setting of holes such as the first, third, fourth, sixth, 12th, 14th and 17th are particularly impressive and it was a real joy to play to these holes. There is some fabulous contouring around the greens and there is quite often a preferred side to miss should one wish to escape with a par.
Based on its moorland billing Lanark didn’t play as firm and as fast as I had hoped and predominantly calls for the aerial route to access most of the greens, although there were a few holes that gave the option of a running approach.
Two of the par-threes are particularly memorable for me personally but for differing reasons. The 18th, a 200+ yarder, will likely be remembered by many for the proximity of the clubhouse to the putting surface and I’m sure it has been struck on several occasions. The seventh will also stay in my mind but for non-golfing reasons, although this dropping one-shotter is a delight. As I teed my ball up to play this 135-yard gem there was a very strong and absolutely wonderful smell of fresh gingerbread that came wafting across the air! Surrounded by trees I have no idea where this scent came from but it set the taste buds tingling.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I played at Lanark yesterday, more than ten years since I was last here, and really enjoyed my round on a course that was in remarkable condition for the time of year. The club is really blessed with the quality of turf on its fairways – when walking them, you’d never think for a moment we’ve just had one of the wettest winters ever recorded in west central Scotland.
The long par four 4th into the wind is a brilliant hole, its fairway tumbling across rolling terrain to a raised green, and the 6th and 7th holes make great use of the higher ground in the north east corner of the property, close to the railway line. I loved the little loop at holes 9 to 11 and “Quarry Knowe” at the 14th is a terrific par four with a huge dip in front of its putting surface. The greens at 15 and 17 are also cleverly concealed within a little dip that runs along a ridge, forcing approach shots to be played semi blind.
All in all, there’s plenty to enthuse about when playing at Lanark. Incidentally, the club claims to be the 25th oldest in the world, which is quite a remarkable fact, but an even more impressive statistic for me is the one that lists the original 6-hole course at Lanark as the 13th oldest in the world – now that’s something the club really could be using in its marketing.
I’m sure there’s a good reason why the winter course has holes 16 and 17 played as holes 2 and 3, as they were yesterday, but that reason doesn’t seem very obvious to me, though playing slightly out of kilter was only mildly irritating. Old-fashioned crossover fairways (as at holes 1 & 18 and 2 & 15) indicate that nothing much has changed here in a long time but such features might also suggest the course could possibly benefit from somebody taking a fresh look at the routing to see if it could be improved by eliminating such eccentricities.