Letham Grange is situated delightfully in the quiet Angus countryside. The Old course actually isn’t that old. The late Sir Henry Cotton opened it in 1987 and Donald Steel designed it. It's one of Steel's best designs.
The layout is very mixed. The holes combine intimate, tree-lined fairways with others, which are open and undulating. Dangerous water hazards provide a fun and challenging round of golf. But the very best holes are set amongst the trees – the sequence of holes between the 8th and the 10th is especially strong.
Golf Monthly once bracketed Letham Grange alongside Augusta. It’s a bold parallel. Letham is certainly an enjoyable, and interesting course. Measuring more than 6,600 yards, it represents a serious challenge too.
Letham Grange comes in for criticism. After all, this is mighty Carnoustie country. The course is not deemed to be sufficiently traditional or Scottish – it’s an American-styled affair – target golf country. Nevertheless, it provides a welcome break from links golf and many people actually prefer this style of golf.
Do not dismiss the Old course as a pushover. In 1994 and 2000, Letham Grange hosted the Scottish Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship, D. Downie and S. McKenzie emerging as the respective winners.
So, if you are fed up with slogging your way round the windy links courses, treat yourself to a scenic and tranquil piece of Letham Grange... but make it quick. The committee has recommended that both courses should close and the club wound up due to a long-standing legal conflict over property ownership and declining membership.
What an interesting place Letham Grange is. The property is currently in receivership (with court cases continuing in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London) yet the club somehow manages to operate from a large, run down manor house in the middle of a mature, up-market residential estate. Once the legal mess has been sorted out, it will be great to see if a substantial investment can then restore the old building to its former glory but meanwhile, thankfully, golf continues to be played on the Glens and the Old course.
I’d heard the term “Scotland’s Augusta” mentioned before in relation to Letham and was rather sceptical of its validity before playing theOld course – not any more though as I became absolutely enchanted by the place during the course of my round.
The first half a dozen holes are good but then the routing just gets better and better, with the visually stunning holes at 8 and 10 going straight into my top 18 in Scottish golf. The unexpected changes in elevation were a delight, the colour contrasts of the mature trees very pleasing and the sparing use of water hazards quite masterful – all I can say is hats off to Donald Steel for a really lovely layout!
Only one complaint, though. If and when the litigation process is resolved, the daft collections of large stones dotted around the course should then be removed immediately as they add nothing to the golfing experience. These new wave creations were installed for a previous estate owner by Shunmyo Masuno, a landscape architect and Zen priest (I kid you not!) and are meant to bring favourable fortune – getting gubbed 5&4 by your opponent as I did is not my idea of good luck so I say return them tout de suit to the quarry they came from!