It doesn't matter whether you take the high road or the low road, a visit to the bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond is a romantic experience. A hop, skip and a jump from Glasgow, under the watchful guard of Ben Lomond, lies the largest expanse of fresh water in Great Britain. And midway along the western banks of the loch lies the most exclusive private members' golf club in the land.
Loch Lomond Golf Club is set in more than 600 acres of sheltered seclusion, sandwiched between the mountains and the historic lochside. The golf course contains two Sites of Special Scientific Interest – protecting rare plants and unusual woodland – and the site is designated as a National Scenic Area. Dozens of inhabited bat boxes nestle amongst the branches of some of the 46 different types of trees, there's even an inhabited owl box. It's a heaven for wildlife and conservationists, and apart from Valderrama, Loch Lomond is the only other European golf club to be awarded full Audubon status (Audubon's mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems).
The course, designed by the successful Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf partnership, opened for play in 1993 to a fanfare. Weiskopf regards Loch Lomond as his "lasting memorial to golf" and who could argue with him? Loch Lomond is already a classic course and the long-term home to the Scottish Open. According to Colin Montgomerie, "wherever Loch Lomond is ranked, it ought to be higher".
In such a beautiful area it would have been easy to allow the views to do the talking, but here at Loch Lomond, Morrish and Weiskopf have designed a spectacular course, which would stand proud without the stunning scenery. Each hole – except for the linked 2nd and 4th greens – is isolated from the next. None of the hazards are hidden from view – either from the tee or from approach shots – and there are no tricks up Loch Lomond's sleeve.
Measuring 7,100 yards from the back tees, this is a tough and long course for the average club golfer but it's sad that not everyone can share the experience. If you are lucky enough to get a game, don't expect to threaten Retief Goosen's course record of 62, but do expect to use every club in the bag.
For a course that is so young, there is so much architectural history. The Colquhoun Clan built Rossdhu House in 1773 (now the clubhouse) and Mary Queen of Scots wrote her love letters in Rossdhu Castle – the remains of which overlook the 18th green. The whole Loch Lomond experience is truly remarkable and if you are lucky enough to receive an invitation, do not pass it by.
Golfers' terror as speedboat lands in Loch Lomond bunker... click here for more
Loch Lomond is legendary for many reasons. First of all, it’s an extremely private members club in a country where 99.9% of the golf courses are accessible for everyone. Secondly, it would be fair to say the estate is the lap of luxury with the Castle serving as the idyllic clubhouse, pro shop and members getaway. Lastly, the club was further made world renowned by hosting the Scottish Open a number of times.
The opportunity to visit Loch Lomond is a real treat and doesn’t come easy or often for anyone except the select few. However, when you get really lucky and are given the chance it’s always nice to see what kind of treatment the 1% and lucky members become accustomed to.
For starters the service is second to none, every wish is taken care of and special attention is paid by the staff to make sure your adventure is perfect.
We caught the course on a stormy but dry day with huge winds coming in off the lake. It’s a classic US parkland design by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish and definitely one of their best efforts. The front 9 takes us out to the waters edge in the first 3 holes. The 3rd hole being a real cracker of a par 5 with a devious green that falls away to a water hazard on the front middle and right side. We had the sucker pin on the day and with a hard left to right wind on the approach this was a very scary shot.
The par 3, 5th hole is one of the most famous on the front 9 playing straight out towards the lake with a green sitting right against the lake as a backdrop. A solid hole and a tough one on our day in the wind.
The course then works its way back along the lake to the clubhouse with two long tough holes before the short par 3 8th which is played right in front of the clubhouse.
The 9th was my favorite hole on the front 9. A short par 4 requiring a strategic choice off the tee to set up a short approach to one of the trickiest greens on the course that is heavily protected and falls away hard from front to back. A birdie opportunity but a double waiting to happen with the slightest miscue.
The back 9 starts solid with 3 excellent holes. The par 4 12th was my favorite of this group. A solid drive up the left side leaves a good angle of approach to another very deceptively narrow green that falls off back and front. It’s the kind of hole that’s only easy to play once, after that you fear the approach knowing how perfectly struck and placed it must be.
The short par 4 14th hole would be my least favorite hole on the course. It’s supposed to be a drivable short 4 though it’s just out of reach for all but the longest players, which means that strategic choice is taken away from most solid amateurs. Then there is a giant tree guarding the approach to the green on the right side. To me it would be better if you had 3 choices here, to lay up for a longer shot on the right side, to go for the green or to play past the tree for a tricky short approach. As is there is really only one choice. The green is very narrow, guarded by a front bunker and sloping severely back to front.
The finishing holes are all quite strong and 18 is a wonderful hole requiring a cut off as much as you can chew drive and a mid to long iron approach in to a back to front sloping two-tiered green. Best of all the lake and the Castle are the backdrop, not to mention the club yacht harbored off to the left.
Most certainly one of the great private club experiences boasting a championship caliber course. Never pass up an invite for this golf adventure.
It was my fourth visit to Scotland and it was little I knew from Loch Lomond, apart from listening once to Andrés “Pigu” Romero saying it was the best course in Scotland and that Eduardo “El Gato” Romero had won the Scottish Open there in 2002 after an extraordinary performance. At that moment I was not involved in the golf industry and just remember the highlights of his victory.
Once I knew the trip to Scotland was going to happen and there was a chance, I made the try just for myself as I was going to be one day alone and knowing how tough it was it looked like the best chance to experience it but luck was on our side and the 12 of us, Members at Golf Club Argentino, were accepted to play on Tuesday May 30th after a 2hrs drive from St Andrews.
It rained all the way and when we arrived it continued raining, at a point where we decided to have lunch instead of warming up. Once you arrive the car is taken by the crew, your clubs are labelled and you start to understand how exclusive this place is with just 600 members from all over the world. The Club House is an old castle from more than 200 years ago but inside there is charm and luxury everywhere. The Locker room is so good and special, I believe it is very close to Seminole and the top golf experiences in the world. What to say about the lunch? Quality at the highest level, variety of dishes and desserts, waiters extremely kind and patient. It is part of the experience to use the restaurant!
Rain continued but the started calmed us and said “on 2nd tee sun will come and stay the whole afternoon”. We were the first group and he was 100% accurate, after hitting the tee shot on 2nd hole the rain went and never came back. And this gave us the chance to experience one of the best courses in the world, for sure a World Top 100. This course is not less than many famed course where the main reason of being highly ranked is having hosted a big event. Is this course less than Pebble Beach? No. Is it better than Valderrama? If not, it is a tie at least! Sunningdale Old? Give me 3 weeks and I will tell you. What I am just saying is it is unfair not to have Loch Lomond in the World Top 100, not only because of the greatness of the course but also because of how good the experience is. I am serious when I say I can count with one hand the Club Houses that inspire more than this one. And I have been lucky to play some of the best in the world.
What to say about the course? We played it in magnificent condition, greens rolling pretty fast after that heavy rain where wet rough was extremely penalizing. And the views of the lake, hills and native areas are so good!!! Yes, it is a parkland in the land of links golf, but this one is bloody good!
There are some extraordinary holes: par 5 3rd slight dog leg left with the second shot facing the lake with a small pond in front, par 3 5th facing the lake with a native area almost from tee to green, par 5 6th hole is maybe the nicest parallel to the lake, dog leg right par 4 7th again riding with the lake, par 4 10th with water on the left and a stream crossing the fairway at 250yds, 12th might not be the nicest but that green design falling to the right is one of the best artworks I have ever seen. 14th is that one hole it looks like forced as it was designed, but it was fun (and my only birdie!), par 5 16th emulating Augusta National’s 15th hole is seriously good before another great finishing stretch with par 3 17th with lake on the left and native area in front of the green and a great par 4 on 18th with tee shot having to carry the water and second shot facing the exclusive lodge beside the Club House. If maybe some more golfers would know about it, Loch Lomond should have an even higher reputation.
My regret is having played the worst round of golf in 10 years at least, in part for a strong stomach pain and little rest caused by that sleepless night for my friends to play the Old Course at St Andrews. I think I haven’t made one really good contact all day, just that sole birdie on 14th in part because of a great bunker shot after almost hitting the green. Is it possible to still enjoy the round? Of course! I did, already on 3rd hole I knew my game was not there so I dedicated the time to walk, admire, take pictures and try my best. We played a match play and after being 6 down on 10th tee, my putt for birdie on 16th went all around the whole for tying the match and then lost on 17th 2&1.
After that we maybe had the best end of the day: a 30mins shower, some pints and drinks watching Roland Garros in the locker room and a magnificent dinner (I seriously recommend the duck) with my 11 lifetime friends to end of the golf experiences of my life. If the chance passes near you, tackle it as a British & Irish Lion does and go play it. It is an unforgettable round of golf and experience.
I've played here a few times...and as another reviewer said, it's hard to separate the experience and the course. The locker room is the best in the world...the clubhouse is amazing....the staff are soooo good, the accommodation is stellar. So when I was there recently, I tried to ignore all that and look at the course....conclusion?
Well...if parkland golf is your thing...this is really extra-ordinary. I think it's better as a course than anything of this type in the uk...and if there is anything in europe, I haven't played it. It's better than valderama...it's so coherent, the flow makes so much sense, and if you ever play it, take the time to walk it via the very back tees, it makes even more sense. (E.g. Stand on the 12th tee, and you look back down on the 11th green..)
I get those who say this is not their style of golf, but it's certainly the best of its type of here....maybe it's a bit US style golf, but that's ok I think...there are probably better courses of this type across the pond...but I don't know them.
I think it was monty, or maybe mickelson who said 'wherever it's ranked in the world list, it should be higher...'
The experience of visiting and playing at Loch Lomond, an exclusive club with an international clientele, is a difficult one to describe.
You receive a level of service that way exceeds anything else I have previously enjoyed and the facilities, as you would expect, are second to none.
From the moment you arrive at the guarded gates, and drive through the estate catching glimpses of holes on your way to the magnificent Rossdhu House, to the moment you depart everything is just about perfect.
Valet parking, exquisite food and a changing-room (with its own bartender) that would put most golf club lounges to shame are just a few of the highlights. Returning to your locker after your round to find your shoes cleaned and polished in a Loch Lomond branded bag is also a nice touch. I could probably get used to luxuries like this (I’ll keep buying my weekly lotto ticket) but for me, at least for now, playing golf is the main reason I visit golf clubs; so how does the course stack-up?
The answer is very well. It’s an excellently groomed golf course, a wonderful test of golf and the setting is nothing less than breathtaking, even on the dreich day I had for my first, and more than likely last, visit to this unique club. However, it’s also worth stating strongly that separating the course, the serene location and the environment in general at Loch Lomond is not something that is easy to do, nor should it be done. A day here is more than just a round of golf.
In my own mind Loch Lomond, like all of the highly regarded inland courses, can never come close to competing with the top links of the country and even many of the second tier ones for that matter. The natural movement of tight, sandy turf and an ever-changing sea-breeze will never be present and therefore critically the ground-game can never be used here. This, however, is not comparing apples with apples and of its class Loch Lomond is just about as good as it gets.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Loch Lomond is one of the finest and most scenic places in the world to be at and to play golf. What makes it so charming is the combination of having an outstanding course set in a breathtaking location, plus the exclusivity of the club, and one of the best clubhouses in the world. The golf course, designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, matches the beauty of the setting. Although the course is criticized by some, unjustly in my view, because it is not a links layout, it is impossible to separate the course from its environment. Looked at in total, Loch Lomond is one of the top places in the world to play. No matter what direction you look while at Loch Lomond it is awe-inspiring. If someone knows of a finer clubhouse in the entire world than Rossdhu House, please let me know.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
I was lucky enough to visit Loch Lomond for 2 days in June. Having played before in conditions that could be best described as 4 seasons in 1 day, this time was wonderful. Glorious sunshine for 2 solid days, with a light breeze.The welcome, and service from everyone at Loch Lomond is second to none. Everything runs incredibly smoothly. A big plus point is also the fabulous practice facilities, all situated near the 1st tee – a good driving range, 2 putting greens and a great short game area.
The course itself gets off to a relatively quiet start with a mid-length par 4 first – perhaps the least stimulating hole on the course. The 2nd is a good, testing par 4 requiring 2 good shots. Things then get really interesting on the 3rd – a great par 5 doglegging left and down through the trees. A good drive sets you up for a potentially long approach to a green set just beyond a small pond and in front of the Loch. The 4th is a good, short par 4 requiring two precise shots, especially the approach. You then move onto the 5th – for me, one of the best par 3s in the world. You fire over a sea of reeds and rough, straight at the lock to a long green with bunkers left and a run off right. Absolutely stunning.
The 6th is almost as special – a long par 5 running alongside the lock for its entire length, but reachable with 2 good shots as it largely plays slightly downhill. The 7th is a par 4 in a similar vein, before you move away from the loch for a while. 8 is a relatively plain par 3, but is followed by a lovely short par 4, requiring a very precise wedge approach shot, with bunkers all around.
For me the back nine really does not have a weak hole. Each is special in its own way. The 10th is a great par 4 from a raised tee, to a generous fairway, but requiring a long approach over the edge of another pond. The 11th is another fabulous par 3 – much longer, and probably requiring a wood for most, but fair and with a chance for most to make a par.The 12th is a strong par 4 with a tough green to hit. 13 is a superb par 5 where you drive at the hills, and try to thread your way between a series of bunkers. 14 is a short par 4 where you can either play safe and wedge on, or go for it from the tee.
The 15th is another hole where your drive will most likely never rise above the hills in the distance, and demands a very tough approach shot, before you climb up to the 16th tee for a lovely downhill drive to another par 5 that doglegs left – this time it is much more reachable in 2, but you need a precise approach with water short. 17 & 18 are well known from the Scottish Open – a mid-length par 3 and tough par 4 winding around the edge of the loch. A truly spectacular finish that you will remember for a long time.
I tend to prefer the challenge of links golf, but for me this setting, and the course, are up there with the best. A superb course, in excellent condition, in a beautiful setting, backed up by amazing service.
I was lucky enough to return here again today for the second time, four years after my last visit. On such a sunny afternoon, there can be few more captivating places to play in the British Isles than on the Bonnie Banks. It’s simply a wonderful experience from start to finish; like being transported on a magic floating golf carpet that takes you effortlessly from hole to hole during your round.
Of course, it does help with having the sun on your back, being in good company and having knowledgeable caddies in attendance, but all these factors would be totally worthless if the course wasn’t up to the mark, which it most definitely is.
Once again, I thought the front nine was good (with the lochside holes between 5 and 7 the pick of the outward half) before the back nine just raises the golfing bar of excellence a notch or two higher.It’s at this point that the fairways head inland to weave in and around some lovely wetland areas before returning to the lochside at the testing par three 17th.
I see that both the Sunningdale courses have joined Woodhall Spa above Loch Lomond in the GB&I rankings which I’ll not dispute as they’re fabulous tracks, however (having played the EGU’s flagship Hotchkin course since I was last here) I’m not so sure that all three English inland courses deserve to be ranked higher than this, the best inland course in Scotland. Regardless of the relative merits, Loch Lomond’s simply a world class layout that fully deserves the average six ball rating that reviewers have so far awarded it.