We were fortunate to play the Earl of Mar on the sort of Scottish summers day you always hope for and therefore we saw the course, it's location and the grand Mar Hall hotel/clubhouse at its best. Earl of Mar is a very convenient location positioned around 20 minutes from the centre of Glasgow and 10 minutes from Glasgow Airport and it portrays the true appeal of playing golf in Scotland as it feels a world away from the city. Earl of Mar is located on the Banks of the River Clyde and has the stunning back drop of the imposing Kilpatrick Hills on every hole. In fact much of the course plays alongside the water on what is a relatively tight strip of land. The Erskine Bridge shadows the course as you play between the third and fourth hole and is an added back drop to the course.
Earl of Mar starts with a good par 5 where the drive has to be threaded through a tight line of trees to where the fairway opens up from where you can see the slightly elevated and will protected green. The second is a great par 3 and typifies the strength of all the short holes. From the back tees a number, including the 2nd, are around 200 yards and demand accuracy with a combination of well protected bunkering and some with good undulations (the shorter tenth an example).
The third and fourth are both par 4's and complete a very strong start to the course. The third hole is all about the positioning of the drive where if you can catch the slope you are leaving yourself a short pitch to the green. The fourth is the first of the holes beside the river and it tees off under the Erskine Bridge. This is a challenging par 4 and is both long and well guarded by bunkers and a small lake that runs the length of the left side of the fairway. Strategic placement of mature trees dictate the playing of holes 7, 8 and 9 as you return to the start before the second nine loop.
We actually enjoyed the back nine more than the first and it was principally defined by a series of excellent par 4's of greater length than 400 yards. The 11th, 12th, 16th and 18th are all strong examples, but as you move back towards the water you play the delightful 14th, a shorter par 4 played from a slightly elevated tee which invites a strong drive to a wide fairway from where the green opens up. Respite comes at the par 5, 15th when the long hitters can reach the green in two, but the final 3 holes offer a tough finish.
The Earl of Mar represents a good test of golf, it has enough here to keep all standards of golfers interested and so it is a course that offers more than just being a resort venue. The course is though relatively young at around 4 years old so it needs time to mature. In addition investment in the course keeping pace with playing volumes is important if it is to have designs on hosting professional tournaments going forward. Mar Hall is overall in a great location given its proximity to Glasgow and as well as the golf it offers itself as a gateway to Loch Lomond area and the Trossachs National Park. Ian Henley
Date: July 23, 2014