The estate in which Meldrum House is laid out can be traced back to the 13th century, when, in 1236, the Barony of Meldrum was granted to Knight Templar Philip de Fedarg by the Abbot of Arbroath.
It was more than 750 years later, in the mid 1990s that three local businessmen – Robert Edwards, Terry and Robert Buchan – acquired the estate and commissioned local course architect Graeme Webster to design an 18-hole course around the focal point of the 9-bedroomed Meldrum House Hotel.
Webster’s Niblick Golf design company have since gone on to construct many new courses in Scotland and abroad – Norway, in particular – and his design philosophy of creating “a finished golf course that fits the land, the eye and of course the budget” holds very true at Meldrum House.
The Knights course is a beautiful parkland layout measuring a tad more than 7,000 yards from the back markers so it's a stern test from the tips. Ponds come into play at ten of the holes so water, intelligently placed bunkers, cunningly positioned mature trees and undulating, USGA-standard greens are the main defenders of par here.
The practice facility extends to 25 acres with a dozen target greens, short game area, latest video analysis equipment and other tuition aids, giving Meldrum House members ample opportunity to improve their game.
The comfortable clubhouse is an intrinsic part of what the club calls an “exclusive golf experience” at Meldrum House and two former Open winners from Aberdeenshire – George Duncan in 1920 and Paul Lawrie in 1999 – have suites named after them.
My playing companion was worried after we had played the first hole, asking “is that as good as it’s going to get here?” There was slight cause for concern for a few minutes as we felt the next couple of holes were relatively weak but from then onwards, the course improved hole by hole.
“The Lochans” (hole 8) was my favourite on the front nine; dog legging right to a wickedly contoured green with a couple of ponds to the front right of it. Apart from the par five 11th hole (with a fifteen bunker complex short left of the putting surface that was more than a wee bit quirky) I liked all the holes on the back nine, especially the downhill signature hole, “The Kennels” at the 16th where a pond and burn protect the front of the putting surface.
The changes in elevation were very pleasing and architect Graeme Webster must be commended for an imaginative course routing that incorporates the many water features in a very eye catching manner. Greens had just been spiked and dressed the morning we played but they allowed a good putt to be holed nonetheless.
There were lovely touches all over the course like a large granite boulder left in a bunker at the 3rd hole, water fountains at a couple of holes and a brick wall built round the base of a tree trunk on the 16th hole – it’s often the small things that give such character to a course. I must confess that Meldrum House had not been particularly prominent on my golfing radar until very recently because it never seems to get a mention in any golf publications as a place worth playing (probably because it’s a member only facility and the club don’t need to attract casual visitors).
In comparison to a good few ranked inland tracks that I’ve played, I can vouch for the fact that it can more than match the others. My parkland golf pal was defeated in our match play contest when I closed him out on the last green – perhaps if he’d used the fantastic practice facilities here before setting out he might have managed at least a half!