Milngavie Golf Club dates back to 1895, to a time when golf course construction in Scotland was booming. Indeed, a glance at the record books will show there were no fewer than six other courses opened that same year.
The St Andrews professional Willie Auchterlonie (who won the Open two years earlier) and his older brother Laurie (who would go on to claim the US Open title in 1902), laid out the course and it took them no more than a day to peg out a 9-hole circuit.
The Auchterlonies were of the opinion that the club actually had enough land to accommodate a full 18-hole course and so the number of holes in play was quickly doubled, producing the layout that remains in play today.
A landscape that was once grazing farmland over a hundred years ago has now evolved into a lovely moorland track, with tree-lined fairways routed across rather rugged terrain, allowing many of the tees and greens to be set on top of interesting little ridges.
Today’s course at Milngavie has been stretched to a respectable 6,107 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 70. There are only two par fives on the card, one on each nine, at the 538-yard 4th (“Mount Zion”) and 501-yard 15th (“Laigh Park”).Short par fours at “The Cooper’s Knowe” (hole 5) and “Dumgoyne” (hole 11) offer golfers a decent chance of a birdie, whilst the longest of the par three holes, the downhill 212-yard 16th, should be played with respect as it’s prone to purloin a stroke (or more) from the unwary.
I love courses where fairways cross the road into the clubhouse and the twisting single track blacktop at Milngavie has three holes (the 2nd, 3rd and 16th) that do just that so keep your eyes peeled as you drive through. This is a lovely moorland track set out on tumbling terrain, with a clever routing that makes full use of the available contours.
This is best demonstrated at the 4th, 11th and 14th, where the putting surfaces are strung out along the same ridge, requiring a precise uphill approach to a plateau green on each of the holes. It also means the next three holes (at 5, 12 and 15) all begin with a thrilling downhill shot from an elevated tee position.
Looking back at my notes, the par four 8th has a benign stroke index rating of 12 but there’s plenty of pressure playing a blind uphill tee shot on this hole over a gorse covered rocky outcrop just in front of the teebox - and pay attention to the yellow stakes that signify a ditch running across the front of the green on the next hole, close to Hilton Park Golf Club next door!
The routing becomes a little pedestrian near the end when holes 15 to 17 follow each other gently downhill in a straight line but that’s only a minor criticism as they’re strong holes, each of them played from an elevated tee position to a raised green.
Milngavie’s maybe not quite in the same league as the top Renfrewshire moorland courses on the other side of the River Clyde but it’s not that far behind them.