Did you know that Montrose Golf Links is considered to be the sixth oldest course in the world? Records state that golf has been played here since 1562, but the first golf club wasn’t formed until 1810. In 1845 Prince Albert granted the club royal patronage. Royal Montrose is the 3rd oldest existing royal club in the world; only the Royal Perth Golfing Society and the R&A predates it. There are now three separate golf clubs playing over these ancient links, overseen by the watchful eye of the Montrose Links Trust.
Mother Nature probably designed the original Medal course, and at one stage the layout was unique in that it boasted 25 holes. But in 1901, Old Tom Morris made alterations and two years later Willie Park Junior made further modifications. Despite many more recent developments, several of the Medal's opening holes are played over the same centuries-old linksland.
The Medal is a traditional Scottish links course with delightful crisp turf, dunes, whins (gorse to southerners), deep bunkers and tall wavy grass that changes colour and dances in the wind. The holes are laid out in an unusual T-shaped configuration. The front nine plays mainly along the shoreline and offers excellent views across the North Sea. Holes 10 to 13 turn inland before you head back home, towards the sea.
A golfing trip to Scotland would not be complete without playing this nostalgic links course. It represents a fine golfing challenge; Montrose hosted the Scottish Professional Championship in 1967 and 1970 and Final Qualifying for the Open Championship held at Carnoustie in 1999 and 2007.
I played in the Royal Montrose Open in June 2004 and had a great day out. Not the longest of courses with only four of its thirteen par fours over400 yards (I checked my spare scorecard). The clubhouse staff were very accomodating, especially when they found out I'd travelled two and a half hours to play in their Open.
It was strange though to see two other clubhouses nearby for the same track – what is it with these Scottish East coast courses which have two or more attached clubs – have there been so many terrible fueds in years gone by that the memberships have split and never been able to patch things up since?
As to the course itself, I thought the greens were slow and tee boxes were a little tatty – to be honest, the whole course had a tired feel to it, as if it takes a hammering with the number of people who play on it (what with three clubs and visitors). Still, to play such an old, historical course for a very modest price is not to be sneered at. Instead, the accessibility offered should be applauded.