Pitlochry is gloriously colourful and it’s surrounded by some of the most stunning mountain scenery in Europe. This vibrant and picturesque Victorian town is one of Perthshire’s tourist hot spots and one of its best-loved attractions is the Pitlochry Dam and Fish Ladder. Here salmon negotiate the specially constructed ladder allowing them to climb the Dam before diving into Loch Faskally.
Pitlochry is also where one of Scotland’s finest and most scenic inland courses is located. Willie Fernie originally designed the course back in 1908. He was quick to see the natural beauty of the Balnacraig and Drumchorry farms, which the course now occupies, and he used the undulating landscape fully. Pitlochry was ‘tweaked’ by Major Cecil Hutchison in the early 1920s and little has changed since.
The first three holes are a great challenge – all up hill against a steep slope – but the walk to the top is well worth it as the scenery is breathtaking. A famous description of the course is as follows: “Where golf, beauty and the social life, go hand in hand”. The views around Pitlochry are certainly uplifting and, whatever you do, don’t forget your camera.
It’s not a long course, measuring less than 5,700 yards (par 69), but it is a tricky little course with small, fast and devious greens. There are no par fives at Pitlochry, but only a fool would say short means easy. There are holes that cross gorges and valleys and there are others that climb hillsides. The final hole weaves back down hill, finishing with an approach shot over a burn in front of the clubhouse. After you’ve putted out on the 18th, you realise that you have been involved in an unforgettable golfing challenge. Playing near to handicap will be a real bonus.
Resident golf professionals at Pitlochry have been few and far between, in fact, in virtually 100 years there have been only four Pros. John Murray was the first Pro and he put in 33 year’s service and then Jimmy Wilson clocked up a remarkable 40 years. Both have annual club competitions named after them in honour of their lasting contributions that have become legendary.
This is a friendly course that often gets overlooked but we thoroughly recommend a visit. We doubt you’ll be disappointed.
I’m making a habit of the shorter courses on this Scottish trip. Another course under 6,000 yards. The website states ‘ The Best Course in the World...under 6,000 yards’. Whilst I disagree with that statement, having just played Gleneagles Queens and Boat Of Garten, the course would certainly be up there based on the outstanding and spectacular scenic views which is there right from the off.
Having warmed up at the excellent driving range area with views of the mountains in front of you, you tee off from a high tee adjacent to the quaint and picturesque clubhouse and pro shop, with their white walls and red roofs, nestled amongst tall pine trees. It’s an idyllic setting.
The 1st 3 holes play steadily up the hill in front of you. With no par 5’s on the course, it doesn’t mean the course is a push over, and after a very heavy nights rain, the fairways were very wet so there absolutely no run, meaning it played significantly longer than its yardage on the opening stretch, especially the 417 yard 2nd.
I mixed the tees up, playing some yellow, some white, depending on what suited my eye the most. The whites suited for the most part.
You catch your 1st breath after the 3rd, a short par 4, when you play the 1st of only 3 par 3’s on the course. This is the least inspiring of them although the views are amazing.
The pick of the 1st half dozen holes is the 5th which is a challenging par 4. The landing area is generous but oob is down the right and position is key for your 2nd shot to a green that is tucked away above you behind a rocky outcrop.
Interesting history on the 1st few holes adds to the charm of the course - the 1st hole was the site of a distillery, the 4th green is the site of an old Pictish fort and Mary Queen of Scotts reputably rested near the 5th tee!
Another very high tee, surrounded by trees, for the 6th as you drive downhill adjacent to the 5th you have come up - or in my case onto the 5th! To be honest I got a better angle into the green from where I was.
Then you play at 90 degrees a short 270 yard par 4. I layed up, leaving a short wedge into a receptive green. Good birdie opportunity. The 8th plays back alongside the 7th, with the green protected by bunkers to the right hand side and banking and rough to the right should your approach shot drift. A gully before the green also adds protection.
You finish the front 9 with spectacular views off the tee on a very steep downhill par 4, where you cannot drive the green - it must be played as a dog leg (there is a house tucked away out of sight off the tee).
The back 9 starts with the longest par 4 on the course and with a blind green over the hill for your second shot. Catch the downhill and a par should be achieved.
The 2nd par 3 follows and this is a stunning hole with 185 yards off the high elevated white tee, oob down the right, bunkers to the front and rough to the left. Needless to say accuracy and right length are vital!
Then follows another long par 4 but this is downhill, played over a burn just short of the green and bunkers and sloping to the right as its protection.
The 13th is a lovely par, played uphill to a raised green with large bunkers to the front. Correct clubbing is vital. And then the 14th I loved. Off the tee you can see rocky outcrops and trees which are in the fairway, but at 277 yards they should not come into play. Ignore, aim straight and you could be putting for eagle! As it was very wet in this area, my ball plugged where it landed, so had to settle for a chip and birdie putt.
Another short par 4 follows from an elevated tee and then you play the 16th, an excellent par 3. I played off both the whites and yellows. I preferred the yellow tee shot at 148 yards. This forest edges the hole and wild deer were grazing, then running across the green.
The 17th plays downhill as you start the final descent to the clubhouse. The green is a 2 tier affair, which makes the 2 putt for par interesting. And then the final hole, played downhill, over a burn in front of the green, which is adjacent to the beautiful clubhouse. The view is so pretty and oozes quintessential charm from a bygone era.
It may not be the best course in the World under 6000 yards but it is certainly one of the most scenic. The course conditioning is not up there with B of G or Gleneagles but the fun and challenge through a mix of short and long par 4’s, the up and down nature of the holes, the imagination used means that this is a course you should look up on any trip that takes you through the Highlands or during a stay in the beautiful Pitlochry itself. You won’t be disappointed and at £25 for a round on a Wednesday an absolute bargain.
Pitlochry is a demanding course to walk. Like at Gullane, the opening holes (3 in a row) play uphill, fatiguing all but the most fit golfer. The fifth hole was my favorite, a 347 yard hole that plays uphill with an elevated green tucked up on a hillock to the left of the fairway. The greens feature decent undulations that add to the challenge. The ninth is a testing hole with trees coming into play and sports long views of the surrounding countryside. The par 3 11th is also very cool, with an elevated and well bunkered green. The dramatic finishing hole plays straight down the hill and the golfer is virtually guaranteed an uneven lie and is asked to hit over a burn to the green, testing their ability to hit a crisp iron under difficult conditions. I played Pitlochry in what the weather report described as “heavy bursts” of rain so it played quite difficult. The back tees are 5,692 yards, but in my view it plays far longer due to the elevation changes.
A ranking in the lower reaches of the Scottish top 100 is probably as good as it gets for Pitlochry but the majestic scenery alone makes a visit here worthwhile. This was the last leg of our tour and with tired legs, we chose to take buggies for the most undulating course played during the week.
The opening three holes are uphill all the way before things start to flatten for a while as we reach the higher ground. Here we discover the 5th, one of the best holes on the course, the approach to a semi-blind raised green on this mid-length par four being one of my favourite shots of the round.
The unavoidable up and down nature of the routing returns from the 7th onwards, the back nine ending with an exciting and particularly steep downhiller which sweeps left to a green defended by deep bunkers. There are no par-5's at Pitlochry, although for many the long uphill 10th may feel like one, and only three par-3's of which two are memorable. The 11th played from an elevated tee to a well-bunkered raised green and the 16th, a spectacular drop hole to a green ringed by bunkers, are both excellent holes.
A couple of short downhill par-4's add to the excitement of the latter holes before we head home towards the distinctive red-roofed clubhouse, the burn fronting the 18th green presenting one final hurdle before completing a thoroughly enjoyable round in a lovely part of the world. Brian W
I can’t believe it’s almost seven years since I last visited this place but doesn’t time fly by when you’re having fun? Playing Pitlochry was a means of breaking up a journey from Glasgow to Dornoch and I’m glad our group availed itself of the special Sunday 4-ball and carvery offer as it was exceptional value for money.
The course was in reasonable condition for the time of the year and allowances must really be made for the general bad weather that’s prevailed over the winter, even though
I’m sure less tolerant golfers could easily have complained about the very bumpy state of the (cored) greens. Nonetheless, it was a delight to return to a course that’s managed yet again to retain its place within the Scottish Top 100 chart.
I was told that the midweek Open deals on a Wednesday were very popular last season and I can understand why when a round of golf on this charming little course and an all-you-can-eat curry buffet in the clubhouse costs all of 22 quid – fill yer boots is what I say !!
An absolute gem of a course, a "must play" if you are ever in the area.Not a par 5 in sight but who needs one when you've got holes of this quality.I used to organise a Spring trek up to Scotland my myself and my friends, and a day at Pitlochry was the first to go on the itinerary.After our very first visit when 8 of us went, we took an extra 4 players the following year.One of them walked into the pro shop and asked George Hampden behind the counter...."are the greens quick?"He casually looked up from what he was doing, glanced out of the window and replied "Nae, they have'nae moved all night"....classic, and the rest of us fell about laughing.Please, please go and play this course if you are in the area. I don't think I will ever find myself in this neck of the woods again so the closest I can come is to recommend it to somebody else.
Played in the Gents Open in June 2007 and loved every minute on the course. Yes, there is a daunting climb uphill for the first three holes – though there’s some respite to be had at the top, courtesy of the woman in the cottage there who supplies water for the golfers!
Thereafter, the course rises and falls with regularity so it’s not a track for those who run out of puff too easily! There are great elevated tee positions throughout and some lovely two-tiered, raised putting surfaces – with exceptionally shaped and maintained greenside bunkers – on many holes.
It gets a wee bit cramped in a couple of places where several tees and greens come close to colliding but overall, Pitlochry is a great wee course with fantastic views of the surrounding landscape.
My favourite hole was the 361-yard, par four, 5th named “Queen Mary’s Rest” which required a blind approach to a green set on top of a crag.
The club have just spent over half a million pounds upgrading their clubhouse; combining old fashioned metal cladding walls and roof on the outside with a very modern, contemporary interior – very impressive.
There’s a definite feelgood factor to be had when walking off the 18th green here.