When you think of top-flight golf in Ayrshire, you automatically think of the famous links courses running along the coast from Troon to Prestwick and Turnberry. Well, it’s time to think again as the new inland course at Rowallan Castle near Kilmaurs is all set to complement these golfing greats in fine style.
The course is laid out within an historic 600-acre estate that dates back to the 16th century with fairways draped across a gently undulating landscape that incorporates open meadow, wetland and woodland sites. Water also plays a part at a number of holes but never in a dominating, obtrusive fashion.
Designed by Colin Montgomerie with Ross McMurray from European Golf Design, Rowallan Castle is the latest in a burgeoning portfolio for Monty and EGD that now includes the likes of Carton House in Ireland, Royal Golf Club in Bahrain and Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Turkey. With quality projects like these to their name, it’s no surprise to find that Rowallan Castle is another classy track from the same design team.
The three short holes on the outward half (“Ross’s Quarry” at hole 2, “Doctor’s Bend” at hole 5 and “Old Castle” at hole 8) are all contenders for signature hole on the property. The green to the first of these sits behind a lovely wetland area to the right of the hole, the second has a pond lurking to the left of the green and the third requires an elevated tee shot across a shaded valley to a raised green with a stream to the front.
Two holes – the 490-yard par four 11th (“Goat Fell”) and 609-yard par five 16th (”Laird’s Ride”) – are the pick of the holes on the back nine and both dogleg downhill to the left. The former is a formidable two-shotter and the latter will take two mighty blows to get anywhere near a raised green protected by a pond and three enormous bunkers – good luck with getting anything less than a five on this hole.Rather uniquely, Rowallan also boasts a testing par three 19th hole ("The Decider") where informal match play games that are still tied after 18 holes may be decided before proceeding to the more conventional 19th in the modern new clubhouse.
Rowallan isn’t the best course that I have played all year, it isn’t even the best parkland course I have played, that award going to Newmachar Hawkshill ,but to give it a one ball score well, it’s a bit like chips and cheese, just wrong! I will concede that a nice clubhouse and nice changing facilities does enhance your experience but it didn’t bother me then, and it doesnt bother me now, that Castle Stuart didn’t have a clubhouse when I played it. It didn’t bother me to change in a Portacabin to play Royal Troon ,I think you get my drift and, in any case, the changing facilities at Rowallan are more than ample.
The course is a typical modern design, with the back tees at almost 7000 yrds for the big boys to 6300yrds to the baby boomers like myself The first is a nice sweeping dogleg right to start with the 2nd the first of the 3 exceptional par 3's in the front 9 the 8th hole being the pick of the bunch. The back 9 is harder and longer and in truth not as good, the pick of the holes being the dogleg 11th, the short bunker strewn 12th the 16th which is guarded by water at the front of the green and the 18th. I have to admit that the stretch of holes between 13(for God's sake get rid of that pylon ASAP)to 15 left me a bit luke warm but that is a small gripe for a new course which has still to bed in properly. The excellent bunkering and greens, despite the best efforts of the local numpties , are in remarkably good condition and I think that the 19th decider hole is a lovely idea. So, not the best but a one ball review, no way. I hope to come back when it beds in a bit more and take advantage of their twlight offer. Who knows? I might go for a pint and a sauna afterwards. MPPJ
As for the other gripes in points (2.) and (3.), I'm more than willing to overlook early off-course deficiencies, especially at a brand new golf facility, but I'm afraid this review typifies many in recent times where golfers overstate the importance of clubhouse service and amenities – I came to play golf, not wallow in a luxurious country club! The clubhouse isn't enormous, it's cosy, on a scale in keeping with the numbers that will play it at any one time I would imagine. Indeed, golfers are well served by a lovely, airy glasshouse restaurant off the main building. And by the way, if the reviewer thinks Monty contributed anything of real substance to the design here - other than putting his name to the project to promote the place - then they're sadly misguided.
There are PLENTY of other inland courses in Scotland that I'd rather not return to (some might even feature on this site) but this isn't one of them, not by a long way. If value for money is such a burning issue, there are currently excellent twilight green fees for the more cost conscious golfer on offer here. I really can't think of a more undeserving review that I've read in a long time. It promised at the outset to be short and sweet but accomplished neither objective, I'm afraid. Still, if it provokes others to go see for themselves what Rowallan Castle is REALLY like then it might just be the sort of unintentional marketing ploy the owner could benefit from. Incidentally, I believe the initial plan of offering debentures was scrapped so there's no need for any well-heeled golfer to be put off from playing here with thoughts of having to slum it in a pokey pavilion! To evaluate Rowallan Castle with a single ball mark displays, in my opinion, abject disrespect on the part of the reviewer.