Organised golf was first played at Strathaven in 1897 when locals played over a 9-hole course at Brownmuir Farm. Ten years later, Strathaven Golf Club was formed when land at West Overton Farm became available and a new 9-hole course was designed by Willie Fernie, the 1883 Open Champion from Troon.
In the early 1960s, the club purchased an adjacent farm named West Coldstream and an additional nine holes were designed and constructed by John R. Stutt. Many young trees were planted at this time and they have now matured after more than forty years of growth, allowing Strathaven Golf Club to claim to be one of the best parkland tracks in the West of Scotland.
The course has an overall yardage of 6,306 yards with a par of 71. It provides a challenge to golfers of all handicaps or none – low scores will only be made here at Strathaven if skill and judgement are used on the tree-lined holes. If par eludes the golfer and it’s not a day for low figures on the scorecard then the peaceful setting and sensational views of the surrounding Kype Hills will go someway to compensate for this.
There are some wonderfully named holes on the course: “Whaup’s Nest”, “Kype’s Rig” and “Kittle Neuk” to name only three. A further three holes are picked out for closer consideration: “The Sheugh” is the 343-yard, par four, 5th and a tough, right doglegged hole. A brave tee shot played to the left of two bunkers on the right of the fairway will allow a direct shot to the green. A stream to the front and bunkers at the left and the back protects the putting surface.
The 11th hole – “Nutberry” – is the first of four straight par fours on the back nine. It plays as a slight dogleg to the left and a precise tee shot is required to allow a reasonable approach shot to the green. A well-placed bunker thirty yards short left of the putting surface will catch pulled second shots. The final hole, the 408-yard, par four “Spinney” is a great finishing hole. It doglegs left and the safe tee shot is down the right of the fairway, avoiding the spinney on the left. The second shot is played to the largest putting surface on the course. Two large bunkers protect the front left and right of this green.
I thoroughly enjoyed my round here when I competed in the club’s annual Gents Open the other day. The front nine holes are nicely routed, skirting the perimeter of the property, whilst the longer, more difficult back nine holes are more tightly packed together, with several fairways running adjacent to one another - not that it ever feels cramped, which is testament to the great job done to maximize the use of the available land.
The three par threes on the front nine didn’t exactly enthral me (especially as two of them play in excess of 200 yards from the medal tees) so the 15th (“Kittle Neuk”) was, for me, the best of the short holes on the card; visually intimidating from the tee with a tricky two-tier green surrounded by several sand traps.
On the outward half, holes 5 and 6 were two excellent short, right doglegged par fours which are, unfortunately, followed by “Coldstream,” a rather uninspiring par four that plays to a tiny raised green in the northwest corner of the course. On the inward half, the short par four 13th (“Oaks”) is another bonny hole - guarded by a lone oak tree to the right of the fairway and a burn in front of the green - and it was probably my favourite hole on the course.
I understand the putting surface for the 17th hole has recently been moved back 50 yards and this contributes in no small way to the degree of difficulty presented by the closing trio of par fours. Holes 16 and 18 play downhill but into the prevailing wind, whilst 17 is uphill all the way - golfers will do very well to negotiate this stalwart set of finishing holes in level fours. Yes, Strathaven’s well worth a visit and I’m only surprised there haven’t been more reviews for it.