- Auchterarder, Perthshire, PH3 1NF, Scotland
- 44 01764 662231
It has a reputation as one of the leading golf resorts in Scotland, but Gleneagles offers a lot beyond the three championship courses on its property. It is one of the few resorts I’ve seen that features the aristocratic sport of falconry – it hosts the British School of Falconry – and that is just for starters for outdoor lovers who enjoy a taste royal treatment on holidays. However, I’d gladly travel here for an epic golf trip. Approximately one hour’s drive northwest from Edinburgh, you’ll find a destination with three exceptional golf courses – the King’s Course, the Queen’s Course and the PGA Centenary Course – set in rich Scottish countryside. The nearby peaks of Ben Vorlich and Trossachs in the west, the rock-faced Grampian Mountains in the north and rolling hills in the south are a classic highland backdrop as you tee off, according to Canadian golf journalist Anita Draycott who has written highly about each layout.
The King’s Club was designed by five-time Open Champion James Braid and opened in 1919 to challenge everyone from royalty to the best stroke makers in the game. Braid, one of the greats of Scottish golf, laid out a course that will test you from hole 1, ‘Dun Whinny’, with its giant bunker guarding a sloping green that drains into it, through to hole 18, “King’s Home”, a 480-yard (439-meter) par 5 marked by a ridge line across the fairway, 10 bunkers and a green with severe undulations.
At less than 5500 meters (6015 yards), the Queen’s Course – also the work of Braid – is short and feisty by comparison, according to Draycott. The moorland fairways wind their way between ridges and woodland in comparison to the more open King’s Course. With its beauty, Queen’s Course has enchanted everyone from pros Greg Norman and Tom Watson to Scottish actor Sean Connery and astronaut Alan Shepard.
They would have been captivated by holes such as the ‘Water Kelpie’, the attractive par-3 hole 13, which has the Loch an Eerie on the right side and a bunker on the left of the green.
Finally, the PGA Centenary Course – formerly the Monarch’s Course – was designed by Jack Nicklaus in the early 1990s and played host to the Ryders Cup in 2014, which was the first time a Scottish course had hosted the prestigious competition in 40 years. Europe retained the Cup that year, defeating the USA 16 ½ points to 11 ½ points. The PGA Centenary Course has also hosted the Scottish Open and Women’s British Open.
There is also the nine-hole PGA National Academy Course and nine-hole Pitch and Putt to warm up on.
The challenges: Club selection for approach shots is the key to scoring at the King’s Course, due to the stiff winds that whip over the hills. Slick greens and many well-placed bunkers are going to test even the best here. The Queen’s Course challenges with elevation changes, trees that narrow tee shots, water hazards like a ploughman’s ditch, dozens of bunkers and small or multi-level greens that can feature severe slopes and undulations. The PGA Centenary Course has the length to test today’s top professionals who must navigate around water hazards, bunkers and tiered greens.
When to play: The course is open all year subject to weather and maintenance, however, December through to February will have chilly conditions with average temperatures sitting between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius (43 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit).
Par: King’s Course 71; Queen’s Course 70; The PGA Centenary Course 72
Yardage: King’s Course 6790 yards, 6209 meters; Queen’s Course 5965 yards, 5454 meters; The PGA Centenary Course 7296 yards, 6671 meters.
Slope: King’ Course 139 *; Queen’s Course N/A; The PGA Centenary Course 145
Rating: King’ Course N/A; Queen’s Course N/A ; The PGA Centenary Course 77
Best hole: King’s Course: You’ll enjoy Hole 13 – ‘Braids Brawest’ or in other words, designer James Braid’s best. The 464-yard (424-meter) par 4 challenges with fairway undulations and the Auld Nick fairway bunker on the left, all with the pretty Ochil Hills in the background. Land your approach past the pin for an uphill putt.
Queen’s Course: ‘Queen’s Hame’, the picturesque par-4 hole 18, sees you hitting from an elevated tee over a small loch called the ‘Deuk Dubs’, before trying to land the approach on the right level of the two-tier green for the flag position. Golf course manager Scott Fenwick loves ‘Drum Sichy’, the par-4 Hole 6, with an elevated green that’s framed by bunkers.
PGA Centenary Course: Hole 4 ‘Gowden Bestie’, a classic Nicklaus challenge, has 239 yards (219 meters) before you reach a green that is guarded by a giant bunker on the left. The green rises to a plateau before falling away at the back. Also brilliant is the redesigned 18th, a par 5 dubbed ‘Dun Roamin’’ that gives big hitters a chance at eagle on the 533-yard (487 meter) hole.
The designer says: “It’s the finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with.”
Jack Nicklaus on the PGA Centenary Course **
The resort experience:
The Gleneagles Hotel is a regal-looking chateau that started operating in 1924, after being built by the Caledonian Railway Company. It currently offers 232 rooms, including 26 luxury suites. This is a Five-Red-Star property – the highest service rating in the United Kingdom.
What is especially attractive about Gleneagles is that you have unlimited use of the Club for the price of your room. That includes a huge array of facilities (including the Alpen Onsen hot pool and sauna) complimentary activities (including fitness classes such as yoga and Tai Chi, lawn croquet, pitch and putt, and tennis).
Dine and wine:
You can expect to be treated like royalty in any of the resort’s four restaurants. Gleneagles’ chef Andrew Fairlie has earned two Michelin Stars for the restaurant that bears his name. Try the degustation menu, a nine-course festival for the taste buds that starts with ballotine of foie gras, peach and almond milk and ends with coffee and chocolates. Fairlie uses herbs, vegetables, salads and fruit from their own walled Victorian garden. Fine wines are sourced from boutique vineyards as far as Tasmania and matched with each course.
You’ll also find Scottish/French dishes at The Stathearn, Mediterranean fare at Deseo, and an all-day menu at the Dormy Clubhouse Bar and Grill. You might enjoy a tipple at one of three bars or cup of tea or coffee in two lounges.
The accommodation: There is no cookie-cutter approach to the rooms here – each room has a unique layout. Everything from an Estate Room with views of the Perthshire countryside through to family rooms that can accommodate up to two little people is available. There are two basic interior styles throughout to choose: modern or traditional.
Other activities: As previously mentioned, there is an interesting array of aristocratic activities for lovers of the outdoors. You can choose target shooting, falconry, indoor/outdoor tennis, wildlife photography, equestrian school, road cycling or dog training amongst others, but you’ll find me with a fly-fishing rod and a dry fly on the end of it, trying to fool a trout in one of the lochs. A spa, ESPA well-being center, hair salon and nail bar round out the magnificent selection.
* Source: www.scotlandgolf.com/scotlandgolfcourses/t-z/thegleneagleshotelgolfcourses.html
** Source: www.gsga.ca/project/gleneagles-golf-club/