After the magnificence that was Royal Dornoch, it was time to drive south to go to our next location at Gleneagles. Darius Oliver rates the Kings Course in his top 100 so Gleneagles seemed to be a good place to stop before making the trip to Turnberry. It was an eventful drive through the Cairngorms, we were beset by a snow storm and the temperature dropped to -1. At this point I thought golf was off the next day but 30 mins later temperature was back up to 8 an the sun shining. Cairngorms were truly beautiful and I will return to play Boat of Garten at some point. It was a toss up between Boat of Garten and Gleneagles for an inland course, decisions huh!
The setup at Gleneagles is world class. Three great golf courses, incredible hotel, activities a plenty. It was a lot to take in. Found a deal on yourgolftravel.com for one night’s stay plus a round on two of the courses. Opted to play the King’s and Queen’s course, read some negative things about the Centenary so an easy choice. Another warm greeting await from the caddymaster at the first. Tee times are religiously maintained with a mandatory 15 minute stop required at the halfway house. Weather was looking good so off we went.
Some information from the Gleneagles’ website about the King’s course:
The King’s Course, opened in 1919, is a masterpiece of golf course design, which has tested the aristocracy of golf, both professional and amateur. James Braid’s plan for the King’s Course was to test even the best players’ shot-making skills over the eighteen holes. You find out all about it with your first approach shot. If you have driven straight and long from the tee, you will have what looks like a simple pitch to the elevated green. But you must be sure to select the correct club, because the shot is always a little longer than you think, with the wind over the putting surface often stronger than you can feel it from the fairway.
And if you do not make the severely sloping green, a bunker yawns twenty feet below. Selecting the right club for each approach shot is the secret on the King’s. It is certainly one of the most beautiful and exhilarating places to play golf in the world, with the springy moorland turf underfoot, the sweeping views from the tees all around, the rock-faced mountains to the north, the green hills to the south, and the peaks of the Trossachs and Ben Vorlich on the western horizon. Readers of Celebrated Living, the luxury magazine for American Airlines, voted the King’s Course 6th in their Platinum list of International Golf Courses.
All the holes have evocative and pithy Scots names. For example, the fifth, “Het Girdle” (Hot Pan), is a challenging par 3 with trouble everywhere except on the green, while 17th’s name, “Warslin’ Lea” (Wrestling Ground), reflects the difficulty so many golfers have had with this long, sweeping par 4.
I can’t improve upon the explanation for the first hole here so won’t try! I didn’t hit the best ball but was able to escape with a bogey so off and running once again! Whereas the first is played to an elevated green, the second is played from an elevated tee with bunkers left and right of the fairway. First great hole is the shortish Par 4 3rd. Braid was notorious for his love of blind shots and the approach would have stumped us but for the caddymaster’s recommendation. Trick is to land the approach just after the marker post and the ball will run down to the hidden green. It’s a quirky shot for sure! I managed it then missed the 5 foot putt for birdie, story of my life! Next up is the long Par 4 5th hole which contains a narrow slanting fairway and plays to a raised green, hole is rated the second toughest on the course and its imperative here to miss that fairway bunker. 6th is the first Par 3 and what a hole it is, green complex is raised and you’re in big trouble if you miss. I did and was suitably punished. ‘Hot Pan’ is a very apt, it’s the fire if you miss! Holes 6 and 7 are Par 4s, 7 is a sharp dogleg to the left and plays long. Two tough shots here if you going to make Par or better. The 8th is the second Par 3 on the course and another picturesque hole. I played the wrong club and found a pretty deep bunker at the front of the green, not a good place to be. Opening nine finishes with a great short Par 4, hole shapes to the right and requires only a mid-iron and wedge to hit the raise green. Fairway slopes left, right, down. Drive too far and the second shot is a lot tougher.
SI 1 welcomes the inbound nine, A long straight par 4 played again to an elevated location. Decent tee shot of paramount importance here. Front nine here feels like a front ten as the halfway house awaits on the 11th hole and the 15 minute break. Compared some notes with the golfers playing the Queen’s course and discovered that one of them had played Loch Lomond a couple of days. I was very tempted to ask for an introduction but bit my lip. Suffice to say it was one of the best courses he’s played to date.
Second “nine” starts in earnest with the shortish Par 3 11th. While we were waiting saw a group of 4 youngsters play the hole from the whites where the length was 230 yards. None of them hit it past the halfway house and hence the yellow tees which begged the question – ‘Why!!!’. 12th is a fun par 4 requiring a blind teeshot over a mound, miss and three bunkers await. Hole 13 is one of the strongest on the course, a long narrow Par 4 with a significant mound\mogul featuring a deep bunker on the left and bushes to the right. Approach shot isn’t any easier. I had to play out of the gorse on the day and was just able to reach the green in 3 shots. Beautiful hole to look at and a real test. The 14th is a very short Par 4 measuring 240 yards, I was able to reach the green with a 3 wood on the day. Again the green is elevated and heavily protected with bunkers. Simple play is a 7 iron and SW. A view of the Gleneagles complex awaits on the green, my photo doesn’t really do the scenario justice unfortunately. 15th is a longer Par 4 where longer drivers can get significant run with the drive, second shot is played to a lower green and is a tough shot. Many ways to tackle the approach but the 438 yard green is easily reached in two. 16th is a very short Par 3 and the easiest on the course. 17th is a dogleg left par 4 where corner can be cut. I tried to do this but got too greedy and ball was buried in the gorse. Ideal shape is a draw to setup a simple approach. The King’s course concludes with a long Par 4 played again from an elevated position with a wide fairway to aim for. Not the greatest closing hole I’ve played and the 18th on the Queen’s course is a lot stronger.
In summary, the King’s course is very good featuring some great holes and some good ones. Unfortunately the greens had just been cored and were not in the best of states. The greens also looked like were suffering from weeds. Scenery was stunning and course architecture strong. Food was the best we’ve had at any of the courses so far but I reckon Gleneagles has an unfair advantage here. It is a 5 star world class resort after all. Certainly the deal we got – two rounds + one night in the hotel + breakfast at 210 pounds was pretty reasonable.
Best Hole – 13th
Hardest Hole – 7th