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A tad over 300 yards from the back tee, no. 15 is perhaps Boat of Garten's most idiosyncratic hole.
A tad over 300 yards from the back tee, no. 15 is perhaps Boat of Garten's most idiosyncratic hole. (Courtesy of David J. Whyte/Linksland.com)

The great James Braid pushes the boat out at Boat of Garten Golf and Tennis Club in the Highlands of Scotland

Clive AgranBy Clive Agran,

BOAT OF GARTEN, Scotland -- Although the name suggests that a view of the sea might be a distinct possibility, Boat of Garten could hardly be situated either higher up or further from the Scottish coast. Sitting pretty at over 1,000 feet above sea level in the middle of the Scottish Highlands and inside Cairngorms National Park, the pretty village of Boat of Garten derives its name from the ferry that used to cross the mighty River Spey – the fastest flowing river in Scotland that surges past both the village and the golf course on its way to the North Sea.

Situated on the edge of town and sandwiched between the river and the Strathspey Steam Railway, Boat of Garten Golf and Tennis Club can trace its illustrious history right back to 1898 when the original six holes were laid out over pure heathland. Two further holes were added in 1910 and the tennis courts were opened in 1921. But the most important date of all is 1930 when extra land became available and the legendary James Braid submitted his design.

Since it was opened in 1932, the 18-hole Boat of Garten golf course has been tweaked a little; the 14th tee was relocated, the fourth and 13th were converted into par 5s and, most recently, alterations have been made to the opening par 3.

But the magic of James Braid and the remarkable individuality of all the holes is still unmistakeably present in the delightful design that threads through the silver birch, heather and gorse. All the holes at Boat of Garten are christened, some with names that are almost unpronounceable to everyone other than a native Scot. The signature sixth is said to have been among Braid's favorite holes. In providing wonderfully lofty tees, several of the holes, but in particular the sixth and 12th, make full use of the available elevation, of which there is plenty.

Certainly Boat of Garten's most idiosyncratic hole is the curious 15th. A tad over 300 yards from the back tee, it can be driven. There is a deep gulley two-thirds of the way up the fairway, however, and although it's grassed and therefore not a real hazard, a shot out of it is both completely blind and quite a challenge. Many prefer to lay up short of it with anything from a 5 to an 8 iron to give them a clear shot in.

"There are quite a few blind shots out there which frankly makes it a bit tougher for visitors than it is for the members," observed Alan Boxx, the Match and Handicap Convenor at the club.

A feature of the golf course for which Braid can't take any credit is the spectacular mountain backdrop provided by the Cairngorms. Another natural asset is the abundant wildlife, of which the hares and deer are a particular feature. Indeed, Boat of Garten is more famous for its ospreys than it is for its great golf course. Arguably more famous than both the ospreys and the golf course put together is singer Bob Dylan, who has occasionally been sighted in the area since his brother David recently bought a house in nearby Nethy Bridge. The rumour is that he enjoys a round of golf but, unlike the deer and hare, he's not yet been sighted on the course.

Boat of Garten Golf and Tennis Club: The verdict

Although under 6,000 yards long, Boat of Garten Golf and Tennis Club is a true test of golf. An exceptionally beautiful course with wonderful views of the River Spey and the mighty Cairngorms, it is little wonder that TV commentator Peter Alliss lists it among his favorites. Although hilly, it is eminently walkable and you might even have enough strength left after a round for a set or two on the all-weather tennis courts. An absolute must if you are ever in the area.

Photos courtesy of David J. Whyte/Linksland.com

Although in his 60s, with a handicap of 15 and lifetime earnings comfortably below $100, Clive Agran nevertheless still believes he can win a major. Arguably England's most gifted golf writer, when not dreaming of glory he's scouring the globe simultaneously searching for lost balls and great golf courses. Follow Clive on Twitter at @cliveagran.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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