|Alyth Golf Club is located in the pretty Scottish town of the same name. (GolfPublisher.com)|
ALYTH, Scotland - The Alyth Golf Club is one of those fine little golf courses you come across when you roam the Scottish countryside - not really close to any major cities or tourist attractions, just sitting out here in the hinterlands waiting to be enjoyed by its members and guests.
And enjoyed it is.
"It's a bloody good test of golf," said Steve Cochran, a resident of Alyth (pronounced A'-lith) and a regular at the course. "You have to hit it straight and be accurate, and you have to be on the right side of the hole. It's one of the better courses in the area. I like it as well because they always make you feel welcome, and you don't always get that."
It's a good thing the staff makes you feel welcome, because the course doesn't make it easy for you - not with its blind shots, rolling terrain and elevated greens, many of which drop off sharply. That isn't to say it's unwelcoming; it's a blast to play.
Take No. 2, a short par 4 on which you tee off uphill. If you can reach the hump 260 to 280 yards away (depending on which tees you play from), the fairways slopes down; on days when the fairways are hard enough, you can reach the green without too much stress.
No. 4 has a crazy right-to-left tilt that will make you dizzy. You must hit it right here, and watch your ball roll down to the middle or even to the left side of the fairway. On No. 8, you tee off over an old stone wall - the kind you came to Scotland expecting to see - and you can smack a sheep in the adjacent pasture if you slice it.
Alyth's easy on the eyes as well, with its rural views of Angus and Perthshire. Cochran pointed across the fairway and the sheep pastures to one of the green and brown hills that ring the layout.
"There used to be an old Roman fort up there," he said. "The old fortifications are still up there."
Then he points to his old house on the other side of the one of the pastures, remembering the many times he negotiated the way home after some hours in one of Alyth's pubs.
The course was designed in 1894 by James Braid and Old Tom Morris (is there a course in Scotland Ol' Tom didn't have a hand in?) and has been only slightly modified over the years. It's a parkland course, with tall pine and beech trees lining the rolling, tilting fairways.
Managing Secretary Jim Docherty said the club is undergoing a 15-year plan that involves planting gorse to give the layout some color. As it is now, summer will bring a great deal of contrast to the fairways and surrounding rough, which is not as deep or punishing as many Scottish links courses sport.
Alyth is a good bargain with green fees at about $45 weekdays and $60 weekends. It's a member course, but so popular that the club recently decided to give visitors a place to eat.
The course is short - 6,259 yards from the back tees - but the elevation will make it feel longer, especially on the two par 5s, the 504-yard 11th at 504 yards and the 545-yard 16th. Both are reachable in two.
"You have to think your way through," said Docherty.
The greens, at the time of this writing, were in excellent shape, as were the fairways, despite a rugged Scottish winter.
Alyth is a good place for a golf mini-vacation in rural Scotland. The Strathmore Golf Centre and the Glenisla are nearby, and the well-regarded Blackmount is just down the road in Blairgowrie.
Perthshire lies in the heart of Scotland between the Highlands and Lowlands, so there are terrific views of both. The land here has its own identity, with deep, calm lochs and wild whitewater rapids. There is good hiking and horseback riding and even alpine and Nordic ski areas nearby, for when it gets too cold to golf.
The Alyth Hotel, located in Alyth's small downtown, was the home of the inventor James Sandy (1766-1819), said to have "hatched birds with his body heat." It's a very friendly small hotel with a cozy, burgundy and wood dining room with fireplace and homemade scones on offer.
The Lands of Loyal Hotel also comes highly recommended. Other options include the Losset Inn, Rosemount Golf Hotel, the Angus Hotel and Kinloch House.
The restaurant in the Alyth Hotel has excellent food. Try the braised lamb shank or the locally caught salmon.
Braid, a five-time British Open champion, also designed Blackmount, Gleneagles and many other Perthshire courses.
April 19, 2007
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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