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The Gleneagles will host the 2014 Ryder Cup on the PGA Centenary -- but many say the original King's is better.
The Gleneagles will host the 2014 Ryder Cup on the PGA Centenary -- but many say the original King's is better. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)

King's Course at Gleneagles outshines PGA Centenary, host of the 2014 Ryder Cup

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor

GLENEAGLES, Perthshire, Scotland -- Gleneagles -- Scotland's historic heartland golf resort -- will finally be in the international spotlight when it hosts the 2014 Ryder Cup on its PGA Centenary Course.

While the PGA Centenary Course, built in 1993 by Jack Nicklaus, is a worthy forum for such drama, it isn't even regarded as the best golf course at Gleneagles.

Ask just about anyone who has played all three of Gleneagles' 18-hole courses, and they'll tell you it's James Braid's 1919 masterpiece: the King's Course.

The five-star Gleneagles resort will host its 90th anniversary the year of the Ryder Cup, but before the glamorous, French chateau-inspired hotel was built, the King's Course was attracting the masses.

Playing through stunning rolling countryside in the hills of Perthshire, you won't find a better parkland setting for golf.

At less than 6,800 yards from the championship tees, it might be too short these days for the world's best. For the rest of us, it's a near perfect blend of challenge and enjoyment.

The first hole is a short par 4 with a wide fairway nearly impossible to miss, followed by a short iron approach to an elevated green. The hole serves as a pretty good indicator of what to expect at Gleneagles. It rarely demands muscle or precise accuracy off the tee, but often keeps you a little off balance with many shots to perched greens and blind shots from the tee or to the green.

The most puzzling approach shot comes on the third hole. It isn't long at just 350 yards, but into prevailing wind, this more difficult than any 440-yard hole around.

The narrow fairway plays slightly downhill. The approach, however, plays over a large grass bunker and hill. The green sits just beyond it.

There is plenty of gorse and weeds to the left and the right side doesn't have much room either. From the fairway, you can't see the flag or really anything besides a giant grass bunker on the hill, so be sure to listen for the bell before you hit signaling "all clear."

The back nine is a wonderful blend of long and short par 4s, ending with the only par 5 for the backside on 18. The 260-yard 15th lets just about anyone try for the green, that's guarded heavily to the left by bunkers, but there's just enough room in front to run it up.

Like most Scottish golf courses, the championship tees aren't even set out. The longest set, playing from the whites, is about 6,400 yards. Still, there are a handful of very long par 4s that summon plenty of muscle. The course's perch on high ground too also means you're facing a stiff wind on many days.

If you're playing from the yellow tees, the 18th plays as a long and difficult par 4, but the hole was most definitely designed as a par 5 by Braid. There is a large bunker on the right side of the fairway that dares you to hit driver.

The green is a large one that allows you to run up a fairway wood in two. My group, despite playing from the yellows all day, moved back to the whites on this one to play the hole as a par 5.

King's Course at Gleneagles: The verdict

The King's Course is regarded as one of James Braid's finest parkland works. It's fair but authentic, and features stunning scenery as well as a wide variety of holes.

The greens play a little slower than most of the links courses in Scotland that have marble surfaces, so be warned to stroke a few putts before your round to acclimate your speed. Though still challenging, it's a little easier to get around here than many of the links courses nearby, so it serves as a good tweener course while driving from one coast to St. Andrews or somewhere else in Fife or East Lothian.

Other golf courses at Gleneagles

Gleneagles' PGA Centenary Course will host the 2014 Ryder Cup, the 90-year anniversary of the resort.

The Nicklaus design features both Scottish pot bunkers and North American-style as well. It's features more of a target-style layout, compared to the other two classic courses and plays 7,014 yards from the back tees.

The Queen's Course at Gleneagles is regarded as the easiest of the three courses. It is the shortest at less than 6,000 yards from the men's tees and has the smallest greens. It's also known for being woman-friendly as well. Gleneagles also has an 11-acre practice ground with range, academy and short game area, as well as a nine-hole Wee Course.

Gleneagles hotels

The five-star Gleneagles hotel is on site. If you're looking to save some money on accommodations or stay somewhere a little more centrally located, consider the Green Hotel in Kinross, which has spacious rooms and is located in the heart of Kinross.

It's about a half hour to Gleneagles and St. Andrews, and 10 minutes from Perth.

The Glenfargs Hotel is one junction north of Kinross and it has better accommodations than its two-star rating indicates. It has a fine dining room with dinner nightly and a public bar attached, as well as beer garden. They also help to arrange golf trips and tee times if required.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

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

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