|The East Course at Marriott Dalmahoy Golf and Country Club has hosted a variety of high profile events including the Solheim Cup. (Courtesy photo)|
EDINBURGH, Scotland -- The impressive Manor House and associated country club of Dalmahoy can be found just seven miles from the very center of Scotland's vibrant capital city, Edinburgh. The house itself dates back to 1724, but the Marriott Dalmahoy Golf and Country Club that we see today only really came to stand following extension of the house alongside various other developments that were completed in 1990.
Today, there are two courses at Dalmahoy: the shorter, par 68, West course that features two spectacular crossings of the Gogar Burn; and the championship East Course that has hosted a variety of high profile events including the sole European victory in the Solheim Cup back in 1992.
The East Course at Dalmahoy was opened in 1927. The layout was dreamt up by the much lauded and imitated golf course designer, and five times British Open winner, James Braid. It is 6,638 yards long from the back tees and has a par of 72. From the tees more usually occupied by the proverbial man on the street, it is however, significantly shorter and should provide a tough, yet wholly manageable, challenge to the vast majority of reasonably competent club golfers.
Dalmahoy is not a championship course that you play merely in order to walk the fairways that professionals have taken divots from. It is not a course that, by the fourth tee, will have you checking your bag to determine whether or not you will have enough balls to finish the round. There are no island greens or 250-yard carries over intimidating lakes at Dalmahoy. The East Course at Dalmahoy is simply a very good and very fair golf course.
The Manor House and its grounds stretch out from the foot of the Pentland hills over a thousand acres of wooded parkland that were tailor made for relaxing weekends away. The East Course itself is largely open, save for an impressive and extensive array of venerable deciduous and coniferous trees that largely serve to add to the grandeur of the place, having little impact as golfing hazards.
Water plays no part until the memorable sixteenth hole, and even then, the vast majority of balls should steer clear of an aquatic grave. Dalmahoy defends its par score via a combination of wonderfully sculpted bunkers (of which more later) that blend into subtlely contoured fairways and greens. To my mind, the greens of the East Course are its greatest asset; vast, sprawling, and exquisitely manicured. For the more statistically minded golfers reading this, don't be surprised if at the end of the round you hit a larger than usual number of greens in regulation, yet failed to score correspondingly well. I managed to consistently hit the capacious greens with mid and long iron approach shots, yet consistently managed to walk off the green with bogeys or worse.
After the greeting afforded by the impressive life size statue of James Braid that stands by the Starter's Hut, the first hole leads off away from the house uphill to a green 496 yards away. It is a straight hole, strategically bunkered on both sides.
The fairway winds mesmerically up to the slightly elevated green protected in front, on both left and right, by deep traps.
Its relatively friendly length for a par 5, and its open nature should ensure your scorecard is not irreparably damaged.
The first of Dalmahoy's short holes is the fourth. It is typical of the short holes that are to follow. Only 143 yards from the back tees, par nevertheless looks an awkward prospect as you take aim. Surrounding the green are a grand total of six bunkers; all cunningly constructed so as not to fully expose their true threat, but merely to hint at it.
On arrival at the green, it is hard not to marvel at the manner in which sand fuses into turf as the menacing contours of the bunkers flow into the easy curves of the green. Each bunker at Dalmahoy is carved out wonderfully deep from the grassy surroundings but at the same time maintained to such a high level that there really are no stony or uneven-sand based excuses for not escaping at some time in the near future. The sand and greens at Dalmahoy really do complement each other, they reflect the fine dividing line between golfing success and failure, yet still manage to never be anything other than entirely just.
The ninth is the aptly named "Doon Aroon" (try saying 'down and round' in your best Scottish accent!). From the back tees it is a 480-yard par 5, from the usual tees however, it is classified as a 471-yard par 4. Whilst never really understanding these unfriendly par allocations, I nevertheless teed up my ball with the precise ambition of recording a birdie, or was it a par?
I selected my trusted driver for the semi blind tee shot and promptly pulled it left.
On arrival at my ball, I was thankful to discover that my pull left was not as errant as I had thought- I had an inviting lie in the semi rough with an equally tempting line into the ample green that lay downhill some 210 yards away. The three iron was the club, the wild swing was the chosen method of propulsion, the result was a surprisingly beautiful thing. Putting proved problematic, but I still got my par/ birdie.
The front nine takes you back to the Starter's Hut and the first rate putting green alongside it. The second nine is marginally the longer of the two, and is arguably the tougher. It is at the fourteenth that the inquisition into golfing abilities really steps up a gear. It is adjudged to be hardest hole on the course. It is a 457-yard par 4 that is defined by the troublesome drive that it demands. To the left of the tee are a sequence of large trees that protect a mess of long grasses and bushes behind, to the right is a fairway bunker and contours that are incompatible with a routine approach shot. The green is protected by two bunkers that further complicate the approach to the impressive 46-yard deep green.
After negotiating the charming perils of the short fifteenth (named 'The Wee Wrecker) it is time to take stance on the majestic sixteenth. This hole without doubt ranks in the top five holes that I have ever had the good fortune to play. 423-yards long, it naturally divides into two components- the drive into a tight fairway framed by sand and timber; and the approach to an inviting green which has the backdrop of the Manor House itself. In terms of both aesthetics and as a golfing challenge, the sixteenth hole at Dalmahoy has few equals.
The course culminates with a short par 4 that could well provide the best birdie opportunity of the day if it was not the fact that at courses such as Dalmahoy, the nerves always start to tingle when putting out at the eighteenth.
As a well-equipped, fully-fledged country club, Dalmahoy has a wide range of facilities available that can enhance either a day's golfing or a hotel stay.
There are swimming pools and health spas, as well as a well equipped and very reasonably priced pro shop that are all able to increase the therapeutic element of your time there.
Dalmahoy is a member of the Marriott chain of golf and country clubs that includes Forest of Arden, St Pierre, and Hanbury Manor- all regular venues on the European tour.
As such, Dalmahoy provides an enchanting mix of new and old. The authority of the Manor House is complemented by the progressive approach apparent on the golf course itself.
Small pine trees have been planted on either side of fairways in order to act as yardage markers, 'silent' astroturf pathways escort you from green to tee, and a surprising number of signs exist to inform you of the need to repair pitchmarks promptly on the advice of the USGA.
The pace of play is another aspect incongruous with the traditional image of the country club. I played on my own, and for much of the round was behind a series of fourballs, in spite of this I was scarcely held up and completed my round in about three and a quarter hours.
Dalmahoy is a wonderfully welcoming place, both as a country club hotel and as a golfing venue. I hope you too have the good fortune to experience its delights.
Dalmahoy is a venue that welcomes societies and corporate groups.
June 4, 2002
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Darren Clarke learned to play the game at Dungannon Golf Club, a pretty parkland course right in the middle of Northern Ireland. While the course is pretty enough and the green fee is almost embarrassingly reasonable, the appeal of Dungannon is the opportunity to pay homage to the 2011 British Open champion, Clive Agran writes from County Tyrone.
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