Twice yearly I travel to Scotland. The purpose, to meet with our Scotland office and continue my expand my knowledge of the golf courses. As a growing company, it is vital to discuss issues of mutual concern as we work together to create a client's itinerary. Meeting daily with all personnel in our Perth office, our objectives were satisfied. Additionally, I discovered more Scottish golf gems-hidden jewels worthy of attention.
Concentrating on the central east portion on this trip, I trekked north from Perth to Taymouth Castle. On the grounds of this now closed castle in the valley mouth of the River Tay is a delightful parkland course. A truly picturesque setting, the course winds about the rustle of colorful trees and singing birds. Begin and finish at the foot of the castle, and stroll up and back along a gently rolling valley. A beautiful compliment to a links experience.
Stopped next at Pitlochry Golf Club, referred to as the "Switzerland of Scotland". Invigorating golf in the shadow of the Grampian Mountains. The first three holes go up, up, up before allowing a rest at the fourth, then still higher through to the sixth. But what magnificent vistas down the glen and across a deep gorge. The scenic beauty is no less magical on the eleventh, fourteenth and sixteenth. A hilly course indeed, but one that has instant appeal and long lasting satisfaction.
Tired but exhilarated, it was time for a wee bit of liquid refreshment, in the form of a national treasure-single malt whisky. From the islands to the mountains and on to the flatlands, Scotland is the home of scotch. More than half of all the country's malt whisky distilleries are here in the Grampian Highlands. After a short but enlightening tour, samples of the finished product awaited. Ah…
The next day was off easterly on the A930 towards the famous Carnoustie Golf Links. Along the way I discovered two jewels. Monifieth Golf Links is a links style combined with parkland. In the custom of links courses, the front nine goes out and the back nine in, all along a fairly narrow stretch of land. Secret pot bunkers sit idle, eagerly anticipating little white visitors. Extremely competent, Monifieth will host one of the several qualifiers for the 1999 Open at Carnoustie.
Further along the way is one that I have logged in as a favorite-Panmure Golf Club. Unassuming and wholly unimpressive from the first tee, the course quickly shows its true character by the third hole. And then, what a treat! Rolling fairways cut through pine trees and gorse, with the Buddon Burn snatching a wayward shot or two. Ben Hogan practiced on this course in his only appearance at The Open in 1953, and the par-4 sixth was his favorite.
The remarkableness of extended daylight this time of year and just a couple miles further up the road allowed for a peek at Carnoustie Golf Links. Hosting The Open in 1999, workers were busy building a new hotel and clubhouse right behind the first tee. I could find no one who missed the old, ugly clubhouse that the hotel replaces. Sharing the expanse of dunes with two other quality courses, the Championship course is demanding but honest, with the Barry Burn making its presence known throughout, especially on the final two holes. Carnoustie brings out the best in champions, as it will again next year. (If you are thinking of a trip over-the time to start planning is now!)
The last day on this trip was to discover the courses near to St. Andrews. After stopping by to chat with the proprietors of several Guest Houses and a quick round on St. Andrews New (a fine course in its own right), it was on to Crail. Perched high atop the most easterly point of the East Neuk of Fife overlooking the North Sea, playing the Balcomie Course of the Crail Golfing Society is a walk through history. The seventh oldest club in the world, Crail also has the distinction of being the first recorded club to use hole liners to protect the holes on the green. Play carefully, or your ball might be swimming with the fishes. So captivating, I didn't go any further.
The hidden gems of Scotland are worth seeing and playing. All are exceptional and exceedingly affordable. Certainly, a trip to the birthplace of golf requires an obligatory visit to the best known and famous. For this, I have no argument. However, my recommendation is to not miss out discovering the many other Scottish jewels.
Doug Phelps is Vice President of Classic GOLF Tours, a full service golf tour company providing escorted and self-drive golf packages to Scotland and Ireland, and other worldwide destinations. Reach him at 303-751-7200 or (800)359-7200, or visit their website at www.classicgolftours.com.
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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