Scotland is undeniably the birthplace of the modern 18 hole format of golf and is also home to the oldest golf course in the world, St Andrews Old Course. Golf originated on Scotland’s east coast and home grown legends like Old Tom Morris and James Braid, were instrumental in making golf what it is today. Thus, Scotland is rightly renowned for its historic links courses. Illustrious venues including St Andrews, Turnberry, Carnoustie, Royal Troon and Muirfield can be found at the top of many golfers lists dream golf destinations. Hoards of golfers continue to flock to the home of golf and perhaps the best way to experience the best of Scottish golf is to tour around these most sought after of venues. Although links golf is important in a historic sense it is not all that Scotland has to offer. 40 miles North West of Edinburgh, in Perthshire, you will find the unbelievably lavish and all encompassing Gleneagles Hotel and Golf Resort. Here you will find a luxurious, five star hotel that provides unparalleled service and certainly deserves its reputation as one of the very finest hotels in not just the UK, but the world.
The grandiose building resembles the magnificent style of a French Chateau and is perfectly complimented by the vast, perfectly manicured gardens. At the Gleneagles Hotel you will receive service of the highest order as the hotel retains one member of staff for every hotel guest.
Gleneagles provides a plethora of dining options to its guests and perhaps the most taxing part of a stay at this magnificent resort is trying to decide exactly where to eat! Our group enjoyed a dinner in The Strathearn. This grand restaurant overlooks the estate and provides a wonderful array of top class food from the Scottish larder. This two rosette award winning restaurant is elegant and dressy but not over the top as it has a smart casual dress code. As with the rest of the hotel, the service is outstanding. A team of well trained waiters look after your every need and are always at hand but never intrusive. The Strathearn boasts an impressive wine list and there is no need to worry if you’re not the foremost expert on wine because the waiting staff are immensely knowledgeable and will select the perfect wine to accompany your dish of choice. If you can manage to drag yourself away from the relaxing atmosphere of this amazing restaurant you can retire to The Bar, which is located at the heart of the hotel. The Bar serves everything you would want to find at your local pub and also stocks extra special treats including a selection of over 120 single malt whiskies, excellent wines and vintage champagne. The hotel is also home to Deseo, which serves Mediterranean cuisine in an informal atmosphere and the Andrew Fairlie Restaurant. This is a renowned, two Michelin-starred restaurant that serves the very best in French Cuisine with a Scottish twist.
On top off the unrivalled quality of the hotel and all its services and facilities, Gleneagles is home to three absolutely stunning championship golf courses: The PGA Centenary, The Queen’s and The King’s. These three outstanding courses have been designed by two of golf’s greatest names: James Braid and Jack Nicklaus. Playing any of the courses at Gleneagles will delight any avid golfer but our groups were fortunate to experience all three.
The PGA Centenary is the newest addition to the Gleneagles portfolio and is set to host the 2014 Ryder Cup matches. Nicklaus was left with a tough act to follow by Braid who designed the two older courses but he certainly didn’t disappoint. Nicklaus himself gave a large chunk of the credit to the piece of land that was handed to him, saying that it was, “the finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with.” High praise indeed. The course was designed to delight any golfer, no matter their ability or experience. With five tee positions on each hole, this course certainly ticks that box. The course is made up of a great mixture of holes and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Although it is a fantastic course in itself, it lacks the same levels of charm as the King’s and Queen’s courses.
The Queen’s course is the shortest of the three but from our experience it seems to be a members and employees favourite; even more so than the mighty King’s Course. It is the most picturesque course out of the three, although having said that, there is not much to choose between them in that sense! The front nine plays deceptively long and if the wind starts to roll in from the North it can be quite demanding. After the turn is where the course really sets the pulse racing though. From the 12th hole onwards the course just keeps serving up treat after treat and these holes include two of the best par 3’s you could think of. The 14th and the 17th are both relatively long from the white tees and both use the natural changes in elevation to astonishing effect. Playing from the white tees is recommended if you have the energy as some of the forward tee positions make the holes slightly less dramatic. Accurate approach shots are important but not the be all and end all. The run off areas and bunkers around the greens provide a challenge but are not impossible to negotiate.
The best course of the three in our eyes is the famous King’s Course, which has been a frequent stop on the PGA and Ladies European Tours since its inception in 1919. James Braid was intent on creating a course that tests the player’s creativity and if your approach shots are not accurate, this will be an important factor. The greens on the King’s are protected by devilish bunkers and extreme undulations and on holes like the par 3 5th, anywhere except the green could lead to trouble! Every hole on the King’s Course has a wow-factor and upon reaching each tee you get the sense you are about to play something really special. Like a lot of great courses it finishes with a testing par 5 that even the longest hitters will do well to reach in two.
The estate also offers a wealth of outdoor pursuits including horse riding, shooting, fly-fishing, falconry, mountain biking, tennis, squash and off-road driving. Indoors at ‘The Club’ there is state of the art fitness equipment, swimming pools, spa, Turkish baths, a sauna as well as first-class health and beauty treatments.
As if the hotel, facilities and collection of golf on offer at Gleneagles wasn’t enough, it is within reach of the other heavy hitters of Scottish Golf. St Andrews and Carnoustie are an hour’s drive away as are the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Another thirty minutes down the road you will find Royal Troon. Combining its location and what is on offer at Gleneagles makes it the perfect place to stay whether you are on a golf holiday or a more extensive tour of Scottish golf courses.
All in all Gleneagles is a true, all encompassing five-star experience from start to finish and should be at the top of any golfers list of Scottish golf holiday destinations.
For information on Gleneagles and many other top Scottish golf breaks please visit www.yourgolftravel.com or call free on 0800 043 6644.