The Gleneagles Resort is without doubt one of the very best in Scotland thanks to its three outstanding golf courses, not to mention one of the world’s finest 5* hotels and a wealth of other leisure facilities available to all who visit this Perthshire golfing heavyweight.
While it is open to debate about which course is the best of the bunch there is little doubt that the PGA Centenary Course will be the centre of attention this week.
Today marks the beginning of the end of the race to make the European Ryder Cup team with a number of players hoping to put in a good shift at the Johnnie Walker Championship and cement their place in Jose Maria Olazabal’s team either as automatic qualifiers or as one of the two wildcard picks.
The tournament kicked off earlier this morning on the PGA Centenary Course, a course that in its relatively short existence has, it is fair to say, been through its fair share of highs and lows.
Having been presented with the “finest parcel of land in the world” to work with, one of golf’s biggest legends, Jack Nicklaus, set out to create a modern classic in the heart of the stunning Perthshire countryside. The Golden Bear had plenty to live up to considering the quality of the James Braid designed King’s and Queen’s courses that had been the jewels in Gleneagles’ crown for just under a century before the PGA Centenary was created.
While the course was well received by those who travelled to Scotland on Gleneagles golf breaks, the best players in the world, many of whom will be contesting the 2014 Ryder cup here, were not overly enamoured with the American style layout. Ryder cup legend Darren Clarke said of the course when the Ryder Cup was awarded to Gleneagles, “Scotland is the home of golf and we should not be playing on an American-style course – it’s beyond my comprehension.”
The opening hole on the PGA Centenary will be fairly straight forward for the players competing at the 2014 Ryder Cup as long as their approach shots to the heavily protected green are precise.
There were also those who thought the course to be too easy for the game’s top players, what with the rapid development of club and ball technology, which lead Nicklaus and co to suggest a dramatic overhaul.
Having recently been completed, the changes to the course will be under the spotlight at the Johnnie Walker Championship but the early signs are positive…even Clarkey sang the praises of the new layout. “I’ve heard all about the changes they have done. I haven’t played all of them yet, but the ones that I saw yesterday certainly were massive improvements. With this whole sub-air system that they have put in, it will suck the moisture out of the greens and they will be much, much better.”
To get an idea of how extensive the changes have been read on…
Between the period of October 2011 and April 2012, 50,000 tonnes of earth were moved, 30,000 square metres of new turf was laid and 1,000 tonnes of new sand was used in bunkers around the course. The primary goal behind the refurbishment was not to completely change the course but to develop the existing layout to create a number of truly memorable holes for the Ryder Cup to be played on; holes that would provoke players into taking risks and punishing those who failed to hit the required shot.
The par 5 9th is one of the holes that has gone through extensive alterations and now looks far different to the original hole above.
The most notable changes have been made to the 9th, 10th, 12th and much criticised par 5 18th. The closing holes now presents a more risk and reward challenge rather than simply a green light for the stars of the professional game to go for the green in two. Furthermore a new amphitheatre has been built for fans to better enjoy the hole and create more of an atmosphere for the final stages of matches and indeed future tournaments. After refurbishments were completed in April, visitors are now able to go and enjoy the finished Ryder Cup article for themselves on their next Scottish Golf Break.
In its current form the PGA Centenary Course certainly complements, but also contrasts starkly with the more established King’s and Queen’s Courses at Gleneagles. Typical Nicklaus features are all present meaning players have plenty of room with which to work from the tee, allowing the big hitters to really let the driver fly. From there the real fun begins as the large, undulating greens, the front of which in particular, are extremely well protected by huge, well placed bunkers and one or two water hazards that are present for function over fashion. Measuring well in excess of 7,000 yards and boasting a generous 5 different sets of tees, the PGA Centenary Course will pose an enjoyable challenge to golfers of all abilities and is just one of a trio of courses that make Gleneagles one of THE go to destinations for those who want to explore Scotland’s golfing gems away from the classic links courses that the Home of Golf is so famous for.
Another reachable par 5, the 16th, should provide plenty of excitement with birdies and eagles on the cards…and the odd high score should players find the water hazard that comes into play on the second shot.
Looking ahead to 2014…
Talk has already begun amongst members and staff at Gleneagles that the Ryder Cup is ‘coming home’. While Walter Hagen and the USA’s triumph over Great Britain in 1927 at the Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts was officially the first Ryder Cup, a number of Britons (and particularly Scots) count the match between USA and GB at Gleneagles in 1921 as the first. It marked the first time an American golf team had been put together and the first time the two nations came head to head in what was called the International Challenge. A British team that included James Braid, designer of the King’s and Queen’s at Gleneagles, claimed victory over the Americans and it was then decided that this match should be repeated sometime and effectively, some would argue, the Ryder Cup was born.
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