It’s easy to understand why Scotland’s inland golf courses are often overlooked by visiting groups considering the wealth of seaside links the country boasts. Sure, the varied climate might not always be conducive to ensuring that parkland courses are in pristine playing condition all year round, but between the end of April to the start of October there is plenty of sunshine and warmth to get fairways tight, rough thick and greens playing fast and true.
Gleneagles is one venue that easily springs to mind in terms of naming world-class Scottish inland tracks. It is graceful and exquisite. It also doesn’t come cheap. Loch Lomond is another, although trying to get on it is as challenging as setting Donald Trump’s hair. Step forward then, Blairgowrie. This quaint, welcoming club set within 300-acres of breathtaking Perthshire countryside, boasts two 18-hole championship courses over wonderful heathland terrain and a truly brilliant par-three course that is not to be missed.
The modern Landsdowne course, designed by Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas, opened in 1979. At just over 7,000 yards, it’s a stern test with narrow fairways flanked by mature trees running from tees to greens. Accuracy and flight control are necessary requirements to score well. It’s the older Rosemount course that acts as Blairgowrie’s signature venue.
Dr Alister MacKenzie, of Augusta National and Cypress Point fame, designed the original course during the inter-war period, before five-time Open Champion James Braid adapted it to add further value to the challenge.
The quality of the design is recognised in the venue regularly hosting prestigious events. Greg Norman claimed his first European Tour professional win here in 1977 and the Junior Ryder Cup was hosted at Rosemount in 2014. The middle section of the course, with mid-length par fours and short par fives, provides lots of birdie opportunities. But it’s the start and finish that are likely to determine whether you’re boastful or bashful about your end number. The long, S-shaped opener outlines the class of Mackenzie’s architecture in terms of testing a player’s skill, with a draw required from the tee and a fade then needed to keep your ball on a long, narrow green. The 2nd, whilst not a long hole, boasts a wonderful green complex that spells trouble if you can’t hold the putting surface.
Rosemount’s last four holes provide one of the finest closing stretches in Scottish golf. The 130-yard 15th, nestled into a secluded corner of the property, is protected by a small undulating green and numerous bunkers. The 16th from the ‘Martini’ tee measures 498-yards with players encountering a loch and a fiendish putting surface. The penultimate hole is short (165-yards) but offers plenty of drama over a valley into a two-tiered green, and the final hole is a wonderful finish with its sweeping, narrow fairway that plunges down towards a sloping green in front of the impressive clubhouse.
Placing Blairgowrie on your tour is sagacious. It is picturesque, honest and great value. It is also just an hour’s drive away from Edinburgh and St Andrews. If you are only here for one round then toss a coin to determine your test. Ideally, make a day of it, allowing you to enjoy both courses. You might even be able to squeeze in the par-3 course after dinner!