At most of the golf courses one will play in Scotland, there is a distinct air of simplicity about the property. The pro shops tend to be just sufficient to carry the requisite souvenir items for visitors as well as the absolute necessities for a round of golf. The clubhouses, while often serving some of the best food in town, are never over the top or ostentatious. While it is cliche to say at this point, it truly is “all about the golf” when you play most clubs in Scotland. In my opinion, this is how it should be. A golfer should say “wow” about the golf course (and trust me, you will quite often), but it’s far less important to be impressed by the clubhouse.
At Gleneagles, there is a wow factor from the moment you drive onto the grounds. Everything you see appears to be perfect. The grounds are beautifully manicured. Everyone there is happy and smiling. It feels like you have arrived at a friend’s country estate rather than a golf course and hotel.
The amenities at Gleneagles are staggering. I’m sure I’m leaving many activities out but here are some of the things that one can do while staying at Gleneagles:
- Golf on three different courses
- Shooting Range
- Off-road driving
- Horse Riding
- Gun Dog Lessons
- Four restaurants
- Two Bars
Sadly we didn’t actually stay at Gleneagles, we this was just a day trip for us from Anstruther. One of the people in our group remarked during our day there, “I’m going to come back next summer and bring my daughters. This place is incredible.” My response? “Please adopt me.”
While we didn’t stay on property, we did have a pretty full day at Gleneagles. We did the requisite shopping in the pro shop. It’s well-stocked and reasonable by U.S. standards. As a bonus, they still had plenty of Ryder Cup 2014 gear they were practically giving away. As an American I feel a little guilty walking around with a Ryder Cup 2014 bag tag, the scene of another European rout, but it’s engraved with my name, and I have no shame in using it.
As mentioned earlier, there are three courses at Gleneagles:
- Centenary Course – The home of the 2014 Ryder Cup and the 2019 Solheim Cup
- Queen’s Course – The shortest of the three courses but considered by many to be the best of the lot.
- King’s Course – Plays anywhere from 5200 to 6800 yards and our course of choice during our visit.
Like the rest of the property, everything about the golf course is first class. The conditioning was as good as any course I played while in Scotland. Even the yardage books get it right. We’re all familiar with the overhead view of the hole with distances to various targets. The hole guides at Gleneagles also feature a view of the hole as you see standing on the tee box. That picture shows distances to the hazards as you see them standing on the tee. It’s a minor detail, but a quite useful feature playing a golf course for the first time.
I’m going to guess that Gleneagles is not on the radar for most golfers trophy-hunting on their way through Scotland. After all, it’s not on many of the top–100 course lists. It’s not a traditional links course near the sea. It’s also never hosted an Open Championship. If one does choose to skip Gleneagles for those reasons, they are missing out. The course is a blast to play.
While it doesn’t have the fabulous sea views of the Castle Course, nor does it have the fantastic routing of Cruden Bay. What It does have is just fun golf holes. The first hole is short by most standards, maxing out at 362 from the back tees. But it is severely uphill and features a large green, so it’s possible to mis-club it and still have a putter in your hand on your third shot. It’s the perfect way to start a golf course. You can get away with a below average drive. You can hit an indifferent approach and still have a decent chance at par. It’s always nice to ease your way into a round of golf.
The second hole is the precise opposite, a longer downhill par four where you’ll play a downhill second shot to a green that runs away from the golfer. It goes on and on like that. The holes never feel redundant; that is unless you get bored of all the beautiful Scottish countryside you’ll see during the round. If Royal Dornoch is like a beautiful walk along the beach, Gleneagles is like a leisurely stroll through the Scottish Highlands.
So what about the other two courses at Gleneagles? The Queen’s and the Centenary Course. While I didn’t get a chance to play them during my visit, I learned the following:
- The Centenary is not the favorite of most. It’s a Jack Nicklaus design. Some love his courses, others not so much. It’s apparently was designed for spectator views and to accommodate the length of modern tour professionals rather than to appeal to golf nerds like myself. On the plus side, the Centenary does allow for carts where the other two courses do not. If you want to take a cart on the other two courses a doctor’s note is required.
- The Queen’s Course is the favorite of the membership. I couldn’t get an answer out of anyone as to why this is the case, but I’ve heard it is the most picturesque of the three. The fact alone makes me want to go back and play it simply because on the King’s Course every hole seems like a postcard.
So what did I find lacking during my visit to Gleneagles? Other than the fact that I don’t have the bank account (or expense account) to stay there, I’m hard pressed to find any fault with the property. The golf was incredible. The food was delicious. Every employee we met could not have been nicer. As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, could it be that Gleneagles is a little too luxurious compared to the typical Scottish golfing experience? Maybe, but who doesn’t need to feel like a king every now and again?
Pro Tip: A four ball was only £360 during twilight, and that was after 1:00 pm as of September 2015. After Cruden Bay, this was probably the best deal of the trip.
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