Editor's Note: The following article is written by David Brice, President of Golf International. Established in 1988, Golf International specializes in the design and operation of quality golf trips to Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, France, Spain and Portugal. The articles written by David represent trips available to Golf International customers. Click here to learn more about Golf International.
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The River Clyde runs through the heart of Scotland's second city, Glasgow, enroute to the Clyde Estuary, located 20 miles or so to the west, eventually turning south to become those broad expanses of water, known as the Firth of Cyde and The Irish Sea. There may be no finer example of the diversity of Scotland's ever-changing and always stunningly attractive, land and seascapes than this great waterway.
From Glasgow, journeying first through suburbs, then the inevitably industrial outskirts common to every large city, this great river suddenly and within literally minutes of its departure from Glasgow, runs through some of the most idyllic, picture-postcard countryside in all of Scotland. Welcome to the Clyde Estuary, a beautiful corner of the country, sadly unfamiliar to many visitors.
Those who are familiar with the area, come to absorb the natural beauty that abounds. Some come to spend a relaxing evening before departing on a flight back home from Glasgow Airport, which surprisingly, sits only a short and very convenient, 10 minute drive away, while others come to take advantage of the small bevy of impressive golf courses in this tiny region. They may not be Scotland's most famous layouts, but they offer the opportunity to enjoy very good golf and a real Scottish golf experience, all amid spectacular surroundings. The attractions and excitement of the city of Glasgow are just 20 minutes away and the convenience of Glasgow Airport, only half as far.
The choice between an ordinary airport hotel and an historic, five-star luxury mansion house, complete with superb dining, a full, state of the art health spa and its own, genuine, championship golf course, should be a simple enough decision to make. Just follow the international travel credo that states, every vacation should end on the highest possible note. The notes get no higher than those offered by Mar Hall Golf & Spa Resort, the Clyde Estuary's shining star of refined elegance, set in a secluded, riverside estate of 240 glorious acres of beautiful Scottish countryside.
Originally built in the early 19th century for the Earl of Mar, an extravagant refurbishment, completed in 2006, has restored this magnificent, 53 bedroom property to its former glory and transformed Mar Hall into one of Scotland's premiere luxury hotels.
The estate and its perfect setting along the south shoreline of the Clyde Estuary, called out for not just a golf course, but a very special layout of true championship standard that would take full advantage of this unique site. The renowned English architect, Dave Thomas, a man with an impressive list of world-class layouts to his credit, including Oitavos Dunes in Portugal, The Belfry in England and San Roque in Spain, was assigned the design project, a task he has performed in brilliant style. The masterly results of Dave Thomas' efforts will be available for all to experience when the Earl of Mar Course officially opens next month.
From those who have had the opportunity to preview the course and play it since the so-soft opening, the feedback has been nothing less than impressive. Virtually to a man and woman, all agree that the Earl of Mar Course is certainly destined to become one of Scotland's new classic layouts.
Measuring a hair over 6,500 yards from the tips, this is not a fearsome, modern day monster course, but with a selection of tee positions, a layout that can be tackled by players of all abilities. This is always a dangerous claim for any course to make and seldom is it really true, but The Earl of Mar Course actually delivers on the promise.
Scratch golfers and low handicappers playing from the back tees will be faced with a very serious test of all their golfing skills and this beauty demands a good, all-round game. There are holes where long hitters will have a definite advantage, providing the muscle is accompanied by accuracy, but it's the strategic, thinking golfer who will have the upper hand, and brains are likely to win over brawn.
Those of lesser abilities will be well advised to play from one of the forward tee positions, where they will still be tested, but the reduced length will help bring down the fear factor and lessen the need for the pinpoint accuracy demanded from the back. Let's not forget that golf is a game and games are meant to be enjoyed - The Earl of Mar is packed to the brim with enjoyment and the breathtaking setting comes as a wonderful bonus.
Despite it's tender age, this is already an amazingly mature layout that wends its way through stands of ancient oaks and chestnut trees, made all the more handsome by the backdrop of the mighty River Clyde. The often elevated greens are always jealously guarded by carefully thought out and sometimes cunning bunkering, a trait for which the designer has earned a formidable reputation.
There are more than enough risk/reward holes to challenge the most macho of players to the extreme, but for mere mortals, there is usually an easier and perhaps less embarrassing way to go. The Earl of Mar is a layout with a wonderful sense of fairness and sensitivity for all, yet it still manages to make every player think carefully - or suffer the consequences.
There's no question that The Earl of Mar is a superb addition to Scotland's golf inventory of almost 600 courses. Expect this quality good-looker to quickly find its way onto the home of golf's, Top 50 rankings, joining Scotland's British Open venue courses and other elite layouts, in very short order.
The combination of the excellent quality of this course, the wonderfully convenient location and the temptation to experience one of best luxury hotels in the land, is simply too much to resist. Something tells me we are going to see The Earl of Mar Course cropping up on an ever-growing number of golfer wish lists, and Mar Hall as a required stopover by many more accompanying non-golfers than we are used to.
For more ideas and suggestions on how you can include Mar Hall in your Scottish golf trip, call Golf International at 1 800 833-1389 or click here.
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