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.
The Scottish county of Perthshire, gateway to The Highlands, sits in the very heart of the country, land-locked and totally void of any coastline - but in golf's homeland, that doesn't mean there are no golf courses. World-renowned Gleneagles with its three championship courses is a Perthshire resident, together with another 40 layouts of parkland, heathland, woodland and moorland delights - more than enough to entice any serious golfer.
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It may be the links courses that first attract visiting golfers to Scotland, whether famous names or the impressive new classic layouts, but just give these inland guys the chance and the lesson is quickly learned, no matter whether waterside or inland, Scottish golf is always in a league of its own.
In 1977, an unknown 22 year old from Australia won his first European Tour event, The Martini International, right here in Perthshire. Venue for the Martini event was the Rosemount course at Scotland's Blairgowrie Golf Club. The unknown player was a young, gangly, Greg Norman. No doubt Greg Norman still has fond memories of Blairgowrie Rosemount, as do most who have had the pleasure of playing here.
Ranked among the top 60 golf courses in the entire British Isles and the top dozen when only inland courses are considered, Blairgowrie presents the perfect all-round golf experience - a wonderful combination of challenge, aesthetics and thoroughly enjoyable golf. There may be tougher courses around but few are able to provide as much enjoyment.
Blairgowrie Golf Club was founded in 1889 when members played over a 9-hole course laid out by one of the founding members with perhaps some assist from the prolific St. Andrews architect, Old Tom Morris. Dr. Alister Mackenzie of Augusta National fame was brought in to extend the layout to a full 18 holes in 1923.
Within ten years, the club was able to purchase an adjoining property and the great James Braid, considered by many to be the master of inland course design, was retained to undertake a total redesign of the course. Today's Rosemount Course remains very much the way Braid conceived it, integrating his skilful bunkering and large, billowing greens into the new Rosemount course, which opened for play in 1934.
There is no question that Braid's Rosemount course is Blairgowrie's pride and joy, containing more of golf's pleasures than most others in this world. There is a certain elegance in its long generous fairways, immaculately lined by sentries of mature pine and birch trees.
Braid has succeeded in building a course where no hole intrudes on any other. The fairways are all separated by thick rows of trees bringing a unique sense of solitude and tranquility to the course. For most this peaceful quiet allows the concentration the course demands -- accuracy and making your shots is everything.
One unusual hazard that catches most by surprise at Blairgowrie is the abundant wild life that has taken permanent residence around the course. Pheasant, deer, partridge, rabbits and hare, all casually graze the fairways, totally oblivious of any golfer. There is nothing man-eating, so there's nothing to fear, in fact it seems to add to the peaceful and rather Disneyesque scene.
After suffering the rigors and buffeting of a few links courses, the visitor could be excused for at first thinking Blairgowrie may be a rather demure layout, perhaps a little too gentlemanly to present any real challenge -- nothing could be further from the truth.
For those with the ability to hit long and straight, Rosemount smiles kindly, but stray off the prescribed path and you'll discover this gentleman has little patience with those of questionable skills.
Trees consume golf balls with a voracious appetite, the rough that appeared to be only wispy grass, turns out to be much tougher during any extrication process when its thick gnarly nature shines through. There are healthy outcroppings of gorse bushes and brambles, all thriving on the same diet of errant golf balls
The hazards that had seemed not so hazardous at first glance, take on a totally different character up close, revealing more subtleties to this course that will complicate what may have first appeared to be a relatively straightforward track.
The course demands your full attention from start to finish, but always in the sometimes frustrating, but always pedigreed manner of a true gentleman. This is a course that fights a determined fight to the end, with a grand finale of 4 closing holes that are among the best of any British inland course.
Greg Norman found success here, but not without a lot of perseverance, grit, determination and a good helping of talent. But that's what Rosemount expects and nothing less is accepted from any visitor. This is a layout that demands a certain level of perfection and will be an immediate hit with any skilled aficionado of the game, who is up to the challenge.
Before tackling a course considered one of the best inland layouts in the realm, it's not a bad idea to hone your skills on one of the other two layouts here -- Blairgowrie's, 18-hole, Lansdowne Course, circa 1975 and the combined design effort of Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas, or the utterly delightful and appropriately named, Wee Course.
It's the 9-hole, Wee Course that always fascinates visitors as well it should. It's simply a charmer and a pure delight that may convince you to have a totally new respect for short courses. It also provides the perfect warm-up for the sophisticated challenge waiting on The Rosemount.
There's something very special about the courses at Blairgowrie and that same feeling extends through to the elegant clubhouse that exudes a sophisticated charm and pedigree that can't fail to impress even the most jaded golf traveler.
For suggestions on how best to include Blairgowrie and other Perthshire gems on your Scottish golf trip, contact the Scottish golf experts at Golf International, by calling toll free 1 (800) 833-1389, or click here.
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