Courses of the Week -- Scotland's Gleneagles and Ryder Cup 2014

October 08, 2010
David Brice, Golf International, Inc.

The thrills and spills of this year's Ryder Cup Matches are over, the crowds have gone home and Wales is cleaning up behind everyone, while figuring out whether they won or lost financially on the deal. After a more than valiant, final day's effort in the singles matches, a European venue once again got the better of our US guys -- not since 1993 has the USA experienced Ryder Cup victory on European soil.

It will be another couple of years before the next Ryder Cup takes place at Medinah Country Club, then it will be back to Europe and the plush, Gleneagles Golf Resort, in Scotland for 2014. This will be another opportunity to prove that we can win away from home and there may be no more auspicious a place to do so.

Gleneagles is one of the world's most prestigious luxury golf resorts.jpg
Gleneagles is one of the world's most prestigious luxury golf resorts.
Gleneagles Kings Course.jpg
Gleneagles Kings Course is positioned No. 30 in the Top 100 Courses in Britain & Ireland rankings.
Gleneagles Kings may have been James Braid's crowning design achievement.jpg
Gleneagles Kings may have been James Braid's crowning design achievement.
Enjoying the perfect Highland setting Gleneagles boasts 3 championship layouts.jpg
Enjoying the perfect Highland setting Gleneagles boasts 3 championship layouts.
The Queens Course is relatively short but should not be overlooked.jpg
The Queens Course is relatively short but should not be overlooked.
The PGA  Centenary Course will host the 2014 Ryder Cup.jpg
The PGA Centenary Course will host the 2014 Ryder Cup.
The PGA Centenary Course - A Jack Nicklaus design and one of Scotland's toughest inland layouts.jpg
The PGA Centenary Course - A Jack Nicklaus design and one of Scotland's toughest inland layouts.
Gleneagles -  A haven of quality golf and good living.jpg
Gleneagles - A haven of quality golf and good living.
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Gleneagles is a name that stirs the imagination -- it has a masculine ring of something quite regal, perhaps a very rare, single malt whisky or some other luxury product; it's a solid name that says quality, style and class. Gleneagles is certainly all of the above, but more than anything, it's a name that has been synonymous with world-class golf for almost a century.

It's ironic that 2014 will mark the very first time that Gleneagles has officially hosted the world's most important international tournament and yet it was here where the Ryder Cup was actually born.

As every golf aficianado knows, the first official Ryder Cup Matches were held in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1927, but contrary to common belief that was not the real beginnings of the biennial golf tournament between the USA and in those days, the British Isles. The first attempt at running such an international contest had occurred six years earlier in 1921 when a strong British team, including six-time British Open Champion, Harry Vardon, joined by James Braid, J.H.Taylor and seven others, trounced a much weaker US team, despite it including Walter Hagen.

Attendance was poor and the media coverage abysmal. The US team lost 9 to 3 with three matches halved and prospects of this becoming a regularly scheduled event, seemed bleak at best. Scotland's newly opened Gleneagles Kings Course was the venue for that 1921 disaster and it is perhaps less than fair that Gleneagles will have waited some 93 years before being given a second opportunity to host the now very successful, Ryder Cup. In the year 2014 the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles will be honored as host to the 40th playing of the Ryder Cup matches, now a contest between the USA and the best players in all of Europe.

Gleneagles is one of the world's truly elegant resorts, hidden away on a private, 850 acre estate, amid some of the most stunning scenery to be found in a country filled with spectacular landscapes. But despite the fact it offers every conceivable activity for guests, Gleneagles will always be associated with golf. Some will be attracted by the impressive equestrian center or perhaps the fishing or shooting or off-road driving. Maybe the state of the art health and beauty spa will hold some appeal, but without question, golf will always be the main attraction.

The resort boasts three championship courses. That master of early 20th century golf architecture, James Braid, designed the Kings and Queens Courses. The newest addition and 2014 Ryder Cup venue, The PGA Centenary Course, is a Jack Nicklaus design, inaugurated in 1993.

For most golf traditionalists it's the 85-year-old Kings Course that holds the greatest appeal. It may be part sentimentality, partly its beguiling good looks and special charm, but the over-riding reason is simply quality -- the challenge presented by this grand old champion of a moorland layout is the very best.

The design of the Kings Course is pure excellence; in fact James Braid considered this to be the crowning achievement of his impressive career. For a man with more than 200 course designs and remodeling projects to his credit, including some of Scotland's very best - Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Royal Aberdeen and Nairn - that's quite a statement.

Expertly blending his design into the stunningly beautiful terrain he was given to work with, Braid produced a layout that flows unobtrusively, almost poetically, along valleys and glens, through woods and across streams, never detracting from Mother Nature's own handiwork. This is one of the world's most natural courses.

The artistry of the shape and placement of greens and bunkers just add to the visual delight and the challenge from beginning to end demands technical ability and careful course management. The sheer variety of challenges rewards the thinking golfer possessing an ability to foresee the new problems that may lie ahead.

Always impeccably groomed, the Kings Course is 18-holes of near perfection, with more than its fair share of memorable tests.

The opening hole starts out in total innocence with a tee shot to a generously wide fairway. Don't become overly confident, as there are surprises and some bewilderment ahead. The approach shot must climb a precipitously steep hill to a large plateaued green, with only the tip of the flag visible. A pair of scary bunkers waits patiently at the bottom of the rise for any shot falling short

With a touch of eccentricity, the 2nd and 3rd continue to bewilder, one snaking its way downhill and the other, totally blind, taking you back uphill again and across a valley fairway to a green severely sloping from front to back.

The 5th is Gleneagles answer to the Postage Stamp hole at Royal Troon, a par three played across the valley to a table green surrounded by steep banks and a generous selection of hungry bunkers immediately below. This is a true death or glory hole.

And so the ever-changing examination continues on an inspiring journey to the toughest of them all, the 13th, appropriately called, Braid's Brawest, a lengthy 464 yard par 4 with devious bunkering, cruel rough and not an ounce of forgiveness for anyone.

Then there is the spectacular finish -- a par 5 that literally gallops downhill all the way, allowing even those of more modest accomplishment to finish a memorable round with flair and perhaps the chance for a birdie.

There is no question that the Kings is one of the world's great courses and a handsome thriller to be savored and enjoyed to the fullest. But this is only the beginning of the Gleneagles golf story. There are two more championship layouts calling out to be played and the temptation shouldn't be resisted.

Sharing the same magical surroundings as its big brother, The Queens Course was laid out by Braid with the lady golfer in mind, but that shouldn't deter anyone from playing it. This is a shorter and kinder course, though it contains some very demanding holes where only the most talented are likely to succeed. Water in the form of brooks, a meandering burn and some small lakes appear as additional hazards on The Queens, adding to the interest. Truth is, if this course was located anyplace else, away from the shadow of The Kings; it would receive far more acclaim than is the case. The Queens is well worth playing.

The Jack Nicklaus designed, PGA Centenary Course, adopts a distinctly American style, in total contrast to The Kings and Queens Courses. Built with the goal of attracting big-time, championship golf, that mission has been accomplished in grand style, after all, hosting the 2014 Ryder Cup is about as big-time as golf ever gets.

Measuring 7,088 yards from the back tees, this is Scotland's longest inland course and undoubtedly, one of its toughest. Although there are five sets of tees, it's the accomplished golfer who will obtain the most satisfaction out of playing the Centenary, those of lesser abilities who can tolerate some frustration will be confronted by a fair but very serious examination of golf skills. There are some semi-blind holes and a very strong defense arsenal of pot-bunkers, fairway traps, streams, ponds and hungry rough that demands a strategic approach from start to finish.

Love it or hate it (and there are few who fall in between) there is an aesthetic grandeur to the Centenary Course that is quite fascinating, only adding to the challenge that will be waiting for Team USA at the 2014 Ryder Cup, as they try to break 20 years without a win in Europe.

For more ideas and suggestions on how you can include Gleneagles and other prized Scottish courses in your golf trip, contact the Scotland experts at Golf International by calling toll free 1 800 833-1389 or click here.

©2010 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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