If asked, that’s how I’d describe The Gleneagles Hotel. A magnificent 850-acre estate in the Scottish Highlands, Gleneagles is less than an hour’s drive from either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Built by the Caledonian Railway Co., Gleneagles opened to much acclaim in 1924. Hailed for offering fine service and personal attention to guest needs, the resort featured its own rail station. As you may imagine, in the booming 1920s, golf courses were popping up all over the world. Gleneagles became a mainstay of the golf resort circuit and remained so for decades. Prior to a comprehensive renovation completed in 1986, Gleneagles was only open in the summer. Thanks to $46 million in capital improvements, the resort has been restored to its vintage glory and is now open year-round.
The roster of activities available at Gleneagles may be overwhelming. Choose from equestrian sports, shooting, falconry, fishing, off-road driving, tennis, hiking-or relax in the spa. The resort also offers a comprehensive children’s program. Still, golf is king at Gleneagles. Choose to play the 18-hole King’s or Queen’s courses, or get in a quick round on the nine-hole Wee Course. Itching for a challenge? Give it your best shot on the 18-hole PGA Centenary Course. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the Centenary Course is slated to be the site of the 2014 Ryder Cup Challenge. During my last visit, I played both the PGA Centenary Course and the Queen’s Course. A Gleneagles driver met us at the airport in Edinburgh. We arrived at the resort 40 minutes later and were escorted to our rooms. I was pleased to discover I’d be staying in a gracious suite overlooking a perfectly manicured croquet court. Eager to hit the greens, we made our way to the PGA Centenary Course for a warm-up round. Because it’s set up for major tournaments that attract a large number of spectators, holes on the course are widely spaced. It’s not the best design for walking, but we managed. After play, we made our way back to the hotel before meeting for dinner at the resort’s Andrew Fairlie’s-a wonderful French restaurant with Scottish flair.
Up and at ‘em the next morning, we set off to play the Queen’s Course. Although we had the first tee time of the day, we arrived to find a lone golfer ready to tee off. We offered him the tee box and off he went, never to be seen again. American golfers be forewarned-speed of play is absolutely mandatory in Scotland. It’s essential to offer the right of way to any golfer who plays faster than you do.
The first hole on the Queen’s Course is lined with dense trees to the left and has little margin for error on the right. Keeping the ball in play is the key for the amateur golfer. Trystin’ Tree, as the hole is called, is an excellent starting hole with a small raised green. Other holes of note include:
(Hole 6)-This is one of the most memorable holes at Gleneagles. It is a long challenging hole with out of bounds up the entire right side. It is a narrow tee shot from the elevated tee box to the fairway below. The second shot is long with a wood/long iron that is played to a raised green.
(Hole 7)-A par 5 on the outreaches of the Queen’s Course, it features magnificent views of the countryside. Maximize the vista by staying to the right side of the fairway and away from trouble in the thick ruff. Another elevated green awaits with tricky lies on its left-rolling fairway.
(Hole 9)-A dogleg right that requires you to hit a long tee shot to get a view of the green for your second shot. Take enough club for your second shot; most players come up short due to the elevation and sloping green.
(Hole 10)-This is not a long hole, but it can be difficult around the green, which is sunken and surrounded by brush. Make an error on your second shot and you’ll be dropping a ball for stroke and distance.
(Hole 13)-This is a nice little par 3 with water on the right s ide of the green that shouldn’t come into play-but it did for my partner.
(Hole 15) -This hole is classic with an elevated tee box: Stay left! You’re a goner to the right, which slopes off into bramble. Not long at all, this hole certainly can be birdied-if you keep in play.
(Hole 18)-Another elevated shot from the tee box over a small loch to an open flat fairway. Beyond your tee shot the fairway gets tricky, but the green is large and forgiving.
It is almost unfair to select one hole over the next. The entire course is magnificent. Make sure to stop at the halfway house. Pick up soup to go or stop for a drink and a sandwich.
Bottom line-Gleneagles is both a sportsman’s paradise and a sophisticated resort.
The Gleneagles Hotel
Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland PH3 1BR
tel 866 463 8734 or 44 0 1764 662231, www.gleneagles.com
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