This review of the golf at Gleneagles was written prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup. The course conditions are now much better than when we visited and I have re-written the conclusion to reflect a few changes!
Our trip to Gleneagles began with a sour note on the train. We arrived at the Gleneagles train station and the train door would not open. We frustratingly proceeded to the next station 30 minutes down the tracks at Dunblane. The conductor then got off the train and asked why we had missed our stop. Upon explaining the situation, he said that he had forgotten to tell us only the first two cars opened at Gleneagles due to a shorter platform (word to the wise: Be in those first few cars if going to Gleneagles). We took an expensive and long taxi back to the Gleneagles clubhouse. After such a hassle getting to the course, Matt and I had the same thought, “These courses better be pretty damn good.”
The clubhouse is a very impressive building with open fires, great food, and an even more impressive locker room. The men’s locker room had showers and a sauna available in addition to great seating and views. The starter was very knowledgeable and told us that we would enjoy the morning round on the Centenary Course, which held 2014 Ryder Cup.
The course was in horrendous condition. The first fairway had been verticut and sanded, which left the fairway very uneven and almost impossible to find a patch of grass to place your ball. The first green was in horrific shape. It appeared to have been badly infected with poana and then been killed off. This left thousands of small dead spots with no grass. The green had also been aerated and seemed to have never healed properly. This combination of aeration holes and dead spots created a terribly uneven putting surface rolling about a 4 on the Stimpmeter. To our dismay every single subsequent fairway and green were the exact same on the Centenary course. Below is one of the better greens we saw during the day.
It was a golfer’s nightmare. Fairways were so poor that it was impossible to draw a good lie. Greens were so poor that it was difficult to find footing let alone putt. Grounds crews were adding irrigation piping on many of the fairways. The constant presence of people in the fairways became annoying after a few holes.
A few enjoyable holes were able to lighten our mood and relieve the slowly building anger. The 9th was a visually impressive par 5. If the view hadn’t been obstructed by two massive New Holland tractors sanding the fairway with a small army of men brushing in the sand, it would have been better. The design of the Jack Nicklaus course left much to be desired.
The course has had to be redesigned and “touched up” multiple times in recent years. The sub-air system, similar to ones used at Augusta National Golf Club, were added to the greens of the Centenary course to help with drainage. The system is a set of pipes under greens that suck out excess moisture. Hopefully it will help. Very few holes stand out on the course and I am afraid that it will be a disappointing Ryder Cup venue. What the course lacks, the hotel and facilities will make up for with luxury.
The Gleneagles King’s course was in better condition, but had very slow greens. The par 68 course layout is genuinely fun. The James Braid layout features interesting green complexes and tests many different shots. The King’s course left a decent taste in our mouths after such a horrendous time on the Centenary course. The final holes of the King’s course had views of the visually impressive five star hotel. If only the golf had been similarly impressive.
None of the courses at Gleneagles won me over and, with so many great options in Scotland, I would go elsewhere to play my golf if it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. That being said, the hotel is of the highest quality and luxury, so if you have a weekend getaway at Gleaneagles, go play the King’s or Queen’s courses.
Nearly a year after my initial visit to Gleaneagles, I went back to play the Queen’s course. It is another short, but fun design with small greens and some tough approach shots. Golfers have to think their way around the Queen’s course.
As I rewrite this conclusion four years after I initially published the post, I know that all three courses are now in much better condition. I also know that Gleaneagles is a great destination for those traveling with children or non-golfing partners. The resort is full of fun activities from hunting to Range Rover driving school. That being said, it still doesn’t make my suggested list for people on golf-specific trips. I hope to make it back to Gleneagles at some point, and who knows, maybe the place will grow on me over more rounds!