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  • Neil White

Gleneagles - King's

Updated: May 3

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“I’ve imagined what it would be like to play here since I watched Pro-Celebrity golf with Peter Alliss on telly.”

Our playing partner at Gleneagles King’s Course rekindled memories for me of stars of stage and screen, wearing checked trousers and garish jumpers.

They would be partnered with top golfers of the day and be interviewed by Alliss as they swished their way around Gleneagles in a US vs UK match.

This programme was a staple of BBC 2 for 14 years and made Alliss as famous as those who were invited to play.

And here we were – on the hallowed turf where Sean Connery, aka James Bond, developed his love of golf.

It is easy to see why on the King’s, acclaimed as the premier track among Gleneagles three championship courses.

Framed by the gorgeous Ochil Hills, James Braid’s classic is stunning and surprisingly quirky.

We had booked our round as part of a two-day pairs competition run by the Hole-In-One Club which Mrs W joined after her ace in Italy last year.

Thus, on my birthday, we rocked up to the nearest thing to American-style high-end corporate golf in the UK.

After paying eye-watering amounts for a cap and waterproof jacket and a practice putt we made our way to the starter’s hut and on to the opening hole.

This par-four includes two key elements of the King’s Course – a wide fairway with bunkers on either side before an elevated green, protected by sand.

Almost every putting surface is either raised or in a dip. Indeed, I can’t think of a patch of flat land.

To compensate, this is not a long track and Mrs W and I found the target comfortably with our second shots on the first hole.

The rolling hills were more evident on the second, a sharp downhill dogleg which can be comfortably reached in two if sand is avoided.

But the fun really starts on the third, which ascends towards a substantial grassed mound before dropping sharply towards the flag.

We watched with stifled giggles, as the players in front struggled to force their shots over the hill and I had an even wider smile when I discovered my ball resting eight feet from the pin after my blind approach.

The par-threes on The King’s Course all have very different challenges and the fifth, intriguingly called Het Girdle, sets the tone and correct club selection is essential.

The raised green is protected by deep bunkers in front and right and over-clubbing will see the ball slip away into trouble.

Blink Bonnie or Glimpse of Beauty is a short par-five with a gorgeous backdrop and dangerous trees on the right and a cliff-esque fallaway on the left.

I was perilously close to the latter with my second shot but clipped my third to six feet and nestled the birdie.

The long-thin beak of a curlew was identified on the par-three eighth as it padded next to the hole that bears its Scottish name, Whaup’s Nest.

Once again, a clean shot with a correct club is imperative to avoid a chasm and huge bunker in front of the target and slippery sand trap at the back.

If that weren’t quirky enough, the par-four ninth is even more exaggerated with drives to the right in danger of finding a stream as it dips down before rising to a green, hidden next to a grass dune.

Our playing partner found that a ball that strays left can fall into a gnarly copse and then saw his recovery shot fail to make the gradient and fall back down to his feet.

Following one of the finest sausage rolls I have sampled, we took on the seemingly innocuous par-three 11th.

However, it is further than it seems and all players were short off the tee.

Architect James Braid claimed the long par-four 13th to be his best at King’s, weaving between bunkers on either side as the fairway rises, dips and rises again.

I dare to disagree with the cognoscenti - it’s a fine hole but far from the most memorable.

Among those that will stick in the mind is the 14th – a very short par-four over tyrannical bunkers before a funnel entrance to the green.

I managed to weave my drive between obstacles, nailed a short pitch and scored a pleasing birdie.

The hits kept coming, beginning on the 430-yard+ par-four 15th which sweeps down to a fiercely sloping green.

Our 75-year-old playing partner lashed a three-wood which found the target tier, just 20 feet from the flag.

The 16th gave me a heart-in-mouth moment because my eight-iron tee shot looked destined for the hole on the uphill green. It sidled past to six feet but I missed the putt.

The final two holes are belters – the 17th is a dogleg par-four to a green that slants left to right, feeding balls, including mine, into a giant bunker.

Until now, Mrs W had been dovetailing rather splendidly, so we needed a sturdy finish and preferably avoid the many traps on the par-five 18th , a picturesque final hole which swings between gorse bushes.

Our skip turned into a limp when Mrs W fired into the greenside sand but her ball emerged to within six feet of the pin and was sunk for three glorious points.

We jigged to the organiser who confirmed we were leading the tournament going into the second day on the Queen’s course.

In the meantime, we reflected on how much we had enjoyed the quirks of the King’s, the quality of the turf on its fairways and the consistency of its greens.






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