The Rosemount and Lansdowne play over the same fantastic heathland terrain and bring a touch of the Surrey sandbelt to the Perthshire countryside. Neither quite matches the very high benchmark of their southern counterparts but there is still much to enjoy on this idyllic 45-hole, 300-acre property adorned with spectacular pine, birch and heather.
This highly regarded golf club was founded in 1889 and also boasts a 9-hole ‘Wee’ course which was part of the original layout. Alister MacKenzie was the original architect of the current Rosemount before James Braid made significant revisions 1930 whilst Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas designed the Lansdowne which opened for play in 1979.
The start and finish on the Rosemount, venue of Greg Normans first European tour victory, is exceptional. The S-shaped opener is a tough start but introduces us nicely to everything that is good about Blairgowrie and whilst the second is not a long hole the wonderful green complex could see you run into all kinds of trouble.
The final four holes must be considered as one of my favourite finishing stretches. The delicate 130-yard 15th plays into a secluded corner of the property, the green is a small undulating target to find and is well defended by sand whilst the 16th opens up a bit more and from the seldom used ‘Martini Tee’ plays 498-yards over a loch and with a fiendish green ranks as the best hole on the course. I even encountered a family of deer crossing the fairway on this glorious part of the estate.
The 17th is a dramatic short hole played over a valley to a two-tiered green whilst the sweeping last is a fitting finish to a wonderful round of golf. After a narrowing drive the fairway plunges down towards a back-to-front sloping green sitting proudly in front of the impressive clubhouse.
The main weakness of the course is undoubtedly the 5th, 6th and 7th. The latter two have been redesigned slightly in recent times (they used to be part of the Lansdowne until the mid-1970s) but they still fail to impress as much as the remainder of the course – ultimately the terrain on this section is poorer with a more parkland feel. The 5th is also a confused affair with scattergun bunkering and even a young tree in the middle of the fairway!
The scoring stretch of the course comes next. Between the 9th and 12th we play two par-fives and a couple of par-fours measuring just over the 300-yard mark. The first of the long holes - “Roon the Ben” - is the best of the quartet with an early dog-leg and a brace of bunkers to really make you think on the tee.
The 13th is a solid two-shotter but just when the course is crying out for a short hole we get another par-five at the 14th! Fortunately we don’t have to wait long for the much needed par-three as it arrives at the aforementioned 15th which is the start of a thrilling finale.
Also, a word if I may for the excellent putting surfaces (re-laid in the 1960s). They had that lovely tight, firmness to them which produced a quick pace and a trueness I wasn’t expecting at this time of year.
The bunkering throughout doesn’t quite catch the eye as some of the real top drawer heathland courses but the strategy of them makes sense nonetheless. Personally they could just do with a bit of life and this would elevate the course even further.
The wandering routing and the isolation you have on each hole, thanks to the abundance of trees, gives you that sense of never quite knowing where you are. Par is 72 from the white tees and the yardage a modest 6,698.
The more modern Lansdowne is billed as the ‘championship’ course at Blairgowrie and at over 7000-yards, with narrow fairways flanked by trees, it is certainly a stern test of golf. Straight and long hitting is a prerequisite should one wish to score well here.
The opening hole, a par-five of just 490 yards, represents your best chance to pick up a shot on the scorecard and it is a fine opening hole.
The first few holes continue to meander through mature woodland before the courses opens up slightly for a run of holes on more parkland terrain.
One of my favourite holes on the Lansdowne was the 13th. It is one of the shorter par-fours on the course and one of the few that has some curvature to it as it bends to the left before you play to a long, narrow green. It was a departure from the long and straight we had experienced up until then. It is quickly followed by a stout par-three at over 200-yards with a rise to the green and this is another fine hole.
The closing stretch is not as invigorating as the Rosemount but is very good nonetheless. The 15th – “Perfection” – is a brute of a par-four and whilst the next is not as long the shallow, angled green is not easy to find before the 17th – “Devil’s Elbow” – plays every inch of its 553-yards as it legs to the left.
The closing hole is perhaps the most memorable and is more similar to holes on the Rosemount; slightly wider from the tee, a bit more movement in the land and a larger, undulating green. A fine finisher!
In summary the Rosemount is more generous from the tee with large, sweeping putting surfaces whilst the Lansdowne is longer, tighter and has smaller greens! If you're only here for one round choose wisely!... but in truth you should really sample both.
Both courses tend to rank very highly in all of the magazine and website rankings. Indeed both Golf World and Golf Monthly place the Rosemount well inside their top 100 GB&I and UK lists respectively. Whilst I did not see the courses at their best – thanks to Autumn gales and September showers - I must be brutally honest and say I don’t quite see that myself. However, there’s no denying there is plenty of solid and at times spectacular golf on the Blairgowrie Estate and when discussing the best of golf in Scotland they should rightly be discussed.
Following a 4:00am alarm call we’d already driven for more than six hours and covered over 350 road miles before boarding a ferry at Oban sailing to Lochboisdale.
The Halifax Golf Club, often better known as Ogden, is a course that divides opinion.