The PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles has undergone some tweaks over the winter as it prepares to host the Ryder Cup’s keenly-anticipated return to Scotland later this year.
A bunker has been removed from the 13th hole, cart paths have been widened to allow greater ease of access around the course, and two new bunkers have been installed on the right hand side of the par-4 eighth hole.
Perhaps most significantly, a number of green-side swailes have been introduced at the request of European captain Paul McGinley. They have gone in to the back-right of both the third and fourth greens and between the aforementioned new bunkers on the right of the eighth. Others have gone in on the right of the eighth green, to the back-left of the tenth green, and behind the 12th and 14th greens.
Scott Fenwick, the Golf Courses & Estates Manager at Gleneagles, explained: “During our bunker restoration programme, we took out all the blind bunkers on the course and made them into tight swailes.
“On one of his site visits last year, Paul decided he quite liked that and requested that some more be introduced. It creates a theme throughout the course and makes it trickier around the greens.”
It also, presumably, gives an insight into where McGinley thinks his European team will be able to gain an advantage over their American counterparts, US players being arguably more accustomed to playing from lush greenside lies than the tight lies McGinley wants to introduce.
The greenkeeping staff at Gleneagles – responsible for maintaining the resort’s three championship courses – currently total 53. However, Fenwick revealed that number will increase considerably for the Ryder Cup.
“We will have 80 people working on the PGA Centenary alone during the match and we have already started recruiting volunteers to help us with that,” he said.
During the match, the PGA National Academy and driving range will become the tented village, with the first hole of the King’s Course converted into a temporary driving range.
“We have had to enlarge the first tee slightly to accommodate all the players who might want to warm-up on it at the same time,” added Fenwick.
The 18th greens of the King’s and Queen’s Courses, meanwhile, will become the practice putting green and practice chipping greens for the two teams.
“The seating around the first tee of the PGA Centenary will be rather impressive" - Scott Fenwick
Eighteen kilometres of fibre-optic cables are in the process of being laid around the course, too, in preparation for electronic scoreboards going in.
The European Tour is scheduled to begin construction of grandstands and the like from July 1, with a huge grandstand going in behind the 18th green. Three-tiered corporate hospitality will also be accommodated on the right hand side of the 18th fairway.
However, it is the first tee grandstand that is creating much excitement, with McGinley promising that it will be ‘absolutely electric’ and ‘a cauldron of noise’.
“The seating around the first tee will be rather impressive,” admitted Fenwick. “We have removed 17 trees from behind the tee to make room for it and it will be bigger than the seating available around the first tee of the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor.”
The starter’s hut for the PGA Centenary will remain where it is but Fenwick added: “We did look at incorporating it into the grandstand originally but I think it was just too complicated to do. So, the grandstand basically starts there, wraps all the way around and comes back to where the underpass sits, so it’s pretty huge.”
Impressively, the plan is to have the King’s and Queen’s Courses open for play again on the Tuesday after the match, with the PGA Centenary scheduled to re-open on the Wednesday.
For his own part, Fenwick – who has sounded out the Celtic Manor superintendent Jim McKenzie for advice on prepping the resort – is hugely excited about the match.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “Over the last few years, though, it seems like time has flown. First, it was five years to go, then four, then one. Now, we’re not talking in years, we’re talking in months. It’s incredibly exciting and I’m just pleased that everything is going to plan so far.”
PGA Centenary: Your Thoughts?
Have you played the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles? What are your thoughts on it? Will it be a good Ryder Cup host venue? Leave your thoughts in our 'Comments' section below.