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Of all the places I have played golf, the Scottish Highlands is where I have not played nearly enough.
There are roughly 30 golf courses in this northern part of the home of golf, some of them amongst the world’s most famous venues. I have barely scratched the surface, much as it shames me to admit.
Grantown-on-Spey lies to the north of Aviemore, some 14 miles north in fact. Aviemore remains one of my favourite places in Scotland. There’s something about ski towns that I just can’t put a finger on. If there’s an outdoor store, a selection of hotels, a bakery, and sights to see and things to do, I’m there. I’m fine without the skiing, too.
The winding road from Aviemore to Grantown is as picturesque as you’d expect, and the golf club itself is a 100 yard walk from the centre of the town, which is pretty common in this part of the country. Our group were greeted warmly by Lewis Ware, who serves a dual role as both golf professional and club manager.
Having never played the course before, I had high hopes. I was not disappointed.
Refreshingly, Lewis said we had the option to play from any set of tees we wished. The yellows were 5,414 yards and the whites pushed us to 5,710. We chose the latter. No issue with playing from what would traditionally be called ‘medal’ tees. Tees are just a colour, after all. We felt like we’d been given courtesy of the course despite being paying guests. We’re already in a good place.
A local member said the common theme around the course is that it is split into three sections, the first six holes easing you in thanks to their relatively flat nature before it gets quite tough for the next six holes. The first few holes allow you a little leeway off the tee, with your first sight of heather. You’d have to be really wayward to find any real trouble.
It’s just before the turn where things ramp up a gear and the course shows its teeth. Suddenly, you’re playing into tighter greens – which are incredible – and often sloping. Aside from the run-offs, this is where the heather begins to stake its claim as a serious defence of the course. If your ball lands in the heather, you’re often lucky to find it. There is no real rough to speak of: the heather acts as the protector of par.
Its Cairngorm National Park location means the surroundings are beautiful, and we were lucky that we got it on a perfectly still, sunny day.
I loved the finish. 16 is a fun little par 3 called ‘Wee Dunt’ and it requires a wee dunt of no more than 130-odd yards, all downhill. Yours truly grabbed his par and headed to 17 only to lose a ball in quite possibly the only thick rough on the golf course. The closing hole had a few casualties in our group, where you play to what it close to being a double green. It’s a tricky approach to reach the 18th, in full view of the clubhouse.
One local member told me he felt immensely proud to be a member at Grantown and, most of the time, the setting alone was enough for the membership. “Some nights you can come up here and you’ll feel like you’re the only person playing,” he said. “I love that about this place.”
There is a real calmness about golf life at Grantown-on-Spey and I loved the whole vibe. This is a relatively short course, but it’s no pushover.
I’m done playing overly hard championship tests that drain the energy out of you. This is the perfect place for a golf weekend with pals. Good fun, relatively easy on the legs, and with enough bite in its locker to keep you on your toes.
Definitely the short par-4 ninth, Murdies View. It’s 275 yards from the whites and just 251 from the standard yellows – but it’s the view and general setting that stands out. You play amongst huge pines and into a beautiful backdrop of the Cromdale Hills. Beautiful backdrops are fairly common round here, much like short par 4s. You’ll love both.
Did you know
Bobby Cruickshank was one of the many pioneering Scots who moved to America for a crack at the big time. He was a native of Grantown-on-Spey. He finished runner-up in the US Open twice, including 1923 when he finished two shots back from Bobby Jones after an 18-hole play-off. The seventh hole is named in his honour.
And another thing
All courses should be viewed by the quality of their bacon roll and Grantown-on-Spey is no different. I went one further – as always – and ordered a bacon and egg roll. Soft white roll, soft runny egg, and perfectly cooked bacon. If that’s your gig, you’re going to love your pre-round tummy filler.
The high season is May to September and a weekday and weekend round is just £49. In the shoulder months of April and October it comes down to £39. In the low season it comes to just £25.
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T: 01479 872079
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