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James Boon

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It has been said by some that The Rosemount course at Blairgowrie is the best inland course in Scotland. Well, Gleneagles and Loch Lomond probably have something to say about that, but the Rosemount, along with the Wee, are a delightful golfing experience, and certainly not far behind the others previously mentioned I’d say.

I’ve taken this a little beyond a basic photo tour as I was so intrigued by the clubs heritage. There seem to be so many cases back in the 1920s and 30s of courses designed by a well known architect who then seek out the involvement of another not long after. This always leaves the question, who exactly did what?

The club at Blairgowrie was formed in 1889 and the initial 9 hole course was set out over land leased from the Dowager Marchioness of Lansdowne, adjacent to Black Loch, just south of Blairgowrie. The course was believed to have been laid out by one of the founding members, Major Chalmers, and was initially very much a do it yourself affair.

A progress report in the local newspaper dated 30 March 1889 gives an excellent idea of how the course, and no doubt many others in that era, was constructed: “The golf course of the Blairgowrie Club has now been laid out, the nine holes cut and numbered flags placed on them. The course can now be played over, but much requires to be done to put it in really good playable condition. It is expected that by mid April it will be in tolerable playing trim and meantime men have been employed filling up old rabbit holes and cart tracks. A large quantity of broom roots and other rubbish still required to be collected and burned, as well as several patches of heather. The putting greens will necessarily be somewhat rough this season. The proper time for lifting and laying turfs is the fall of the year. New putting greens will then be laid for every hole.”

On 16 May 1889, just before the course opened, Old Tom Morris was invited by the club to make a visit that was recorded in the local paper. He went over the ground with the committee, and approved of everything done so far. At a time when inland courses were few and far between he stated that it was the most beautiful inland green he had ever seen and was also reported to have said “when further improvements contemplated had been carried out the roughness would disappear”.  The clubs centenary book refers to Old Tom Morris as the courses “layout advisor” and records that he was paid “for advice regarding golfing greens and other expenses coming to Blairgowrie, £1.14.1d” an amount that R Kroeger in his book The Golf Courses of Old Tom Morris, refers to as being his normal design fee. Old Tom also arranged an agency for his golf clubs to be sold at the club.

By the end of the first year of existence the course bogey score was set as 6, 5, 5, 4, 4, 5, 6, 3, 5 totalling 43, the longest hole was 431 yards, the shortest 132 yards.

The layout of the original 9 holes can be seen in the below plans, the first is a plan dated 1892, and the second an approximate overlay I’ve produced of the original course over the current aerial photograph:



In 1914 the club consulted Alister MacKenzie, who produced a “favourable report and an exciting plan” to make the course 18 holes, but the onset of the First World War delayed the work. By 1925 the club was back to a financial position to proceed, and with new lease agreements in place and also extra land acquired, they again consulted Mackenzie.

According to the Centenary book, MacKenzies report stated: “The best way of utilising the new ground would be to play the first hole as at present, then get out on the new ground and play eight holes, come back to the second and play the remaining eight holes of the old course with the addition of a new short hole.” From the plan in the centenary book (afraid I can’t get a good scan of it), it appears that before MacKenzie’s plan was carried out, some alterations had already been carried out, and there is mention of some lengthening in 1911. Its possible that the 7, 8 and 9, which included some crossover fairways, had been moved to avoid the crossover nature of these holes, possibly with some newly acquired land, or it could be that this was part of MacKenzies work? Never the less, the new course eventually opened in 1927.

Here is approximation of Alister MacKenzie’s layout, derived from a plan in the clubs Centenary book:


However, there appears to have been some dissatisfaction with the course, possibly with courses getting longer they wanted a course that could be stretched still further, and the reused holes from the original layout didn’t offer this. Therefore the club decided to investigate a longer course with an additional shorter nine hole course. An agreement was reached to purchase the land leased from the Lansdowne family, but also additional land, to enable this. This time the advice was sought of James Braid.

The long standing club professional from the time, is reported to tell a story of Braid, with his long legs striding through the heather and marking with stakes the new routing of the course, before returning to Blairgowrie Station to catch the night train back to London and Walton Heath. It is though known that he sent a 4 page letter advising the club on details of the routing, positions of bunkers etc. The Braid course opened in 1934, with the addition of 8 totally new holes, utilising most of MacKenzie’s front nine, while the remains of the old course, where to become the short nine hole course.

Here is approximation of James Braid’s layout, derived from a plan in the clubs Centenary book:

I believe this showed how Braid originally designed it, but it appears that the 3rd and 4th as noted, became the 9th and 10th to allow for a return to the clubhouse.

I believe that some time in the 1960s the greens suffered to the extent that they were all re-laid, so how much of either original MacKenzie or Braid contouring remains isn’t clear.

In 1972 the club again decided to purchase further land to once again expand. Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas were consulted and they came up with a layout and work commenced in 1974. Some alterations and additions were required to the existing courses. On the short course, the 9th was shortened to a par 3 to make way for a larger car park. On the Rosemount, the current 4th was rerouted with a new tee and fairway, but to the original green. Allis and Thomas designed 2 new holes for the Rosemount, the current 6th and 7th while extending the current 8th from a par 3 to a par 4. The biggest change though was giving over 2 holes to the new course, to allow for both courses to start and finish by the clubhouse. To further aid in this routing, the holes that were to become the 1st and 18th on the Lansdowne were switched and reversed.

This is todays layout of all the courses at Blairgowrie. The Wee is in red, Rosemount in Orange and Lansdowne in yellow:


I must stress that the plans produced are approximate and I must say thank you to Douglas Cleeton, the managing secretary at Blairgowrie Golf Club for providing me with a copy of the clubs centenary book “Blairgowrie Golf Club 1889 – 1989”, edited by Alex Macintosh. Thanks also to Melvyn for sending me a scan copy of the plan from The Golf Courses of Old Tom Morris by R Kroeger.

I’ll begin posting the photo tour shortly.

Cheers,

James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay, Ganton, Burnham & Berrow, Royal Dornoch, Woodhall Spa, Hallamshire

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

James Boon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Following on from the brief history of the courses above, this plaque is on the starters hut next to the first tee of the Rosemount course.


I’m giving all yardages from the yellow tees that most people are likely to play from.

Hole 1 “Black Tree”
429 yards
Par 4
Here is the starters hut behind the first tee.


The opening tee shot is to a wide open fairway and the heathland but tree lines character of the course is pretty clear from the very start. There is a fairway bunker on the right which attracts your attention but a good drive down the left will catch a slope and finish in a valley that leads off to the green in the distance.


You can see the valley nature of the fairway off to the left.


A closer look at the green that is built up on a small plateau with bunkers left and a hollow to catch a shot going off to the right.


From behind the green you can see the fairway winding its way back to the clubhouse.


Hole 2 “Woodfold Dell”
321 yards
Par 4
A fairly straightforward drive, but the green has plenty of interest. There is a steep false front and then a second tier running across the back of the green. The best line in is from a long drive up the left, from where the option to play a high pitch to the correct tier or a low running shot.


A closer look shows the false front and also the back bunkers that are surrounded by heather.


Hole 3 “Stormont”
206 yards
Par 3
The third is a long par 3 over some pretty flat land. Bunkers short left and right act as fairway bunkers for the shorter hitter.


A closer look reveals the tiny bunker behind the main bunker short left of the green


Hole 4 “Delvine Wood”
385 yards
Par 4
A dogleg left, here is a view of the tee shot


There is a cross bunker short of the green and a bunker right, with trees pretty tight to the left, as can be seen looking back from behind the green.


Hole 5 “Meikelour”
468 yards
Par 4
From the very back tee this hole can be stretched back to 553 yards par 5 from the back tee. This is the view.


From the forward tee, a good hit can sneak past all the trouble, but the second has to skirt past this lone tree that sits in the layup area for the back tee


If you choose to layup it needs to be from the left to avoid this bunker and make a shot up to the second back tier easier


A look back from behind the green


Hole 6 “Firs”
179 yards
Par 3
The first of the two new holes. It seems a little out of character to me, mainly because of the large expanse of mown grass between tee and green rather than the rougher ground or heather that would be more in keeping with the rest of the surrounding land.


Hole 7 “Carsie”
368 yards
Par 4
The second of the new holes, again the tee shot feels like the last


Here is the approach


Hole 8 “Kinpurnie”
331 yards
Par 4
Before the previous two holes were added this was a par 3 of approximately 150 yards. Just past the landing area there are trees on the left making positioning critical and tightening up the approach.


A closer view of the green, which appears to be angled to take an approach from the right, probably where the original par 3 tee was set up.


Hole 9 “Birks”
320 yards
Par 4
Another shortish par 3, this one doglegging to the left a little, but the cross bunkers short of the green making it tricky for anyone having a go for the green


That concludes the front nine holes, 3,007 yards, par 34. It seems to me that the front is over less inspiring land than the back nine, but it still manages to both interest and challenge you and leave you pushing on for the next nine holes.

Cheers,

James
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 07:20:13 AM by James Boon »
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay, Ganton, Burnham & Berrow, Royal Dornoch, Woodhall Spa, Hallamshire

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

James Boon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Hole 10 “Roon the Ben”
478 yards
Par 5
A short par 5 this one, that can be pushed back as far as 542 from the very back, but unlike the 5th hole, this one remains a par 5 from the yellow tees and the strategy is much the same from whatever tee you play. A dogleg to the left, a drive tight to the trees and fairway bunker of the left will leave a good chance of getting close to the green in two.


Quite a sharp dog leg this. Here is the view revealed at its corner.


Once you have skirted the bunkers some 120 and 70 yards short of the green, here the view. The bunker on the right really seems to pinch in any approach, while mounding to the rear stops you running long.


The view back from behind the green


Hole 11 “Millar’s Delight”
473 yards
Par 4

As with the 5th hole, off the back tees, this becomes a par 5 but only of 507 yards this time, but most should play it as a short par 5 from the yellows. This hole plays back the way we’ve just come from, dog leg to the right this time.


The second shot plays downhill slightly. Here is the view of the green from short right to a slightly pushed up green


Hole 12 “Straight Away”
282 yards
Par 4
This hole really does tempt you to have a go at the green.


A diagonal ridge from short front right to tight of left has 2 bunkers built into it on both sides.


Hole 13 “Bogie”
393 yards
Par 4
A pretty straight hole where a good drive on this hole will catch a small down slope to push it on a little further


The approach to the green needs to be accurate as the ground falls away quite a bit left and long.

Hole 14 “Grampian”
493 yards
Par 5
Bunkers short right and pinching in on the left make this a tight driving hole. A good solid par 5, but it seems to be just the prelude to a great finish. Here is the green from just short left.


Hole 15 “Wee Dunt”
121 yards
Par 3
From the tee, this doesn’t look such an interesting short par 3? A cross bunker short hides a full view of the green and trees up the right hide a view of what is beyond.


Begin walking to the green and it soon becomes clear the green site is a little gem. Here is the green seen from just short of the cross bunker.


This view from left of the green shows the undulations that make the green so interesting, but also the view of Black Loch and the 16th hole beyond.


Hole 16 “Black Loch”
435 yards
Par 4
A cracking and very tough par 4 this. Here is the view from the white tee, though there is another even further left that pushes the hole to a 498 yard par 4 for the big boys! A long dog leg to the left.


Looking back you can see the tees for this hole and the previous green


The land falls from right to left all along the hole, with out of bounds down the left. The front right bunker really pinches a running approach.


A closer view, the safe miss is long and right.


Looking back you can see how much the trees and out of bounds come into play


Hole 17 “Plateau”
165 yards
Par 3
A beautiful par 3 green up on a plateau, with a tier running diagonally from left to right. A good chance that this and the 15th are as MacKenzie originally designed them perhaps?


Closer views of the green from short left



And a view from behind


Hole 18 “Mount Blair”
382 yards
Par 4
A great finish to the round and though most of the last four holes appear to be MacKenzie’s work, this was a green sited by Braid. A dog leg to the right, your drive needs to get past the trees on the right to leave a good view of the green.


The green is revealed with the clubhouse beyond.


A closer view of another two tier green. Not MacKenzie’s work, so did Braid try to match some of the previous two tiered greens, is it all his own work, or did this come from the relaying back in the 60’s? Its not clear, but forget about that and enjoy the golf!


And the view back


The back nine has played slightly longer at 3,222 yards, par 36, giving a total of 6,229 yards, par 70, though its stretched to 6,689 par 72 from the Championship tees.      

Lastly a view from the recently refurbished clubhouse changing rooms on the first floor. A great view to have both before and after your round.


I’ll post pictures of the Wee course later, but the two courses combined make for great golf. While I was writing this, I noticed that I’d missed some photos and a few holes didn’t really stay long in the memory, but these were mainly the newer holes on the flatter land, but I’m sure with further play this ebb and flow of topography will be welcomed, much the same was as going in and out of the dunes seems to make for a better links course, rather than one all through the big dunes?

If you ever find yourself driving up from Edinburgh to Dornoch, a brief stop off at Blairgowrie is not to be missed!

Cheers,

James
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 08:44:24 AM by James Boon »
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay, Ganton, Burnham & Berrow, Royal Dornoch, Woodhall Spa, Hallamshire

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Ally Mcintosh

  • Karma: +0/-0
James,

Thanks a million for this... I have long been interested in the evolution of Blairgowrie and had talked about it before but mainly through speculation rather than research like you have reproduced.... What is most interesting to me is the amount that MacKenzie's work is still there (both in Rosemount and in the Wee - see the excellent par-3 seventh which is all his)... I had previously had a stab at the routing pre-Lansdowne course and had bemoaned the loss of the 9th and 10th (current 1 & 18 on Lansdowne, showing as 3 & 4 on your plan) to that course.... I am not a fan of the Lansdowne and it seems such a shame that Rosemount was compromised for it...

Great post - Thanks again...

Mark_Rowlinson

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Another excellent account. Keep it up!

Gary Slatter

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James, thanks for the great work, Rosemount is a fine course and worth the visit for sure.  I prefer it over Loch Lomond because it "fits" the land better in my opinion.  Another reason to get back soon, we played Downfield and Rosemount the same day, "brilliant".
Gary Slatter
gary.slatter@raffles.com

Niall C

  • Karma: +0/-0
James

As Ally said, great historical research. I've played the big course a number of times but will need to study what you've produced to see what I can recognise as Braid or MacKenzie. As the greens have been relaid I guess any difference between the two won't be too pronounced.

And as you say it was amazing how willing clubs were to get a well known gca/pro in one year and then get another in the year after. Mackenzie and Braid also both worked on the Erskine and Pollok courses at roughly the same time, to the detriment of Mackenzie or at least his ideas. No wonder he made some catty comments regarding Braid in his book.

As for the course, I don't think I would class it as best inland course in Scotland, and indeed not sure I've heard too many people call it that, but its certainly great fun. Thanks for the tour.

Niall

John Mayhugh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Boony,
That's a great profile of a really interesting place.  Looks like England to me.

Thanks for putting all of the time into this that you did.  I cannot seem to get just a few photos posted.

James Boon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Thanks for the kind words everyone!

James,

Thanks a million for this... I have long been interested in the evolution of Blairgowrie and had talked about it before but mainly through speculation rather than research like you have reproduced.... What is most interesting to me is the amount that MacKenzie's work is still there (both in Rosemount and in the Wee - see the excellent par-3 seventh which is all his)... I had previously had a stab at the routing pre-Lansdowne course and had bemoaned the loss of the 9th and 10th (current 1 & 18 on Lansdowne, showing as 3 & 4 on your plan) to that course.... I am not a fan of the Lansdowne and it seems such a shame that Rosemount was compromised for it...

Great post - Thanks again...

Ally,

I found your previous thread discussing those two holes when I was researching this. The club certainly started out playing them as the 3rd and 4th as a plan of Braid's course as well as a score card (that shows a member, Mr Robertson, getting aces at the 15th and 17th in one round in 1962!) show this to be the case. However, by the 70s when the new course was proposed it appears that they had been switched to the 9th and 10th, so eventually was routed as you had surmised.

It looks like the biggest controversy might not have been losing the holes to the new course, but more that they were switched and the direction changed, thus becoming two totally new holes?

Cheers,

James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay, Ganton, Burnham & Berrow, Royal Dornoch, Woodhall Spa, Hallamshire

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

James Boon

  • Karma: +0/-0
The Wee course came into being as a short nine hole course, at the time of James Braid’s work. What is there now, seems to mostly be from the original course by Major Chalmers and Old Tom Morris, which was then adjusted and extended when MacKenzie used the bulk of it for the back nine of his course.

Hole 1 “Wee Gowrie”
182 yards
Par 3
A good solid par 3 to get you underway.


A closer look at the green


And from behind, with the clubhouse in the distance. You can tell better from this view that the land is actually quite rolling leading up to the green


Hole 2 “Fairy Dell”
340 yards
Par 4
A dogleg right, the view from the tee shot doesn’t yet reveal the nature of the hole, and you may be tempted to hit a steady long iron or fairway wood to start, but if you can take on the trees down the right or hit a good long fade, it worth hitting a driver.


As you get towards the trees on the right you will see that the ground all falls down hill from here, and so your drive can be helped to get quite close to the green, which will certainly help with the next shot


Two tall pines stand guard of this green, like something from Lord of the Rings, and the hole is indeed called Fairy Dell, as it has been from the very start. Its not clear if the green has always been behind these two beauties, but it seems a good chance that it has. If you have managed to get a drive down here, the low pitch is relatively straightforward, as I would like to have to flirt with the trees from way back? The small bunker short right, helps make sure its not a walkover.


From behind, you can see the sloping fairway and the setting of the green. A little beauty!


Hole 3 “Heather Hole”
331 yards
Par 4
Quite a wide open drive that will probably tempt you to hit a driver again, but a tree on the left side of the fairway pinches the driving area. The approach is made tricky as bunkers short of the green and the green sitting in a hollow help disguise the distance of the approach shot
 


From behind the green


Hole 4 “Macpherson of Cluny”
176 yards
Par 3
Played slightly downhill, the green all falls away from you so its tricky to hold. Here is a closer view of the green


Hole 5 “Loch Hole”
293 yards
Par 4
A sharp dogleg to the right, this time a layup probably isn’t too bad an idea.


The approach is downhill and a little blind as the green sits behind a ridge seen here, with everything again falling away from you. Black Loch is in the trees behind and though not in play, has historically given its name to this green from the very start


The view from behind with the 6th tee just to the left


Hole 6 “Druidsmere”
297 yards
Par 4
A sharp dogleg again, but this time to the left


The fairway rolls nicely through the landing area, with trees on the left to make the approach a little tricker


If you can bomb one long and up the right, it leaves a relatively straightforward pitch


On the view from behind you can see how much the trees are in play for any drive up the left


Hole 7 “Ardblair”
167 yards
Par 3
The tee here is close to the road, but does play away from it


The green sits in a hollow, but the bunkers are all hiding out of view


A closer view from short left shows the bank up the right with a bunker on top as well as the cluster of bunkers to the left. The green itself is a fairly steep pitch from the front up to the back


Hole 8 “Delvine Hole”
416 yards
Par 4
The longest hole on the Wee course and again it seems an open inviting drive, but the fairway is cut narrower in the driving area


A closer view of what is probably the largest green on the Wee course


Hole 9 “Mackenzie Hole”
173 yards
Par 3
The closing hole used to be a short par 4, but with the Lansdowne course being built the club realised more car parking was needed and so this was shortened to a par 3


This time, probably the smallest green on the course


Its also worth checking this previous photo tour of the course by Eric Terhorst
http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,41555.0.html

Its not a long challenge at 2,327 yards, par 32, but its very good fun, and well worth seeing as it contains much of the clubs earlier heritage, as described above.

Cheers,

James
« Last Edit: November 05, 2013, 05:23:22 PM by James Boon »
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay, Ganton, Burnham & Berrow, Royal Dornoch, Woodhall Spa, Hallamshire

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Hey Boony

#s 15,17 & 18 on the big course look very good.  There is also some interesting bunker location throughout.  Thnaks for the tour.

Ciao

New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate, Hinckley, Robin Hood & Ladybank

Ben Stephens

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Boony,

A GCA challenge for you - what would be the best composite course out of the 3 different courses?

Cheers
Ben

James Boon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Sean,

Yes, the closing stretch had some of my favourite holes. I think a lot of this is probably MacKenzie's work, though exactly how much is Braid's or more recent is hard to say?

Ben,

Though I didn't play the Lansdown, from everything I did see, or have read from others, thats an easy one. Give 1 and 18 from Lansdowne back to the course and omit 6 and 7 from the Rosemount, perhaps playing 8 as a par 3. Wait a minute, thats virtually how Braid had it!  ;D You could perhaps omit 12 and 13 from the Rosemount and pull 3 and 2 from the Wee into it, but better to keep the Wee as it is I'd say.

Cheers,

James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay, Ganton, Burnham & Berrow, Royal Dornoch, Woodhall Spa, Hallamshire

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

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