A 9 hole course from bygone days worth experiencing.
Summary: Round £20. Par 33. Value (out of 5) – 4
There can’t be many golfers who play Bridge of Allan for the first time that find the par 3 1st green with their tee shot; less than 5% I suspect, probably much lower. It’s not that it’s the most difficult par 3 ever, it’s just also so unusual. It’s 223 yards up a steep slope (40% they say!), with a blind plateau green that has a dry stone dyke across the fairway about 30 yards in front of the green. Welcome to one of Old Tom Morris’ famous holes. Thankfully not all of Old Tom’s holes are as demanding as this, otherwise golf in Scotland may not be as popular as it is!
Old Tom Morris designed this nine-hole golf course in 1895, in the affluent Victorian spa town of Bridge of Allan and the course has commanding views of the surrounding hills and countryside, including Ben Lomond, and also Stirling Castle which is only a few miles away.
According to the golf historian, Robert Kroeger, in his book ‘ The Golf Courses of Old Tom Morris’, Bridge of Allan is “the best preserved in that the layout and length of holes and greens are exactly the same as they were in 1895”. So for historical reasons alone, it’s worthwhile playing here, and that is why I’ve said this is a 4/5 for value.
However, I suspect the course will not be to everyone’s taste. Most of the holes have out of bounds (OOB) in play, mainly for the right handed hooker. OOB areas are also tight behind some greens, especially the 4th which also has a dyke in front of the green. There are hardly any flat lies as the course is so hilly. The greens are however pretty flat, which meant that when I played 2 greens were out of action due to being waterlogged. Of course, Old Tom mainly designed links greens, which naturally drain much better than parkland.
Old Tom makes much use of existing dykes which are in play on several holes and also blind tee shots by carefully using existing tree lines – this is especially true on the 6th and 7th holes, which need to be played more than once to get a feel for the line from the tee.
I had a difficult time on the day, including three 7s in my 13 over for 9 holes. My day was typified by hitting a magnificent drive (probably about 240 yards) at the 7th, but I never found my ball as it was very likely plugged.
The course was very wet when I played which was a pity, but the fairways were in good condition. I think that it must take several rounds here to get used to the tricky layout. The highlight holes for me in addition to the 1st were the 4th, 5th and 7th.
Course Type: Parkland
Par 33 (0 par 5s, 6 par 4s, 3 par 3s)
Distance (yellow): 2517 (9 holes)
Moly’s Gross score: 46.