gleneagles (Queen's) - 16 POINTS
Gleneagles is definitely one of the best short courses I have played. It's only 5,660 yards from the yellow tees and still under 6,000 from the white. If you're on your game the course won't beat you up and it's really fun to play, set in the most spectacular surroundings. While the course isn't long (there is only one par 5 and five par 3s) it is not without its challenges, this is no pitch and putt.
The course is probably more open and straightforward than the King's. The par 3s are particularly strong, the 13th is a flick of a wedge downhill before the 14th test you with a long iron or utility to a two tier green up the hill. There are few blind shots and plenty of opportunities to take a punt with some risk and reward shots, the short par 4 15th being a great example. It's only 250 yards but if you're not driving well then a mid iron may be a better play.The 18th finished in front of the clubhouse and is a lovely closing hole, a downhill drive to a large green allows you to really attack the last.
If you are in Gleneagles to play the King's then I would thoroughly recommend adding the Queen's to your itinerary. The views here are wonderful and it would be a shame to rush away when so much fun can be had on this lovely course.
BOOKING THE COURSE
Gleneagles has some ridiculous ideas as to the price of a round of golf on their courses. If you book direct with the club as a non-resident then then the green fees range from £75 in the winter months to £185 in the summer. I don't believe that this gives any kind of value so you need to be more creative to find value! The course offers afternoon rates which are best value for a fourball, if you tee off after 1.30pm that gets the cost down to £95 a person in the summer. Tee off after 4pm and that drops further to £70 a person if you are in a fourball - and bear in mind you can happily be playing at 10.30pm at the height of summer so the late time isn't really an issue. You can book those times on the website here.
Another option is to look at combining accommodation with golf. The hotel itself can be eyewatering expensive if you book directly but if you go through a golf tour operator like golfbreaks.com then the price can actually drop nicely as well as get an OK price on a tee time. Look out for some of the offers they have there and it's always worth giving them a call to see what they can do.
There is something pretty special about Gleneagles - it is in many ways like a step back into a bygone era. The hotel sits above the golf courses and is a fairly grand affair. If your budget can stretch to it then it would be hard not enjoy a night's stay here. There is a range of restaurants from the informal Deseo to the Michelin Starred Andrew Fairlie, a good swimming pool/spa as well as plenty of Scottish country pursuits. Golf-wise the King's is the best course on the site - it's challenging but never unfair and the course fits in wonderfully to the surrounding. Forget the PGA course, it would be a real waste of your time and will add nothing to any Scottish golf tour.
If you are not staying at the hotel then the nearby town of Anstruther has a couple of nice restaurants and pubs as well as some B&Bs to stay in but you may want to go to nearby Perth which is a pleasant city of 50,000 people on the banks of the Tay. I haven't played any of the other local courses but Blairgowrie, the other side of Perth and about 45 minutes drive away, has a good reputation. St Andrews and Carnoustie are both only an hour away and you are less than an hour from Edinburgh airport so it's pretty easy to add Gleneagles to most itineraries on the east of Scotland.
A word though on when to visit. While most links courses can be enjoyed all year around you can only really plan to go to Gleneagles in from April to October. Outside of that it may be playable but do not bank on it. The courses can get very wet and are often under snow as well. Even if they are open they can be very boggy so best to plan on a summer visit unless you get lucky out of season.
The Gleneagles Hotel
Scotland PH3 1NF
Phone: +44 (0)1764 662231