LOCH lomond - 17 POINTS
Loch Lomond is the hardest course to get a game on in Scotland. Other private courses such as the Renaissance and Archerfield let you play in a 'one off' experience. You can stay at Skibo and play there. But Loch Lomond has no obvious way in. Should you get the chance to play there though, it is worth dropping pretty much whatever you have on and getting there.
I've been lucky enough to play at Loch Lomond on two occasions and I remain blown away by the setting and the quality of the experience. I am really struggling to think of a parkland golf course I have played which has a more inspiring setting than Loch Lomond. The front 9 is largely set by the loch before turning to a more parkland area for most of the back 9 and returning to the water for the spectacular finish. It is a beautiful part of the world and hard to believe you are not much more than half an hour from the centre of Glasgow.
The other thing that strikes you about Loch Lomond is the fabulous conditioning. It is one of the very best presented course I have played in the UK. It doesn't get a huge amount of play, which must help, but this is a wet area of Scotland and the club has invested huge amounts in drainage over the years which is much needed. Both times I played, the greens were incredibly true and I'm sure they can really get them slick in the height of summer.
While it is the conditioning and the views which make this such a wonderful experience, the course itself has some great holes and I'm not sure it gets the appreciation it deserves in the UK or Scottish rankings - I would rate it above any inland course in Scotland and I would rather play here again than such links brutes as Carnoustie or Lytham.
Of course though, this isn't links golf, it's an American parkland style track. Despite the work done on drainage, this isn't a course where you will get much run on the ball and as a result it plays its length - 6,300 yards from the middle tees and 6.700 from the medal tees. For professional play they can extend the course to 7,100 but those are rarely in play.
This is a very playable golf course but, without a doubt, accuracy is rewarded. The rough looks pretty benign - you will have to be really wayward to lose a ball - but you can't be too greedy when trying to get the ball out of it or you will pay the price. Water comes into play on many holes with many burns and ponds to contend with so do pay attention to the stroke-saver and don't assume hitting the ball as far as you can is the best play!
This is one of those lovely courses where everything is out in front of you, good shots are rewarded and you won't find yourself with a four iron in your hand for every approach to a green. There is a good variety of length in the layout. On the par 3s you will be stretched from a 9 iron on the 8th to a 3 wood on the 11th. The par 5s go from the reachable 3rd (465 yards from the medal tees) to the monster 580 yard 6th. The par 4s stretch from 325 yards up. If you are striking the ball well and have a good touch around the greens then you will feel that you can get a good score.
It would be wrong not to mention the hospitality - it is as good as you could imagine. The staff are neither fawning nor snooty - they are relaxed and professional.
So the setting is glorious, the hospitality wonderful and golf course top notch. It is hard to compete with the great links courses of the country but this is really something very special.
BOOKING THE COURSE
OK, so this is the hard bit. You usually have to play with a member to get a round here and there aren't many of those based in the UK. However, keep your eyes open as there are sometimes charity days where you can pay to enter a team, Variety hold an annual day with rugby legends, as do the Prince and Princess of Wales hospice. This is an expensive option but the money goes to a good cause which means you can persuade yourself/loved one at home that this really is doing a bit of work for charity rather than just a chance to play one of the most exclusive courses in Europe!
Frankly if you are lucky enough to land a round here then you shouldn't worry too much about where else to play as there is so much good golf around. The Carrick at Loch Lomond is nearby, and also has good accommodation deals in place. Just over an hour to the south you have the Ayrshire coast, with Western and Glasgow Gailes nearby, complemented by Turnberry, Dundonald, Prestwick and Troon. Venture inland and you could happily combine a trip with Gleneagles or even the Fife courses with a bit more of a trek. There are many combinations and you could easily manage a dream trip if you get an invite. While it is unlikely that you would look to base yourself at Loch Lomond for a whole trip given the geographic spread, if you do get the chance to stay overnight in the top class accommodation here it would be rude to say no!
Loch Lomond Golf Club
Phone: +44 (0)1436 655555