Thursday, 28 June 2018

Angus - Open all hours - Home of the upcoming Open at Carnoustie 2018


It is true, Scotland does not have the best reputation for lady golfers, whether that is to welcome them or whether that is looking after their own.  Big name clubs not making female golfers welcome have not helped this reputation for women in this must play golfing mecca.  But Angus’ open doors approach is a sure winner for both sexes.  This last trip to Angus, aka Carnoustie Country has certainly opened my eyes, it is an area one can go golfing but it is also an area to visit for holidays too. 

There are some truly beautiful golf courses all within 30 minuets.  To get a true Angus welcome, try Edzell Golf Club, an 18 and a 9 hole course and good practice facilities this James Braid heathland setting is located in Edzell itself, a Scottish village retaining its character and charm of old.  Interestingly there are more members of Edzell golf club than there are residents in Edzell itself!  With established links back to Carnoustie Championship Links golf club, this friendly club should be on your must-play list.  Sadly we didn’t get to play Edzell, but armed with an invitation to come back, we were happy to be given just the slightest glimpse as we whizzed around in the buggies.  Besides we’d need to go back to Edzell to re-visit one of its other great attractions; the 360 degree bar famed in the Guinness World Book of Records as the most variety of whiskies commercially available is a must for a wee dram - or two.  The whisky tasting is a great way to figure out ‘your’ whisky coupled with some of their little delicate snacks its a civilised way to sample some of this ‘wall of whisky’

Playing Montrose Medal- one of my all time favourite courses which has recently changed its name in a re-branding exercise to the 1562, an appropriately named club clearly spelling out its heritage and drawing attention to itself as the fifth oldest golf course in the world and what a course it is too. If its not broken, don’t fix it, is clearly the motto here as the course design hasn’t changed for over 100 years, it still captivates the imagination of golfers and surely non-golfers alike with its rugged sea clifftop views from the second hole onwards.   A bold and progressive move for an established club, not to mention one in the golfing arena whose traditions are slowly and progressively changing. Montrose is simply just keeping up with the times yet gently reminding visitors of its deep routed past in golf.  Even a rubbish game of golf doesn’t stop you from smiling as you finish off on the 18th and reflect back in the clubhouse, remembering those sea views, the valleys and dips of the fairways and the large receptive greens  The clubhouse doesn’t scream history or heritage, it is simply a welcoming space to relax in the bar or grab bite to eat, it really isn’t trying to be something it isn’t, but what it is it does well and that is friendly, open and honest.

Another day dawns as our excitement is contained on our drive over to Panmure Golf Club. A trophy cabinet to mull over as the silverware glares triumphantly back at you saying, ‘you’re simply not good enough to win me’!  As the first starts away from the clubhouse, you don’t really appreciate the spender of the building until those last few closing holes as the sprawling building has been modelled on Royal Calcutta Golf Club - the Oldest  golf course outside the UK.  Panmure carries its own history famed as the practice ground for Ben Hogan prior to his Open win.  Whilst a links course and certainly playing like a links course with its sand base it is a mile from any coastline, it also has established trees on the course, as such some purists might say it isn’t a true links course - either way its a great track, forgiving and unforgiving in equal measures, challenging tee-shots demand a straight drive.  Take time after your round to enjoy the aforementioned clubhouse watching the weary smiling golfers finish on the 18th, or take in the keen golfer as they practice putting green is directly outside the front of the clubhouse in full view.Breakfast, golf, lunch - how could my day get better?

Gin anyone?  The Gin Bothy to be exact- a bothy is a traditional usually stone built simple building used to cater for the weary traveller, often managed by the Mountain Bothy Association to provide a simple overnight stay in a place for people who love 'wild and lonely' places; so assume there are no facilities - except of course when visiting the Gin Bothy whose cottage industry has been taken to new heights in the area and gaining a worldwide reputation for great gin.  The owner stumbled upon gins favours when trying to make use of the left over fruit from jam making, a perfect marriage was established  as the gin recipes got more and more elaborate.  Encouraged to try different gin flavours with different accompaniments, to me the most surprising addition to the abundance of flavours was the tonic for unique flavours however in my mind some gins were best served without tonic but over ice as an aperitif.  Flavours on offer include Stirrup Cup and Gunshot, cleverly aimed at the horsy and shooting set respectively.Where to stay in Angus

Murrayshall House Hotel and Golf Courses, don’t be put off by the title with ‘and golf courses’ which appear as a bit of an afterthought.  This golf resort actually has two eighteen hole golf courses which wind themselves around 365 acres of land and former country house of the Murray family.  At only 30 years old, the course designers have maximised the established park and woodland and captured the country estate feel balancing the hotel offering with ease.   The imposing grey granite hotel is undergoing a series of renovations with some of the refurbishment already completed in the common areas and some of the 40 bedrooms to bring it securely into a good solid 4* establishment.   Whether you base yourself in Murrayshall and travel for the golf or whether you do bite the bullet and buy your own country retreat, Murrayshall has a great restaurant on site with a good array of locally sourced, freshly prepared food with care and attention; attention given to the evening meal and breakfast in equal measures.

Near Montrose Just a few minutes walk is the Links Hotel, a perfect location to relax.  Large comfy rooms greet the visiting guests as they quickly shower to get downstairs to enjoy the comfy bar and food on offer at the restaurant.  A family feel to the hotel coupled with a relaxing place to enjoy Scottish fayre. 

The Carnoustie Golf Hotel yields views from the 1st and back up the 18th fairways as early morning golfers bash away as the dew is still heavy on the grass.  A nice sound to wake up to as the sun shone into my room with a view.  The Carnoustie Golf Links Hotel was in fairness in need of some money being invested in it as the poor relation to the great courses on its doorstep, and now that has been done it can stand proud as the good 4* offering it is today, freshly painted, freshly redecorated and dressed to attract the visiting golfers.   An updated and fresh menu  demanding some attention as it offers more choices to tempt your tastebuds.  A large hotel spreading across the edge of the golf course and envelopes and embraces the scene with easeSo here you have it, just a few reasons to look at Carnoustie Country for your country membership and welcome retreat, and this is all without mentioning Carnoustie Links Golf Course itself.  Offering three golf courses on site The Buddon, the Burnside and Championship Links itself as it draws the eye away from the hotel to the welcome abyss of golf, interspersed with unwelcome interludes of the Barry Burn weaving around the course to stop the big hitters taking it for granted, instead demanding thought being put into each shot.  With some of the stands already in place for the 147th Open this year, be mindful that the course has actually been shortened this year lending that little bit extra test to the PGA golf professional players about to take on this Championship course for the 8th time in its history, testimony to James Braid, Allan Robertson and Old Tom Morris as the forward thinking golf course designers. The burning question being, who is likely to follow in the footsteps of such greats as Tommy Armour in 1931, Henry Cotton in 1937, Ben Hogan in 1953, Gary Player in 1968, Tom Watson in 1975, Paul Lawrie in 1999 and Padraig Harrington in 2007.  Who can take on the mighty, although arguably not so much in length, Carnoustie Championship Course and hold the claret jug high as the Earl of Dalhousie looks down on his formerly owned land which has caused many tears, joy and laughter in equal measures as the Barry Burn takes another victim into its deep watery grave never to be seen again in an attempt to tame the Beast.Angus - a  place to contemplate the next Open winner of 2018, relish and enjoy some good honest, diverse golf offerings, sample local food, and try whisky or gin, or in my case both- a friendly place to be for golfers and non-golfers alike, no distinction between the sexes, just golfers.

Sarah is available for freelance media work and specialises in ladies golf and golf locations around the world

As published in The Golf Business