My Home Course Loch Lomond Golf Club, Luss, Scotland
by Jeff Lewis
Thomas Bjorn. Tom Lehman. Lee Westwood. Colin Montgomerie. Ernie Els. Retief Goosen. The list of winners in the variously named tournaments that have been held at Loch Lomond the past six years is quite impressive. We often note that great courses generate great winners, and Loch Lomond is definitely proof of that notion.
Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish designed Loch Lomond, which opened in 1994. Remarkably the club is less than 100 miles from St. Andrews, Muirfield, Troon, Prestwick, Turnberry and Carnoustie. 25 miles from Glasgow, near all of these giants of the links, a parkland course? The course lies along the banks of the largest lake in Scotland, which is visible from holes 5 through 8, 17 and 18. Though there are a few points of homage to the location of this course in the home of golf, the course is ultimately very much a traditional American-style parkland course. As one who prefers links golf to parkland golf and who is always suspicious of highly rated courses that are notably scenic, or well conditioned, we have to ask the question. Is this really the best inland course in the United Kingdom? The answer is it might well be.
Perhaps the most elusive concept in golf course architecture is the course without a weak hole. If Loch Lomond does not accomplish this, it comes awfully close. Let’s start looking at the golf holes. Accompanied by a single caddy, we make our way from the Georgian clubhouse over to the practice facility, which in keeping with the American owners of this club is expansive. The clubhouse, magnificently restored, is reportedly home to a few ghosts from the Clan Colquhoun, so keep an eye out if you stay in one of the highly coveted clubhouse suites!
After a few practice swings, we are ready to go. For photographs and additional text of each hole, please reference www.lochlomond.com.
Hole # 1 – Par 4, 425 yards. Scots Pine.
A gentle starter. The first of scores of very old trees that we will see during our round presents itself on the right side of the fairway. Ideally one will hit a shot just left of the oak, on the right center of the fairway. The left fairway bunker ismore foraiming purposes and is not in play. A fellow member holed out a wedge on this hole on his first round at Loch Lomond.
Hole # 2 – Par 4, 455 yards. Deer Park.
OK, now we get to work. This hole often plays into the prevailing wind, but the landing area is quite generous, with well-placed fairway bunkers down the right. The green is set up slightly above the fairway level and there is a small stone wall that is not in play about 50 yards short of the green. Weiskopf and Morrish discovered the wall during construction and restored it. The green is a double green, shared with #4. A low approach is an option here. Set among the pines, one almost has the feeling of Georgia in this portion of the course, holes 2 through 4.
Hole # 3 – Par 5, 505 yards. Garden Cottage.
# 3 is a definite scoring opportunity. Set beautifully amongst the pines, a drive that avoids the gaping left fairway bunker will leave an iron into the green, but don’t miss the green to the right! There is a marsh over there and your potential eagle can quickly become a double bogey. We get our first glimpse of the loch up by the green. Be wary of the tree stump that was carved out for a chair. I was once stung by a bee there!
Hole # 4 – Par 4, 385 yards. Ben Lomond.
Number 4 is named for the mountain one sees in the distance behind the green. Since the lake is usually not in view on most of the course, it is really the mountains that create so much of Loch Lomond’s visual appeal. Iron or 3-wood is an option off the tee here and accuracy is certainly at a premium. Avoid the deep fairway bunkers on the right and a mid-iron to the other side of the now plateaued double green waits. Make sure to carry the false front as well!
Hole # 5 – Par 3, 190 yards, Creinch.
The first bit of breathtaking scenery should not detract from the strategic interest of this one-shotter. Aridge bisects the green, so pick the right club, or birdie is not in the cards. Also, the left bunkers make for an especially treacherous up and down.
Hole # 6- Par 5, 625 yards, Long Loch Lomond.
The club touts this as the longest hole in Scotland. The loch runs down the entire right side, but without any help from the scenery, this would still be one of the greatest par 5s in the world. So many long holes allow a golfer to get away with one or perhaps two indifferent shots and still offer the opportunity of a par. Well, that is not the case here. All three shots will have to be extremely well conceived and carried out. The tee shot requires length, because it sets up whether or not one will have an option on the second. The cross bunker is placed such that one needs to have hit two shots about 475 yards to comfortably carry it, but laying back will leave a 200 yard plus third. For the accurate player, left is an option, as well. The green is small and treacherous. My four-iron to about 8 feet out of the cross-bunker is one of the most memorable golf shots I have ever hit
Hole # 7 – Par 4, 440 yards, Yon Bonnie Banks.
Number 6 is a tough act to follow, but this par four certainly stands up well. The right fairway bunker is, like number 1s left fairway bunker, primarily directional. Try to stay left, but avoid the common tendency to go into the rough or get behind the large tree on the left side of the fairway. With a large greenside bunker between the loch and the green on the right side, approaching from the left is certainly preferable. Again, Tom and Jay present the opportunity to make decisions. Flirt with the tree in order to get a considerably less risky angle to the green.
Hole # 8 – Par 3, 155 yards, Inchmoan.
The teebox here backs up onto the loch and the clubhouse looms in the distance to the right. Another gorgeous setting. Bunkers surround the green, but a well-struck short iron should provide a birdie opportunity.
Here we stop for a soft drink, a beer or perhaps a wee dram of whisky in the garden next to the 9th tee. There are not many more beautiful places in the world than this place on a sunny day. Too bad they are few and far between!
Hole # 9 – Par 4, 340 yard, Shi G’Arten.
Decisions, decisions. Loch Lomond is a golf course where your brain must be engaged at all times. There is a cross bunker about 230 yards off the back tee…is there a value in carrying it? Depends on how good your wedge game is. The view of the green is certainly much clearer from over and left of the fairway bunker, but is the view worth the risk? Weiskopf and Morrish have been at the forefront of the movement to bring short par 4s back into the game. 9 and 14 are shining examples of their concept.
Hole # 10 – Par 4, 455 yards, Arn Burn.
Simply one of the most scenic and testing par fours in the world. It is hard to describe the feeling of watching a well-struck tee shot floating against the backdrop of the mountains, dotted with sheep. Long hitters will have to take note of the creek that cuts across the fairway. Those familiar with Quaker Ridge might see 10 as a more brawny version of 15 there. The approach into this green over the pond on the left requires a steady nerve with a middle or long iron.
Hole #11- Par 3, 235 yards, Sherrif’s Mount.
This is the only hole with which I have any quarrel. 235 yards, up hill to a green with a huge scoop taken right out of the middle. One can hit a terrific 3-wood or driver, hit the green on the wrong side and have virtually no chance of making 3. But what would we do if this course were perfect? We would never want to leave.
Hole # 12 – Par 4, 415 yards, Court Hill.
Weiskopf suggests that Ross and PinehurstNo. 2 inspired this hole. The green is one of the most interesting on the course with a huge drop-off from the right front portion. Given the severity of the green, the complex is bunkerless, allowing for a variety of interesting chips and pitches. Great care needs to be taken with the approach here, which should always be aimed at the left portion of the green.
Hole # 13 – Par 5, 560 yards, Gallow’s Hill.
Another great par 5, 13 plays in the same direction as #10, and I consider the holes cousins. Again, the tee is elevated and we enjoy the sensation of watching tee balls float against the mountain backdrop. It is critical to avoid the fairway pot bunker if one is going to have an opportunity to reach this green in two. The creek and the bunkers that surround the lay-up area make the second shot here extremely worthy of one’s attention. Again, we have a par 5 where one bad shot will make par unattainable.
Hole # 14 – Par 4, 345 yards, Tom and Jay’s Chance.
The yardage is a bit deceiving here, as it is measured on the conservative route to the green. This is a masterpiece of strategic design. The carry from the back tee over the marsh is about 250-260 yards on a straight line towards the green. The angle of approach from the lay-up area on the left is considerably worse to one of the most severe greens on the course, with three distinct levels. A careless long-iron down the left may leave one blocked by the oak to the right of the fairway. The hole is just barely driveable from each tee, if golfers are playing appropriate markers. The range of possible scores here during the tournament has been two to six. A great match play hole.
Hole # 15 – Par 4, 435 yards, Glen Fruin.
Where are the weak holes? Again, a beautiful drive, back towards the mountains. The landing area is fairly generous here, though the left side of this left-to-right dogleg is clearly the best position. This is a two level green with a drop off of several feet from one side to the other. The second shot can be blind if the tee shot is left to the right or the pin is set on the left. This extraordinary green is an example of the Scottish feeling that is everpresent despite the American pedigree of Loch Lomond.
Hole # 16 – Par 4, 480 yards, Dun Na Bruich.
A birdie opportunity from the middle tees as a 500-yard plus par 5. A treacherous, long right-to-left dogleg par four from the championship tees. Weiskopf and Morrish beautifully offset the length on this hole by providing no bunkers. For the members, the burn about 30 yards short of the green could come into play on an attempt to reach the green in two. So we have the rare instance where a hole which plays as a five for the members and a four for the pros is actually designed specifically for both.
Hole # 17 – Par 3, 205 yards, The Bay.
A bay runs along the left side of another remarkably scenic hole. The green looks much smaller from the tee than it actually is. Also, the marsh that one flies is intimidating visually, but really not in play.
Hole # 18 – Par 4, 430 yards, Rossdhu Castle.
Named after the castle ruin that sits behind the green, this is a classic finisher. The bay runs down the entire left side of the hole and may cause a flinched drive out to the right where it will either meaningfully extend the hole or put you in a fairway bunker, from which the green is probably not reachable. The green sits in a remarkably beautiful position with the bay, mountains, castle and clubhouse all around. It is a difficult green, somewhat elevated, but I have seen many putts holed here. 3, 4, 5, 6…all possible scores.
Hole # 19 – The Spike Bar
Did I tell you about the 3 iron I hit to 10 feet on number 10…?