Taymouth Castle Golf Club in the heart of Old Scotland a majestical round of golf
Taymouth Castle Golf Club in Perthshire is one of the most distinct parkland layouts in all of Scotland.
KENMORE, Perthshire, Scotland - For most visitors to Scotland, the places that spring immediately to mind are Edinburgh, Loch Ness, Glasgow and, if they are golfers, St. Andrews.
But it is the district of Perthshire where the heart of Scotland beats most vigorously. Little known to the outside world, Perthshire is arguably the most historic—and even most pristine—region of Scotland. Here you find Scone Palace, where the kings of Scotland were crowned for centuries, the Kenmore Hotel, the oldest inn in Scotland, and the Fortingall Yew, the oldest tree in Europe.
In Perthshire, visitors will also find Taymouth Castle, which dates only from the mid 1800s, but which is built upon the site of a 16th century stronghold of the Campbell clan. What Taymouth lacks in years, however, it makes up for in honors. In 1842, it hosted the young Queen Victoria when she passed through Perthshire surveying her new domain. Although it is closed today to the public, locals claim the interior of Taymouth is the closest thing in Britain to Balmoral Castle.
For golfers, Taymouth Castle also boasts one of the most distinct parkland courses in the highlands, Taymouth Castle Golf Club, which rolls and tumbles through the bucolic valley commanded by the stately manor.
Playing Taymouth Castle Golf Club
The original 12 holes of Taymouth Castle Golf Club comprise a 1923 James Braid design, to which six more holes were added in the 1940s. The 6,066-yard, par-69 layout plays uphill, away from the castle on the front nine, and then careens back down toward the castle on the back nine. On the tee box of the dramatic downhill 383-yard eighth hole, players are even treated to a view of nearby Loch Tay. And practically the entire back nine offers up progressively more majestic views of the castle itself, where Her Majesty the Queen once slept.
In fact, beginning at the drive onto the grounds through the stone gate, and continuing throughout your stroll over the links, you half expect to see a foxhunt cut in front of you, or perhaps a princess dancing through the trees, serenading a collection of frolicking birds, rabbits and deer.
Don't let the fairytale ambience lull you into a false sense of security. Despite wide fairways and accessible, receptive but tricky greens, there is danger afoot all though the course.
"We have an abundance of grass," deadpanned Estate and Golf Course Manager Donny Meldrum. "We get some complaints that the rough is too deep, but if you keep it in play, you're fine."
Truism though that may be, it is also the case that the track is a favorite with lady golfers, who "cruise around the course," according to Meldrum, because they hit it straight and not far enough to get into trouble. In actuality, if you are going to hit it crooked here, hit it WAY off-line, as a push or fade will usually dump you into shin-high hay, whereas a wicked slice or hook will often leave you a shot from another fairway.
Despite the penal rough, Taymouth Castle, it seems, has a loyal following, with 70 percent of business coming from outside the immediate area, and many returning year after year to play.
When you reach the peak of the ascent around the course - on the tee box of the eighth hole - you really begin to see why the course is so popular. The 444-yard 12th is another extremely memorable hole. Named "Beardie's Well," it presents players with the most panoramic view of the castle. Besides that, though, observant golfers will spot the hole's namesake well at the bottom of the hill that bisects the fairway.
Ranger and resident "crabby old guy" (in his own words) Dave Curley clued me into the bountiful spring at the bottom of that hill, assuring me that it was "the best water in all of Britain." Several greedy handfuls later, I had to agree.
Similar in design and beauty to the 12th is the haggis-busting 443-yard 18th, the top fairway of which is a good 30 feet above the lower fairway, and, eventually, the green. Frankly, it's hard to concentrate on your shots, though, when distracted by the beautiful wildflowers blooming along the fairway and the castle looming overhead.
The verdict on Taymouth Castle Golf Club
There are more than a dozen noteworthy holes at Taymouth Castle Golf Club. Conditions are excellent, and the scenery is some of the most unique you will find in the highlands.
Club choice is critical from the potentially drivable 296-yard, par-4 first to the split-fairway 18th. However, that very same club choice is severely tested—and even thwarted—by a few yardages that seem to be quite misleading. Take, for example, the purportedly 174-yard 16th, where I nearly killed the foursome teeing off on the 17th tees, which lie directly behind the 16th green.
After I apologized, a member of that group informed me that his laser rangefinder had measured the 16th at 154 yards, which would explain why my 7-iron landed 20 yards behind the green on the 17th tee box.
Despite the odd quirk here and there - which is part of the very charm of highland golf - Taymouth Castle is a profound joy to play.
Despite the odd quirk here and there - which is part of the very charm of highland golf - Taymouth Castle is a profound joy to play. The staff is perhaps the friendliest I have encountered on numerous trips to Scotland, and the surrounding countryside is some of the loveliest as well. Just ask the oystercatcher birds nesting in the greenside bunker of the 182-yard 10th hole, or the dozens of large (and loud) pheasants roaming the grounds.
Cue the singing princess, and have her bring my putter.
Where to stay
The Kenmore Hotel is in Kenmore, which is actually within walking distance of the course, and is Scotland's oldest inn, dating from 1572. The whitewashed façade is not much changed from the days when poet Robert Burns was so taken by the view from the stone arch bridge over the River Tay that he wandered back inside and wrote a poem in pencil over the fireplace in what today is the hotel's Poet's Bar. The poem remains in its original place today, covered by plexiglass.
American pop star Madonna, famous for her affected English accent and penchant for Scottish castles, attempted to purchase Taymouth Castle some years ago, but was turned down. Rumor now is that plans are in the works to renovate the entire castle and turn it into a five-star hotel.
July 2, 2008