A HIDDEN GEM IN SCOTLAND'S
COURSE CLOSED FOR REDEVELOPMENT
RE-OPENING — UNKNOWN.
READ ON TO LEARN ABOUT THIS HISTORIC COURSE HELD IN LIMBO BY CONCEALED
golfers may have found the original Taymouth Castle Golf Course too short or
High handicappers may have found its rough cost them a bucket of
balls to get through eighteen.
But no one complained about the experience of playing golf on
a classic Braid course in
prototypical Highlands scenery on the former estate of the
Earls of Breadalbane.
Has all this been lost in a frenzy of shortsighted developmental
© HOME AT
Perthshire, Central Scotland
PH15 2NT UK
Tel: +44 (0)1887
(APR-SEP) Tel:+44 (0)1887 830205 (OCT-MAR)
monument to a simpler time that still exists
here in the Highlands, a time when Nature and
Golf co-existed rather than competed, before
Bertha was Big, before woods were metal, and
before James Braid and his seminal philosophy
of golf course design was largely bulldozed.”
confess. I prefer golf courses with eclectic layouts to those with
predictable, mainstream designs. I prefer predominantly natural courses
with minimal alteration of their setting to those that have been highly
re-engineered. I prefer discovering relatively unknown,
underappreciated, and underpriced tracks to playing extremely popular,
fashionable, and usually overpriced golf courses. I prefer golf courses
that welcome me like a prodigal member returning to the fold to those
that sniff at me like they’re doing me a favor to take too much of my
money to play 18 holes of this simple, maddening game. I prefer golf
courses with historic pedigrees far more than spanking new resort theme
park golf courses. And, I prefer simple courses in extraordinary
settings to extraordinary courses in simple settings. My biases. You
don’t have to agree. Golf has room for all kinds.
Scotland, I needn’t write, ranks at the top of anyone’s list of
the world’s premier golf destinations. But not every region of Scotland
has the cachet to golfers that
have. Some regions of
SCOTLAND — especially
inland where the challenges of links golf are necessarily supplanted by
the challenges of rolling parkland — rarely show up on any golf
vacationer’s Scottish itinerary.
GOLF COMES TO THE SCOTTISH HEARTLAND
One of these regions is
heartland county — is highly regarded for its romantic
beauty: dark lochs, endless mountains, remote glens, and stone villages
of hardy residents fortified with a mixture of resolve, shyness,
suspicion, welcoming, and humor. Flat land in Perthshire is mostly rich
bottom land along its major rivers: Earn, Tay, and Tummel and their
tributaries that harvest the waters of myriad bens and glens. Practical
Scots normally reserve golf and other leisure pursuits to land otherwise
useless for commerce or agriculture. The bottom land along the rivers of
Perthshire is much desired for farming. Golf on bottom land would be a
misuse of prime resources. So, most
golf in Perthshire
is found in locations too hilly, too rocky, or too prone to flooding to
be of much use for agriculture, or, if only a small piece of bottom land
be available, communities might devote such limited prime land to a
9-hole golf course.
Perthshire is blessed with fabulous scenery, but with precious
little bottom land.
Hence it has few 18-hole golf courses. This view, from the
summit of Ben Lawers, looks east
along Loch Tay toward Kenmore and Taymouth Castle Golf Course,
in the right center background.
© HOME AT
wonder that golf courses in Perthshire are few and far between, and that
fewer still are of the 18-hole championship length variety. Of these
latter most exist as an expression of the extraordinary wealth of the
community, as a show of ostentation rarely possible among normally
severe and austere Highlands Scots. The good burghers of
in south central Perthshire — the rich market town on the edge of Lowlands
where Highlanders like
Rob Roy MacGregor
drove their cattle (and maybe cattle that belonged to others, too) to be
sold — built their fine
golf course on a hillside just northeast of town. Likewise, the town
fathers of Blairgowrie in eastern Perthshire displayed their wealth
gleaned from the surrounding flax fields with grand ostentation by
building and expanding an original 9-hole course on hilly land south of
into two excellent championship courses.
The coming of the railway also resulted in the construction of
quality golf courses in Perthshire. In 1908 as the word spread that the
little town of
on the northeastern corner of the Highlands of Perthshire was a very
accessible resort destination along Scotland’s main north-south rail
line, the town closed its 9-hole bottom land course in town along the
and imported the famous golf architect
to build a new 18-hole course on hilly farmland northwest of town. The
wealthy landowner who provided the land saw the course as another
attraction to draw vacationers to one of the few Highlands towns
reachable by mainline train.
southern Perthshire, another railway saw building a golf resort as a way
to attract passengers to its trains. In the 1920s it constructed a huge
hotel and two championship golf courses in the hills just north of its
(with through trains from
and built a station stop exclusively for the new golf resort complex,
Gleneagles is Perthshire’s famous contribution to high-rolling
international golf. Its original two courses, King’s and Queen’s, were
designed by five-time British Open champion
of Earlsferry on the Fife Coast, the Pete Dye of his day, whose designs
of 150+ courses in the British Isles helped define course architecture
in the first third of the 20th century, a time of great
expansion of the game. Braid’s courses are rarely long by today’s
standards, but they are always challenging, interesting, and rarely
gimmicky. Braid was a master at exploiting the natural features of a
site to get the greatest challenge and variety with the minimum of
alteration to the landscape. It’s no surprise that many of the finest
James Braid, 5-time
The Open Championship and
ubiquitous designer of golf
courses during the golf rush
of the early 20th century
throughout the British Isles.
courtesy the James Braid Society
courses (seaside linkses as well as interior parkland
tracks) in Scotland were designed or improved by
Scotland’s most prolific master, James Braid. Include most of
Perthshire’s best courses:
Crieff Ferntower and Dornock.
THE HISTORY OF TAYMOUTH CASTLE & GOLF
An exception exists, as if to prove the rule. In the heart of
Perthshire an elegant 18-hole course lines the mildly undulating, rich
bottom land of the
about one mile east of its emergence from 20-mile-long
No railway is near. The course lies on a private estate just east of
a pretty, sleepy, Highlands village best known for its graceful stone
arch bridge across the River Tay at its exit from the loch, and for the
a sprawling, whitewashed country hostelry claiming the status as
Scotland’s oldest existing inn, tracing its establishment to the
medieval year of 1542.
Kenmore's graceful stone arch bridge spans the River Tay near
its exit from Loch Tay.
Taymouth Castle Golf Course lies one mile down river.
© HOME AT
When the Kenmore Hotel first opened its doors it was a
hostelry on the new estate of
Earls of Breadalbane,
who had just decided to relocate from
in the western part of their extensive territory to a new seat of power,
they were having built along the River Tay just east of Loch Tay.
Sixteenth century Balloch Castle served the Breadalbane branch of the
well and long. From Balloch — located in the approximate middle of their
territory — the Breadalbanes controlled a belt of Scotland extending
almost from the North Sea to the Atlantic.
The Breadalbane family prospered as wealthy nobles well into
the 19th century. When they decided that medieval Balloch
Castle had outlived its usefulness, they had it largely torn down and
rebuilt in the form of a huge, modern manor house in the romantic form
of a crenellated, fortified castle. After decades of construction in the
first half of the 19th century the new castle incorporated so
little of old Balloch Castle that it was renamed
The castle was largely complete in 1842 when, in September, it received
its most famous guest. As new monarch touring her kingdom, young
and her husband
stayed at Taymouth Castle. The royal couple was so impressed they soon
purchased a rural Scottish castle estate of her own upon which they
which would become site of the royal family’s annual summer retreat in
75 miles northeast of Taymouth Castle.
In the 16th century the Earls of Breadalbane abandoned their
fortress, Kilchurn Castle on
Loch Awe, and moved
east to their new home, Balloch Castle, just east of Loch Tay.
the early 19th century the Breadalbanes tore
down most of Balloch Castle and built a
grander, palatial home they named Taymouth Castle. The romantic
ruins of medieval
Kilchurn Castle still stand on an island in
Loch Awe 40 miles west of Taymouth Castle.
© HOME AT
The long noble line of the Lords of Breadalbane ran out around
the time of World War I. The remnants of the family sold off the great
estate to farmers and householders. Fishermen were eager to have access
to the trout and salmon of the River Tay that had so long be the private
fishing stream of the Earls of Breadalbane. The castle itself was
converted into a Highlands hotel that offered walking, fishing, and
hunting to its guests. This was the time of great growth in golf in
Scotland and beyond. The hoteliers decided to have a large portion of
the deer park private hunting grounds by the castle made into a golf
course. They imported — who better? — James Braid from Earlsferry, Fife. The
prolific designer created a 12-hole private parkland course for the
Taymouth Castle Hotel. Six new holes were added in the 1940s to complete
the layout as it has existed — until the 2011 redevelopment project
The grand sporting hotel proved less a draw than the dream had
anticipated. The Thirties saw hard times in Scotland, and the Forties
brought war to Britain. During World War II the hotel was commandeered
by the government. It served as a hospital for wounded soldiers, then as
a refugee center for displaced Poles, as a private school for children
of American oilmen, and then, in the Sixties, fell into disuse and
despair. There were always rumors. Pop diva Madonna was interested in
the castle, but decided not to buy when she learned she could not close
down the golf course, which by now had become a separate entity: a
thriving private club that attracted a sizeable number of visitors to
its pristine James Braid parkland course amid lush Highlands scenery.
Then in 2005 an investment group announced that it had
purchased the castle and its 450-acre estate and would immediately begin
its ambitious development plan to convert Taymouth Castle into a 6-star
(some reports said “7-star”) luxury resort hotel with 72 suites,
at least 60 separate lodges and 26 timeshare homes scattered on the
estate, along with an upgraded golf course and new equestrian center.
The eastern Loch Tay region was abuzz with images of sudden prosperity.
The £74 million project promised to create as many as 300 new jobs in
the Kenmore-Aberfeldy area. The consortium bragged openly that the new
Taymouth Castle resort hotel would, in the words of the project manager,
“make Gleneagles (Resort Hotel 37½ miles south of Taymouth Castle,
itself with two James Braid golf courses plus a
course) look like a Salvation Army hostel.”
Compared to its regal castle
neighbor, Taymouth Castle Golf Course's most recent clubhouse,
pro-shop, café, and practice
facilities were simple, practical, and unassuming. However, it appears
the golf course may not have a
brighter future than the now boarded-up, once-grand castle.
© HOME AT
Taymouth Castle Golf Club
members rankled at the grandiose proposal, upset that their relatively
unknown James Braid course might not be available to them for some time,
or might not be maintained properly during construction, or that it
would soon be attracting international high-rollers and charging
three-figure greens fees.
Project completion was set for 2008. Construction began on
shoring up the castle in 2005 and continued into 2006. Then,
mysteriously, work suddenly stopped. Scaffolding leaned against portions
of the castle, collecting spider webs and dust. Yellow construction site
tape encircled Taymouth Castle, warning people away. In April, 2009, the
investment group declared bankruptcy. One month later Taymouth Castle
and its 450-acre estate was put up for sale.
Late in 2010 it was
announced that an investment group, Meteor Asset Management, had
purchased Taymouth Castle and its estate, with an aim to create what had
twice before had been attempted, and had twice before failed. The new
vision, called Taymouth Castle Estate, promised a grand hotel and
restaurant (and a new golf clubhouse) inside the richly refurbished
castle, dozens of independent resort homes, and activities, including
fishing, walking, shooting, and, especially, golf on the redeveloped
7,000+ yard Taymouth Castle Course. Although it was hoped the course
would be ready for play by summer, 2012, as of this writing (February,
2015) the course continues to be closed with little more than rumors of
cost-overruns, insufficient capitalization, investor pull-out, and
insolvency to explain the cessation of the development on the
project. Meanwhile, the virtually pristine 1925 James Braid course lies
fallow and partially destroyed by the earth-movers of the mostly
anonymous and overly-ambitious developers.
THE COURSE AND SOME NOTABLE HOLES
For most of its
existence Taymouth Castle Golf Club has operated under-the-radar
using one of James Braid’s least-known courses. The estate had
arranged with the neighboring Kenmore Hotel to oversee the management of
the golf course. The nearly 500-year-old hotel, in turn, offered golf on
the Taymouth Castle course as an attraction to lure new guests. The
course has always been beautifully maintained: lush and green with soft,
forgiving greens, and wild, thick, tall, rough right to the edge of the
fairways. Oddly for a Braid course, 17 of the holes at Taymouth Castle
played straight. Braid is usually credited as inventing the dogleg as a
way to add challenge to parkland courses. At Taymouth, only the 17th
hole doglegs: a left turn at the half-way mark of its 330 yards. The
newly redeveloped course promises not only 1,000 more yards of distance
but 18 holes designed in keeping with James Braid's vision of the proper
features for challenging, interesting golf.
Looking across the
rough that separates the original 2nd fairway
from the 12th fairway
Castle Golf Course.
© HOME AT FIRST
Playing Braid's Taymouth
Castle course was great fun, but, because of the nearly
impossible rough, more fun for straight hitters. The original course was short by
modern standards playing 6,092 yards from the whites (par 69, SSS 69),
not very hilly, and rarely tight. (The redeveloped course is projected
to total 7,039 yards and requires 72 strokes to make par.) Curiously antiquated for a 1920s
design, Braid's Taymouth Castle was an out-and-back course, with holes 6 though 9
furthest from the clubhouse. Since the course lies on bottom land
surrounded mostly by mature trees (except holes 11-15 that the cluster
in the middle of the layout), wind rarely has been a major factor at Taymouth
Castle. Nor has water affected any holes after the first five. A burn
has crossed the fairways of
(“Inchadney”, at a strategic point) and
(“Lawers”, at a less strategic point).
(“Rhevardh”) has reached the burn where it swells into a pond near the
(“Surprise”, par-3, 170 yards) has required a delicate tee shot around a
tree and diagonally over the pond to reach the green, itself protected
by trees in the back and bunkers right and left.
The 5th (ladies')
tee at Braid's original Taymouth Castle Golf Course. The Par-5, 543-yard (467
yards from the red tees)
5th has been the #1 handicap hole, featuring a burn (creek)
a blind second shot,
and an impressive view of Ben Lawers, Scotland's 12th highest
courtesy Taymouth Castle Golf Course
The original Taymouth Castle course provided some lovely, local
Scottish golf idiosyncrasies. Despite being essentially straight and
short, the course featured several blind shots, but no caddies to help.
An especially noteworthy example occurred on the long (543 yards),
humpbacked, #1 handicap, par-5
(“Lawers”), a hole transformed from conventional to memorable by the
challenge of shooting blind over the crest of the fairway that hid any
sight of the green with but 120 yards to go. Fairways and greens were
separated by deep rough, trees, and occasional oddities. The deep
depression of a well trapped wayward shots on
(“Beardy’s Well”) and parallel
(“Baillie’s”). A low, rude, wooden fence separated the second green from
the second fairway: local rules permitted a free drop away from the “log
pole fencing” here.
More distracting to first-time players at
the original Taymouth
Castle course was the outstanding scenery, especially the views of hulking
Ben Lawers — Scotland’s
12th highest mountain — visible from the high holes of the turn, the hump
of the 5th, the length of the 7th, and the elevated tee of the 8th. But
while the natural setting of the course convinced golfers they are deep
in the Highlands of Scotland, the most memorable images from any round
here were of lordly Taymouth Castle itself, seen from different vantages
along almost half the track at Holes 2, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, and 18.
Playing the long but wide open
(“Castle”, par-4, 469 yards) home past the castle could be thrilling to
first-timers at Taymouth. At the 250-yard mark the 18th fairway dropped
off the table ten vertical yards to reach the final approach to the
final green. From just above the drop-off not only was the pretty lower
half of the 18th hole laid before you, but so was the length of the
façade of the castle, not more than 100 yards to the left of the lower
fairway. Golfers who correctly landed their drives at the top of the falls
had a majestic second shot to the green awaiting them, made all the
more impressive by the regal edifice — with or without scaffolding — lording
over the almost temporary clubhouse to the left.
par-4, 383-yard 8th hole has been the westernmost hole and furthest
on the Taymouth Castle
course. It was one of six "new" holes added in the
designed the first 12 holes. Its elevated
tee and view of Ben Lawers
reminded you the course is indeed in the
Highlands of Perthshire, Scotland.
© HOME AT FIRST
RECOMMENDATION: FOUR STARS
original and expanded Taymouth Castle course invited play, if only to experience its magnificent
setting and history. Many scratch golfers found it too short or too
straight. High handicappers found its rough cost them a bucket of
balls to get through eighteen. But no one complained about the
experience of playing golf on a classic Braid course in prototypical
Highlands scenery on the former estate of the Earls of Breadalbane. If
and when a new, longer, resort course is built to replace Braid's
venerable course, golfers are sure to enjoy the setting as much as the
golf itself. In this sense, at least, playing a round at Taymouth Castle
will be both memorable and satisfying.
As for Taymouth Castle, we wish the old gal well, but,
frankly, not too well. We feel there are plenty enough Gleneagles
resorts in this world, and, sadly, too many already encroaching on
classic courses around Scotland. We would prefer to see the castle
redone as a solid, but not too
grand country hotel of three or four stars, with a comfortable — but not
posh — restaurant and convivial pub. No helipads. No Range Rover off-road
test courses. Horses might be nice, but nothing too, too, terribly,
terribly, please. Fishing in the river — sure, but only within the limits
needed to supply the hotel’s restaurant. Shooting? No. Disturbs the
golfers, the fish, and the horses. And, as much as possible, leave
Braid's original golf course as it was.
Please keep it "exclusive" in the "not well-known" sense, rather than in
the "expensive and elitist" connotation. It has been a monument to a simpler time
— a time that still can be found here in the
Highlands, a time when Nature and Golf co-existed rather than competed,
before Bertha was Big, before woods were metal, and before James Braid
and his seminal philosophy of golf course design was largely bulldozed.
CASTLE GOLF COURSE, KENMORE, CENTRAL SCOTLAND
COURSE CLOSED FOR REDEVELOPMENT —
PAR: 18 HolesWhite Tees:
6,092* yds, Par-69, SSS 69
5,734 yds, Par-69, SSS 67
Red Ladies' Tees:
5,242 yds, Par-72, SSS 72
* Some scorecards show 6,066 yards from the white tees, with the 26 yards of difference
at Hole 18.
April through September:
• Weekdays (Mo-Fr):
(motorized cart) rental:
Trolley (pull cart rental): £4/round
Golf Club Rental: £12.50/round
with Bar &
One gothic arched
gateway to the
Taymouth Castle estate and golf
course is on the east end of Kenmore
village square. Another arched
gateway opens onto the estate
from the A827 road about two miles
east of Kenmore toward Aberfeldy.
courtesy Sean Hinnegan © HOME AT FIRST
daily year round.
reservations recommended, especially for weekend play.
Currently not possible.
The Taymouth Castle clubhouse had operated
daily from April through September. From October through March, the
clubhouse was not staffed to receive tee-time reservations, and bookings
were made through the neighboring Kenmore Hotel.
Tel: +44 (0)1887 830228 (course clubhouse) April thru Sept.
• Tel: +44 (0)1887 830205
(Kenmore Hotel) October thru March.
April thru September.
October thru March.
Or, once the course is up and running again, let
pre-reserve your golf tee-times at Taymouth Castle Golf Course as part
of your independent, fly/drive vacation to Scotland.
HOME AT FIRST
adds no booking charge for this service.
Nearest Home At First
Golf Course is within
The historic Kenmore Hotel on the
square in Kenmore was
Castle Golf Course.
© HOME AT FIRST
locations in or near Scotland's
Taymouth Castle Golf Course clubhouse is one mile east of the village of
Kenmore, at the eastern end of Loch Tay (18 miles east of the town of
Killin at the western end of Loch Tay) in Perthshire, Central Scotland.
The golf course is within reach of
lodging locations throughout
Taymouth Castle Golf Course, Kenmore, Perthshire, PH15 2N1, Scotland.
DIRECTIONS TO TAYMOUTH CASTLE GOLF COURSE:
FROM HOME AT FIRST’S CENTRAL SCOTLAND LODGINGS:
take the A827 northeast 17 miles from Killin to into the Kenmore village
square. The Kenmore Hotel is on the left (north) side of the
square. Pass through Taymouth Castle estate’s crenellated gothic arch at
the eastern end of the square. Drive 1¼ miles along the estate road to the castle.
OTHER NEARBY GOLF CLUBS:
Kenmore Golf Course (9
holes) – Kenmore, 5min W of Taymouth Castle along the north bank of the River Tay.
Aberfeldy Golf Club – Aberfeldy, 10min E of Taymouth Castle GC
Killin Golf Club (9 holes),
Pitlochry Golf Club (18
holes; Willie Fernie design), Pitlochry, 20 miles NE of Taymouth Castle GC.
Dunkeld & BIRNAM GC (18 holes), Dunkeld, 22 miles E of Taymouth Castle GC.
St. Fillans Golf Club (9 holes; Willie Auchterlonie design), St. Fillans, 34 miles SW of Taymouth Castle GC.
Sandy Lyle holds the course record here.
Crieff Golf Club (18
holes & 9 holes; James Braid design), Crieff, 27 miles S of Taymouth Castle GC.
Comrie Golf Club (9 holes), Comrie, 34 miles S of Taymouth Castle.
Callander Golf Club (18 holes; designed by Old Tom Morris and Willie Fernie), Callander, 39 miles SW of Taymouth Castle GC.
Gleneagles Golf Resort (2 Braid courses & 1 Jack Nicklaus course), Auchterarder, 38 miles S of Taymouth Castle GC.
Kenmore, home of Taymouth Castle, is on the eastern edge of Scotland's
Central Highlands. About 15 miles west of Kenmore are the beautiful mountains
and lochs of Scotland's
Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, home also to
travel program. The central region is the ideal base for touring throughout most
of Scotland. The central region features unmatched natural beauty, and an
outstanding array of outdoor activities: golf, fishing, walking, cycling,
whitewater kayaking, and much more.
Walkers will enjoy walking in great scenery along the lochs and climbing
up Munros like Ben Lawers and other high mountains in the area. The many handsome villages and towns of
Central Scotland provide visitors a genuine welcome, wonderful restaurants, and
a complete selection of services.
Theres plenty of
and lots more to do in Central Scotland. Within reach are
St. Andrews and the Fife Coast to the east, Ben Nevis, the Grampian mountains, Loch Ness,
and the Inner Hebrides isles of Mull and Iona to the west, and the
great cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow to the southeast and southwest
respectively. Scottish history interests many visitors. Several notable castles including
Blair Athol, and
castles, may be visited as day-trips from Central Scotland. Several
local Scotch Whisky distilleries are worth a visit including Aberfeldy,
Blair Athol, Edradour, Glen Turret, and others.
SCOTLAND'S CENTRAL HIGHLANDS —
LOOKING WEST ALONG LOCH TAY FROM KENMORE TOWARD BEN LAWERS
(in the clouds, right center
THE TALLEST MOUNTAIN IN THE REGION.
© Home At
TRAVELING TO SCOTLAND TO PLAY GOLF?
FIRST make your advance tee-times at
golf courses throughout Central Scotland and all regions of Scotland as part of your pre-reserved Scottish trip
itinerary. There’s no extra charge for this service.
• Home At First's
SCOTLAND travel program
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