gleneagles-pga-centenaryOn the 23rd August the golfing world will eagerly tune in to watch the last event in the race for European Ryder Cup qualification, the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.  For many this will be the most important tournament of the year with the Ryder Cup European Team scheduled to be announced following the conclusion of this tournament on the 27th August.

Players such Martin Kaymer, who currently holds the 10th place in the Ryder Cup points list, will be looking to put in solid performances to cement their place in Jose Maria Olazabal’s team, while the likes of Nicolas Colsaerts and Rafael Carbrara-Bello are hot on his heels and anxious to make it onto the plane to Medinah in September. Even for those out of reach of qualification, a win at the Johnnie Walker could be enough to be awarded the wild card pick by Jose Maria as Edoardo Molinari knows all too well. In 2010 Molinari found himself in a position where he was unable to make the points, however winning at the Johnnie Walker was enough to persuade Monty to award Edoardo a wild card place on the European Team. Another man who knows what it takes to win at Gleneagles is the defending champion Thomas Björn who will also be looking to be on top form in the hope to make Jose’s team. While Ian Poulter is favourite to receive one of the wild card picks after just missing qualification after Garcia’s win at Wyndham, this is nowhere near certain and both wild card picks are up for grabs coming into this month’s Johnnie Walker.

The PGA Centenary

Having been presented with the “finest parcel of land in the world” to work with, one of golf’s greatest legends Jack Nicklaus proceeded to create a modern classic. While both James Braid’s Kings and Queens are golf courses to write home about, the American-style layout is a welcome variation to these courses and establishes Gleneagles as a contender for the best UK golf resort. All the obvious Nicklaus traits are in place at the Centenary, the giant undulating greens, the harsh bunkering and a number of risk and reward holes.

In the build up to the 2014 Ryder Cup concerns arose that the PGA Centenary, which opened in 1993, would not be enough of a test for the world’s best and their new modern equipment. Therefore, the course’s original designer the Golden Bear proposed the course undergo a number of changes ahead of the Ryder Cup. Having now been completed, these changes will obviously have a major impact on this month’s Johnnie Walker Championship. To get an idea of how extensive the changes have been: between the period of October 2011 and April 2012, 50,000 tonnes of earth have been moved, 30,000 square metres of turf laid and 1,000 tonnes of new sand used in bunkers. The primary goal behind the refurbishment was to develop the existing layout to create a number of really memorable holes for the Ryder Cup. Most of the changes have been made to the 9th, 10th, 12th and 18th. The 18th now presents a more risk and reward layout for those who feel brave enough to attack the hole in two. Furthermore a new amphitheatre has been built for fans to better enjoy the closing hole and create more of an atmosphere for tournaments finishes. After completing its refurbishment in April, visitors are now able to go and enjoy testing out the final layout of the course that will be hosting the Ryder Cup in 2014.


The 9th hole at PGA Centenary.

Other facilities at the Resort

As well as the PGA Centenary, Gleneagles is home to another two championship golf courses, The King’s Course and The Queen’s Course. The King’s course is often said to be one of the best moorland golf courses in the world. The landscape that the course is set on is magnificent and James Braid made full use of this in his design. As players make their way across the springy moorland turf of the fairway, they can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding mature pines, birches and the mountains and green hills. For some, this wonderful experience of the natural environment may not be fully appreciated as they play their way through the severe rough, heather, gorse and trees. Still the beauty and brilliance of this golf course is undeniable and even with the PGA Centenary out of action for 6 months during 2011 and 2012, many flocked to Gleneagles to enjoy James Braid’s impressive design.


The 5th green at The King’s Course, a great example of the kind of challenges players will face when approaching the greens.

The Queen’s Course is renowned for being the members’ favourite, presenting less of a challenge than the other two championship courses. However the Queen’s is far from boring, greens are set in glades, fairways roll through the natural landscape of the woodland and moorland. Furthermore if you are a fan of par 3s you will be able to enjoy some of the best in the UK. The 14th ‘Witches’ Bowster’, is perhaps the most exciting of the par 3s with the loch’s intimidating presence lurking all the way up the right hand side and the two tier green placing an importance on club selection. Kept in immaculate condition all year round, this course is a true joy to play.


The 17th at The Queen’s Course.

As if the three championship courses weren’t enough, Gleneagles was also chosen as the venue for the PGA National Golf Academy of Scotland in 2010 after their golf academy was set up in 1994. The academy provides the ideal place for players to learn and develop all the elements of the game. The academy features extensive practice facilities including a nine-hole par 3 golf course.

Nicknamed ‘the palace in the glens’, the Gleneagles Hotel provides five red star luxury accommodation of a standard truly worthy of the magnificent golfing facilities. Guests can enjoy one of the 232 lavish bedrooms or 26 suites with a choice of traditional or modern interiors and open views of the hotel grounds. With dining claiming to be an essential part of the Gleneagles experience, guests are presented with a huge variety of dining options at the resort. You would be crazy to miss out on Scotland’s only two Michelin stars in Andrew Fairlie @ Gleneagles. After training in France, Andrew’s menu is a fusion of the best of Scottish and French cuisine including such dishes as his ‘Home Smoked Lobster’ that provides an intense flavour as a result of a twelve hour infusion over whisky barrels. The Strathearn grand dining room, with two rosettes to its name, has been serving fine food at Gleneagles since 1924 and is the home of the famous Gleneagles breakfast.


One of the lavish guestrooms at the Gleneagles Hotel.

With the beautiful unspoiled natural countryside surrounding it, Gleneagles is a great setting for a world class ESPA Spa. Perfectly accommodating for both male and females the Spa at Gleneagles is the perfect place to relax, rejuvenate and revive in between rounds of golf. Gleneagles also recently developed the ESPA Life section at the Spa which boasts a new approach to health and fitness offering lifestyle and fitness programmes, alternative therapies and treatments. With facilities as good as this, Gleneagles really is the ultimate resort to take a luxury Scottish golf and spa break.

Looking ahead to Ryder Cup 2014

Talk has already begun amongst members and staff at Gleneagles that the Ryder Cup is ‘coming home’. While Walter Hagen’s USA triumph over Great Britain in 1927 at the Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts was officially the first Ryder Cup, a number of Britons (and particularly Scots) count the match between USA and GB at Gleneagles in 1921 as the first. It marked the first time an American golf team had been put together and the first time the two nations came head to head in what was called the International Challenge. A British team that included James Braid claimed victory over the Americans and it was then decided that this match should be repeated sometime and effectively, some would argue, the Ryder Cup was born.