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Latest Golf News
ASK a golfer the courses he would most like to play in the Home of Golf and you might not get the answer you would expect.
Obviously, the Old Course at St Andrews is still top of everyone's wish list especially for its place in the history of the game. But second might be a surprise. A growing number of golfers are setting their sights on an altogether different venue.
Scotland's Golf Courses (www.scotlands-golf-courses.com) reports that the target for those golfers is Loch Lomond.
Many – and Americans in particular – want to play the Loch Lomond course they have seen on television in glorious technicolour hosting the Barclays Scottish Open in the week preceding the Open Championship.
Until now they have been disappointed. The Loch Lomond Golf Club is an exclusive establishment and its beautiful course is for members and their guests only. Drive up to the gates and you will be politely turned away.
Now that has been sorted. You can play on the bonnie, bonnie banks and sleep there as well if you wish. Last year the five-star Cameron House Hotel opened The Carrick course a couple of miles from their five-star resort and the course can be played not just by guests but anyone who turns up.
The De Vere Deluxe Resort group have spent in the region of £25 million renovating the hotel to bring it right up to date. Once it had a reputation for shabby chic and its splendid Wee Demon nine-hole lay-out was more of an aperitif than a main course. Now The Carrick course, laid down over 300 acres on the banks of the loch for around £7million, is the main attraction and has already hosted professional events.
Its designer Doug Carrick is an affable Canadian gentleman who has the knack of producing stunning and testing golf courses with an abundance of bunkers, and The Carrick is no exception with 118 of these revetted sand play-pits.
As you would expect, there's water on 10 of the holes with a handful running along the banks and everywhere the view of the loch and the mountains is stunning in what is one of the most spectacular places in Scotland if not the world. On a winter's day it is a delight, on a summer's day it is simply glorious with the scented air crisp and invigorating. While nine of the holes stick to classic Scottish lowland along the banks of the loch, the other nine is a climb to tackle Highland heathand sloping fairways.
Up there, Carrick's signature hole is the 199-yard par-3 14th which takes you all the way down to a well-bunkered green on the loch side.
The Carrick offers a wide variation of good golfing holes and the eighth for example is a massive 611 yards but the opening holes set you up for an enjoyable and traditional experience. The 429 yards first demands a carry over shrubland while the second is a short hole over water, the third 428 yards doglegs right around the same lake while the fourth also hugs water and demands accuracy with trees on the right awaiting anyone who seeks safety. The green is a tight target over water.
The 172-yard sixth is the farthest point on the course and from the green take the opportunity to look back at the magnificent views of the loch. You start back on the seventh towards the towering Ben Lomond that for most of the year has snow on its shoulders.
Be sure to visit the clubhouse and its Claret Jug restaurant before heading back to the hotel by either the complimentary shuttle or by motor launch.
If the course is Doug Carrick's domain, the hotel perched so close to the edge of the loch that in bad weather the waters lap at its front door, is another designer's – Gavin Liddle – unusual canvas. The 600-year-old baronial house, which housed 80 bears inits grounds when the previous owners ran a wildlife park here, has had some unfortunate extensions bolted on over the years but it is the old house through which you enter and it is exactly what the tourist might expect.
The entrance hall has a flag-stoned floor and a welcoming wood fire to warm you as you relax in high-backed chairs.Liddle, who describes his work as 'contemporary classic', obviously has an outrageous and idiosyncratic sense of humour.
As you enter, the animal lover almost recoils from 12 animal heads lining the walls of the foyer. There's a 12-point red deer stag, grouse, golden eagles, a hare, badger, fox, bear, and boars. But then you see the joke – the badger is smoking
a pipe and the fox a cigarette. These were not real animals but instead handmade in papier mache by the Yorkshire artist David Farrer. Some of the paintings are also worth inspecting for equally wacky creativity. And you're never quite sure what's around the next corner.
Take the Cameron Grill restaurant with its walk-in wine cellar. The food is first-rate but the huge mural of a last supper running the length of a wall is alone worth the visit even if some of the diners are likely to turn their backs on the open feature kitchen with carcasses of what they are about to eat hanging from hooks. Tartans in abundance, on the floor and on the walls, solid Scottish burr walnut furniture, large staghorn chandeliers, original fireplaces, oak-panelled doors all help to add to a distinctive Scottish flavour.
And no Scottish hotel worth its stars would be without its whisky bar and Cameron's houses more than 270 with the staff only too helpful to set up a tasting. Well, it would be a shame not to.
Those who know Loch Lomond might point to the local midge as being a dampener on your enjoyment of the golf course. Taken care of! Working quietly in the trees and out of sight, blower machines efficiently eradicate the problem of the tiny biting insects.
In fact, they are the only guests not to be made completely welcome at Cameron House.
Summer at £125pp, winter £70 (Nov – March 31, 09).
Caddies £40 plus tip per caddie
Golf Packages with accommodation High Season (May 08 – Oct 08) rate are mid-week – dinner, B&B and 18 holes of golf on the Carrick from £199 sharing a double/twin room and for a weekend date – dinner, B&B and 18 holes of golf on the Carrick from £219 sharing a double/twin room.