There are a few certain courses, but only a few, where you know from the moment you pull into the car park you are in for a treat. Blairgowrie, in Perthshire, is most certainly one of them. Famously described by Old Tom Morris as the “most beautiful inland green I have ever seen”, this is a course that wends its way through a mature forest of pine, occasionally breaking into more open land but then always quickly returning to fairways of glorious seclusion and separation.
The turf retains that springy yet firm feel that characterises all the very best inland courses. Anyone who can successfully thread their tee shots down fairways that are not unduly tight but made to appear so by the trees that line them will delight in hitting irons from them.
Testingly long in places – not least at the 1st – but also offering several birdie chances to the better player, good scoring is by no means impossible. But should you be struggling from the tee, all too many of your second shots will take the form of chip-outs. That the Rosemount is both intelligently and subtly designed should come as no surprise. After all, it has been shaped by two of the greatest architects in the history of the game.
The original layout was established in 1889 while Dr Alister MacKenzie, creator of Augusta National, added his stamp shortly after the Great War. His work was augmented by the efforts of James Braid, the five-times Open champion, in the 1930s.
The latter blended several holes from MacKenzie’s design into his own and the result is what stands today. What is more, the ‘spare’ holes were included in what is now the Lansdowne course, a second 18-holer of great quality at Blairgowrie.
Famously described by Old Tom Morris as the “most beautiful inland green I have ever seen”, the Rosemount wends its way through a mature forest of pine.
Since then, the only significant change came at the 1st, where a green that was a continual cause of concern was redesigned by Donald Steel in 2000. It provides an end to a quite exceptional opening hole, sweeping downhill and to the left from the charming and imposing white clubhouse.
Even from a good drive, at 440 yards the second shot is almost invariably played with a longer club than you would necessarily prefer. It is not, though, necessarily typical of the Rosemount, as the second, which is over 100 yards shorter, indicates.
What is typical is the type of clean, precise striking called for at both, and also at the 3rd, where a fairway wood may well be required to set up an outside chance of a two. Always angles play a part, and it is easy to find yourself on the wrong side of a fairway and unable to access a certain pin.
Often the best policy is to leave the driver in the bag, instead sacrificing a few yards for the benefit of a clear approach. That is even true on the par fives. The three on the back nine measure 507, 500 and 512 yards respectively but none yield easily to raw power – it must be allied to accuracy.
Those feeling a touch claustrophobic by all the trees will be surprised and delighted upon reaching the short 15th. To the right is a lake and at last a feeling of space. Yet any relief will be short-lived because the 17th, at 475 yards from the back tees, is both outstanding and extremely testing. Shaped from right to left, and then almost back to the right again at the end, most will treat this as another three-shotter.
Similarly outstanding is the 17th, the last of the short holes, which is played to a Mackenzie double green. Treacherous indeed are the putts from one level to the other so choose your club carefully.
The last hole climbs back towards the clubhouse and tends to play much longer than its 390 yards would indicate. On this green some 30 years ago, a young Greg Norman celebrated his first professional victory in the 1977 Martini Tournament. The Australian always did have impeccable taste.