There are precious few first-rate inland courses in Scotland, and even fewer that you would choose to play outside the summer months, so Lanark is a rare treat indeed. This mixture of moorland and parkland is located roughly equidistant from Glasgow and Edinburgh and slightly to the south. It’s fair to say that you are unlikely to stumble across Lanark, which occupies a high piece of land formed by a glacial deposit. That’s what gives this course a real point of difference – the kind of sandy sub-soil that is only normally found in Scotland on its link courses.
Actually, to say that Lanark only has a single point of difference is inaccurate. After all, we are talking about the 25th-oldest golf club in the world, dating back to 1851. It is also an Old Tom Morris design, and they are always to be treasured. His work, in 1897, replaced the rudimentary six-hole layout that preceded it.
James Braid, inevitably, made his customary improvements in the 1920s and now, almost a century later, Lanark is still renowned for its unusual topography, year-round playability and exceptionally good greens.
If the turf and surroundings remind you a little of Gleneagles, then it is worth bearing in mind that the famous resort was very nearly built right here in Carluke. Only the casting vote of the chairman settled a vote between Gleneagles and Lanark as the preferred location. If that was Lanark’s sliding doors moment, it does help us visiting golfers to appreciate how highly the course has always been regarded.
Yes, there are some significant climbs – Lanark could not be described as an easy walk – but this is a course of real consistency. A key feature is the shaping and contours of the greens, which is especially a factor when the turf is firm and therefore the ball is running out.
Lanark measures just shy of 6,500 yards from the back tees, with a solitary par 5 and three short holes. The maths may never have been attempted, but it is surely a fact that Scotland offers proportionally fewer par 5s than any other golfing nation.
So it is at Lanark, where dropped shots are difficult to recover. There are some short par 4s, it’s true, but none are without jeopardy. It’s helpful if you can birdie one of the 16th and 17th, both only a little over 300 yards, because not many of us would want to be reliant on finishing with a par.
The last hole at Lanark is a par 3 of over 200 yards. From the tee, the clubhouse looks as close to the flag as a greenside bunker. The temptation is to ease off your tee shot a touch and then rely on a chip and a putt – but that’s easier said than done.