What is it about golf and big huge buildings? There only has to be the semblance of an historical property on a site and course designers have always fallen over themselves to construct sloping greens right next door. Think Stoke Park, Moor Park, Adare Manor and you get the drift. But one course can trump them all. For it boasts not one, but two, of the blighters in the grounds.
Rowallan Castle was Ryder Cup-winning captain Colin Montgomerie’s first foray into golf course design. He teamed up with European Golf Design to produce a 7,000-yard parkland brute, known for some impenetrable bunkers and 1,000-year-old yew trees, in a £55 million project a decade ago.
Found a mere pitch away from some timeless links layouts on the Ayrshire coast – Royal Troon, Prestwick and Western Gailes to name just three – it needed something pretty special if it was going to hold its own in this landscape. So how about a 13th century castle?
The old Rowallan Castle stands on the bank of the Carmel Water and can be found if you look right when crossing the bridge over the water hazard on the attractive par 3 8th hole.
While the Renaissance castle has a long history – it’s believed King James I visited on his way from Edinburgh to England in the 1400s – much of the building you see when you place the course dates is from the 16th century onwards.
Want another fun fact? It’s believed the earliest known lute music in Scotland was composed at Rowallan Castle. Notice, earlier, I said ‘old’. That’s because the estate has a second castle that now fronts the 18th green of the course.
The newer building is Victorian and was designed by the architect Robert Lorimer. It’s a popular venue for weddings – as well as providing a fine view for anyone finishing a round. But if you find that 18 holes aren’t enough to force a result then you can capitalise on Rowallan Castle’s third oddity.
It’s a fully-fledged 19th hole. It doesn’t even appear on the course planner, but the 155 yard hole, flanked by bunkers and a sloping green, deserves the name ‘The Decider’. It was the first of its type of Europe and Monty nicknamed it the ‘money hole’ as it’s where bets would ultimately be settled.