A splendid holiday venue and a golf course to match, writes George Oldham
I always find it a bit odd that English tourists more often than not add between three or four hundred miles to their journey in by-passing the Borders en route to the more favoured highlands and islands or golf coasts further north.
The Borders region, while not-so well known, has lovely rolling hills and wooded valleys and arguably just as much to explore, with its romantic castles and exotic gardens and particularly its historic towns.
Admittedly, for golfers, the 21 courses in the region might not have the cachet of the Ayrshire or Fife links, but there is some fine golf here, from the two fine – and long – Dave Thomas courses at The Roxburghe and Cardrona to the stunningly located historic hill courses with breath-taking views, such as James Braid’s West Linton or Harry Colt’s Peebles.
It was the latter that I recently had the real pleasure of playing for the first time, whilst taking a short break in the historic town.
Peebles is a splendid holiday venue, attractively located. Set overlooking the river Tweed, it can boast an award-winning high street with a fantastic range of boutiques, galleries, coffee shops and antique dealers and bookshops. Ideal if you are travelling with a golf widow.
There is a wide range of hotels, from the famous Hydro with its spa and family facilities, to the boutique Park hotel, the historic Tontine, and many others offering not only accommodation but fine restaurant dining.
And then there is the golf club, with not only a fine course located high above the town, but also a welcoming clubhouse.
Peebles is a parkland course in that it has velvet greens, lush fairways, nicely defined by rough which is also immaculately kept at less than 40 millimetres high – so losing balls, if at all wayward, should never be a problem – and each hole further defined by stands of pine and deciduous trees.
However, the ambiance is nothing like the defined confines of a park, from its elevated situation with breathtaking views of the hills surrounding the Tweed valley, the feeling is of openness. From the 6th and 15th tees on the highest points of the course, you feel on top of, and at peace with, the world.
An upland course, there is, necessarily, some stiff walking, with tough uphill holes to the aforementioned 6th and 15th holes, but with corresponding relief on return to the clubhouse on both the long but lovely 517-yard 9th and 584-yard 18th downhill holes.
Jack Nicklaus believes that a drive from an elevated tee provides the most enjoyable shot in golf, and these two are certainly memorable. Not that there is a weak hole on this course, and there are some crackers, my particular favourites, the 401-yard 6th and the 193-yard 16th both have greens protected by burns immediately in front of the putting surface as well as greenside bunkers and require both brave and accurate approach shots to gain the green.
In addition, the 6th is a challenging and beautiful downhill dogleg with stunning views of the surrounding hills, enough in itself to justify a visit.
For the past decade or so, located on the Ayrshire coast, I have become somewhat biased towards links courses and the traditional view that “proper golf” is played on relatively flat courses, sand-based and with views of the sea.
However, as the Scandinavians say, “Why have only steak, when you can have smorgasbord?”
I have to acknowledge that I found Peebles, high in the hills, not only a pleasant and refreshing change, but with Colt’s genius providing excellent and challenging golf.
- Visit the Peebles Golf Club website for more information