Today we embark on a different kind of travel; time travel, back in time more than 400 years. For that is how old Royal Montrose is, with records showing people played golf on the site as far back as 1562. Back then, there was little design going on, but in 1901 Old Tom Morris made the first recorded changes, quickly followed by Willie Park Junior in 1903. During these re-layouts, the course was also reduced from a full 25 (twenty-five!) holes down to the now-standard 18. I wish I could have been there before Old Tom changed the course, I have never played a 25 hole course and probably never will. Today’s trend is more towards 12 than 25.
Royal Montrose is currently the fifth oldest golf course still in use in the world, some even say the second oldest. The course is maintained by a trust, and three separate golf clubs use it, something that may be a bit confusing to a visitor. Which club should you go to? The answer is that you should just find your way to the pro shop. There you pay your green fee, and they assign you to one of the clubs, where you can then use the locker rooms and also have your lunch or dinner.
The first hole starts right across the road from the pro shop and quickly takes you down to the coastal dunes. The remaining holes on the front nine then run along the coast; the back nine turn inland. For pure looks, the front nine surely win, but as a golfing challenge, I think the back nine are a bit more demanding.
The most scenic is the 2nd through the 7th, running along the coastal dunes. A good mix of par three’s, ranging from 140 to 240 yards will test your skills. The course has stood the test of time remarkably well, with several holes requiring both length and accuracy. Maybe Old Tom had a dream (nightmare?) featuring metal woods and Titleist Pro V1s?
On the longer holes, you need to stay on the fairways, otherwise, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in the plentiful gorse. Pretty when it blooms, but deadly for your game. The rough on the other hand looks deep but is actually quite forgiving. You’ll find your ball more often than not.
The pro shop is small, but with a good selection of equipment and clothing, but there’s no driving range. At the clubs, the members are friendly and welcoming and full of advice on how you should play the course. “Stay on the fairways”, “don’t go long on the 3rd”, and so on.
Come here to feel the winds of time, and to play some wonderful links golf. If you have a set of hickories and a pair of plus fours, you can easily imagine yourself playing with Old Tom.
All the posts in this series:
The first couple of holes run along the train tracks and are straight and relatively wide, providing for a nice warm-up stretch. Then the fun