EUROPEAN Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and other Gleneagles visitors past and present offer their expert views on its 18 holes
Paul McGinley’s view
IT’S a very interesting golf course and I think it sets up great for match play.
You’ve got two par-5s and a driveable par-4 in the last five holes, so if that doesn’t get people on the edge of their seats, nothing will. Jack Nicklaus came back two or three years ago to make some adjustments and, in terms of the course set-up, I’ve not tried to outsmart or outdo those changes. Particularly with its finish, I think it is going to be a very exciting course for the Ryder Cup.
1st, Bracken Brae, 442 yards, Par 4
Thomas Bjorn (2011 Johnnie Walker Championship winner)
This is not the toughest hole on the course but, with all the pressure that comes with hitting your first shot at the Ryder Cup, it will be a nerve-wracking moment standing on the tee! It is a par-4 with only one fairway bunker and a decent shot up the left-hand side should leave you well placed to approach the slightly raised green guarded by a bunker on the right. The first hole of any Ryder Cup match is very tough. You’re trying to manage your nerves, set the tone for the match and, if at all possible, grab an early lead.
2nd, Wester Greenwells, 516 yards, Par 5
Tommy Fleetwood (2013 Johnnie Walker Championship winner)
If you are long enough, you can take the tee shot right over the bunkers on the left. It sets up for a draw off the tee and the same shape of shot is required for the second. There’s a bail out on the right and left isn’t the place to go due to the water there and over the back is dead as well. If the pin is up on the back tier, it is really hard to get at and you either play for the front or one that pitches in the middle and hope you get a bit lucky with the bounce. I’d say it’s a hole you would be looking to play aggressively in a Ryder Cup.
3rd, Schiehallion, 431 yards, Par 4
Marc Warren (2007 Johnnie Walker Championship winner)
In a tournament like the Johnnie Walker Championship, you are always happy to get past this hole without suffering a disaster over four rounds. Normally, there’s a howling wind off the left and you don’t feel that completely on the tee due to it being slightly sheltered. For an ideal approach into the green you need to be on the left half of the fairway. It’s one of those holes that I’d stick around at in a Ryder Cup as you are going to see a lot of different shots here, including trouble on right and left, and over the course of three days you’ll see this hole won with 5s.
4th, Gowden Beastie, 239 Yards, Par 3
This hole is, as the name suggests, a beast. But the beauty of the Ryder Cup is that they will probably move the tee forward and play about with it a bit over the three days. This sits in the toughest stretch on the course - the third, fourth and fifth is probably the Amen Corner at Gleneagles. And, in the Johnnie Walker, making three pars at these holes was always good. In fourballs, you can be a little bit more aggressive. It’s normally into the wind and you could be hitting long irons, perhaps even a 5-wood or 3-wood, in here.
5th, Crookit Cratur, 461 Yards, Par 4
I played the course as part of a winning United States team in the 2010 Junior Ryder Cup and though a bit on the tight side, at 461 yards this is a hole where players will still probably want to hit driver to get a good look at the green. If the pins are on the left side, it’s even more important to get one up there as far as you can. It’s a slightly-sloped green and in the practice rounds I’d advise players to practice 15-20 footers as that is what you are most likely to be faced with on this green.
6th, Mickle Skelp, 201 Yards, Par 3
This is a much easier par-3 than the fourth, though having said that it can play at 201 yards off the back tee. The real challenge, though, is set by the pin position as there’s a step in the middle of the green and you can be left with a difficult putt if you find the wrong position on it for certain positions. I’d say a 7-iron is likely to be the club here, though it could be as much as a 5-iron. It’s a hole you’ll be looking to win with a birdie in the Ryder Cup.
7th, Larch Gait, 468 Yards, Par 4
Paul Lawrie (2012 Johnnie Walker Championship winner)
The green here was moved quite a few years ago from its original position and is now much more to the right. It has also has been altered a few times over the years and is now very good. Off the tee, there is a bunker on the right which most players can carry. There is also a bunker down the left which is in play, so I normally aim right edge of the left-hand bunker and try to hit a slight fade with a driver. Most players will be hitting a medium to short iron into the green. Before it was altered, the green sloped quite a bit from right to left but it has been flattened over the years.
8th, Sidlin Brows, 419 Yards, Par 4
This hole provides the bigger hitters an option to take the fairway bunkers out of play, although from the back tee the green is still out of reach. If you can carry the fairway bunkers and hit the fairway, it leaves a simple pitch to most pin positions. The other option is to leave it at the top of the hill short and right of the fairway bunkers. This is definitely an easier shot from the tee as it’s a wide target but leaves a full shot that plays somewhat downhill.
9th, Crook o’ Moss, 618 Yards, Par 5
This is a hole where you’ve got two options from the tee depending on the wind. You can either lay up short of the trap and play it as a three-shotter. Alternatively, you can fly it over the edge of the traps on either side of the fairway to get yourself down into a position where you can feel comfortable about taking on the water on the right and go for the green with your second shot. Coming up just short left isn’t a bad thing as it drops away on the left while there’s a bunker on the right. I think this will be a good match-play hole.
10th, Sleekit Howie, 208 Yards, Par 3
The main challenge here is provided by the elevated tee and it can be quite difficult to get the right club if its windy. It’s a much tricker hole than you think because it is quite easy to miss the green, especially when it looks so small from up on that tee. It’s probably a 5-iron and it will be interesting to see where they put the pin as it can be difficult to get close to if it’s tucked on either side. This will be a good viewing hole for spectators.
11th, Laich Burn, 350 Yards, Par 4
Stephen Gallacher (2013 Johnnie Walker Championship runner-up)
My first bit of advice for this hole would be ‘don’t hit your tee shot into a divot then put the next one in a bush’, as I did in the final round of the Johnnie Walker Championship last year, when I took a 7 before losing in a play-off. It’s about placement off the tee and it’s about leaving yourself a wedge into the green, ideally from the left side of the fairway as that gives you a better angle. The bank at the front can come into play if the flag is at the front left so you have to be careful not to spin it too far back. But the big bunker on the right is the one that guards the green.
12th, Carn Mairg, 445 Yards, Par 4
Bernd Wiesberger (2011 Johnnie Walker Championship runner-up)
I’ve always hit driver here towards the edge of the last bunker on the right of the fairway. It depends how soft it is for the club you’ll need to hit in, but the green is quite demanding as it has a tier in it. I believe the green was over to the left when the course was first designed, but I’ve only played it in its current location. If they tuck a pin behind the left bunker it can be a difficult one to get at. It’s one of the stronger holes on the back nine, especially if the wind is in your face.
13th, Wimplin’ Wyne, 481 Yards, Par 4
This hole was changed a few years ago from a straight-forward short par-4 to a very challenging 481-yard dog-leg left par-4. After a challenging drive that requires you to threading the fairway from the trees on the left and the bunkers on the right, you are left with a long to mid iron approach shot. There is a little downhill elevation to consider and it’s a tricky green to hit. The green is guarded with a bunker front left and run off up the right side. Careful consideration to the pin position could help decide where to aim. This will be a strong matchplay hole at a interesting time of the match. You shouldn’t lose the hole with a par but a birdie would almost guarantee a vital win here.
14th, Nebit Knowe, 320 Yards, Par 4
This is a short par-4 and the strategy really depends on where the pin is located. If it’s front and right, there’s not much point going for the green as there is some heavy rough guarding that part of the putting surface. So you are better just hitting an iron to leave a wedge for your second. If the pin is over on the left, you could give it a go but it’s a small target. It will be a good match-play hole, especially coming at a stage where matches could be tight.
15th, Ochil Sicht, 463 Yards, Par 4
Paul Casey (2001 Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship winner and 2006 Johnnie Walker Championship winner)
Maybe the best par-4 on the golf course and always one of my favourites. For some reason the left-hand bank just seems to draw you in, but the further right you hit it the longer you make the hole. A well-struck shot with a touch of draw will bound down the hill but still leave a long shot to a long and narrow green, and the left-hand side falls away steeply to deep rough. In a match-play situation, being on the green in two first will be a big advantage.
16th, Lochan Loup, 543 Yards, Par 5
Edoardo Molinari (2010 Johnnie Walker Championship winner)
This is a reachable par-5 but you need to get a good drive away to have a chance of getting there in two. If not, you’ll probably have to lay up short of the water. The green is well defended by bunkers on both sides and, especially when the pin is on the right side, you have to be careful because from the right bunker it is a difficult up and down. I think this hole will form part of an exciting finish in the Ryder Cup as it’s a par-5 and so, too, is the 18th. I birdied both of them when I won there in 2010 to secure a Ryder Cup wild-card.
17th, Ca’ Canny, 194 Yards, Par 3
This is a fairly long parp-3 at just under 200 yards and it is likely to require a good mid-iron. If you’re first on the tee here, finding the green will certainly put pressure on your opponent as there are some well-placed bunkers and missing on the right in particular leaves an awkward up and down. Having not played in a Ryder Cup myself, I don’t know how the nerves will be at this point but having a par-3 as the penultimate hole could certainly be interesting.
18th, Dun Roamin’, 513 Yards, Par 5
Uphill par-5s aren’t the best and I’m sure Jack Nicklaus would never have wanted that, but you’ve got to get back to the clubhouse somehow. It was possibly the weakest hole on the golf course, but it’s been shortened now and I think that has helped it. People can get up in two on a regular basis. The big change on the hole is the green whereby it is very much risk and reward now. If you go for the green, you can eagle it but woe betide if you miss it left or right because you could make a bit of a fool of yourself going back and forward. It’s very narrow, at the front especially, and at a reachable par-5 the target should be small. It’s now a much better golf hole. In the 1995 match Oak Hill, 11 out of 28 matches went up the last hole and it could be a deciding part of the Ryder Cup. It’s a superb hole from a crowd point of view. With the bank on left and behind, it is a fantastic amphitheatre.
• Compiled by Martin Dempster