The tee shot on the wonderful par four forth
(click on the pictures to enlarge)
Robert and I finished up Cruden Bay and originally intended to make a run south to play Crail. I had loved the idea of playing this short par 68 that hugs the edge of the ocean. Traffic conspired to change or plans and send us to a closer course called Montrose which was half way between Cruden Bay and St. Andrew’s. I must admit that I wasn’t as excited to see Montrose, but Robert had told me he liked the course so I figured it was worth a try. I was also a little sore at this point and the thought of playing in another 3 club wind wasn’t very appealing.
First off Montrose turned out to be much better than I expected and I think even more solid that Nairn. Nairn had a few great holes that Montrose lacked but Montrose had no awkward holes that many of the secondary courses seem to have. The course essentially goes out the first seven holes along the coast the coast skipping in and out of the two coastal dune lines. Unfortunately other than a few holes at the beginning there are few ocean views due to the large coastal dune which is eroding very quickly right now. The famous tee at the 6th is gone through coastal erosion. Many of the holes play beautifully up the middle of the coastal dunes through fantastic valleys while other skip up and down the areas where the dunes join to form a more prominent wide but flatter section.
The memorable plateau par three third
An interesting generality that I realized about links golf is almost every links course begins on the ocean in the best golfing terrain before moving away from the ocean and returning inland. For the life of me I can’t understand why but this is the case from Nairn to Montrose to St. Andrew’s to Troon and on. It also explains why the golf in the UK rarely features great finishing holes since most like Royal County Down and Turnberry are over the least interesting land on the property. The North American approach seems to be to get the best to the last like the holes at Pebble Beach.
The turn at Montrose features tee shots off the secondary dune and onto the flatter land below. You would think that the best is left behind but the fall off in quality was very small because of some clever use of the gorse and good solid green sites. All holes set along the secondary dune (includes 9, 10,16 and 17) feature gorse banks along the left dune and out of bounds down the right. This makes for some more accurate golf but fortunately there is adequate room for these shots. Each of these holes features wonderful hummocky fairways and great green sites.
Playing "into town" at the short par four 14th
The course moves in from 11 through to 15 and uses gorse to separate the very flattish land through this stretch. What works well is most of these green sites are quite interesting and make up for thee flatter land. Montrose can be summed up as a very pleasant surprise that should be on any golfer’s itinerary who isn’t obsessed with playing only the most famous courses. I think in Scotland the quality of the average course is well above the normal course we would expect anywhere else. I think it would be worth going over to play all but the elite course on a trip because you would still get the full Links experience at a fraction of the price. Needless to say I was quite grateful for my stop at Montrose.