|From the tee - the awesome opening shot|
Gleneagles is one of the most underrated courses in the world. It is full of great holes, on great land in a spectacular setting. It is largely ignored because it is not on the sea coast and because the resort is very expensive. The fun part about picking this hole is that James Braid already selected it for me when he called it ‘Braid’s Brawest’ which means Braid’s best.
The tee shot is up a natural valley with a nice wide rolling fairway stretching up a large roll on the left. One horrendous cavern of a bunker sits in the left centre of the ridge guarding the safest line. The right side of the fairway offers the advantage of a flat lie and a great angle; but you must avoid the heather covered ridge up the right, and more importantly the hidden bunker cut into the next small rise (where most balls run to if you don’t flirt with the first bunker). You face the choice, either threading the needle up the right, or bail out left and accept the awkward stance with a tough carry to the green.
The green is what makes the hole really fascinating and challenging to play. It sits up above on a natural plateau with two extremely deep bunkers cut into the fronting slopes. Braid has left plenty of room short of the green to bounce the approach in, because that is actually the only way to find the surface. The green falls away to the back left making the play to hit it short right and feed it into the green along the ground. Players must judge their approach shots to just clear the deep bunker in order to stay on the green; amazingly this hole is still played the way it always was despite the changes in technology.
What did I learn from this hole? Here is a hole type that has not bowed to technology. The fall away green remains one of the greatest defenses in golf. The judged or measured approach is rewarded, whereas a player who only looks at the green and the distance in is repelled out the back. There is lots of room from tee to green on this hole, but the precise placement of hazards right into the ideal line and target areas has made the hole extremely challenging for a good player. This is further proof that narrow fairways have nothing to do with toughness.