Montrose Medal Feature Review
Review by Golfshake Ambassador Andrew Picken
The Medal Course at Montrose is the fifth oldest golf course in the world and is integral to the sport’s history. It is also a unique challenge with the east wind demanding the upmost respect. In my humble opinion any golfing trip to the Carnoustie Country area would not be complete without a round on the Montrose Medal Course. The terrain is rugged and undulating, but I thoroughly enjoyed the walk using a trolley. One of the joys of golf in this area is taking on the differing winds and weather as part of the overall challenge.
Ben Crenshaw described it as: “A magnificent stretch of marvellously natural ground which depicts how the game was born”. Montrose has all the key ingredients for an excellent challenge in golf – springy, rolling turf, deep bunkers, bountiful gorse, sand dunes and whins. Mother Nature has formed and sculpted this ground with man adding defining touches. The wind and rain naturally add to the course and its trials and tribulations. It has a wonderful traditional links feel. I loved the early run of holes along the rugged Angus coastline framed with breath-taking views. There are some tee positions on this course that are distractedly beautiful. You can feel the wind, hear the sea and taste the spray as you consider your shots. This is links golf at its finest. It was a memorable sensory experience throughout.
The Montrose 1562 Medal Course has stood the test of time. It has enjoyed the honour of hosting several high-profile events over the last 150 years including the Scottish Professional Championship, the Scottish Amateur Championship, the British Boys Championship and Internationals, and the Final Qualifying Competition for The Opens held at nearby Carnoustie in 1999 and 2007, and the Senior Open at Carnoustie in 2016. Three golf clubs - Royal Montrose, Montrose Caledonia and Montrose Mercantile - play over two courses which are managed by a limited company, Montrose Golf Links, who re-invest any profits back into the course.
The ecology of this area with the unrelenting action of the sea is causing some erosion but this type of natural evolution has occurred before and I have no doubts will be managed with care and consideration by those currently in charge of this wonderful facility. The clubhouse is welcoming and the food great. The pro shop is well stocked and run by friendly and engaging staff.
Front 9 Overview
Course Layout Par: 71 Holes: 18 Yards: 6585
The course gives a big message from the very first hole. The right Out of Bounds features prominently through the length of the hole ensuring that a straight drive between fairway bunkers is required. The next shot is elevated to a raised green at the summit of the gradually rising hill. This is an imposing hole and one that certainly doesn’t allow you to ease your way into the round, especially when an east wind is whipping in off the North Sea.
The next five holes are exhilarating links golf at its best.
Played close and parallel to the coast the second hole dog-legs left to right with a drive required along the edge of the ever receding dunes.
The third is an old-fashioned style par three played away from the water’s edge to a shallow but wide table-top green located at the summit of a huge dune which falls away on all sides.
The drive at the fourth is from an elevated tee to an undulating and rippling fairway before you play to a green fronted by impressive bunkering. The bank of gorse that runs the length of the hole down the right hand side is an indication of what is to come later.
Holes eight and nine are played along the hillside with danger to the left formed by the masses of gorse. The course then turns 90 degrees and plays directly away from the coast for four holes before making a turn and heading straight back for the next two.
These turns do not alter the rhythm of the round and bring every vagary of the weather into play. These holes skirt the Broomfield Course which although smaller is still a very worthwhile course to attempt.
Having two courses intertwined provided the flexibility for the world’s first 25 hole event at these Links. This unique event, played in 1866, attracted Willie Park, Andrew Strath and Jamie Anderson, three players who were all Open Champions. The holes were not used for every event but allowed the authorities to alter the ground and layout at will. Around this time Musselborough used a five-hole layout.
Back 9 Overview
A small gully short and to the left of the 10th dictates an approach from the right. Hole 12 is a really interesting par three with imposing bunkers ringing the front of the green like diamonds on an engagement ring. The 13th takes you to the farthest point on your travels away from the sea.
The next four holes are of the highest quality. The 14th requires a long and precise drive before you play a superb green complex that seems to totally follow nature. The green slopes towards you with bunkers on either side which gather any errant shot.
The 15th is a risk-reward par five in so much that a large and deep bunker is cut into a ridge that must be hurdled some 80 yards short of the green. The bunker needs to be either carried or flirted with in order to reach the green. It is also located at a point where the fairway tightens and the gorse nips in to heighten the challenge.The next two holes run along the more sheltered part of the course.
The 16th is a formidable par three with an amazing green complex. This hole seems different from the rest of the course but the green is excellent and its surrounds offer challenges from every point of the compass if you miss the putting surface, humps and hollows offer different lies and stances. This is a superb challenge. Given the hole is 235 yards off the white tee box regulation pars are a thing to cherish.
The 17th is another excellent golf hole. A bank of gorse runs its full length down the left and out-of-bounds close to the right but it has a magnificent green cut into the hillside that is difficult to find.
The final hole offers an elevated tee shot with delightful views. The bunkering along the length of this hole is superb and requires full attention to stand any chance of a positive finish.
I was astonished at the natural undulations and hollows but found walking the course very easy despite the gradients in play. The fairways have a spring, like extra soles in your shoes. The entire course feels natural and in no way contrived. It has developed around the shapes and topography provided by nature and it is wonderful for that very fact. The course definition is great with gorse and heather forming natural hazards that are wickedly penal to the errant shot. Factor in wind and rain and this poses a challenge to the very best. A successful round here at any handicap level is one to be relished. I love the fact that despite its historic credentials the club has also introduced a new blue tee which ensures the course is more accessible for higher handicap golfers. Buggies are available but will require prior booking to ensure availability. The terrain is rugged and undulating but I thoroughly enjoyed the walk using a trolley.
I found this visit to be an absolute joy. If I can find any reason to return and challenge myself again against this facility I will. 100% of Golfshake reviewers would recommend a return visit. I wholeheartedly agree.
Reviewed in April 2018 by Golfshake Ambassador Andrew Picken (Handicap 18)
Overall Rating - 9
Course (Conditions) - 9
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 10
Course (Green Condition) - 9
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 9
Club facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 9
Practice Facilities - 8
Friendliness/Hospitality - 9
Pace of Play - 9
Value for Money - 9
|Montrose Golf Links
from 26 reviews