Cowglen Golf Club Feature Review
Feature Review by Stewart Armstrong
Cowglen Golf Club is a members’ course in the south of Glasgow, 6,100 yards par 70 parkland, formed in 1906. Highly Recommended on Golfshake, the stature of this venue has been verified by 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie, who described it as an “old fashioned parkland course that makes shot making a priority”.
There’s something different about Cowglen Golf Club but it’s difficult to put a finger on it at first. Driving into the club it emerges as an oasis in the middle of a city, a mere 400 yards from the M77 motorway and one of Scotland’s largest shopping centres. Cowglen has stood for 113 years on the lands of the former Maxwell estate that became Pollok Country Park while Scotland’s largest city enveloped around it, a rural location yet just four miles from Glasgow city centre and walking distance of Pollokshaws West railway station.
The most noticeable sight on entering the car park is “The Cowglen Academy”. A covered driving ranged bequeathed in the will of a former president with the provision that juniors take priority at certain times, it hosts a state-of-the-art swing teaching studio complete with a Foresight GC2 launch monitor and holds Scottish Development Centre status. The driving range has balls to hire and while it cannot hold the biggest hitters it’s better than a net for a pre-round warm up. There is also a separate short game area and putting green.
The club also offers an innovative “Junior+” membership scheme that allows an adult to play with juniors for free, one of several different approaches that resulted in it being awarded Your Golfer Magazines South West Scotland Golf Club of the Year 2019.
The pro shop does everything a pro shop should do and it’s there you will find the head pro Simon Payne, who also manages the running of the golf club, different from the usual Secretary-Treasurer set-up. There are two buggies available to hire along with electric trollies, so prior booking is recommended. The bar overlooking the 1st tee provides pre or post round catering, it’s had a contemporary refurbishment not a trace of wood panelling in sight. The refurbished toilets have showers with complimentary towels.
Front 9 Overview
The first hole is one of the original holes laid out by James Braid and it is a formidable start, a long 420-yard straight par four with out of bounds down the right and shots to the left safe but blocked out by trees, this is a recurring theme on many of the holes. Take a five and move onto the next, a short par four, no bunkers but fraught with natural hazards. It soon becomes apparent that a driver off each tee isn’t necessarily the best club and position is often more important. The 4th needs a precision tee shot and features one of the most attractive, and demanding, greens on the course.
The feature hole is the par five 8th, standing on an elevated crows-nest tee with the whole course, indeed most of Glasgow, below with views towards Ben Lomond and the Campsie Fells. The hole really encourages the golfer to give the driver a rip, but the second shot requires some thought, either take on the bunkers or the swales surrounding the green, risk and reward consistently features.
Back 9 Overview
The 11th is one of the standout holes on the back nine, another elevated tee with cunningly placed bunkers and a tree blocking out the second shot if your drive was loose, it’s a birdie opportunity but also tough to recover once you get out of position. The second par five forms part of a great run of holes 14-15-16 perhaps the best section on the course, it features a nice wide driving hole followed by a green reachable in two, but should you miss your short game had better be sharp. The 16th hole is the members’ favourite, a mid-iron par three with a two-tier green.
Post Round Thoughts
The course was expanded from the original nine Braid holes to 18 in the 1930s, and further holes have been added and removed over the years as land became available, leading to some holes having a different feel to others. The 6th and 7th play like heathland, the 8th and 14th are wide driving holes, the 11th and 17th narrow and tree lined. The 12th is a long par three that encourages shots bounced short of the green and run up, the 9th and 16th shorter par threes encourage the aerial route. Some have the classic Braid minimal earth movement, tee adjacent to the green, and others have a short walk.
The course seems like a fair test and doesn’t seem to suit a particular type of golfer, higher handicappers will manage to get around as well as the bigger hitter. The variety of holes on offer covers every base, tree-lined, open, short par three, long par three, drivable par four, birdie chances and holes that need a few attempts to master, if you don’t like one hole the next will be different. For the most part the rough is kept back but very wayward shots will find trouble. The greens run true and are kept at a speed appropriate for the type of course. There are changes in elevation throughout the course, enough to give character but not overly hilly.
With an embarrassment of riches elsewhere in Scotland, Glasgow is perhaps overlooked as a base for visiting golfers, yet it has dozens of member and public courses on its doorstep. At £40 for a weekday round (£50-day ticket and weekends) Cowglen offers an attractive course kept in good condition for a reasonable green fee and should be on your list.
Overall Rating: 8
Course (Conditions): 7
Course (Layout/Variety): 8
Course (Green Condition): 7
Course (Challenge/Difficulty): 7
Club Facilities 19th/Clubhouse: 8
Practice Facilities: 8
Pace of Play: 8
Value for Money: 8
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