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Macdonald Cardrona Championship Course Feature Review

By: Robert Treanor | Wed 28 Sep 2022 | Comments


Macdonald Cardrona comprises a four star hotel with a full range of complementing leisure facilities and an 18-hole championship golf course. Golfshake sent Ambassador Rob Treanor along in June 2022 to experience the venue.

Macdonald Cardrona is situated in the pretty and upmarket Borders town of Peebles. The championship golf course was designed by the legendary Dave Thomas and opened in 2001 to much acclaim. Since then it has hosted the Euro Pro Tour in 2004 and 2007 and the European Challenge Tour in 2007 and 2008.

Pre-Round Thoughts

Cardrona’s surroundings are dialed up to the epic end of the Richter scale. Surrounded on all sides by the dramatic mountains of the borders, there are few locations which share such astonishing scenery. Whichever direction you arrive from, the journey there will have been thrilling. The venue’s striking hotel stands proudly in the valley as a beacon for travelling golfers.

The hotel is charming and has an impressive set of amenities. From the bar on the first floor there are jaw dropping views and though the golf course is visible just a few yards away, it is difficult to adjust the gaze from the ancient hills with all their mystery… this is quite the setting.

Cardrona

Front 9 Overview

This is a serious golf course. The immersive first hole inducts players to the level of quality which is about to come. Underfoot, the tightly clipped turf signifies the detail which has been applied to the design of this course. The dramatic scenery of the Borders mountains frame the outlook in every direction. Focusing on the near ground reveals a first hole in which the fairway is dissected by a beautiful but punishing set of bunkers which are brimming with pure white sand. It is clear this is going to be quite some experience.

After playing into the prevailing wind for the first two holes, the direction of travel pivots on the 3rd which is the first of many great driving holes. Playing from an elevated tee box, the fairway down below meanders from right to left like the river beside it. The flag is visible in the distance and to have a chance of reaching in regulation, the fairway bunkers must be carried, a condition made more inviting by the prevailing tail wind. The greens at Cardrona are large, often deceptively so, owing to being raised or obscured from view from the fairway. The challenge at 3 is that the green is wide and not deep, meaning yardage from the tee is rewarded, though there is a bail-out area to the left offering respite for those less well positioned. Already this is developing into a very interesting and thought provoking round.

The course is laid out over a thin slither of land which dances either side of the River Tweed. The sequence of 5, 6 and 7 are played on the opposite side of the river which is accessed via a bridge which adds to the theatre. In typical Thomas style, the bunker protecting the par three 5th green is colossal. Anything short, right or both will be swallowed up by this behemoth which makes the tee shot very intimidating. A flag placed on the right hand side of this green creates some hairy moments.

Back 9 Overview

The back nine begins with a par 4 played towards possibly the best vista on the course. In the distance a vast mountain dominates the sky, with golfers spoilt for choice when selecting an aiming point, making for a glorious tee shot. The hole plays straight away which is just as well, as it is difficult to prise the gaze from the imposing beauty in the distance.

After more great holes the theatre of the 16th awaits. The tee box is set back from the fairway, which itself is framed by high sided banks and mature pine trees on either side. This gives the effect of tunnel vision from the tee, with the course almost willing the ball to finish on the fairway and the scenery adding dramatic atmosphere. After the tee shot, the hole creeps left towards a lightly protected green on this par four which in equal measure is a great scoring or blowup opportunity!

Macdonald Cardrona

Post-Round Thoughts

Macdonald Cardrona is an extremely well designed golf course with a multitude of charming quirks. The fairways are generous, the greens are all well thought out and it is memorable for the stunning views. The intriguing layout and cinematic setting make it exciting and appealing; the course has great context within its landscape having matured well and carries no weak holes.  

At the time of the visit in June 2022, the greens were recovering from an irrigation issue which had affected the quality of the grass. Rather than rushing a quick fix, the strategy employed to recovery is one which will see the greens renew at a sustainable pace which is better for the long term health of the grass.

Macdonald Cardrona

Verdict

The course feels very authentic, very pure and very Scottish. The mature fir trees, dry stone walls, bracken, the River Tweed and of course the mountains combine to make this an immersive experience which is borderline spiritual. Rugged, breathtaking and magical, prepare to be enchanted in The Borders.

Overall Rating - 9

Course (Conditions) - 7

Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 9

Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 10

Club Facilities & Clubhouse - 9

Practice Facilities - 8

Friendliness/Hospitality - 8

Pace of Play - 9

Value For Money - 9


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