In September the Ryder Cup will be played on the PGA Centenary Course, a Jack Nicklaus design at The Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. Andrew Jowett, head professional at The Gleneagles Hotel, recently gave Golfweek a scouting report on the course.
Golfweek: What are some of the best match-play holes on the course?
Jowett: There’s a definite shift as you get to the back nine. From 14 onwards, it’s an exciting finish, whether you’re playing stroke play or match play. But certainly from a match-play perspective, you can see how it will light things up.
Golfweek: Take us through those holes.
Jowett: No. 14 is a drivable par 4, just over 320 yards off the back tees. Depending on the wind, it could be into the wind, in which case some guys will have to lay up to wedge distance. Alternatively, bigger hitters are going to get there. It’s an old par-3 green, so it’s not a generous target. But it does give big hitters the option to go for it, and that’s where eagles and birdies are possible.
Golfweek: And after that?
Jowett: No. 15 is a great hole, demanding a draw off the tee. And then you play to one of the longest, narrowest greens on the golf course. As far as pin-able positions, you can really change the hole a lot. The tee is all about accuracy. A lot of times, guys will try to hit a draw off the bunker on the right. There’s quite penal rough down the left-hand side, so you have to hit the fairway at all costs. So some of the guys might hit fairway wood (off the tee). The green has three different levels, and it’s very narrow and long. So depending on where the pin position is, it can either be an inviting second shot or a tough one as well.
Golfweek: How about 16?
Jowett: It’s one of the signature holes on the golf course. It’s a par 5 over water. There’s a generous driving area off the tee, although there are a couple of bunkers that intersperse the fairway and can catch an errant tee shot. If you get it going down the left side of the fairway, you tend to get a little bit of a fast track and get an extra 10 yards out of it. If the guys are getting toward the two bunkers on the right-hand side, that’s probably a green light to go for the green, which is maybe 250 (yards) out from there. There’s a little bailout area left of the water, but if you leak anything right, it’s going to be a watery grave. Again, great green, good undulations.
Golfweek: Let’s move on to 17.
Jowett: Seventeen is one of our most naturally amphitheatered greens. Good par 3, just short of 200 yards off the back tee. Lots of pin-able positions, green well protected by bunkers short left, right and back left. There’s a little step (ridge) in the green back right, so it’s all about where they put the pin and getting the number right. The beauty is it’s all about distance control. It’s often into the wind, so you have to control your ball flight.
Golfweek: And the par-5 closing hole?
Jowett: Eighteen is probably the biggest change to the golf course. It was made about two years ago, and it’s really a brand new golf hole. The green used to be to the left. It’s been moved over to the right-hand side. The tee box got raised slightly, which allows you to hit it a little further up the fairway. There’s a bunker that accentuates the dogleg on the right-hand side, so you’re looking to keep it just left of that. That’s going to give you anything from a long iron to a hybrid to, for some players, a fairway wood into the green. The green is very narrow, long front to back, three tiers, with runoffs on both sides. It’s one of those that if you go for it in two and miss the green, that could be anything from bogey to triple. That’s going to really test their short games.
Golfweek: What will be the best viewing areas?
Jowett: The first hole is beautifully framed, and it has natural raised areas on both sides of the fairway, so it’s going to be a great viewing option. If you stand on the left side, you’ll also have good views of 18 as well. From 3 through 8, that’s a slightly more mature area where you can find some good vantage points to see several shots being played. If you were to stand, for instance, behind the fourth green you can see the fourth, the fifth tee, and you’re a short walk from the sixth green and seventh tee as well. Another good viewing spot is down by the 10th green where you can see that green, the 11th tee, 17th green and 18th tee, all within a 10-yard radius.
Golfweek: What impact has the Ryder Cup had on Gleneagles’ business?
Jowett: The PGA Centenary Course was maybe the least-known of our three courses, just because it’s the newest. This past year we’ve seen a shift in which course people want to play. So predominantly the King’s and Queen’s (courses), with the traditional Scottish golf feel, used to be (favored by guests). . . . Now a lot of our guests want to play the PGA Centenary Course so they can say “I was there,” but they’re equally keen to get the King’s or Queen’s experience. But last year the PGA Centenary Course was the most played. Business on the books this year would suggest it would be the same. We expect it will be the same in 2015 after people see it on TV and want to play it.