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Panmure

Yardage
6551
Par
70
SSS
72
Built
1845 / 1898
Architect(s)
Allan Robertson, Unknown, James Braid
Nature:
A high pedigree club, with an historic links course and one of Scotland’s finest 6th holes.
Location/Address:
Between Dundee and Carnoustie in Angus. Postcode: DD7 7RT
http://www.panmuregolfclub.co.uk
Secretary
Ian Gordon
Telephone
01241 855120
Professional
Andrew Crerar
Green Keeper
Gary Nichol
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Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
Dogs welcomed on lead
Open Meetings:
Fees in 1960s
37p
Fees today
£80

Review

Adjacent to the three municipally owned courses at Carnoustie, which include The Open Championship course, lie two more wonderful links both possessing a great heritage. 

Lord Panmure, panmure golf club, finest golf courses guide

Lord Panmure with dog

Panmure GC was founded on land at Monifieth, leased from Lord Panmure in 1845, which also saw the opening of the Dundee-Arbroath railway line. Indeed the first clubhouse was a shed at the station leased from the railway company. 

Initially of nine holes and laid out by Allan Robertson and Alexander Pirie of St. Andrews, the course was extended to 18 in 1880, by which time The Monifieth GC (1858), an artisan club and four other individual golf clubs, had been set up to play over the Monifieth links. 

Allan Robertson

Allan Robertson, the finest golfer prior to 1860

The Panmure GC decided in 1898 to move to its present site at Barry, where ‘Gowff’ had been played since around 1500, (using land that runs on from the end of Monifieth links towards Carnoustie on the inland side of the railway line) the principal reason being the increasing congestion on the course. 

One gains an insight into the social character of the club when noting that of the fifteen members who were killed in the First World War, twelve were military captains, and the others a Lt.-Col, a major and Flt.-Lt. 

The Members of the Club were mostly connected to the Jute Trade. Mill owners were extremely wealthy and mostly stayed in Broughty Ferry, a suburb of Dundee. Broughty Ferry boasted 93 millionaires around 1900 and was the richest suburb in the UK outside the City of London. 

The club remains well connected and hosted a match and dinner on its 150th anniversary for representatives of all 26 clubs involved in the first British Amateur Championship. 

King George VI was an honorary member in the 1930s but never granted the ‘Royal’ prefix, which is a pity as this club would fit well with the other Royal clubs and be an appropriate representative of this part of the United Kingdom. 

Royal culcutta golf club clubhouse, jute trade,

Royal Culcutta GC clubhouse

The families who funded the purchase of the land for the new course were descendants of those who had founded Royal Calcutta GC, there being the strong connection through the jute trade and the clubhouse bears a strong resemblance to its Indian counterpart. 

This clubhouse, apart from a new entrance hall, remains similar to that of a century ago and the course-planner describes the resemblance as “not merely in the building but the modes and mores of Panmure are those of a grander age”. 

Panmure golf club clubhouse,

The very fine Panmure clubhouse

The original architect of the course is unknown but the changes made in the 1930s were based on advice from James Braid. 

In hindsight it is unfortunate that the club, when it had the opportunity to secure its boundaries in the 1930s failed to do so. Consequently, modern golfing equipment has made it necessary to create dog-legs of the fourth and the eighth holes, so they are moved away from the caravan park on its northern side. 

panmure golf club, finest golf courses

The drive at the eighth hole

Roughly one third of the ‘out and back’ course covering holes one to three and sixteen to eighteen (called ‘Calcutta’) are on flattish, previously cultivated land, the other two thirds of the course have been described thus:

“This part of the course is of the most unpromising looking ground from a greenkeeper’s point of view, consisting of large hummocks and deep ravines with marshy looking bottoms, and covered with the coarsest of bent grass, whins and rushes: but to the Golf Architect giving promise of many sporting holes and shots”. 

There is no doubt that the first two and last two holes are of a less interesting design while the other fourteen use every adorable aspect of links and heathland, incorporating heather, gorse, ditches, burns and Scots pine, across fine running turf, giving a continuously changing challenge across tumbling ground. 

The sixth hole is considered to be one of the best in Scotland, 

 

surrey university boondocks golfing society,

Surrey Univ Boondocks GS struggling on the famous sixth hole

a dog-leg left to a raised green across heather-covered undulations and a bank in echelon on the right which gives a risk/reward choice for the drive to a narrowing, bumpy fairway. A medium iron approach shot has to be just right to catch the small tiered green. 

Ben Hogan, whilst he was Masters and US PGA Champion in 1953, on his one trip to The Open Championship held at Carnoustie that year, (where the sixth hole was thereafter named ‘Hogan’s Alley’), was the only Open Championship participant given the privilege of practising at Panmure. He suggested Panmure’s sixth hole should have a deep bunker to the front right of the green, which was indeed later created and is now affectionately(?) known as “Hogan’s Bunker”. 

The course is not overly long at 6551 yards, par 70, SSS 72 from the back tees but the professionals, when they have played here in the final qualifying for the Open in 1931 1968, 1970, 1975, 1990, 1999, and in 2007 at both Carnoustie and St Andrews, have never found it easy. 

This course is an ingredient in the marzipan layer of the rich FineGolf cake and has hosted numerous professional and amateur Championships down the years. 

panmure golf club, finest golf courses

The fourth hole

Doug Sanders (later to finish all square with Jack Nicklaus in The Open at St Andrews in 1970 when missing that never-to-be-forgotten ‘ticklish’ putt on the 18th) qualified at Panmure with a 67 , which included having a par four on the fourth hole after being in no less than three bunkers! 

The greens, apart from perhaps the eighth and sixteenth which are low lying and attract heavier, damp soil and have a higher proportion of the weed annual meadow grass (Poa annua), are of a reasonable firm nature and possess a trueness of roll, across a good proportion of fine, browntop, bent grasses usually cut at 3.5mm. 

The course is generally low lying with a high water-table and has been subject to repeated flooding over the years. Recently some improvement has been achieved by preventing the water from draining on to the course from surrounding farmland and the course never closes except for deep snow. 

Gary Nicol and his greenkeeping team have made huge efforts to improve the greens’ firmness with intensive applications of sand top-dressing and as measured by the STRI Programme, apart from again the eighth and sixteenth, all are within the target range for moisture content, firmness, trueness and speed. 

Arthur, 14th Earl Dalhousie, panmure golf club,

Arthur, 14th Earl Dalhousie

The surrounds and aprons to the greens are in good condition and improperly struck approach shots will not hold but meander away across the tightly mown run-offs with no abrupt fringes. 

Traditional running approach shots are recommended as the play by the pro on the Club website, particularly on holes one (called ‘Maule’ after the family name of the Panmures), four, seven, ten, thirteen and fifteen. However, should you miss the green on a number of other holes you will find that, if your ‘bump and run’ is in good shape, it will be the recovery shot of choice over the wedge. The tight, firm turf here is exemplary. 

It might be argued that there are too many trees around this course but interestingly (unlike next door at Monifieth, where there has been a sensible, major programme of tree and undergrowth removal underway) here at Panmure the trees provide a setting and on the whole do not shade and stop the air from drying out the greens, though that can’t be said for some of the teeing areas where dwarf ryegrass has been experimented with. 

panmure golf club, finest golf courses

The par three, nineth hole

The most famous and unusual of the short holes is the 230 yard fifteenth (Dalhousie) which has a flat-to-the-ground green with undulations. 

The ninth is the prettiest par three with the green sited at 180 yards, sitting up amongst a sea of heather banks and the “live and let live” testimonial tower in the distant background. The tower was erected by Lord Panmure’s tenants in 1839 on the most elevated point of the Downie hills to commemorate him and “to perpetuate the memory of a nobleman who, through a long life, made the interests and comforts of his tenantry his sole and unwearied object”. The club was lucky to have him as a founding member and the patron of the club, prior to the Earls of Dalhousie giving their support. 

Panmure golf club, finest golf courses guide

The approach to the 12th green

The twelfth, at just under 400 yards, has an engaging approach shot over the wriggling Buddon Burn to a raised green with a backdrop of Scots pine hiding the adjacent Monifieth links. 

The ‘Homeward’ thirteenth played from an elevated tee is the same length as the twelfth in the opposite direction and being down the prevailing wind requires the common sense to lay-up behind the hillock on the left and thereby avoid the burn across the fairway. This tactic then gives the easier approach to a green between hillocks, with a camber coming off the right. Inevitably yours truly promptly banged his drive right into true boondocks rough at an inappropriate moment in my round! 

The long fourteenth (Lucky Daddy) lies along the railway line with a newly designed green tucked round a corner and offers the ‘tiger’ player one of the few opportunities to take advantage of his length, though the reward of a birdie may involve less risk if your second shot is laid-up to give a controlled pitch to the green. 

panmure golf club, finest golf courses guide

The straight but strategic 13th hole

Panmure is one of those clubs with a real pedigree but is little known outside those aficionados with a knowledge of the East of Scotland game. 

This course has a quiet start to allow the visitor to warm up and from then on one is enthralled with the dangerous, challenging fun to be had among the tussocks. 

The green keeping team along with consultant agronomist Richard Windows know what they are doing here and it is most enjoyable for me to be able to report that this course is on an upward trajectory with regard to giving golfers a superb challenge of running golf and a real ‘joy to be alive’ feeling.

Read “Panmure Golf Club, 1845 to 1995” by W.A.S. Dryden, for one of the best golf club history books I have read.

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2013

 

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