Loch Lomond Golf Club: The Most Exclusive Club in Scotland
Many people consider it sacrilege to come to Scotland and play anything other than a links style golf course.
To those people I say, you clearly haven’t played Loch Lomond Golf Club outside Glasgow.
Of all the rounds on my last Scotland trip, this was probably the one I was most excited for (and yes, I even had The Old Course on the line up this go around).
Why was I so excited for it?
For one, it’s arguably the most exclusive course in Europe, so there aren’t many people I know who have had the chance to play it.
But also, for as much as I love a good links course (I mean look at my top courses), I’m a huge fan of interesting, modern routings – and Loch Lomond fit that to a tee.
The Loch Lomond Golf Experience
My round at Loch Lomond was one that almost didn’t happen. They had members events throughout most of my time in Scotland, but it worked out that one of the pros would be able to play with me early Wednesday morning before my flight out left at around 2:30.
After dropping my friend Dan off at the Edinburgh airport the day before, I headed to Bramble to knock another of the Top 50 bars in the world off the list (I clearly have a thing for lists), and then proceeded on to Glasgow and got a room for the night.
I woke up early, eager to get to the club, and not wanting to miss my 7:48 tee time.
What I didn’t quite realize was just how dark it would still be at 8 in the morning in mid-October.
It took about 40 minutes from Glasgow, and I almost missed the tiny sign at the entrance to the club.
However from the moment I pulled up to the gate, I immediately got a sense of the level of service members and their guests are treated to at Loch Lomond.
You see this isn’t your typical golf club, where members come out and play every weekend.
Rather it’s made up of an international membership that will usually fly in with their friends a couple of times a year, play for a couple days and then fly out.
These members are all extremely successful in their respective industries, and are generally very well traveled golfers – having connections at many of the best courses in the world.
So when they’re here, they’re treated to five star amenities and what might be the most unique and spectacular clubhouse I’ve ever seen.
The Loch Lomond Clubhouse
The driveway winds you through a mile or so of beautiful country that cuts through the golf course and the property.
It culminates at the most impressive clubhouse I’ve ever seen, where they parked my car and I walked in and was able to experience everything in it’s full glory.
For such a massive and stately building it manages to feel incredibly small and comfortable when you’re there.
The clubhouse is actually known as Rossdhu Mansion and dates back to 1773 when it was completed.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Directly behind the 18th green you can actually see remnants of Rossdhu Castle, which was built in 1457, but burned in a fire shortly after the mansion was completed.
The club, which was established in 1994 is actually sitting on a 99 year land lease, and as part of that, they’ve agreed to manage and maintain the building while keeping it’s tradition intact.
Thus, you’ll see furniture that’s been in the house for decades, and rooms that look very much like they would have a 100 years ago.
I’ll be honest, I expected to encounter a sense of pretension while I was at the club. The “I’m better than you, and you clearly don’t belong here” kind of vibe that you often get from some of the stodgier clubs out there.
Surprisingly, there was absolutely none of that.
You can tell that members of Loch Lomond belong there precisely to get away from that type of attitude, and it was pretty refreshing to see.
The mens locker room was one of the warmer and more comfortable locker rooms I’ve been in, and the showers, oh my God, the showers.
I’ll go into that in more detail later.
Loch Lomond Golf Course
Loch Lomond opened is a Tom Weiskopf design that opened in 1994. As its name suggests it’s built right on Loch Lomond which is a national park in Scotland.
The only similar environment I’ve seen in this kind of park environment is Banff Springs in Alberta.
I can’t imagine anyone being able to build an uber-private golf club in a US National Park, but hey, props to them for getting it done.
While the course feels very cohesive, the front and back 9s differ, as the front mostly surrounds the loch, and the back 9 is more inland.
As mentioned, it was quite a bit darker than I’d anticipated when I arrived, so I had a breakfast sandwich in the informal Spikes bar and then we teed off a little after 8am (so unfortunately the light wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped for photos.
As I mentioned, there are certain people who would shudder at the mention of playing anything but a links style course in Scotland.
But in my mind? A good golf course, is a good golf course, no matter where it is.
And the parkland Loch Lomond? It’s one of the best and most enjoyable that I’ve played.
The Front 9 at Loch Lomond
The course eases you into the round nicely, with a set of opening holes that aren’t overly difficult, but give you opportunities to both score and make mistakes depending on how you’re feeling.
A solid drive on the par 5 3rd is certainly reachable, but with water short and long, you better hit a perfect approach shot if you want to make a 3 or 4.
The round really starts to get good once you hit the par 3, 5th. It’s one of the shortest par 3s on the course, but hitting directly towards Loch Lomond, provides its own set of challenges. The wind can do just about anything here, and the views are more than enough to shake your focus for a minute.
This is followed by what was at one point the longest par 5 in Europe. A hole that stretches out for all of it’s 625 yards directly along the loch.
We played it from a considerably shorter distance, but looking at the back tee box where they played from during the Scottish Open during the years it was held here is honestly a bit terrifying.
The approach shot on 7 features a perilously placed tree on the lefthand side of the fairway, demanding a precise tee shot. I ended up behind the tree, but hit one of my better shots of the day as my approach, clipping the leaves, but landing on the front of the green.
The par 3 eight heads back the other direction, with the loch on one side and the stately clubhouse on the other.
This is followed by one of my favorite holes on the property, the short par 4 9th. It can reward a well struck tee ball challenging the right bunker with a putt for eagle, but anything too short will leave you in a bunker with a very difficult 50 yard sand shot.
An excellent way to close out a phenomenal front 9.
The Back 9 at Loch Lomond
This is where I started to get curious as to how the round would go.
It’s easy to get excited about holes right on the water, but how would the inland back 9 stack up against the beautiful and fun holes along the water?
Turns out very well.
I had a really solid round going up until the 10th, where things took a decidedly negative turn and my caddie informed me as we walked off the green that I’d taken a snowman.
It’s clear why it’s the #2 stroke hole on the course, with extreme care needing to be taken not to drive your ball through the fairway, and picking the right club to carry the water on your approach.
While there are no bad holes on the course, it was the stretch of 13-15 that really got me excited about the back 9.
13 is an elevated, reachable par 5, that required careful thought on your drive. With bunkers eagerly waiting to swallow up any ball that wasn’t put exactly where you intended it, it was one of the more fun shots of the round.
But it was at this hole where during construction things almost went south really quickly.
You see most of the land that Loch Lomond sits on is made up of very wet peat bogs. Nowhere is this more evident than on the 13th hole.
When Tom Weiskopf was still working on the design, he came out for an early morning walk through this area, and found himself waist deep in the bog and quickly sinking.
He grabbed hold of a nearby tree and ended up hanging on for dear life until he could get help a couple hours later.
His wallet, keys, pants and shoes were all donated to the cause.
As were two tractors that are still sitting beneath the 13th fairway.
14 gives you two very extreme options. Play directly over the bog and go for the green in one. Or layup way left and give yourself an easy pitch shot to the green.
15 makes you decide if you want to take on the bunker on the lefthand side of the fairway, or layup short, giving yourself a more difficult approach into the blind green.
This 3 hole stretch was one of the strongest and most enjoyable on the course for me.
The round concludes with another reachable par 5, a beautiful par 3 along the bay, and a beastly par 4 that forces you to decide how much of the bay you want to try and bite off.
Final Thoughts on Loch Lomond
I had a feeling I would enjoy Loch Lomond, but I don’t think I was prepared for just how much I would like it. I’ve now played two Tom Weiskopf designs, with the other being Forest Dunes in Northern Michigan.
Both are excellent.
Loch Lomond Golf Club has a wonderful variety of holes and the way the routing flowed through light forests, shoreside holes, and through bogs and meadows kept your attention the whole way through. Upon reaching the 18th green, I was truly sad to have to leave, and really just wanted to skip my flight and play another 18.
Because after all, it’s one course that I’m not sure I’ll have the pleasure of experiencing ever again.
But alas, I headed to the clubhouse and proceeded to have what was easily one of the best showers of my life. I’m not quite sure it was as good as the ones at Merion, but it was easily the second best golf course shower I’ve ever had.
Knowing I had nearly 24 hours of travel to Thailand didn’t make it any easier to get out.
It’s one of the tougher tickets to get in golf, but if you have the opportunity definitely take it, and go out and play Loch Lomond.