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When people think of golf in Scotland, it’s only natural for places like St Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Turnberry and Troon to spring to mind. It is the Home of Golf after all and these gems of the Open rota all provide golfers a chance to experience the purest and oldest form of the game in all its glory.
However, to assume that is all the country has to offer would be to do a disservice to the myriad of brilliant inland options that pack a different but no less worthy punch. One such delight can be found in the Scottish Borders at Cardrona.
There is a great outdoors and golfing getaway to be had in this village, which is the first new community settlement in the area since the 18th century. Located on the banks of the River Tweed, you are surrounded by nature at this Macdonald Hotels group destination. As such, the golfing experience has the potential to impress and it didn’t disappoint.
A course that stirs the senses
Being Scottish, I had heard of the golf course at Cardrona prior to my visit, so was intrigued to find out what it had to offer. Scraping just the surface it is a Dave Thomas-designed par-72 that was opened in 2001. It has the potential to play a shade more than 7,000 yards but there are plenty of tee options to accommodate every level of player.
Whenever I go somewhere new, I often find the first hole has the potential to set the tone and few grab the attention like Cardrona’s opener. It’s an uphill par-5 that measures a modest 521 yards from the back tees but any grand ideas of scribing a birdie four onto the card can be quickly forgotten.
For golfers are met with a series of visually intimidating bunkers that take up residence in the middle of the fairway and permeate the length of the hole. It’s imperative to avoid these at all costs as they are proper hazards, as is the brutal rough that lines generously sized fairways throughout the course.
As for the green, it is fairly large - another Thomas hallmark - and it provides some respite courtesy of a mound at the back that can be used to funnel your ball closer to the pin. It’s a magnificent hole that represents everything great about Thomas’s catalogue of work.
The second takes you further uphill to the summit of this great layout, but unlike the first, find the fairway on this short par-4 and a genuine scoring chance awaits.
From there, you work back down the hill and are treated to some breathtaking backdrops, particularly on the par-4 fourth.
The remainder of the course is flatter and weaves through the River Tweed but it still requires a great deal of thought. That was one of my lasting impressions. Like all great courses, it asks a lot of questions off the tee and the answer is rarely length. Like on the seventh, which is worthy of its Stroke Index 1 tag.
The par-3s are also particularly strong at Cardrona, but the pick of the bunch has to be the 13th. Trees surround the tee and the back-left portion of the green, creating a natural amphitheatre that stirs the senses. The putting surface is also guarded on the right-hand side by a run-off and bunker should you bail out a little.
The 16th was another standout as the round drew to a close. Trees once again shape this dogleg left which plays downhill with the second shot. As for the closer, be careful as it is one of the hardest holes on the course and requires precision off the tee to stay out of the rough that swallows up golf balls.
As a test of golf, it can be as difficult as you choose to make it, while the brilliance of the design and setting will keep you coming back for more.
Something for everyone
The golf is just a fraction of what’s on offer at Cardrona. As soon as you step foot on the property, you realise the scale and attraction of the place. The 200-acre grounds blend seamlessly into the Glentress Forest, making it a stunning location for people who love to explore the outdoors.
On that theme, guests can take advantage of the right to fish in the River Tweed, while it is also the perfect environment for walking, cycling and scouting for wildlife.
As for the hotel itself, there are 99 spacious and comfortable rooms. I had a great night’s sleep and woke up recharged for the day of golf ahead after sampling the delights of the restaurant and bar area the evening prior.
There is also a fairly sizable gym and pool for anyone who wants to work up a sweat or take a relaxing dip, and the health and wellness centre offers a variety of treatment options. Should anyone be looking to add an urban flavour to this idyllic retreat, Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, is also just 40 minutes away.
It truly is a unique and versatile destination that is not to be overlooked when booking your next getaway.
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A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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