Image by Kevin Murray.
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To view some of Kevin’s work from around the world [CLICK]
There is perhaps a tendency for us to become a little bit sceptical about leisure chain, ‘design and build’ projects. It’s as if we set them a higher bar, whereby the slightest imperfections get magnified and the accusers scream ‘corporate’. At Faraway Fairways we understand this, whilst we also understand that back in the day the likes of Turnberry and Gleneagles, and more recently the St Andrews Dukes Course and Loch Lomond route from this genre.
Spey Valley at least starts from a more promising position that most in the stunning Cairngorm National Park as it meanders through ancient Caledonian pine forests and along the banks of the sparkling River Spey itself, the river that doth flow with the finest malt whisky!. It is a masterpiece, overlooked by the mountains beyond; Britain’s sixth highest. Since opening in 2005 Spey Valley has quickly set a standard and joins the conversation for Scotland’s best inland track it covers 7,153 yards of heathland, woodland and moorland terrain, with the imaginative golfer even claiming to detect some links influences!. New courses always take a little bit of time to cement themselves in our hearts, and possibly for this reason it hasn’t managed to threaten the unofficial leaders of this race yet. It does however seem to have nudged ahead of Blairgowrie, Ladybank, Scotscraig, and the Gleneagles Ryder Cup course, and has the Gleneagles Queens and St Andrews Dukes Course firmly in its sights to suggest that within a decade it might have eclipsed both. This only leaves Loch Lomond and Gleneagles Kings Course as defenders of the crown.
The course has hosted the European Challenge Tour’s Scottish Hydro Challenge since 2009 and an opinion is gathering that its capable of going a step further and hosting a main tour event. It’s invariably kept in pristine condition
|Yardage||Championship course, black tees 7153 yds|
|Ranking||44th in Scotland|
|Handicap Restrictions||No handicap restrictions apply|
The Course itself
The course has something of an old-fashioned out and back routing. Water is a feature on enough holes to add to it without being so plentiful to be considered a silly overkill. The fairways are open but patrolled by native gorse and heather. This heinous vegetation might weave magical hues of colour into the Highland tapestry, but they quickly become expensive if you begin to test out their ability to conceal and retain a golf ball
The opening hole is a bit of a strange one and involves a long walk along the river bank to second tee (about 300yds). This eventually leads you into the course proper however and you begin to finally realise what Spey Valley is about.
Signature hole is the 5th, officially the longest hole in Scotland at 641 yards. If you’re hitting into the wind, you’ve got no chance of reaching the green in two so in this case we have a par 5 that really is a par 5 and requires three good approach shots. Following the course, you’ll be treated to a walk amongst the wildlife, with sightings of deer, red squirrels and osprey a common occurrence. The 6th spans a lake which has been adopted as a nesting site by a bird colony. The key here is to stay away from the heather guarding the back of the green. If you’re going to go anywhere, go short. It’s a really undulating green which slopes from left to right
Veterans from Surrey’s heathland courses (Sunningdale, Woburn, Walton Heath, Wentworth and Swinley) have remarked in the past how the stretch of holes that begin at the seventh and wend there way around the turn could easily fit onto the finest courses down south.
The seventh is a risk and reward hole. The choice lies on whether or not to lay up short of, or fly the bunkers from the tee. If you get your drive away well you’ve got a great chance of making birdie, but if you don’t there’s a real danger of dropping shots. The eighth is a dogleg left with no realistic prospect of biting much off. The best strategy is to hit a three wood to the corner of the fairway, which will leave you with a pitch into the green. There’s a bunker tight to the left of the green, but if you can avoid that it’s another birdie chance. The ninth requires a strategic tee-shot. So long as you avoid the tree to the left it will leave you with a line into the green, which slopes from back to front. The tenth is a par-3 to a large landing surface with a tree short of the green on the right in play, especially if the pin is tucked under it’s protection. The eleventh is another strategic hole where club selection and positioning are critical.
When you reach the twelfth at the start of the home stretch, Spey Valley opens up before you like a film set. The first task is tough. The twelfth is a par four for the pros so if you make par here, you’ve had a real result. It’s almost 500 yards long, so if the wind’s into you, you might not get there with two firm hits. The thirteenth is a par five which doglegs to the left. If you decide to take the bunkers on with a driver, you can probably get close in two. But if you take a three of five wood to avoid them by hitting to the right, you’ve got a long way left to go. It’s all about an heroic tee shot here. The fifteenth is a challenge with bunkers snarling at you all the way down the left of the fairway. The green slopes from right to left, so if the pin’s on the left you want to play safe and aim for the middle of the landing strip. There’s also more water on the right of the green, so you can run up a bit of a score here if you’re not careful
The sixteenth is a long par three with over 200 yards from the back tees and a watery grave for anything that falls short. The green’s horribly shallow with heather at the back, waiting to catch anything long, oh and we also have a few bunkers in the front too. Basically you’ve simply just got to make it. Simple really. The penultimate hole is a par 5 with quite a tight tee shot if you take the driver, so it’s often safer to take an iron off the tee and look to get your advantage back with a wedge for your third shot. The eighteenth requires a little bit of a walk (not unlike the first) but finishes with a flourish once you’re there. Water is in play on the right so your need to drive over the trees on the left, which will leave you a relatively co-operative iron into the green for your second shot
It’s difficult to know when the best time of day to play Spey Valley is. We can certainly appreciate that an early tee-time has its appeal, but then so does a long golden summer evening, and especially if staying at the resort as the requirement to drive back to your accommodation is pretty well removed allowing you to sit back and enjoy the sun setting over the Cairngorms
Buggy hire, Trolleys, Caddies and Clubs
|Driving Range Available||Yes|
|Rental Carts Available||Yes|
|Rental Clubs Available||Yes|