Golf Course Review of Spey Valley Golf Club
Spey Valley Golf Course
Reviewed by Ed Battye -
Quick Summary: One of the best modern inland courses in Scotland
Our 5 Star Rating: 4.2
I suspect many fools dash past Spey Valley, located at the foot of Cairngorm Mountains near Aviemore, as they bomb up the A9 towards Inverness and beyond.
‘Tis true, they may be heading for better and brighter things on the coast at Nairn, Castle Stuart, Skibo or Dornoch but neglecting this championship venue, owned by Macdonald Hotels, should not be done lightly.
On a family holiday to this popular destination (more so for skiers than golfers) in the Scottish Highlands I managed to sneak out one evening for a quick loop of this modern resort layout and was hugely impressed with what it delivered. Undoubtedly one of the best inland courses Scotland has to offer. Scenic, challenging and inspiring are just a few words that spring to mind.
Admittedly the course doesn’t get off to the best of starts. The opener is a pleasant enough two-shotter but doesn’t set the pulse racing. However, and I suspect I’m not the first person to do this, but I actually teed the ball up on what I thought was the next teeing ground, located adjacent to the first green, only to realise just in time that it was the 18th hole!
As it transpires the first and last holes are played on a separate parcel of land to the rest of the course – parkland in nature compared to moorland/heathland for the majority – and the signage is so poor that I bet many a first time visitor has returned to the clubhouse much sooner than intended!
You actually have to walk what feels like a mile, alongside the River Spey, to the second tee but it is worth it because the next 16 holes produce some terrific golf in a truly wonderful setting. It’s difficult to do justice to just how sprawlingly spectacular the terrain of the Cairngorm National Park is with some majestic holes crafted through dense heather and mature trees. Mountains and pine forest act as the ever-present backdrop.
Wide fairways, some lovely changes in elevation, modern bunkering and engaging green complexes ensure Spey Valley has your full attention for the duration. Hole-after-hole it continues to deliver stirring golf.
The collection of short-holes is superb with the 16th, played over Loch Megan, the pick of the quartet. The other three all fit into their surrounds equally as well and are no less demanding but at the same time infinitely playable.
There is a good balance of two-shotters which play over mildly undulating, firm fairways to large greens with intelligent breaks, borrows and slopes. I particularly enjoyed the approach to the 11th whilst the 12th is a real ball-buster of a hole played into the wind and measuring 486-yards from the back tee.
The par-fives are also excellent and all have a different feel and tempo to them, indeed it is rare to get four in a round that are so good. Two of them come quite early in the proceedings (3rd & 5th) and run in the same direction but the former is 486 yards whilst the latter is a whopping 635 yards from the blue tees! Later on, the 13th is a sharp dog-leg whilst the 17th is a tight affair with a lovely green complex.
The only two holes I thought were a little awkward out on the moor were the seventh, where I probably need a few more plays to understand the options from the tee considering the cross bunkering, and the 15th, which just doesn’t quite sit right as you play down towards a loch then switch back uphill around a cluster of bunkers on the inner elbow of this legging par-four. After the inevitable long walk back following the 17th the closing hole isn’t great either – you’re not really sure where you’re driving - but what has gone before more than makes up for this.
The course, designed by Dave Thomas and opened for play in 2006, belies its age and delivers some superb golf. There are ups and downs for sure but overall I was very pleased with the golf on offer at Spey Valley. The par is a predictable 72 with the blue tees maxing out at 7,118 yards.
I’m not sure how much play the course gets. I was the only golfer out on the course on a lovely summer evening. Hopefully readers of this review will be inclined to pull off the A9 and head ten minutes or so through Aviemore and seek out this exceptionally good course.
Spey Valley is featured in the National Club Golfer Top 100 under £100 Golf Courses of Great Britain.
Club Website: www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk
Tournaments: Open golf competitions at Spey Valley Golf Club.
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