Early this year, ahead of the amazing 2019 Solheim Cup at The Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Sky Sports golf presenter Nick Dougherty decided to head north to check out the course and find out why Perthshire is such a draw for golfers and visitors alike.
Nick is a retired English golf professional, with three European tour victories to his name, and has a strong affinity with Scotland, the Home of Golf, having won the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship here in 2007.
We caught up with him recently on his stay at The Gleneagles Hotel – venue of the 2014 Ryder Cup and the 2019 Solheim Cup .Watch the short video of Nick’s trip below and read on to find out what he had to say about his trip in Perthshire.
You visited Perthshire and Gleneagles when you played on tour – what are your fondest memories of this time and what were you looking forward to on the trip back?
My very first start as a professional was at The Scottish PGA at Gleneagles. I made the cut which gave me my first cheque, so I have fond memories of this part of Scotland and actually getting paid to play golf! I nearly made Nick Faldo’s Ryder Cup team in 2008 which came down to the last few holes of the Johnnie Walker Championship. I just finished a few shots back in the end. Gleneagles is in a wonderful part of the world, it’s a great place to play golf and the hotel is beautiful.
How would you describe Perthshire and The Gleneagles Hotel to someone who has not been before?
First of all, it’s really easy to get to Perthshire. I flew from London into Edinburgh Airport, picked up a hire car and we were just over an hour’s drive to Gleneagles. You can do the same length of journey from Glasgow Airport and Dundee Airport is only around 30 minutes away. If you prefer to take the train, there’s a great station at Gleneagles itself.
The scenery in Perthshire is stunning and to be among the hills and all that space, especially when you live in London, is what I was most excited about for my trip – the great outdoors!
Gleneagles is one of my favourite places to holiday, there are all sorts of other activities to tickle your fancy if golf isn’t your thing. However, if golf is, then you have the choice of three world-class courses, the Kings, Queens and PGA Centenary. The PGA Centenary is a great layout for match-play with some great risk and reward holes on it and excellent viewing from some natural spectator mounds.
There is a real sense of history and heritage surrounding the hotel. The hospitality is one of the most wonderful things and it’s easy to lose yourself in the beautiful surroundings. However, it’s how you are made to feel from the minute you step foot in the hotel that I really enjoy. The facilities are amazing, there is a brilliant state-of-the-art gym and spa for treatments. I loved the clay pigeon shooting, which I had not done a huge amount of before. It was a real buzz and their facilities here are first class. I think the bars in the hotel are one of my favourite things. After a long day on the course, kicking back and relaxing with your favourite whisky is like a home-away-from-home.
What about golf in Perthshire? What are your favourite courses there?
There are so many fantastic courses to pick from in this part of Scotland. The stand-out 18- hole courses for me are Blairgowrie, Crieff, Pitlochry, Auchterarder and Murrayshall and all are within easy reach of each other.
On this trip however, I visited St Fillans – a small, beautifully kept 9-hole course with elevated tees and fantastic views, which was really good fun. It’s a really friendly club and the fact that Sandy Lyle loves it says a lot. The course was in really good condition and is lovingly tended by one green keeper who previously worked at Gleneagles for over 25 years and does everything himself. The rolling nature of the ground makes it much ‘friendlier’ than the Gleneagles courses, which I think is nice for less accomplished golfers as well as low handicappers.
I also witnessed first-hand Golf Perthshire’s initiative at St Fillans. This provides under 18s with free use of golf clubs and is brilliant for golf as a whole. If we want to grow the game and bring the next generation into the sport, making things more accessible is definitely the way to go. That’s exactly what this initiative is doing and they should be commended for it.
Overall the hospitality at St Fillans was brilliant, we were made so welcome. They serve a mean mixed grill in the clubhouse, which is a quaint little hut, a bit like your nan’s living room! It has a lovely feel, the food is really good and they do big portions too!
What else did you do on your trip to Perthshire?
I had the chance to see Loch Earn on this trip, which is just a good three wood from St Fillans Golf Club. It is absolutely stunning. It’s hard to put it into words what it felt like as I stood on the loch’s shores. In a world where everything is so manufactured and accessible, what I like about Perthshire is that you can really escape normal life in these big wide open spaces. If you are an adrenaline junkie, then Loch Earn Watersports on the south side of the loch, will keep you well entertained. Being on and in the water – you can’t beat it can you?!
Monachyle Mhor is really cool. I love the fact it’s a working farm with an amazing restaurant and a really good vibe. The buildings are really funky, and I especially loved the smoke house. They have a festival there every year and I can see why people go along. I was really lucky to meet executive chef Marysia Paszkowska who cooked me scallops – one of my favourite things. Eating grasses is not usually my thing but what she prepared was to die for and one of the best dishes I have ever tasted! Getting to watch her cook in the smokehouse was really cool. Her story and passion for food is awesome and listening to a chef who is this enthusiastic is something special. If you get the chance to go, have the scallops!
Why should people stay longer in Perthshire?
In a world that’s dominated by so much screen time it’s getting harder to have a relationship with the outdoors. Perthshire is the ideal option if you want to escape normal life! It’s wonderfully tranquil, ideal for immersing yourself in nature and for getting active with the family. From its wonderful scenery, friendly locals, fresh air, great walks, history and outstanding golf, it’s the simple pleasures that satisfy most!
Thanks Nick, we look forward to welcoming you back to Perthshire in the future.