Work of Art
The two oldest courses which make up the majority of the landscape have not changed significantly in design since their inception in 1919 and 1925 and the PGA Championship course has been designed by one of the world's most prestigious designers to be a course of international quality. The King's Course in particular is considered by many golfers to be one of the greatest golf courses in the world because of its design. Although different in character to the other two courses, the PGA Championship course, demonstrates how golf course design has evolved.
The King's and Queen's golf courses were laid out during what is known as the 'golden age' of golf course design. This period, from the late 19th to the mid 20th century coincided with the increase in popularity of the game itself and is important as ideas about course design that developed at this time are still used today.
Design of early golf courses in the early to mid 19th century concentrated on placing hazards, like bunkers, in the way of the player getting to the green. Only the best players could avoid these. As the game increased in popularity at the end of the 19th century, there was a move to make the game more interesting for players of all abilities and courses began to be designed more strategically. Hazards were placed to catch wayward shots, or in positions where better players could take risks and be in a better place for their next shot, but where a less able player could avoid the hazards, but take longer to get to the green. James Braid was one of the designers at the forefront of this type of design. In common with other designers of the period, he used the natural features of the site, and this is still very much part of the character of these courses at Gleneagles, where natural slopes and undulations are an important feature. One of the features of the King's course is the way a number of the holes are hidden from each other, giving a sense of isolation to the golfer.
Although the technology available allowed for some alteration to the natural landscape to create an interesting course, the use of full-scale earth moving equipment, as used now, was not available and the designers at the time were known for using the natural lies of the landscape. The courses at Gleneagles have been modified through the 20th century to take account of different playing styles, but comparison with a map of the course from 1926 shows that many of the bunkers and hole layouts are the same.
The Kings and Queens Golf courses at Gleneagles do not seem to have been considered trendsetting courses when they were opened, but they were designed using the contemporary philosophy of golf course design. The King's course in particular was considered to be a good course when it opened and this was confirmed by its use in 1921 for a match between the United States and Great Britain in a precursor of the Ryder Cup. The resort as a whole was written about positively at the time, with contemporary accounts describing the resort when it opened as 'the Playground of the Gods', ' the eighth wonder of the world' and 'a riviera in the Highlands' (http://www.gleneagles.com/meetings-events/business-events/incentives/).
The current PGA Championship course was modified in 2011 by the world famous golfer and designer Jack Nicklaus and it is his only course in Scotland. The course hosted the Ryder Cup in 2014 and is consistently rated highly amongst golfers.
James Braid designed or altered over 300 golf courses in Britain and Ireland and is considered to be one of the world's best golf course designers of his time. The King's Course is deemed by many to be one of his best. Braid was born in 1870 at Earlsferry in Fife and won the Open Golf Championship five times. He retired from playing professional golf in 1912 and went to Walton Heath in Surrey as its professional, where he remained. His main interest after this was as a golf course designer. His other courses include Carnoustie, which he remodelled in 1926 and Brora, which he designed in 1923 and which remains largely as he designed. The majority of his courses have been adapted as the game of golf has developed, but the King's and Queen's courses have been remarkably little altered in their layout and hole design.
Scotland is recognised internationally as the Home of Golf. It is renowned for its links courses, of which the Old Course at St Andrews is the major example, but which also includes Troon, Carnoustie and Muirfield, amongst many others. Gleneagles is an inland course, and although it is not the first (Lanark was started in 1851 and there were others at the spa towns in the latter part of the 19th century), it is one of the principal golfing venues in the world.
The layout of the designed landscape around the hotel, together with the golf courses designed by James Braid, give The Gleneagles Hotel high value as a Work of Art
Surviving earlier 20th century plans of the hotel grounds and the layout of the King's and Queen's golf courses contribute to an understanding of the history of the designed landscape. Other documentation records the building of the hotel. Photos dating from 1930 show the hotel and its immediate setting (Canmore), but there is no known documentation which details the changes made to the courses and to the hotel gardens during the course of the 20th century.
The two main golf courses, the King's and Queen's are considered to be good representatives of the growing trend for strategically designed golf courses at the beginning of the 20th century. All three golf courses at Gleneagles are consistently mentioned in current golf course websites and journals as being amongst the best course in the world to play.
The Gleneagles Hotel and its immediate surroundings still forms a significant part of the landscape. Other buildings, including the entrance lodges to the south and north, date from the 1920s and still form part of the overall landscape around the hotel. The hotel at Gleneagles is a category B listed building and was conceived, with the golf courses, as a luxury destination. Although conceived together, the hotel sits to the north of the golf courses and the two are not significantly linked, either visually or by paths, walks or drives. Photos from 1930 show the hotel situated within formal gardens, and almost completely screened by trees. This is in contrast to the Old Course at St Andrews where the clubhouse provides the backdrop for both the first and eighteenth holes.
The Gleneagles Hotel scores Outstanding in this criteria as there is one Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on the site (Gleneagles Mire). A Site of Special Scientific Interest is a statutory protected area, designated by Scottish Natural Heritage, which best represents the country's natural heritage.
There are a further 19 locations which are recognised by the Gleneagles Hotel as being of local importance for their scientific or nature conservation interest . The golf courses are managed in a way that gives priority to nature conservation, with the clearing of invasive species, for example. A diverse species of wildlife, including red squirrel and otter exist on the site.