Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Loch Lomond Golf Club




Which golf course is the toughest to get on in the British Isles?

Well, in my case it is Loch Lomond (ranked #56 in the world), located thirty miles north of Glasgow in Scotland. I have completed playing 23 of the 24 courses in the British Isles on the world top 100 list. Although most are private clubs, they follow long-standing tradition and allow visitors to book a round as long as you follow their rules and protocols. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (Muirfield) is the second most difficult course to get on, just because they restrict tee times more than any other club. However, they do allow you to play without a member, as do all the others. Loch Lomond Golf Club is a very private affair. You must play with a member, and you cannot just ring up the club and book a round.

Organized in 1994, Loch Lomond was setup in the tradition of Augusta National or Pine Valley; it has an international membership and doesn't really serve as a local golf club in the traditional sense. In fact, Loch Lomond is constituted as a 'destination' club to be 'savored' only a few times a year. Membership is organized around specific geographic regions. The club has appointed specific 'Club Captains' to assume leadership and membership responsibilities for these geographic regions and ensure a particular geographic mix of members.

Loch Lomond has the most pompous approach I have ever seen to membership. They describe themselves as a "private and discerning international golf club." Their P.R. sounds a bit pious to me. They describe Loch Lomond as "a singular place to meet on the world stage...It is a sanctuary not just for golf aficionados but for world thinkers." What does that even mean? World thinkers? So it's the Davos of golf clubs? The U.N. of the links? Get a grip on yourselves, boys.

Also taken from their marketing literature, "Loch Lomond has a state-of-the-art, exceptionally amenitized spa in a walled garden." An exceptionally amenitized spa? What is an amenitized spa? Does that mean they put out a lot of fruit and little shampoo bottles the members can take home? I wonder if colon cleansing is included among the spa treatments? It sounds like some of the people that write the marketing pieces here need to have their pipes cleaned. Perhaps a bit of a high colonic will prevent them from abusing the English language like this. Their marketing piece is like something written by a chain-smoking, over-lipsticked, highly-caffeinated realtor in Nevada: adjectives gone wild. Their rhetoric borders on being as obnoxious as Donald Trump's. One gets the feeling that there are a lot of raised pinkies as they drink their cocktails at Loch Lomond.

Members of this high-minded include Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie and His Royal Highness Prince Andrew. It also has an unusual feature that I have never heard of before. They limit the amount of play that members may have. Most clubs have a limit on guest play, but I've never heard of limiting member play. Members are limited to playing the course no more than fourteen times in any given year. The guest policy is, by definition, restricted since you have to play with a member.


Rossdhu House at Loch Lomond

Although the club is very exclusive, the course is known to the public because each year, the week before the Open Championship, the Scottish Open is played here. This allows outsiders a peek at what has been called the most beautiful setting in the world. Their clubhouse, Rossdhu House, is an 18th century Georgian mansion, and serves as a focal point in the scenery with the loch and the mountains in the background. It looks very special indeed.

Apparently, their approach to running a golf club hasn't work out as planned. They went into receivership in late 2008, making it more difficult for me to play the course. I've known two members over the years but both dropped out due to the increasingly high dues and the restrictions. I was offered a chance to play recently, but I guess they are so desperate for revenue that they're trying to soak anybody that comes near the place. I'm sorry, but a £600 guest green fee is just wrong. This highfalutin, haughty approach is an outrage.

In this era of de-leveraging, the Loch Lomond Golf Club model is coming apart at the seams. How many people can now afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to join a vanity club like this?

I take their bombastic approach to things as a challenge to be overcome, which I accept with pleasure. I have done this twice previously and this one should be easier since there is no language barrier like there was when I tried to book a tee time at France's Morfontaine and Japan's Hirono.

I am now singularly focused on getting onto Loch Lomond and I will keep you appraised of my developments.

Maybe this would be a good time to break out some of that "In Residence at the Lodge" letterhead I picked up at Sea Island and write them a letter. Perhaps they will be impressed. I'm working on some florid language of my own to approach the club with.

I'm also dusting off my recording equipment and am about to make some calls...

9 comments:

Ryno said...

Mr. Top 100,

Was the £600 guest green fee for you only or did you have to play with a member?

I'm surprised they opened it up to you without a member invitation.

Top 100 Golfer said...

Ryno - haven't played it yet, still trying to get through their hurdles

Anonymous said...

Great article! The reason they are so over the top in their marketing is that they aren't really a golf club... its a business, and I bet most of the people employed to write that crap worked for a marketing company and don't play golf!

Despite having a few prestigious figureheads (who I bet get membership for free and rarely visit), in general it's a place for people who have loads of money but can't get into the traditionally grand clubs of the UK. Not saying I wouldn't want to play there - the course looks great. Just a pity about the club!

Birko said...

£600 guest fee? It's around £100 as I recall, and not really worth it. I think they could have done better with the setting, it's too much of an "American" style course for my liking.

The joining fee is not hundreds of thousands of dollars either - I believe it's somewhere in the £35-£50k bracket (which is ridiculous) which is only beaten by the likes of Queenwood in the UK.

It's not a patch on Morfontaine, and it's false exclusivity - it's nouveau as opposed to the tradtion of Morfontaine

Tom said...

A fabulous and hilarious post, Top 100. Loch Lomond may be a wonderful course (only ever seen it on TV) but the club's pomposity and arrogance is against the spirit of the game. Those in charge should be ashamed of themselves.

Rob said...

Based on your comments about the club, are you surprised that you haven't been invited to play there yet?

I think if you made those comments about the membership at my club I would probably go out of my way to prevent you from getting on the course.

You're definitely entitled to your opinion, but my only reason for making these comments is that your website is a great tool to help you get onto some fantastic courses. If I were doing this I would try to be careful not to offend the people from whom I'm asking for help.

Anonymous said...

You dont seem to have any real knowledge of the club or accurate information. Since I have been a member for years, let me set you straight on a couple of items:

1. It is unambiguously one of the most beautiful courses in the world. Since I am also a member of Cypress Point, I think I know what I am talking about.

2. It was owned by the US billionaire Lyle Anderson, who was cuaght in the global credit crunch like so many other folks. He couldnt refinance his credit facilities hence the financial problems. Nothing to do with your BS innuendo.

3. It does cater to the affluent international golfer; sorry you dont like it. As for the marketing literature, so what? Any given round you can see a globally prominent politician, financier, athlete, etc.

4. We pay a lot to be members; it is well over 100k upfront and a few thousand per year; given that, it is unsurprising that unsponsored member play is not allowed.

5. I paid 500 to play Pebble - and it was utterly forgetable but for 4 or 5 holes. I'd pay 2x that to play Loch Lomond. not sure where you got the 600 fiigure but assuming that is for real - you should jump on it. Value is subjective but you will never forget the golf course. each hole is memorable and the atmosphere is incomparable.

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Anonymous said...

I played Loch Lomond last week and the members fees weren't anywhere near the region of £600!! I played Loch Lomond twice, and their sister links course Dundonald all for £280. That included a caddy on all three days.

I would say the service is exceptional, and the setting beautiful. Yes maybe their marketing a little over the top but I wouldn't allow that to cloud your judgement. The only thing that you can judge it by is visiting.

The club was taken over by the members after the American company who owned it previously not being able to make it work.

The course is fantastic, it proper challenge, with some great holes. Greens are challenging. As for the location, its is absolutely second to none!