Organized in 1994, Loch Lomond was set up in the tradition of Augusta National and Pine Valley; it has an international membership which doesn't 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 to ensure a particular geographic mix of members.
Apparently I got it all wrong. The club markets itself in a pompous fashion, but once behind the gates, I found Loch Lomond to be delightful and not the least bit pretentious. After hearing my pleas for access, I was contacted by a member who wanted to prove that Loch Lomond is a down to earth kinda' club, even if it is for people in the über-privileged class. After my visit I was better able to appreciate what they have here and separate out the pomposity of the marketing from the actual membership and club operation. Bottom line, I immensely enjoyed my first visit to their 'private and discerning international golf club' and hope to return to play again.
As you can see from a picture of the third green above, one of the design elements of the course is the shaved areas around many greens. This picture shows the severity of the slope. The fourth, twelfth and thirteenth holes also have severe shaved areas such as the one seen here.
The photogenic seventeenth hole ("The Bay")
The 215 yard photogenic par three seventeenth hole is set in a spectacular setting near the loch.
Most would agree that Loch Lomond is one of the finest and most scenic places in the world to be at and to play golf on. But how is the course? Certainly, to rank a parkland course in Scotland this high in the world rankings it must be special. To be honest, the course on its own right probably is like a lot of other high quality parkland courses in the United States. What makes it so charming is the combination of having a very good course set in this breathtaking location, the exclusivity of the club and one of the best clubhouses in the world. It is impossible to separate the course from its environment. Looked at in total, I agree that Loch Lomond is roughly one of the top fifty places in the world to play golf.
Loch Lomond looking up toward Ben Lomond from the 17th green
If someone knows of a finer clubhouse in all the world than Rossdhu House at Loch Lomond, please let me know. The clubhouses at the National Golf Links, Winged Foot, Garden City and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers impressed me as being world-class. Rossdhu House takes it to another level. The similarities between Loch Lomond and The White House in Washington D.C. are striking. The club has a fenced exterior gate around the property with a guarded entrance. Your movements on the property are perfectly orchestrated. When you arrive and leave they track your progress with walkie talkies through a command center. The interior of this 18th century Georgian mansion has a series of interconnected, themed rooms, each decorated with original, high-quality large oil paintings. Rossdhu House has a green room, a red room, a library, a formal dining room, a reception area, and a series of additional rooms for a variety of specialized purposes that I lost count of them. Like at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue the club has its own helicopter here. Each has a Rose Garden and perfectly manicured grounds. Rossdhu House even one ups The White House with clearly superior views out of the large windows, and I doubt that the White House has an amenitized spa!
In the end, I was won over at Loch Lomond by the setting and the Scottish charm. The club is not pretentious, and I've decided that I like being pampered. I had an 'A' caddy and a great day at Loch Lomond. I have been playing some local municipal courses this year to try to cut back on expenses, and the experience here was the polar opposite of public golf. I didn't find lots of broken tees laying on each tee box, nobody was walking around with their shirt out, there were not a lot of unrepaired pitch marks on the greens, and we didn't have to wait to hit every shot. While playing the round, I was asking the member how far it was to Dundonald, the other course associated with Loch Lomond. "About 10 minutes by helicopter." It must be nice.
It's official. I've become a golf snob. The problem is that, once you experience this level of golf, it's tough to go back. I apologize to all of you hackers out there for leaving the fraternity of regular guys and moving over to the dark side. I have indeed gone native. It did strike me as a bit odd that they served us Kool Aid at Loch Lomond after the round in the walled garden. I should have paid more attention, as it didn't seem right at the time, but now there is no going back.
Loch Lomond was the last of the twenty-seven courses ranked in the top 100 in Europe that I set out to play. As such, I finished on a very high note indeed, but hope to be invited back to Loch Lomond again.