#6: St. Fillans: a real gem at the south of Loch Earn
If Crieff is the heart of Strathearn, then St. Fillans is its soul. Legend has it that Robert the Bruce carried a relic of St. Fillans with him into the Battle of Bannockburn. And he firmly believed it was St. Fillans power that helped the Scots win the day. It seems that same power is still charming people today. It’s a truly beautiful course in excellent condition whose magic stays with you long after you depart.
Most importantly, it’s a welcoming, straightforward, inspiring and just plain old fashion fun golf course. St. Fillans offers one a chance to play to a backdrop of beautiful mountains, while gently reminding you of the most important parts of the game and of life itself:
a good welcome with home baking starts things off right;
the importance of honesty always;
avoid slow play at all costs; and
most of all, have the company of faithful friends around, which in this case is Jarvis the dog! (This is Jarvis, the beautiful ten year old foxhound who welcomes all and patiently watches over the club.)
We were also warmly welcomed on this glorious afternoon to St. Fillans by Gordon the General Manager. He is a wonderful, hardworking man, who encouraged us to enjoy the course and its views. So off we went with expectations high.
The course was even more picturesque and beautiful than I can adequately describe. But my golf was just the opposite. I must have been overcome by the setting; however, I somehow managed to slow down and grind out some decent golf. It was well worth the effort!
Here I was in a bunker (again). But with the beautiful views, it was hard not to have your own mood lifted. Even at the fifth hole, the Bothy, when I hit the ball straight into the massive boulder adjacent to the green, it was hard not to enjoy the experience. As Ann joked, 'This whole course 'rocks' Beth!' (Easy for her to say from the safety of the green!
St. Fillans famous designer, Willie Auchterlonie, would certainly be proud that I played and experienced his entire masterpiece. He was a golf club maker from St. Andrews and his knowledge of the intricacies various clubs is clear from the course layout. There is certainly potential to utilize all of the clubs one chooses to carry. And St. Fillans provides some subtle challenges to even the most experienced golfer.
It’s no wonder that one of Scotland’s most famous golfers, Sandy Lyle, who lives nearby, often plays and practises at St. Fillans. As they say at the club, ‘If the course is good enough for Sandy Lyle to use it to practise for the Masters at Augusta, then it is good enough!’ Mr. Lyle has signed a Master’s flag and it is proudly displayed in the clubhouse entrance. He is also hosting a special tournament on August 1st and all are welcome to participate in this great day out!
As we headed to the first tee, Gordon asked us to be careful of some ladies measuring the yardage of the course. After we finished the round, we met them enjoying a drink in the sunshine. It turns out they were from Perth & Kinross Council, and it’s their job to go around and officially measure the courses to verify their yardage. I never knew such a post existed.
Here are these lovely women:
They were great, and said that they have a ten year circuit in which they visit every golf course in the county. What a job!!! It sounded like a dream. They conceded that it was lovely on a day like today, but not quite as much fun in altogether different weather.
When we were just about to depart, we met another woman just arriving to go out for a round. I joked that I had left her a few balls out on the course, and she introduced herself as Joyce, the Women’s Vice Captain. She, herself, comes all the way from Callendar to play at St. Fillans. This is a brilliant, but simple, testimonial itself to the quality of St. Fillans.
Joyce and I are pictured here at the start of the course - it truly offers amazing views!
St. Fillans has approximately 30 women members. Gordon also confirmed that men and women have fully integrated memberships at that club. They are quite proud of that fact, and count themselves one of the first clubs to offer fair play to both men and women. It must be St. Fillans spirit continuing to breathe life and magic into the miracle of this brilliant golf course, club and its membership.
This ‘Lady of the Links’ thinks it should not be missed if you are in the area and have chance to play. I can't wait to get back myself!
Footnotes: Total yardage for women is 5412 with a par of 74 over 18 holes. They have both buggies and pull trolleys to hire. There is a practise putting area adjacent to the first tee, if one wants to warm up. St. Fillans is open for play all year long subject to the weather. But the clubhouse and restaurant are closed during the off season.