Proudly Canadian: The Carrick on Loch Lomond

Toronto architect Doug Carrick’s stunning heathland-style layout on the bonnie banks of the famous loch is the only Canadian-designed course in Scotland.

 

The Carrick on Loch Lomond (Image: The Carrick)

The Carrick on Loch Lomond hugs the ruggedly beautiful banks of Loch Lomond, the inspiration for Scotland’s most famous ballad.  (Image: The Carrick)

Freshly mown fairways edged by yellow gorse hug the jagged shoreline of Loch Lomond. Towering Ben Lomond, the most southerly of the Highland Munros, pierces the rising mist on the horizon. Westward lies Inveraray and Scotland’s great sea-lochs, and to the east the rugged Trossachs, the fabled homeland of Rob Roy.

Even now, almost a decade after the opening of The Carrick on Loch Lomond in 2007, Doug Carrick is awed by the scenery every time he visits — and astonished by his good fortune. “I still have to pinch myself,” says the architect of the only Canadian-designed course in Scotland. “Building in the cradle of golf was a dream come true.”

Set on the ruggedly beautiful shoreline of Loch Lomond, the inspiration for Scotland’s most famous ballad, The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond, Carrick’s 7,086-yard layout is located next door to the Cameron House hotel, a luxuriously refurbished and expanded 18th-century baronial mansion.

Tom Fazio, Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus — every leading architect in the game would have jumped at the opportunity to design a $20-million championship course that would go on to host the Ladies’ Scottish Open in 2007 and 2008. St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Gleneagles, clubs whose colourful histories are part of the fabric of the game, are all less than a two-hour drive away.

The Carrick on Loch Lomond (Image: The Carrick)

The Carrick is the only course in Scotland where golfers play the front nine in the Lowlands and the back nine in the Highlands. (Image: The Carrick)

Yet it was Carrick, a soft-spoken Torontonian, who won the coveted commission. Carrick had already made his reputation with award-winning layouts such as Greywolf in British Columbia, Angus Glen and Bigwin Island in Ontario, and Terra Nova and Humber Valley in Newfoundland. He had also worked on projects in Austria and Hungary.

From his first visit to Loch Lomond, Carrick, whose family emigrated to Canada from Scotland via Ireland five generations ago, felt like he had slipped on the kilt and sporran of his Highland ancestors and come home. Carrick is a name rich in local history. Robert the Bruce, the first Earl of Carrick, is buried nearby. A castle and an ocean-side hamlet also bear the family name.

“I was a little embarrassed when De Vere decided to name the course The Carrick on Loch Lomond,” he confesses. “I thought it might seem pretentious. But the name has so much local relevance.”

Of Scotland’s more than 550 courses, The Carrick is the only one where golfers play the front nine holes in the gently rolling Lowlands and the back nine in the craggy and sloping Highlands.

Once part of the vast holdings of the Clan Colquhoun, whose ancestors fought alongside Robert the Bruce in the fourteenth century, the heathland-style design weaves through open meadows, detours around inland lagoons and climbs into the dramatic Highlands before climaxing with a stretch of three holes on the shore of Loch Lomond.

Adopted as gospel by Carrick and most modern architects is the belief that a superior golf course must be at one with the natural landscape. At Loch Lomond, Carrick painstakingly contoured his fairways to take advantage of the spectacular views, not only of the loch and its surrounding hillsides, but also the Luss Hills that lie to the west.

De Vere Cameron House (Image: De Vere Hotels)

The Carrick is located next door to the De Vere Cameron House hotel, a lavishly restored 18th-century baronial mansion. (Image: De Vere Hotels)

Known for his traditional approach to course design, Carrick built old-style sod-walled bunkers and rectangular tee boxes. In play throughout the course are large areas of gorse and tall fescue. The native grasses, a striking visual contrast to the manicured fairways, are also seen dancing in the breeze in the rough beyond several bunkers.

“Every day brought new surprises,” Carrick says wryly of building a course in the historic home of the Scottish clans.

The discovery that the site was of archeological importance delayed the course’s opening by as much as a year. Glasgow University students descended on the property, digging more than five kilometres of trenches and unearthing everything from Neolithic jewellery and pottery to an early Christian burial site and Iron Age roundhouses.

In 2002, the golf course and surrounding area were incorporated into Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland’s first national parkland. Suddenly, Carrick’s project became of vital interest to often-prickly planning and environmental boards, which insisted on being consulted every step of the way.

But despite the troubles and delays, Carrick never stopped believing that he’d won golf’s version of the lottery.

“Though I’m not a religious man, I actually prayed that I’d get the job,” he says, laughing. “Building The Carrick was by far the biggest break of my career.”

 

Comments

  1. I haveplayed both the Carrick and greywolf fantastic tracks both of them. I could not believe how cordial all the workers at the Carrick. Thank you doug carrick.

  2. David Worley says:

    Played The Carrick some years ago and was somewhat disappointed. Some good holes but in mid summer it was very wet on about 6 holes in the low lying area. Would hate to think how wet it would be in the cooler months.

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