There is a sense of excitement and anticipation as Murrayshall Country House Hotel and Golf Club comes into view. Making the quaint drive through the countryside up to the historic main building, glancing at the tree-lined pristine Perthshire fairways en route, an eagerness both to check in and head for the first tee takes hold. The fact there are two contrasting golfing choices to select from simply adds to the appeal.
Yes, for the golfing couple seeking a short break for a couple of nights or more, Murrayshall ticks so many boxes. In the competitive stay-and-play market, it offers exactly what the golf traveller craves – fantastic golf and a charming and welcoming place to stay.
The building at the heart of the four-star hotel certainly catches the eye. The original Murrayshall House was built way back in 1664 by Sir Andrew Murray and occupied by his family for some 260 years. The hotel continues to retain its original charm and character, like the Lynedoch Cocktail Bar with its grand piano and cosy fire, while offering a modern feel in the neighbouring Lyndeoch Brasserie catering for all tastes with a distinctive and varied menu.
Arriving late on a Saturday afternoon, it says much for the hotel that a diverse range of people are enjoying their weekend break. Families kick back on sofas with their children, a group enjoy afternoon tea while others are glued to the Grand National on TV. Amid it all, a wedding is in full swing as party goers come and go, savouring the big day.
Since November 2016, the property has been owned by Stellar Assert Management and has undergone a £2 million refurbishment of all 40 bedrooms, the creation of the new Brasserie restaurant and the development of a new Spike Bar and changing areas for golfers.
After a quick drink, I check in with my wife, Iona, at our suite just a short walk from the main building, walking up stairs to be welcomed into a modern lounge and bedroom on the same floor, with an adjacent bathroom. With a snuggly couch and views out to the golf courses, it makes you keen to rest and relax.... but the fairways are calling. Given Murrayshall achieved 'Best Golf Hotel 2018' at the Scottish Golf Tourism Awards, I look forward to what awaits.
I only manage some six holes in the fading light, but it’s a joy over the Murrayshall Championship Course, certainly helped by two closing birdies to offer optimism for the season ahead! Designed by Hamilton J Stutt in 1979 and officially opened in 1981, the Murrayshall layout requires length and no little accuracy from the tee to allow the best angles into the flags. At 6,120 yards and a par-72, it is a testing challenge and one highlighted by beautiful greens, stone-built bridges and white sand bunkers.
Lynedoch also designed by Stutt, opened in 2000, is shorter but equally challenging with tighter fairways, gullies, tiered greens and tall Scots pine trees narrowing the targets. Formerly, an 18-hole, par-69 course, change is afoot for the 2019 season to meet the demands of time-conscious golfers.
“For some time, we have deliberated the layout of the Lynedoch course and the physical difficulty of playing the higher holes,” explains Alan Reid, Head Professional & Marketing Co-ordinator. “We have now taken the decision to close the higher eight holes to create a better 18-hole course for members and guests to play. The aim was to create a free-flowing golf course with no long walks between holes using the existing lower half of the golf course, yet still present a golfing challenge to all levels of golfer.”
The flexibility of a 10-hole loop will appeal to many, especially with an increased focus on shorter formats within the game. Yet a full day’s golf could now take in 10 holes on the Lynedoch, followed by 18 holes on Murrayshall, perhaps taking some lunch between rounds in Stutts Bar & Restaurant.
Handily placed just north of Perth only some 20 miles from Solheim Cup venue Gleneagles, various corporate golf and society day packages are offered by Reid and his team, who also oversee a well-stocked professional shop and a driving range.
“Our golfing breaks are designed for those golfers wanting to spend a couple of nights perfecting their play on our two courses,” confirms Reid. “The fact they can enjoy the hotel facilities as well makes Murrayshall a popular place for couples, golfing groups and locals alike.”
The food is as sumptuous as the golf. In the Lynedoch Brasserie, offering a cool and chic feel contrasted with images of local and national history adorning the walls, we enjoy squid and bruschetta (offering a different twist with mushroom and egg) to start for dinner, before two main dishes where the presentation matches the food. My wife savours cod in a local beer batter with lemon and pea and mint salsa, while I sample the corn-fed chicken breast with hispi cabbage, pearl barley and Jerusalem artichokes, with a delicious side of beef dripping thick cut chips.
It’s all washed down with some drinks in the adjacent Cocktail Bar. The full Scottish breakfast in the morning is another delight, making check out a challenge. Yes, on and off the course, Murrayshall takes some beating for the golfing couple.
(Posted on Wednesday 29th May 2019)