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Monday 23 October 2017

HOLE-BY-HOLE GUIDE: Paul Casey takes us onto the course at Gleneagles

Here, three-time Ryder Cup team member Paul Casey gives his hole-by-hole guide to the PGA Centenary Course at the Gleneagles resort in Scotland, a venue where he has won two European Tour events.

First (Bracken Brae), 426 yards, par four

It's a beautiful opener. Typically you will see a three wood or driver from players here, whichever they feel more comfortable with. The ideal tee shot is down the left-hand side of the fairway to a raised green. It's not a difficult opening hole and I wouldn't be surprised to see a few birdies here especially as the tee shot is slightly downhill. The bunker in front of the green is the place to avoid.

Second (Wester Greenwells), 516 yards, par five

I've always found this an awkward tee shot, the wind is usually off the right and it requires a well-struck tee shot to enable you to find the fairway and reach the green in two. When the pin is on the front the water is not much of an issue, you can miss it to the right and still have a relatively easy up and down. The further back the pin is the narrower it gets and the more precise you have it. A lot will happen on this great match play hole which favours the team with the longer hitters.

Third (Schiehallion), 431 yards, par four

An absolutely brilliant hole. It can be terrifying from the top tee, the wind is often howling into the face from the left and most players try to avoid the bunkers on the right-hand side, if you are even able to reach them! Therefore a lot of players miss the fairway left which is treacherous, you see a lot of lost balls on the left. The green is also difficult to find and par will be a good score.

Fourth (Gowden Beastie), 211 yards, par three

I never knew the name of this hole, but it really is a beastie. Depending on the tees this could play as short as a six iron or as much as a fairway wood. Anything on the putting surface is a very good shot. Long is a better place to be than short, the front left bunker is quite imposing when you stand on the tee and swallows up a lot of balls. You are unlikely to lose the hole with a three. I am not a fan of long par threes, but in this case it's a pretty good one.

Fifth (Crookit Cratur), 461 yards, par four

This is a brilliant tee shot, a very difficult one visually because you don't see how much room you have on the right and because of that most players favour the left, but you can then get blocked out by the trees. You want to hug the left-hand side if possible to avoid playing over the marsh down the right in front of the green. You will see some action and mistakes on this hole. In the Johnnie Walker Championship, you would always take a par here and run to the next.

Sixth (Mickle Skelp), 201 yards, par three

A great little par three down the hill which does not play too long. It is 200 yards from the back tee but plays 10 to 15 yards downhill. The water does not come into play but you have to pay attention and anything missing the narrow green to the right leaves a fast chip down the green. You will be looking to make a birdie because a par might not be good enough.

Seventh (Larch Gait), 468 yards, par four

The no-no here is the right-hand fairway bunker which is reachable off the tee. Going with three wood to play short of it leaves a long second shot so I think most guys will hit driver because the fairway is wide enough. A big bank on the right-hand side and big drop-off on the left makes this very difficult on a windy day. Balls which just miss the green right should kick down off the bank, but left is a no-go area.

Eighth (Sidlin' Brows), 419 yards, par four

This hole is brilliant, although I had no idea how to play it! With sunshine and a favourable wind the longer players will take on the bunkers which creep in from the left-hand side. I would like to see Paul McGinley play it from one of the forward tees to allow players to hit driver and leave a flick into the green. When I won my two titles round there that's what I did but if you don't play it that way it can give you fits. Do you take a three wood and play right of the bunkers or a long iron to leave a longer approach? Any indecision will be costly.

Ninth (Crook o' Moss), 618 yards, par five

This is a great hole which again favours the longer hitters. The right-hand bunker is not in play but the ones on the left definitely are. They are incredibly deep and steep and will leave just a wedge out and an awfully long third shot. If you find the fairway I think you have to take on the green. You have all of Scotland to the left where you can bail out, but I think we will see a couple of eagles here and spectators will have a great vantage point on the banks.

10th (Sleekit Howe), 208 yards, par three

This is not a long hole but it can give you fits because the ball is hanging in the air for such a long time from the elevated tee. Neither bunker is a great place to be and club selection will be vital.

11th (Laich Burn), 350 yards, par four

I love this hole but it's difficult to pick out the line off the tee. The tendency is to aim towards the green as you can see it in the distance, but if you do that you can miss the fairway right. A long iron or fairway wood is the usual play off the tee. The green is incredibly narrow and the big disaster area is spinning it back down the hill and into the burn. Iron play needs to be spot-on and expect to see quite a few birdies.

12th (Carn Mairg), 445 yards, par four

Again, the key is to avoid the fairway bunkers, which is a big thing around this golf course. The three bunkers down the right are the ones to avoid and playing short of them leaves a long second shot of around 200 yards. Bite off a lot with the tee shot and succeed and a birdie could be on the cards.

13th (Wimplin' Wyne) 481 yards, par four

A difficult hole with a downhill tee shot. Playing short of the bunker in the fairway is not an option, it leaves you too far to go with your approach into a difficult green complex guarded by a nasty pot bunker on the front left. You have to take on the fairway bunker and the best drivers of the ball will be rewarded.

14th (Nebit Knowe) 320 yards, par four

This hole depends on wind direction and pin location. I'm a big fan of going for driveable par fours and hopefully it is set up so you can go for it. If not, it's a short iron off the tee and either way there will be a lot of birdies. A good hole to see the strategy, especially in fourballs. Does the first player knock it in the fairway and the second one go for it?

15th (Ochil Sicht) 463 yards, par four

Maybe the best par four on the golf course and always one of my favourites. For some reason the left-hand bank just seems to draw you in, but the further right you hit it the longer you make the hole. A well-struck shot with a touch of draw will bound down the hill but still leave a long shot to a long and narrow green, and the left-hand side falls away steeply to deep rough. In a match play situation, being on the green in two first will be a big advantage.

16th (Lochan Loup) 518 yards, par five

I have good memories of this hole after hitting it in two in 2001 and finishing birdie-par-birdie to beat Alex Cejka by a shot. A good tee shot down the left-hand side is required to avoid the bunkers and set up a second shot to the green. The water is not really in play and laying up is not particularly difficult, although it can leave a downhill lie for the third shot. The green has several ridges in it, making it difficult to get close. A great hole where matches can be won or turn around quickly.

17th (Ca' Canny) 194 yards, par three

A beautifully framed hole that usually requires a mid-iron to find the putting surface. The bunkers are deep but you have to take dead aim at this flag as it is not difficult to gauge the distance with a drop of only a few yards down the hill. It will be interesting to see how pressure plays a part on what is normally a straightforward hole.

18th (Dun Roamin') 513 yards, par five

A lot of holes are about getting the tee shot away or all about the approach, but here there is no let-up from start to finish. You will have to hit a good drive to get home in two and anything leaked right forces a lay-up, but your problems don't stop there. The new green is heavily contoured and missing it leaves a difficult pitch, no matter where the pin is located.

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