Sunday, 22 November 2009

Archerfield - Dirleton Course no 232

This simply a superb links course within an outstanding premier golf development in East Lothian, complementing the excellent run of courses along the coastline, from Longniddry to Dunbar. Although it is clearly a modern development, it resurrects the playing of golf over the Archerfield that began several hundred years ago and petered out after the Second World War.

I'm also a member of the Rhodes Golf Club, a club for local artisans that has playing rights over the East Links at North Berwick, where the Glen Golf Club is also based. The Rhodes GC is over 100 years old and in the centenary book highlighting its history, there are occasional references to the Archerfield GC, which used to be based at the Archerfield Estate and played its golf over the land that was used to create the new Dirleton course. In fact, the Rhodes first played a friendly match against the Archerfield club in 1907 and there were various other connections between the 2 clubs. I wonder whether the current Archerfield GC, with all of the investment in its excellent facilities, would welcome the resurrection of those matches, since at the Rhodes at least, I expect that there would be fierce competition to get into the team for the "away" fixtures!

Craig, Stu and I had the great pleasure of playing the Dirleton course on 20 November 2009, on a crisp sunny morning that belied the horrendous flooding being endured in Cumbria and South West Scotland. The course had obviously been hit by lots of recent rain, but was in superb condition, with well-maintained fairways, deep bunkers (lots of bunkers) and fast-running greens. Being such an exclusive club, access for non-members can be difficult and very expensive, but we were extremely grateful for the generosity of a local member who paid our green fees, ensuring we had a great day at this exceptional course. Thanks Andrew, we really appreciated your very kind gesture.

This is the 7th hole, a difficult par 3 of 191 yards from the Black Tees (Craig played from these), well protected by bunkers and a stream. I played off the Blues (167 yards) and Stu, who has only been playing for a couple of years, played off the Whites (156 yards). I three-putted for a 4, but managed my first par at the next hole, a short 339 yard par 4. There were many outstanding holes on the course, but our favourite had to be the 10th, a shortish par 5. The drive is to a narrow fairway with bunkers awaiting anything even remotely wayward. However, Craig found the middle of the fairway and hit the best shot of the day, a swinging draw out of the screws with a 4-iron into a stiff right to left breeze, which found the undulating green and stopped 14 foot 8 inches from the hole (yes, he did measure it and rightly so!) An unerring putt found the middle of the cup for an outstanding eagle 3. I managed a reasonable 6 after managing not to fall into the burn with this, my 4th shot. Sadly, my golf went downhill from there. In the last medal of 2009at the Glen GC, my handicap went up to 12, so it was with some relief that I finally walked off Dirleton with a 108, net 96. I didn't find every bunker, but it just seemed that I'd drive to the wrong side of the fairway, or find the wrong slope around the greens, or end up 5 feet past the hole, missing the putt back. Even when I did hit an occasional good shot, such as at the 6th, the wind and the slope took the ball straight of the green into a deep bunker. However, such was the quality of the course that somehow I didn't really mind. At some other courses I can think of, the odd expression of disappointment might have passed my lips, but not here. I did have an 8 on the card (5 times!) but did I care? I was enjoying the challenge of the course too much to do that. OK, so a dismal failure, but great fun and excellent company on the first of many rounds with Craig and Stu.
Here was my drive at the 18th, a lovely 409 yard par 4 for me, something less for Stu, who comfortably beat me with a creditable 97, net 75. Next time, young Stu, next time! Craig ended up with a magnificent 77 off the black tees - a great score.
Archerfield has a second course, the Fidra, so we look forward to returning there and to enjoying the considerable comforts of the clubhouse. Foolishly, we thought we'd try to squeeze in a round at Portobello, a 9 hole municipal course in Edinburgh. From the sublime to the ridiculous in one sense, since although Archerfield had been in great condition, some of the Portobello course was under water and the "Course Closed" sign was on display.

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