Polly and I had booked to play at Dundonald Links GC on Christmas Eve 2009 to celebrate my 60th birthday, but snow, ice and frost put paid to that idea. We'd also booked to play at Ayr Bellisle on Boxing Day, but again, the weather made the course unplayable. We soldiered on down the coast a bit and although the whole country seemed to be cloaked in snow and ice and sub-zero temperatures, conditions had eased by the time we got to Turnberry. There was no-one around there and the car park was empty so we didn't bother going in to ask if the Ailsa course was open and pressed on to see what Girvan was like.
I'd read that the first 8 holes there were down by the sea, so we were planning to at least walk some of the course and perhaps take some photographs. Amazingly, there was no snow or frost on the course and the starter confirmed that it was indeed open. He was quite proud that on a day when travel had been seriously disrupted across the country, his course was one of the few that were open. As it turned out, there was only one player several holes in front, so I had a clear run and went round in just over 2 hours. Polly was still getting over a cold, so she carried the camera and took great delight in refusing a few short gimmies on the temporary greens.
Girvan GC is only 4590 yards, par 64 off the yellow tees, but was playing shorter, because of the hard ground and temporary greens. I went round in a net 67, thanks to some missed short putts as the greens were, at best, pretty poor. The first 8 holes are indeed right down by the sea on a narrow strip of links land. The first hole was playing about 290 yards downwind with out of bounds hard on the left. I nailed the drive and had a lob wedge back to the green, missing a short putt for par. As Polly said, I'd come a long way to play the course, so gimmies were out.
The views on the first part of the course were terrific, with the Mull of Kintyre, Ailsa Craig and Arran all clearly visible. On the left is me on the 2nd tee, with a (rare!) fine drive that led to the first par of the day. Best holes on the seaward side of the course were 5, a 115 yard par 3 with out of bounds to the right and behind the small green and 6, 289 yard par 4 into the wind, with out of bounds all down the right side.
The photo below was my tee shot at 6. I managed a birdie at the 8th, which had been aptly named as "Right Scunner" a difficult 218 yard par 3. That turned out to be the highlight of the round, as the last 10 holes, up the road and down behind the clubhouse were pretty uninspiring by comparison. Gone were the magnificent views out to sea, replaced by the dismal view of the back of an Asda supermarket and a caravan park, closed for the winter. The best hole on that part of the course was 15, a 364 yard par 4 over a river, with a blind second to an elevated green. I also liked 16, a short downhill driveable par 4. However, I can't think of many other courses that finish with 2 par 3's and poor ones at that. Number 17 required a 213 yard carry to an uphill green (aye right!), and 18, a 125 yard hole, involved a blind shot over some trees. I played my 9 iron, went through the green but got my par with a good putt.
Girvan starts off strongly but simply peters out, leaving a long walk back over a bridge and up a path round the back of the clubhouse. A pity, because the opening holes are really good fun.