I played in the Senior's Open at Blairbeth to the south of Glasgow on 27 May 2010. The weather forecast was for heavy showers and these really got going just before I was due to tee off. Blairbeth is a 5537 yard par 4 off the white tees we were playing. Blairbeth was a surprisingly hilly parkland course and was in great condition. Ronnie, my playing partner, commented that the new greenkeeper had done wonders for the course and that this had had a beneficial effect on membership numbers. Some of the changes the new man had introduced were controversial, such as allowing light rough to grow on slopes where balls would previously feed down to greens, but as a visitor, I thought the course was excellently presented. Blairbeth celebrates its Centenary in 2010 and with all of the rain we had going round during the medal, the course should be in perfect condition for the Centenary Open to be played on 29 May. I hope that the celebrations go well since this is a really good course and an excellent friendly club.
However, that ambition quickly came unstuck on the 12th, a 299 yard right dog leg. A short drive (surely not, Alan!) left me with a wedge over some high trees (why do dog leg holes have elbows?) I hit the top of one tree and ended up out of bounds for a triple bogey 7. Another 7 followed at the tricky 550 yard par 5 13th, with out of bounds all the way up the right side. As this photo shows, the green sits on a shelf, hard by the out of bounds. At best, a 6 was on offer, but a chip from 50 yards was badly underhit and caught the semi-rough. The green is actually tiny but there's enough space to make it bigger (Ronnie - a hint!) I was now 12 over, so I needed to par the last 5 holes to be in with a chance of the buffer zone.
The 14th is a remarkable hole and by far my favourite on the course. At 303 yards off the back tee, it is short, but the tee shot is blind, with the white stone some 50 yards from the tee on top of a hill looking to be too far to the right. I was only slightly left of the "stone line" but ended up way left of the fairway in light rough. An easy pitch with a 7 iron and a couple of putts made for a satisfying par, but what makes this hole remarkable is the astonishing panoramic view of Glasgow and surrounding areas from Paisley to Motherwell and beyond. We could see for miles, including the next line of heavy showers.
A couple of bogeys at the next 2 holes were disappointing, particularly since they were short and pretty easy. Next, we were back down to the clubhouse to play the last couple of holes. These had until recently been the opening holes at Blairbeth, but changes had been made for the Centenary to make the difficult former second into a really challenging last hole. This idea seems to work well. However, a really heavy shower started on the 17th tee, as this photo shows. The 17th is a 268 yard par 4, with the green perched on a steep slope. Ronnie eagled it and I birdied it, despite us both missing the green. Not bad, given the deluge we played in. The last hole is a 356 yard par 4, with a bank half way up a steep hill that has to be cleared to have any chance of reaching the green. I managed that OK, but the second shot is blind over the hill and I just missed the green. An easy lob wedge should have given me a chance of a single putt, but I fluffed that and a bogey followed. I'd gone round in 83, net 73, a couple of shots adrift of the buffer zone. Still, I'd enjoyed the course despite the weather, thanks largely to Ronnie. It turned out that we'd gone to the same school and had lived near to each other in the south side of Glasgow when we were kids. I'd not thought about school days for years, so it was bizarre to recall teachers that are now probably long since retired or deceased. We'd enjoyed each other's company so in truth, the scores didn't really matter. For Ronnie, it was a day of what could have been. An 8 and a 7 on par 4's and he still had a net 69 - not too shabby and if he's playing in Blairbeth's Centenary Open, he'll no be last.