As Craig and Stu can testify, my golf has been pretty indifferent of late and it has to be said that I've been guilty of playing new courses to "tick a box" rather than concentrate on obtaining a good score. Accordingly, something had to be done and after a long practice session at my home course I tackled the medal on 1 May 2010 determined to concentrate better and avoid silly mistakes. After 5 holes things were not going well, as I'd somehow managed to drop 6 shots over the 4th and 5 holes. I staggered to an unlikely 45 at the turn but came back in 35, restoring some credibility and getting my handicap back down to 10. Polly had also played very well in a Glen ladies event the previous day.
So that was the backdrop to my visit to Ralston to play in a Mixed Greensomes event with Polly on 2 May 2010. No pressure, but we were cautiously optimistic. I guess that out of the Scottish 286 courses played previously, a handful had been in Mixed Foursomes or Greensomes events. Our ultimate golfing challenge is to play each course in Scotland, not necessarily play every single shot on each course. Although it is obviously better to play every shot, playing in a Foursomes or Greensomes event still counts as having "played the course." So Ralston joins a pretty short list, alongside Braehead, Largs, Cruden Bay (where we won!!!) and one or two others that I've only played with Polly in a Foursomes or Greensomes format.
Ralston turned out to be a really good course, which we both enjoyed playing. The Match Secretary told us before we started that the greens had suffered badly over the winter. However, such problems were clearly out of the club's control and whilst the greens were a bit bumpy and slow, it was obvious that this was a temporary problem, as the course and clubhouse oozed quality. We were really impressed by the welcome we had and the overall quality of the course and we really enjoyed playing with Dougie and Marie, both local members. One interesting hole after another and great use of elevation changes in the design meant that Ralston threw up surprises and really interesting challenges at each turn. We'd been doing OK over the first few holes and there was a bottle of whisky riding on nearest the pin at the 7th, a downhill 201 yard par 3. This is me carefully lining up my 7 wood tee shot. As Dougie commented later, mixed greensomes can be a real test of a couple's relationship, but we try not to take it too seriously and by now we're well used to the vagaries of each other's games. Suffice to say that there was no free whisky after my tee shot, which barely made it halfway to the green. We found Polly's drive after some searching, but we ended up with a double bogey. My fault. We'd limped out in 45, not great, but pretty passable. Keep it up and our final score would be mid-pack and respectable.
Our favourite hole at Ralston was the 11th, a 176 yard par 3, as shown here. I'd been having difficulty with my alignment and it was no great surprise that my tee shot ended up 10 yards to the right of the green, with a bunker between the ball and the pin. Polly had ended up in the front bunker, so I opted to play from there. I got the ball out OK, but we 3-putted for another double bogey. We managed a good par at "Leverndale" the 309 yard 12th hole, named after a former mental hospital that used to stand on the horizon at the end of the hole. I'd been brought up only a few miles away and had known the hospital (somewhat uncharitably!) as the "Hawkheid loony bin" so it was quite bizarre to see it redeveloped so impressively.
Sadly, the standard of our (or as Polly might testify, my) golf deteriorated as the back 9 progressed and we ended up with a gross 96, net 80. Still, we'd enjoyed ourselves and I'd love to play this course again. Ralston is a really interesting course, not long, but tricky for all that and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a game in the area. Craig and Stu haven't played it yet, so who knows, I might even try to play it with them as our challenge continues its merry way around Scotland. However, I'd want to play the second shot at the last hole properly next time. Polly had put her great drive onto a flat lie in the middle of the fairway, but can you see the pink cherry trees by the clubhouse, with bunkers between them and the green, with out of bounds nearby? I'm afraid so! We ended up with a triple bogey, so my target next time will be to get a 4 at the last.