I played this excellent parkland course near Hawick on 10 June 2010. I'd not thought to book, as village courses are usually pretty quiet on Thursday mornings, but as it was the Hawick Common Riding that day, it was a local public holiday and the course was very busy. A visiting party of senior golfers was about to go out, so the steward/starter very kindly took me down to the 14th tee, where a couple of local members, Gerald and Gordon (both retired school headmasters), were about to start their game. I was delighted to accept their invitation to join them and thoroughly enjoyed their company and the crack on the way round. Minto is a short 18 hole parkland course of only 5393 yards off the yellow tees, with 4 par 3s, 13 par 4s from 255 to 414 yards, and a solitary short par 5 of only 476 yards. The course is only moderately hilly and looked to be in fine condition. There had been heavy rain for the past few days, and my playing partners advised me that the course was playing longer than usual, with very little run off the drives. As it turned out, the course had stood up well to the rain, but the greens were really slow. This was a mixed blessing, since I 3-putted 2 of them from no great distance. On the other hand, their slowness kept me out of trouble when I got out of position, so I'm not complaining!
Since we had started at the 14th, I'll continue from there too. The 14th was a downhill slight dog leg 393 yard par 4, with a blind second shot. I missed the green to the left, but rescued my par with a good pitch and a decent putt. At the 15th, a ridiculously slow downhill putt from just off the green led to a bogey 5. Likewise at the 16th, where I 3 putted from under 20 feet. This is a view of the excellent clubhouse from the 18th green. I'd done the first 5 holes in 2 over par. Could a decent round be taking shape, despite the odd mistake and slow green? The shortness of the holes meant that even a poor drive would not be a serious problem, but I was continuing to hit fairways and greens. I bogeyed the 1st, 3rd and 7th, but even after missing a series of putts for birdies, I was only 3 over for holes 1-9. This is the 161 yard downhill 4th, missed from 15 feet after a good 6 iron. Worse was to follow at the 166 yard par 3 6th, where I missed a birdie putt from under 6 feet. Still, I was happy enough hitting irons well for a change after some struggles earlier in the year with the dreaded unmentionables.
I'd hit a decent straight drive at the 245 yard 10th and had only a flick with a lob wedge to the flag, over a greenside bunker. However, a poorly hit shot left me at the back of the green, with a 30 foot downhill putt that in drier conditions would have been almost impossible to hold short of the bunker I'd flirted with earlier. A poor 3-putt followed for a silly bogey on an easy hole. Still, I was only 6 over after 14 holes. Sadly, I missed my second fairway of the round at the 11th, trying to blast a drive from an elevated tee when a more easy swing would have done. The 11th is a 369 yard steeply downhill par 4, but I bogeyed the hole after finding a bad lie in the rough from the tee. And so to the 12th, aptly named "Everest" a 255 yard steeply uphill par 4. This is the view from the tee, which I'm afraid doesn't do justice to the hill that awaited us. The rough in front of the tiny green is kept long to hold balls on the slope, but from close to the green the upslope is silly steep, with only the top of the flag visible. Thankfully, my lob wedge finished short of the pin, leaving me an uphill 15 foot putt. A 10th par on the scorecard, with only the 301 yard par 4 13th to come. I hit a really good drive and had only a short iron to the green, which I pulled left from an awkward upsloping lie. However, a good pitch to 4 feet gave me a good chance to save par. Gerald and Gordon had similar putts, but we all missed to the right. Still, I'd gone round in 77 in total, with 10 pars and 8 bogeys. I'd had 31 putts, including a couple of 3 putts and made some silly mistakes, as you do on a strange course. Still, It's a long time since I've avoided a double bogey or worse, or a 6 on my card. A net 67, 2 under net par was pretty good. My playing partners had been great company and I'd really enjoyed the course. Minto may be short but you need to find the fairways and stay below the holes. I'd recommend Minto to anyone. It's maybe a wee bit too far out for outings from Edinburgh but I'll still be suggesting this as a possible office golf club outing for 2011.