Monday, 12 July 2010

Murcar GC - Murcar Links Course - course no 320

Polly and I played this outstanding championship links course on 6 July 2010 on yet another hot and sticky day in sunny Scotland. Murcar Links is a modest 5875 yards par 69 off the yellow tees, but it is a hugely difficult course, full of subtlety, complexity and all of the other aspects that you'd expect to find on a traditional links course. The course was very dry, so the fairways and greens were running fast. Murcar also had some of the most undulating fairways I've seen on any course, so even a well struck shot to the middle of a fairway could bounce unpredictably towards bunkers or rough. The first couple of holes gave us a flavour of what was to come and was a fairly gentle start. The course really came alive on the 3rd, a tricky downhill 401 par 4. This is the view from the middle of the fairway, which somewhat unusually I'd found after a great drive over a large hillock (that is all you see from the tee!) I hit a 7 iron from here to the green and made par with a couple of good putts, but note the undulations and the narrowness of the entrance to the green. Royal Aberdeen Golf Club lies immediately behind this green and I gather it's not unheard of for visitors to keep walking rather than turn left for Murcar's 4th tee. Although it's normal to use a pitch and run rather than a higher approach shot into links greens, particularly on windy days, this low shot is simply not possible on some of Murcar's holes. This is a view to the 8th green from around 120 yards. The course was quiet, so we spent some time trying to figure out how to manoeuvre a ball over these mounds, but however hard we tried various shots, the final result was quite unpredictable. Great fun, but I don't think I've ever seen such large ripples and folds in such a small area. Murcar just didn't let up, with one difficult and/or bizarrely challenging hole after another. I particularly liked the 15th, a stormer of a hole, particularly into the strong wind that had got up. The 15th is only 351 yards, with the tee shot played from an elevated tee over gorse and heavy rough. This is the view from the tee. The fairway slopes away to the left, with the second shot played up a steep hill with a water hazard at the bottom of it. I'd 156 yards to the hole after my tee shot, but the green was 60 or so feet above me, so my trusty 7 wood was required to reach the green. A couple of putts and I'd got my par, but this hole was too much for Polly, who came to grief in the water hazard and up the hill. I don't think I'd ever tire of playing this course, but is it fair, could I ever master its slopes and greens, or score well? I very much doubt it. I played very well and hit most fairways. I also had only 31 putts (including a 3 on the 8th) but still only scored 84, or 5 over net par. I was only playing off the yellow tees and it wasn't blowing the kind of gale that can be found on our links courses. Polly thought that although the course was in great condition, it was hugely difficult for her off the ladies tees. She tried her heart out, but I sneaked another win to take the score in our Summer Cup to 5-2.

Murcar is an extremely difficult and testing course and is a great example of Scottish links golf at its best. Royal Aberdeen is probably more famous, but it's next door neighbour is also well worth playing. Don't expect to score well here unless you've brought your A game and get some lucky breaks along the way, but you'll enjoy it, for all that.

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