Sunday, 15 August 2010

Spean Bridge GC - course no 343

I'd been invited to attend the official opening on 17 August 2010 of the new £12 million ferry terminal on Raasay, just of the island of Skye, so this was the perfect opportunity to play a few more courses. It's a 5+ hour drive to Skye, so Spean Bridge, near Fort William, was a good break-point. The Spean Bridge course is a short moorland 9 hole course, measuring only 2271 yards, par 34. The excellent new clubhouse, shown here, sits adjacent to the village railway station. There's a small car park, but I'd wondered what the access was, as the footbridge over the railway line looked improbably narrow and flimsy to take my car. However, a local guy assured me that it would be OK, with care, but that was an interesting start to my visit.

Anyway, Spean Bridge was pretty undulating, with good views to the surrounding mountains. Being moorland, it was heavy going in parts and looked prone to becoming boggy in wet conditions. Being quite high up, the course is also exposed to the weather, so it was no great surprise to find that the fairways and greens were slow running and a bit bumpy. Indeed, there was little run at all on the fairways, so the course was playing longer than it looked. Local knowledge would also help, as there are a few blind shots to contend with, such as the drive at the 4th, a short 254 yard par 4, and Stroke Index 1 on the card. The Local Rules mention that "all burns, streams or watercourses shall be treated as hazards." However, none of the margins to such features are defined. This is the view from the 4th tee. I'd hit a driver over the marker pole, expecting to find the ball on or near the green. However, there's a stream surrounded by ferns and bushes in a dip hidden over the brow of a hill on the fairway, so the right choice would have been to lay up short. The course map on the card does nothing to indicate the trouble ahead, so as I couldn't see my ball entering the hazard, it was lost. Luckily, I single putted the green with my second ball and escaped with a bogey but this is an awkward little hole, so be warned!

I particularly liked this, the 7th, a 287 yard par 4, played from an elevated tee over a small gorge to a narrow fairway . The ground slopes from right to left, but although I thought my drive was OK, I eventually found it in heavy rough, stymied by trees and had another bogey. There are exposed rocks near where I thought I'd landed - at least I've not used that excuse in a while! I managed a couple of pars on the last couple of holes. Oddly, No 8, a 312 yard par 4 is the Stroke Index I hole, but a good drive, solid sand iron and a couple of putts was enough. The last, a tough looking 178 yard par 3, was just a 7 wood and a couple of easy putts. With my good break on the 4th, I'd gone round in 39, net 34, matching the course par. Spean Bridge was an enjoyable and a relatively easy short walk, despite the odd hill (and I'm only guessing that it was an odd number!) The air was clean and fresh, I saw some deer and an eagle soaring above a nearby forest and was round the course in little over an hour. A good break from the drive across to Skye. I'd also made it round Spean Bridge before the forecast heavy rain came, but I was not to end the day dry, or bite-free!

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