Sunday, 1 August 2010

Papa Westray GC - course no 332

Craig, Stu and I played here on 28 July 2010 after our depressing experiences on North Ronaldsay. We'd explained to a worker at the airfield that the North Ronaldsay had been in poor condition, but although the 9 hole course as Papa Westray was still being actively supported, the woman we spoke to said her son (who acted as greenkeeper) had been too busy recently to cut the course and that it was pretty overgrown. There's only one road on Papa Westray (or Papay is the locals referred to it) and as the island is only 3.5 Sq. Miles, it's difficult to get lost. We were told that the course was a mile or so down the road from the airfield, just before the ferry terminal. Thankfully, one of the islanders that we'd met briefly at the airfield gave us a lift for the last few hundred yards and gave us a map of the course that he'd sketched out after meeting us. That was a really kind gesture, which proved to be an aid essential to our efforts to play the course. This is me and Stu at the small shed that acts as a clubhouse, before our round. Note the disturbing length of the grass, a feature on the course itself. The course had probably been cut during 2010, but was now almost completely overgrown in parts. There were no tees visible on some holes and all of the flags had fallen over and in some cases had been partially overgrown. Still, the sun had come out, it was pretty warm and although we'd only had some chocolate bars for lunch, bought from the tiny shop on North Ronaldsay, we were in good spirits. Craig once again proved to be masterful in finding the holes and the map we'd been given was pretty accurate. Even so, some guesswork was involved and as there were no scorecards to help, we had to plot our way carefully across deep rough (there were no fairways at all on most holes) avoiding rabbit holes and other hidden obstacles. This is the 1854 yards, par 30 course we found on the day-
Hole 1 - 275 yards - par 4
Hole 2 - 167 yards - par 3
Hole 3 - 181 yards - par 3
Hole 4 - 172 yards - par 3
Hole 5 - 105 yards - par 3
Hole 6 - 115 yards - par 3
Hole 7 - 205 yards - par 3
Hole 8 - 304 yards - par 4
Hole 9 - 330 yards - par 4
The photo above is Craig and Stu on the 3rd green, one of the better surfaces on the course. This, believe it or not, is me putting on the 5th green, or what we found to be the most flat and short surface between the 5th and 6th tees, with a hole in it (we couldn't find the flag, and assume it's buried in the rough somewhere nearby). In reality, we had to concede putts to each other on this surface. It was a real shame that the course was in such disrepair, as the overall design was pretty good, with changes in elevation to small targets. With some restorative trimming and TLC, this could be a good course. Add in the unspoilt setting and views out to sea and this could be a really good course. Papa Westray is still pretty remote but is more accessible than other islands, so we hope its little course has a future. But for that to happen, someone needs to have time to tend to its needs.

Best hole? Definitely the short 4th, a 105 yard par 3 , as shown here, played over the beach to a small green, with the ferry terminal in the background. The flag is under the second tallest lamp post! Given the condition of the course and a liberal interpretation of the rule about lost balls, I went round in a modest 37, with pars on the 5th, 7th and last holes. And a lasting memory? On our short ferry trip over to the adjacent island of Westray, a fellow traveller commented to us that he had seen us and our golf bags on the hill nearby the ferry terminal, but hadn't noticed that there was a golf course hidden beneath the grass and weeds. This guy was actually walking on the road that goes through the middle of the course and at the time he was within yards of us. Regrettably, the course was so overgrown he and his family didn't even see the course, despite stopping to look at the flowers.

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