Thursday, 9 September 2010

Newcastleton GC - course no 350

I played this scenic moorland course on 9 September 2010. Newcastleton is pretty close to the English Border, has 9 greens and 15 separate tees, making it an 18 hole course, measuring 5491 yards, par 69, off the yellow tees. As I was tight for time and had no particular wish to tackle a second circuit up and down this very hilly course, I put a ball into play off the 1st and 10th holes etc. (see the blog entry for Benbecula - course no 278, where we first used this shortcut method of playing). The course was deserted and the clubhouse closed, but a couple of members who arrived in the car park just after me assured me that scorecards were obtainable from any of the village shops, where green fees could also be paid. I was advised that there were a few memorable holes, some others less so and that the greens were slow and hairy. That very honest assessment was correct, but this is a small course run entirely by voluntary effort, so well done to all concerned. The condition of the course was actually pretty good and I can only give my respect to the dedication that the members must have to maintain the course and keep it running. OK, so it wasn't a great golfing experience, but like many other small village courses, the Newcastleton course provides a valuable community amenity and an interest for visitors to the local area. The greens were certainly very slow on uphill putts, and since most of them were also tiny, it was easy to miss them and have an awkward pitch and run. Indeed, anything over 4 feet was very tricky. This is one of the best holes, the 5th/14th, a 155 yard par 3 played downwind to a plateau green sloping steeply left to right. I had a bogey on both holes, missing the green to the left with both tee shots. The most memorable hole had to be the 18th, a steeply downhill 512 yard par 5 (a 452 yard par 4 from the 9th tee). The photo below is from the 18th tee. I guessed that the best line was down the left side of the fairway to maximise the effect of the slope and sure enough, my drive down that side ended up well down the hill in the middle of the fairway. The hole takes a 90 degree dogleg left after about 400 yards. I'd hit my drive about 350 yards but my view to the green was blocked by trees, gorse and bracken, so the only sensible play was an easy chip with a sand iron down to the corner of the dog leg, leaving a short wedge to the green. This is a view of the 9th/18th green, with the clubhouse beyond it. I missed the tiny green with my 3rd shot on the 18th, but managed to get the par with a good lob wedge and single putt. The 18th is certainly memorable, but I'm not sure it works well as a par 5, as (for me at least) there was no sensible way to try for the green after the drive and it just seems daft to have to play a sand iron as the second shot on a long hole. The 9th worked better as a long par 4, since my 300+ yard drive down the hill gave me a clear shot at the green with a 9 iron. I missed the green but scrambled the par with (another!) good lob wedge and single putt. I was out in 41, back in 42 for a gross 83, net 73, for a 4 over par score. Not bad, but I'm not sure I'd be tempted to make the long drive to play Newcastleton again.

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