Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Lochgelly GC - course no 358

I played this good and interesting 18 hole parkland course on 19 October 2010 - a bitterly cold day for the time of year! Lochgelly is a former mining village in western Fife and although the Lochgelly club still has a strong village base, it faces considerable competition from the many local golf clubs, both private and municipal. Indeed, the club professional had been made redundant recently and like many other Scottish clubs, Lochgelly faced considerable financial challenges. I liked the layout of the course, with some seriously tight holes on the back 9, quick greens and good quality fairways. At 5329 yards, par 68, Lochgelly is pretty short, but there's still some very good holes. The course starts with a relatively easy par 5, but the 2nd, an uphill 433 yard par 4, Stroke Index 1, removes any thought that the course can be beaten easily. I managed a couple of opening 5s on these holes, so not too bad a start. The 3rd, as shown here, is an uphill 212 yard par 3, but the green is hidden behind some trees, so a formidable hole which I did well to bogey, after a wild hook of the tee. The 4th is a downhill 303 yard par 4, with a 90 degree right dogleg after 250 yards, with the second shot played to a small green well protected by a gully and bunkers. A good hole.

The course wasn't busy in front of me, but I caught up with 2 couple of 3-balls on the 2nd and 5th holes and was impressed by their friendliness and offers to play through. These kids had been well schooled in golfing etiquette and were a credit to their club, so thanks again, lads. I was also relieved to hit my drive at the 146 yard par 3 5th to within 10 feet of the holes, with my young audience watching. For once, I almost looked like a golfer! The 6th is where Lochgelly gets tight. This is a short par 4, but anything right is OOB onto the local railway line and likewise on the 7th. I really liked the 8th, a deceptively straightforward 336 yard par 4. The drive is played over a small hill and I'd only just over 100 yards to the flag. However, there's a large pond protecting the right of the green, as shown here. The sensible approach is to aim for the left of the green and take advantage of the slope from left to right and for once I did just that, escaping with an easy par. I'd gone out in 38, only 4 over par, but I'd been advised by one of the juniors that the course was tighter on the back 9, with tree-lined fairways that were tricky to hold from tee shots even slightly wayward. A pity that my young course adviser didn't tell me about the OOB to the right of the 11th, as that cost me a double bogey. The narrow 13th is a potentially tricky short par 4, but as the course was by then quiet behind me, I took the option of hitting my drive back down the wider 12th fairway, leaving a simple wedge to the green.

The tightest hole on the course was the 15th, an uphill left dog leg 273 yard par 4. This is the view from the fairway. My strategy here should have been to lay up in front of the ditch, rather than blast a driver into the trees to the right beyond the ditch, but I'll know better the next time! The back 9 at Lochgelly is pretty testing, hence my score of 42, making a gross 80, net 70, against the par of 68. Not bad, but I'd hope to avoid more of the trees, next time.

Lochgelly is only £10 for 18 holes and is either outstanding value or seriously under-priced, depending on your perspective. I'd gladly have paid more to play this course. Signage at Lochgelly is pretty good, but one thing I did wonder about was the lack of a direction marker for the tee shot at the 16th. This is the uninformative view from the tee (the line is straight over the narrow stripe of whins in the middle of the photo, so hopefully that will save you a 200 yard walk to find out!). Good course, though, and well worth playing.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Campsie GC - course no 357

I played this hilly moorland course on the slopes of the Campsie Hills just north of Glasgow on 15 October 2010, fresh from a narrow win in the Howard Leedale Trophy at my home club, which saw my handicap cut by 0.6 to 9.8, so I've been playing pretty well recently. Campsie is a short 18 hole course measuring only 5173 yards, par 70, from the yellow tees. The par 4 holes range from 230 yards to 402 yards and the 2 par 5's are only 470 and 448 yards long. The ground was pretty wet underfoot and there was no run, so the course played longer than I'd expected. Even so, the short irons really come into play here. What the Campsie course lacks in length is compensated by the tricky small greens and the sometimes steep hills. For example, this is the 8th, the shortest of the par 4's. The hole is only 230 yards but is steeply uphill. I'd a short sand iron left for my second, but the green is tiny and like most of the holes, slopes down to the valley floor. I managed the par OK, just missing the right of the 2 bunkers. I'm not sure whether any of the bunkers were under repair in preparation for winter, but none of them had been raked recently and there was no sand in them. Thankfully, I only found one on the way round as these looked to be serious hazards.

I liked the 13th, a short 255 yard uphill par 4, played to a fairway split into several small hillocks, with a steeply sloping plateau green. This is the view to the green from my tee shot. I'd gone out in 41, 5 strokes over par, and was playing pretty well on the back 9 until the 15th, a tricky uphill par 4 with a fairway sloping steeply from left to right. I found a bunker to the right of the green and was lucky to escape with a bogey. The 15th green is just about the highest point on the course, so it was a surprise to find the 16th tee was a good par 5 away, back down the hill. The 16th is an easy par 5 if you hit the ball straight (which I did!).

Best hole at Campsie is probably the 17th, as shown here. This is a 159 yard par 3, steeply downhill and requiring absolute accuracy off the tee to avoid the trees and a nasty bunker guarding the left of the green. I was pin high with my 5 iron and only just missed the birdie putt (uphill for once!) I did the back 9 in 38 for a total of 79, 1 under the net par. I'd enjoyed the round, but I preferred some of the other nearby courses.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Foulford Inn Course - course no 356

This is a 9 hole par 3 course of 916 yards, par 27 on the quiet country road between Crieff and Dunkeld. The Inn is now closed, the owners having recently retired. The course is very much still open, but the greens hadn't been cut when I played it on 30 September 2010 and from the lack of footprints in the morning dew, I was the first player on the course. This is the 1st hole, an uphill 94 yarder. An easy wedge, being careful not to go out of bounds (10 feet behind the green!). I missed the tiny green but almost chipped in for a birdie. The greens turned out to be ridiculously slow, with lots of worm casts, thanks to the heavy dew and overnight rain. I also parred the next couple of holes quite easily, but the owner had advised me to be very careful on the 4th as the green was almost surrounded by a small pond. This is a view of the hole from the 6th tee (with the 4th tee back beside the brown road sign). The hole is only 90 yards long, but only the top half of the flag is visible from the tee. I should have walked forward to have a look at the pond and even played to the right of the green as a result, but I was keen to get home to see the Ryder Cup opening ceremony live, so didn't bother. The pond isn't even marked as a water hazard, but as my ball was clearly left of the flag, it was definitely in the aqua. I ended up with a double bogey 5, but a really good hole. Here's another view of the pond! The 5th hole is also very tricky, being a steeply uphill 86 yard hole, with the tiny green set alarmingly close to the OOB fence. I bogeyed that hole and was lucky not to go OOB. Foulford is fun to play, though a bit frustrating due to the lack of pace on the course generally. Nearby Crieff had been completely different. I wonder how long this little course will survive, now that the Inn has closed. Maybe the owners will keep it going for visitors and their own entertainment. I hope so, as the 4th is worth the £6 green fee on its own. I went round in 31 less 5 for a net 26, or 1 under the par. I parred 6 of the holes and next time I'm back that way, I'll be trying to get the better of the 4th.

Crieff GC - Dornock Course - course no 355

I'd played the 18 hole Ferntower course at Crieff GC on 14 August, but didn't have time to play the Dornock Course, the club's 9 hole course. I finally played the Dornock on 30 September 2010. Dornock is a 2270 yard par 32 course and like it's bigger neighbour, was in fantastic condition. I've played many inland parkland courses this year, from the humble to the grand,but I think the 2 Crieff courses have been in the best condition. Indeed, the practice green at Crieff is a sight to gladden the heart, even before you step onto either course. Anyway, the Dornock is a joy to play and clearly gave the high handicap members, juniors and seniors somewhere to play, as well as provide a great practice facility, away from the challenges of the bigger Ferntower course. That's not to suggest that the Dornock is easy, though. You might not run up big numbers, but getting a par on some of the holes is a real challenge.

The first 5 holes run parallel to the main road from Perth and a sign at the 1st tee reminds players that a wayward ball may lead to legal action, so players are encouraged to hit their shots when there's gap in the traffic. The 1st hole is an easy 292 yard par 4. Driver, wedge you'd think. However, there's some dead ground in front of the green so I'd left my second slightly short and bogeyed the hole. There had been a heavy early morning dew as can be seen from this photo from the 1st fairway. I made a complete mess of the 2nd, a 196 yard par 3. The tee pointed me towards a ridge in the fairway, with a bunker on the left side, with the green hidden by the ridge. I hit a good 7 wood and was just short of the green. However, it was only when I got to the ball that I realised the green I'd just passed to my right was the 2nd and that I'd played to the wrong green. I was 80 yards away from the right green and completely stymied by a tall tree, but at least a chip and 2 putts saved me from real embarrassment.

The 3rd is a short 254 yard par 4, uphill and with the green hidden behind some trees to the left of the fairway. A 3 wood over the top and a short pitch to 8 feet led to my first birdie (yes, I'd more than one!). However, I bogeyed the excellent 205 yard par 3 4th, trying to force the trusty 7 wood. An easy par at the next, a good par 3 and I was only 2 over after 5 holes. Even better, I hit a good drive up the steeply uphill 6th, a 256 yard par 4. As shown here, my lob wedge was within 3 feet, so another birdie went onto the card. One over par and 3 holes to go, but sadly, that was as good as it got. The 7th is a downhill 382 yard par 4, but I hooked my drive into the left rough and had to settle for a bogey. This is a look back at the 8th, a tricky 135 yard par 3, from the safety of the 9th tee. I'd hit an 8 iron, but there's steep slope in front of the green and I was slightly short, so I was left with an awkward 30 yard pitch to an elevated green. A good lob wedge and a 20 foot putt rescued the par, but I came to grief on the 9th, the Stroke Index 1 hole. This is a tricky 383 yard par 4, played over a ridge. I hooked the tee shot way left into heavy rough and was lucky to find the ball, but a closing bogey followed, for a total of 35, 3 over the par of 32. This gave me a net 30, based on half of my 10 handicap, so not bad really. I'd really enjoyed the Dornock course and if you ever get the chance to play the excellent Ferntower course, try the Dornock first, even as a warm up to the Ferntower's challenges. Here's a closing view, the last green and the clubhouse. Nice place, Crieff.