After the rather dismal round at St Fillans, it was time for a really good course. We'd contacted a number of courses earlier in the year to advise them about our challenge and Loudon amongst others had offered us a courtesy round, to help us to keep our costs down and more generally, support our fund raising. I'd also investigated the club's excellent website and was intrigued by the following entry "the first question usually asked about Loudon Gowf Club is why 'Gowf Club'? It would appear that the Gowf Field of Loudon, so called as far back as records are available, was the private golf field of the Campbell family of Loudon Castle and had been in existence from the early 16th century. Golf or gowf (the old Scottish word for golf) has been played on these fields for over 400 years. It is believed that the ground has never at any time been under the plough in all these years. One can therefore appreciate why the turf at Loudon is unique and probably among the finest of any inland course. Hampden Park, the legendary home of the Scottish national football team, was returfed from the rough along the road side around 1920." The present Loudon club dates back to 1909, but it seemed pretty clear that this was a course with real history and a club worth an early visit.
I visited Loudon, a few miles east of Kilmarnock, on 5 November 2010 on a day more suited to being indoors with a good book and an old malt. Indeed, I nearly turned back on the drive through, but gambled on the weather improving during the day. Indeed, a few minutes away from the course the rain eased to a fine drizzle which was to go on and off during the round. Loudon is a pretty flat parkland course with tree-lined fairways and at 5740 yards, par 67 off the yellow tees, is not particularly long. When I played it the fairways were pretty saturated and I soon gave up trying to find a lie away from standing water. That the course was still open was real tribute to the greenkeeping staff and the quality of the turf. Even so, the course appeared to have some new and temporary water features, such as here on the 12th fairway. The 12th is a 290 yard par 4, aptly named "Marsh", with a lateral water hazard running the length of the fairway. I'd hit a really good drive up the left side and had only a short sand iron to the green. The green is well protected and hidden by a large bunker, so I was pleased to hit a good shot to within 10 feet and hole the putt for my single birdie, hopefully impressing the 4-ball waiting to tee off on the 1st! They'd been spared my splashing about on some of the previous holes - out in 41, or 6 over par. The 14th-16th are pretty daunting, since the main A71 road runs close to these holes, so I was careful not to slice anything. This is the 17th, a good 145 slightly uphill par 3, which I bogeyed (although it is the Stroke Index 18 hole). I'd parred the 7th, the Stroke Index 1, so make sense of that if you can. I went round in Loudon in 81, net 71, or 4 adrift of the course par. Not bad given the underfoot conditions. Although there are many other quality golf courses in the area, it was no surprise to learn from the Club Secretary that Loudon has over 900 members and a lengthy waiting list to join. That probably says a lot more about the course than I ever can, but this is definitely a course well worth seeking out if you're in the area. However, if you play the course just be sure not to slice a ball onto the busy main road alongside the 14th-16th!