Thursday, 22 December 2011

Knightswood Golf Course - Course no 467

A combination of heavy rain, flooding, some snow, frost and general cold had prevented me from playing any new courses since my round at Forbes of Kingennie.  All very frustrating but at least I'd been able to play some local courses, including my home club, The Glen in North Berwick, which thankfully usually remain playable when others, particularly in the west of the country, are  badly affected by the winter weather.  Indeed, The Glen is currently seeing a welcome increase in winter visitor numbers as hardy golfers seek out somewhere to play while their own courses are unplayable.  I'd been hoping to play the 9 hole Winter Course at the Bruntsfield Short Hole Course in Edinburgh (normally a 36-hole layout!) on 19 December 2011, but even it was closed.  However, the weather across the country had eased since then and it looked as though I'd finally be playing some new courses before the Christmas holidays.  I needed to be in Glasgow on 22 December 2011, but it looked as though I'd have time for a couple of 9 hole courses in the morning.  A phone call to the Knightswood Golf Course, owned and operated by Glasgow Council the day before confirmed that it would be open (as would the 4 other courses operated by the Council).  22 December was, however, the shortest day of the year, with only 7 hours or so of "golfing daylight" so as this photo of the clubhouse from the 1st Tee shows, it was still pretty dark when I teed off at 09.10 hrs on a balmy (12 degrees!) almost windless morning.  I was using the flash on my trusty Sony Cybershot 7.1 mpixel digital camera but as you'll see, I really needed something a lot stronger!

The Starter and Greenkeeper had both warned me that the conditions underfoot were treacherously slippy due to standing water and some mud.  I'd anticipated this, so clad in some of my oldest golfing gear and shoes, I was up for the challenge.  There was a good map of the course on the back of the scorecard, but this only became readable after 3 holes when there was enough daylight.  I was hitting the ball straight enough off the tee, but finding it thereafter was to be a real problem.  Knightswood is a 9 hole almost flat parkland course of only 2703 Yards, Par 34 off the Yellow Tees, but casual water and flooded areas meant that unless you saw exactly where the ball landed it was really difficult to find.  Either it would land in casual water and be completely covered or would get some mud stuck to it.  I'd hit a good straight drive at the 1st, a strong opening 431 Yard Par 4, but since I was certain the ball had landed in a particularly muddy part of the fairway in abnormal ground conditions, I had to drop another ball without penalty.  However, an opening bogey was OK in the circumstances.  The 2nd tee is to the left of the 1st green, with the 2nd fairway running in a hollow parallel to the 1st and 8th fairways.  This 299 Yard Par 4 was particularly badly flooded.  The Starter had jokingly told me there was a ferry every 20 minutes and I was lucky to hit my drive onto the only reasonably dry patch of light rough, leaving me a mid-iron to the small green.  An easy par followed, but the greens were ridiculously slow and were almost saturated after weeks of rain and snow in the Glasgow area (I gather that the last snow had only finally melted the day before). 
The 3rd hole, a 398 Yard par 4, is Stroke Index 1, with OOB all down the left side and green well-protected by bunkering.  With no run on the fairways (and very little on the greens either!), I was happy enough with a bogey.  The 4th is a good hole, and at only 274 yards, par 4, is a good birdie opportunity.  However, the fairway is narrow, with bunkering either side of the landing area and the hole swings hard dog leg left after around 230 yards.  I'd only 40 yards or so to the flag for my second shot, so 3 from there for another par was slightly disappointing.  The 5th is a short 118 Yard Par 3 with OOB hard against the left of the hole and a steeply sloping 2 tier green.  The hole had sensibly been cut close to the top of the upper tier, but as my ball had landed on the lower tier 30 feet away, I was delighted to escape with another par.  The 6th is a strong slightly uphill 208 Yard Par 3, requiring Driver given the wet conditions and a par was good.  This is the 6th green with the high flats on Lincoln Avenue in the background.  My parents had lived for several years in the middle block, so visiting the area again for the first time in many years brought back some happy and sad family memories.
The 7th is a slightly uphill 315 yard Par 4.  I misjudged my second shot, longer than it looked, so that led to a bogey.  The 8th is a slightly downhill 204 yard Par 3, with the blind  tee shot needing to be long enough to carry a fairway bunker.  I guess that in dry summer conditions this could be an awkward hole as OOB lurks unseen behind the green, as shown here.  I needed Driver to find the green when I played it.  In the end I gave up trying to find an area of the green not affected by casual water, so a par was pretty good in the circumstances.  I'd kept a 6 off the card so far but with the 456 yard Par 5 final hole next, I faced a tough challenge.  It was particularly boggy between the 8th green and the 9th tee with 80 yards or so of deep puddles and clinging mud.  Nice. 
I'd hit a really good tee shot and 3 wood second, leaving a short iron to the green.  This finished just short and right, narrowly missing a greenside bunker.  In normal circumstances I'd have chipped close and had a good chance of a single putt for par, but with my ball lying on mud and a very slow green, taking 3 from there was no great surprise.  I'd gone round in 39, net 34, with 16 putts.  This is  the 9th green with the clubhouse in the background.  Overall, Knightswood looked to be a typical "cooncil course" - nothing special, no great holes, but still providing a great service for grassroots golf.  At £4.90 the green fee was modest and good value.  It was just a pity that the course was so wet.  I doubt I'd play it again, but like all other "cooncil courses" it has its place and golf in Scotland is all the richer for the continued existence of such basic facilities.
I had ample time to fit in another 9 hole course as I had to meet Polly in Renfrew by 1430 hrs at the latest.  I'd been hoping to play Glasgow Council's new Ruchill Course on the north side of the city, but when I finally got there having fought my way through the pre-Christmas traffic, it was closed.  I'd heard that the Ruchill Course had been pretty poor and had only recently re-opened, having been closed for some years.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but from what I could see, the course had been completely redesigned and rebuilt, with an impressive new clubhouse, far removed from the rather dilapidated facilities that typify your average "cooncil course."  By this time it was 1115 hrs.  A quick phone call confirmed that the 9 Hole Wee Monster Course attached to the Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomond was open.  I'd just about have time to play it and meet Polly by 1430.  However, I'd not factored in traffic delays and the cloudburst once I finally got to this other course.  A frustrating and fruitless journey, but at least I'd not been late.  I'll do Ruchill and the Wee Monster another day, hopefully in drier weather. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Forbes of Kingennie Golf Course - Course no 466

Just outside Dundee, there's a large country resort, concentrating on fishing and golf, alongside some upmarket holiday lodges and luxury private housing.  I played the 9 hole parkland course there on 28 November 2011, on a blustery cold day that reminded me that the dreaded Scottish Winter is just around the corner. By this time last year, Scotland had already been struck by blizzards and golf was impossible for weeks on end, so getting a game at all yesterday was a bonus.  Polly and I had tried to play at  our home club (Glen GC) on the 27th, but we only lasted a few holes, such was the strength of the bitingly cold gale force wind.  Only the night before (yes, I teed off at 1900!) I'd been playing in shirt sleeve weather, so it really is true that the Scottish weather can be a fickle master.  To explain, I'm also Captain of the Rhodes GC, which plays its golf over the East Links in North Berwick and as it was our end of season Prize Giving night on 26 November, we used night lights and special luminous golf balls on our 1st, 2nd, 17th and 18th holes to play some Night Golf and organised a putting competition on our practice green.  That 4 hole course doesn't really count as an additional new Scottish course, but if any readers are stuck for end of golf season activities, Night Golf is definitely worth a try. I'm still a wee bit embarrassed about being DQ'd under the one ball rule from the putting competition, having recorded the lowest score of 13 strokes for 6 holes with a new Titleist, (all others were playing the special luminous balls!) However, great fun was had by all, but when we tried this last year, the first snow flurries started as we finished our round and a blizzard was in full flow within minutes.  No such dramas at Kingennie, which is a 9 hole parkland course, 2874 yards, Par 34  off the Yellow Tees.  The full greens were still in play, but as the course was a bit damp underfoot, Winter tees were in play, shortening the course by 100 yards or so.  This is the view from the back of the 1st green, with the 1st tee middle right of the picture. 

I'd bogeyed the 1st, a 440 yard Par 4, and much the same was to follow on the 503 yard 2nd after I found a greenside bunker in 3 shots, needing a good single putt to rescue a  bogey 6.  The 3rd was an easy looking 141 yard Par 3, played downwind.  I should have taken the 8 iron, as my 9 found some rough at the front of the green, so 3 over after 3 holes wasn't very impressive.  I did at least get the swing going after that (maybe a warm-up would have helped, Alan!), as I did the last 6 holes in 2 over, for a gross 39, net 34.  The best hole at Kingennie is probably the 6th, a 378 yard dog leg left, as shown above.  The drive is semi-blind and steeply downhill, with ponds either side of the fairway and a series of bunkers to be avoided en route to a raised plateau green.  You can only see part of the flag from the bottom of the fairway and the second shot plays 1-2 clubs more than it looks.  I'd caught up with 3 other players and to my surprise was immediately waived through after they'd found trouble off the 6th tee.  The fairway is quite narrow and with water on either side, 3 golfers to avoid and the strong wind blowing directly up the fairway, this was not the time for a weak drive.  I made good swing but lost the ball in flight (played directly into the sunshine).  I thought one of the guys had found my drive in the middle of the fairway, only for him to tell me that my ball was a further 30 yards or so beyond his, having missed one of the ponds by only a few feet, leaving only a 7 iron up the hill to the green.  Perfect position, but more by luck than skill, as I admitted at the time.  Still, a par there was a good score, as this hole is a potential card-wrecker. 

The 7th is also a really good hole, as shown here.  This is a 315 yard Par 4, played from an elevated tee, with the ideal drive stopping short of a roadway and a stream, leaving a full pitch to the small green.  The low sun meant that it was difficult to see where the fairway ended and the green began.  I played a 9 iron onto what I thought was the green, only to land on a rather muddy section of fairway in front of the actual green and a poor pitch and run from there cost me a bogey.  The greens were pretty slow, as I'd expect at this time of the year, but although I'd generally missed the greens in regulation, I'd pitched close enough to leave easy putts on most greens. Indeed, I single-putted every green but the 3rd, for 10 putts in total.  Sounds good, but in truth my longest putt was around 12 feet, so there's nothing fantastic about that statistic. 

Kingennie is a good layout and as a parkland course would definitely be at its best during the summer months.  The course owner has obtained planning permission to build an 18 hole Championship Course here that would in time almost surround the existing 9 hole course and the extensive fishing lakes and holiday lodges.  Darren Clarke, Open Champion (well done again, Big Man!) will be involved in the design.  Work is on hold at present given the current economic climate, but I hope that this new course is built.  If and when it opens, I'd go back to play it and have another go at the 9 hole course. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Craigielaw South Golf Course - Course no 465

This is a 6 hole Par 3 course, with holes from 100-139 yards, 714 yards in total, Par 27 and is part of the excellent facilities at Craigielaw GC near Aberlady in East Lothian.  I played the South Course on 16 November 2011, prior to a round with Polly over the 18 hole links course at Craigielaw.  This little course is a good warm-up for the demanding main course at Craigielaw (which I'd played a few times before) and is also good for general practice and for beginners.  Some of the short practice courses I've played have been little more than flags on sticks in a field, but the South Course is extremely well-designed and maintained and offers a real test.  The small greens were pretty slick and although not as severe as the undulating inverted saucer greens to be found on the main course, were still really tricky.
This is me on the 4th, a 126 yard Par 3.  An easy 9 iron to the back left of the green and a couple of putts on that one, but I'd found a really awkward lie in a bunker at the 3rd.  I was happy enough to get it onto the putting surface only to see it trickle back down a slope into an even worse lie in the bunker.  A double bogey there and bogeys at the 1st and 5th led to a gross 22, with 9 putts. Not great, but a good warm-up for the main course.  Polly and I had a great round over the main course in bright Autumn sunshine, with no wind.  Perfect for scoring in theory, but the main course is pretty difficult, with tough bunkering and raised greens with run-offs that can really punish a less than perfect approach shot.  I struggled round the main course in 85 (4 over net par).  You'll need to pick your way around Craigielaw carefully, avoiding the bunkers and a good short game is essential if you're not to fall foul of the raised inverted saucer greens.  Accordingly, try to find the time for a quick spin around the South Course before tackling the main course.

A final photo. This is Polly heading up the 6th on the South Course - I think she'd suffered enough by then, watching me hack my way around!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Barshaw Golf Course - Course no 464

Barshaw is an 18 hole parkland course on the outskirts of Paisley, owned and operated by Renfrewshire Council.  Grant, my son in law, had played it a couple of times.  His assessment is that it's not much of a course and after playing it on 14 November 2011, I have to agree.  I'd originally intended to play at Fereneze GC in Barrhead, but when I arrived there in the late morning the clubhouse was locked.  The course was open for play and there were another 30 or so cars in the car park, but no sign of anyone who could give me a scorecard or take my green fee.  I even phoned the club but got no reply, so my game at Fereneze will need to wait.  With under 4 hours of daylight left, it was either a wasted journey or a game at nearby Barshaw.  Grant had previously advised that Barshaw's drainage is not the best and this was confirmed by 2 guys I met who had just finished playing.  Indeed, one was wearing heavy work boots rather than golf shoes, commenting that the course was soaking wet (I've translated from the local dialect and deleted the expletive!)

It wasn't cold, but it was a very gloomy and cloudy day, with the kind of light that makes you think it's just about to get really dark.  I'd been happy to follow the guy in front as signage at Barshaw was poor. At least the names of the holes e.g. Park View, Shelter and Farmer's Hedge gave some assurance that I'd not got lost.  This cunning plan came unstuck after the 7th, when the guy in front took a short cut to the right over to what turned out to be the 12th, but the 8th was called "Summit" and sure enough, there was yellow flag on top of a hill to my left.  Two other players had just finished that hole, so that gave me the chance to follow them on the back 9.  Unfortunately, neither could play golf to even a moderate level, their only knowledge of the rules seeming to be that a single player i.e. me, has no status on the course.  Neither appeared to be aware that they should be ready to play when it is their turn to do so and that I was waiting in the gathering gloom on almost every shot.  I should perhaps have asked to play through, but I thought I'd see just how slow they could be and take my time concentrating hard on every shot.
The Barshaw course is an easy enough layout of 5703 yards off the Yellow tees, Par 68.  There's a few modest hills to negotiate but there are only a couple of blind shots and the fairways are generously wide.  Bunkering here is modest and the greens were slow but reasonably true, the main difficulty being the wetness of the course itself.  Anything hit high risked being plugged and lost.  Preferred lies were in play, so if you could find your ball in the mud, cleaning was essential.  The 2 guys in front certainly cleaned their balls regularly, but usually only after their partner had played, slowing the pace of play even further. 
I'd played other wet courses recently e.g. at Caprington, Palacerigg and Larkhall, so I knew that it would be vital to take a decent preferred lie, take enough club on each shot, allowing for no run on the fairways and slow greens.  I parred the1st, a 363 yard Par 4, playing to almost 400 yards, as shown here, after a good pitch from 30 yards and a 4 foot single putt.   I bogeyed the 2nd, 6th and 9th, but pars at the other holes meant I was out in 37.  That was a good start, but the real test would be whether I could keep it going whilst being delayed by those in front. 
I'd started par, bogey, par, par on the back 9 despite those delays, but the guys in front really surpassed themselves on this, the 14th, a steeply downhill 313 yard Par 4, wind behind.  I didn't count all of their strokes but what I did see came to well into double figures and took about 15 minutes.  When it was finally my turn to play, with the guys safely aboard the next tee, I managed to hit my shot of the day, a great drive to within 20 yards of the green in the middle of the fairway.  I followed this up with a good lob wedge to inside 3 feet and another single putt for my only birdie of the day, with the guys in front were (still) on the next tee.  That was really satisfying and with 4 holes to go I was determined not to let a good round slip away.

The 15th and 16th were both short Par 4's (281 and 289 yards) so it was easy enough to get pars, but the 17th was a more formidable 234 yard Par 3.  I missed the green short and right but a bogey there was OK.  The 18th, shown here, is a 433 yard Par 4.  Another really good drive and a 20 degree rescue club to within 20 feet set up an outside birdie chance, but I was happy enough with a closing par.  I'd gone round in 72, 4 over par, with 29 putts i.e. net 6 under par in soaking underfoot conditions.  Pretty fine in the circumstances.  Barshaw is probably a reasonably good course for beginners etc. in the Summer months and on reflection, I should have settled for a wasted journey rather than plough my way around its soaking fairways.  At least it's done now, but I doubt whether I'd want to play it again.   Ralston GC is under a mile away and is a far better course. 

Barshaw was also my 100th new course in 2011.  I'm hoping to play a few more before the end of the year, but the days are getting shorter and the chances of frost and snow are increasing, so much will depend on the weather as most of the remaining courses involve a fair amount of travelling. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Caprington GC - 9 Hole Course - Course no 463

I played the 9 Hole Course at Caprington on 7 November 2011 after my round over the 18 Hole Course.  The course measures a modest 1894 yards, Par 30.  I'd not noticed that the hole lengths on the 9 Hole Course card were given in metres (the 18 Hole Course Card was in yards, as you'd expect) so that might help to explain some of my difficulties in playing this course.  The course is mostly flat, with only 2 serious hills and the ground was just as wet as I'd expected, following my earlier round over the longer course.  The greens on this wee course were small, but in good condition and true running, so no complaints there.  However, the fairways were too narrow and there was little semi-rough.  Anything off-line would risk being lost.  Indeed, I lost 2 old balls in what I judged to be abnormal ground conditions (mud and standing water). 

This is a view up the 4th fairway, highlighting the late afternoon shadows.  I don't remember ever playing November golf in such contrasting conditions.  Soaking wet underfoot and just a tee shirt in warm Autumn sunshine.  It was just a pity my feet were so wet!  The fairway grass was just too long and unless you saw your ball old balls were the order of the day.  The best hole was probably the 5th, played directly into the Sun, with OOB close by to the right and a very small target for a 189 yard Par 3.  I managed my par there after missing the green to the left.  I also parred the last 3 holes for a total of 35, net 30 or even par, with 13 putts.

This is the 8th, yet another hole at Caprington played blind over a hill.  It was just as well I'd walked forward to see where the green was, since although the card said the hole was a 185 yard Par 3, it looked far shorter and the green was definitely a good few yards to the right of the line of the fairway as it crested the hill.  I gambled with a 6 iron over rough at the top of the hill and found the front of the green, but with little run on the fairways due to the wet conditions, I doubt I hit the ball more than 160 yards, if that.  This 9 Hole course would be good for general practice and a chance for beginners to learn the basics before trying the bigger course, but  some work is needed to widen the fairways and keep the rough under better control.  If money was available, clearance of trees and bushes that presently restrict views of the ruins of an ancient castle in the middle of the course would add to the visual experience, but I can't see that happening any time soon, given the more pressing drainage issues at Caprington.

Caprington GC - 18 Hole Course - Course no 462

The two parkland courses at Caprington on the outskirts of Kilmarnock are owned and operated by East Ayrshire Council.  I played both courses on 7 November 2011 on a warm sunny day. The private Caprington GC plays over both courses and its clubhouse overlooks the 18th green on the main course.   The 18 hole course is a short 5513 yards par 67 off the Yellow tees and is laid out in 2 main sections, with Holes 1-12 being played over undulating land behind the clubhouse and the rest of the holes played over flatter and lower lying land in front of the clubhouse.  Since the last few days had been warm and sunny with no rain, I'd been expecting Caprington to be relatively dry underfoot, but sadly I was very wrong.  I don't know whether much has been spent in drainage here over the years, but from the outset, the main Caprington course was pretty soggy.  The first light frost of the Autumn was still evident in those parts of the course sheltered from the Sun and there were a few Winter greens in operation for a while, but at least the Greenkeepers moved the flags back to the normal greens once the frost had melted away.  The course yardage on the day was a bit shorter than 5513 yards, but with such wet fairways, there was no run on the ball and anything hit high would plug where it landed, particularly in the rough.    Just to make it more tricky (and potentially dangerous), there was at least one blind shot blind shot on 7 of the first 9 holes and no marker poles to indicate the optimum line.  Thankfully I was hitting the ball pretty straight, as it would have been easy to lose a few balls here, particularly on the blind holes.  There was an "all-clear" bell by the side of the 4th green, but I guess it would get pretty confusing and noisy if bells were a feature on each of the blind holes!
This is the 6th, a formidable 447 yard Par 4 and the Stroke Index 1 hole.  The course was quite busy, so the pace of play was relatively slow.  I'd waited a while before driving off, blind over one of the many hills on Holes 1-12.  Even so, I drove through the 2 guys in front and the 3 ladies in front of them.  It took ages to play that hole, so I joined up with Andy, a local member playing behind me, for the rest of the first 12 holes.  I was just short of the green after a good drive and 20 degree rescue club, but a bogey there wasn't bad.  The ladies then skipped a few holes and the 2 guys in front speeded up, so Andy and I had a clear run from then on.  The greens at Caprington were slow but true-running and I was playing well, so 37 to the turn with only 12 putts was good.

The 10th is only 310 yards with a small plateau green.  I'd hooked a drive left onto the practice ground but had a perfect lie and a decent view of the flag.  An easy wedge to 10 feet set up the birdie chance and another good putt converted that opportunity.  This is the 12th, a short slightly uphill 261 yard Par 4.  I'd only a short lob wedge to the green, but I missed a 20 foot birdie chance.  Still, another easy par was pretty good. It seemed as though most players were only doing the first section of the course, since I only saw 2 other golfers when I played the Holes 13-18 section.  I soon discovered why, as parts of this section of the course were absolutely saturated, with puddles and mud in abundance.  Indeed, I couldn't find even a reasonably dry walking line through the first part of the 13th and most of the 17th and 18th holes were flooded.    
The 13th is a 490 yard Par 5, played directly into the Sun, with a blind second shot.  I'd hit a good straight drive, only to find it half-submerged in a muddy lie.  My shoes were already dirty but in rescuing my ball I was lucky not to sink beyond the top of my shoes!  A bogey there led to the first (and only!) 6 on the card.  However, I managed straight 4's over the last 5 holes for a total of 74, net 64, or net 3 under par, with 25 putts.  A good round, but goodness knows what this course is like in really wet conditions.  I suspect it floods pretty easily, so if you want to play here, choose your timing carefully.  This is a photo of the 18th green, taken from 60 or so yards out after I'd picked my way through the first 100 yards or so of standing water and mud.  I doubt I'd want to play the course again, even in dry conditions.  There are just too many blind shots with no marker posts to offer guidance for my liking.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Ballumbie Castle GC - Course no 461

This is a very good 18 hole parkland course on the North side of Dundee, 5716 yards Par 69 off the Yellow tees.  I played here on 1 November 2011, a gloriously sunny and warm day, a rarity at this time of year.  The Ballumbie Castle course is only around 10 years old, having been built by the enterprising landowners.  The course design is really interesting, making great use of 4 separate pieces of former agricultural land.  This makes the course a bit fragmented and I was very glad to have the company of a couple of members, Garry and Stan, since although the signage was pretty good, I suspect I would have found navigation between the separate parts of the course difficult without their local knowledge.  The fairways were in really good condition despite the heavy rain across Scotland in recent days/weeks.  The greens had just been hollow-tined and top dressed in readiness for Winter, so putting was tricky, since the greens were slow and understandably, a bit bumpy.  However, my playing partners assured me that the surfaces were normally very good, fast and true-running and it was easy to imagine that some pin positions could set severe tests.  Overall, I liked the course and would  strongly recommend you give it a try.

Holes 1-5 weave their way around a driving range located adjacent to the clubhouse that overlooks the 1st tee and 18th Hole.  This is a view from the 1st tee, so your first shot needs to avoid going left and OOB into the driving range and be long enough through the dip in the fairway to give you a sight of the green.  I was happy enough with an opening bogey after a semi-blind 8 iron second shot that stopped just short of the green.  The 2nd should be an straightforward Par 4 but I'd gone too close to the right of the fairway and had another semi-blind shot requiring a long fade around trees, so another bogey there.  The 3rd is a good Par 4, sharp dog-leg right, with the second shot played almost blind and steeply uphill to an elevated green, so a double bogey there.  I'd not read the club web site's course guide, so I'd no idea what to expect and I'd already used 40% of my handicap on the first 3 holes.  I needed to sharpen up and quickly.  The course was pretty busy and since Garry and Stan had joined me in the queue for the 4th tee we joined up, and the guys were really helpful in guiding me round the rest of the course.  Good players too!

This is the 4th, a 162 yard Par 3, with the driving range to the left.  I'd gone through the back of the green after over-clubbing, but a good lob wedge to 3 feet helped to secure my first par of the day.  The 5th was a potentially tricky Par 4 played from an elevated tee over a pond to the right of the fairway and the prevailing wind blowing towards the pond.  However, a forward tee meant this was less of a hazard, so I managed another par there.  Holes 6-8 are in a separate field, flanked to one side by new executive up-market housing.  Hole 7 is the Stroke Index 1 hole, but as Garry commented, there are other more difficult holes on the course, as I was to discover!  The 9th hole shares a field with the 17th, with both holes being surrounded by more up-market housing.  I'd gone out in a disappointing 43, with only a couple of pars on the card.

Holes 10-16 are in another separate field, with Holes 10-12 being potential card-wreckers, so get through there in par and you're doing well.  The 10th is a short Par 4 at only 338 yards dog leg right, but there's a couple of lateral water hazards to avoid to the left and across the middle of the fairway.  Your second shot will probably be semi-blind.  You'll see the top of the flag and be aware that there's a large pond (immediately) to the left of the small green.  You might guess correctly that a hill to the right of the fairway and in front of the green runs down towards the pond.  If the flag is on the left of the green, be very careful.  Can you hit something like a 7 iron bullet straight?  Is it your new Pro V or an old ball?  I just missed the front left of the green and managed a par from there, but I'd only missed the pond by a few feet.  This is the 11th, 202 yard Par 3 with more water down the left side.  The flag was front right, but Garry advised that a back left pin position was almost impossible to go for safely and that's easy to understand.  I was happy enough with double bogey after finding a path with my tee shot and losing a provisional ball in the water. The 12th is another Par 3, this time 141 yards, slightly downhill.  This hole looks easy enough, but bunkers to the right and a pond to the left of the green are invisible from the tee, so be warned.  I missed the green to the right in light rough but rescued a par from there after a good lob wedge.  Next was a tough uphill 522 yard Par 5, played into the prevailing wind, so another bogey. I parred Holes 14-16 easily enough, but these are some of the easiest on the course, and no great achievement really.  Local knowledge from there is particularly helpful.  There's a long path to the 17th tee, but most members take a short cut through the up-market housing.  I'd have been lost by then.  The 17th is also an easy looking hole, but I fluffed a short pitch and run and bogeyed the hole.

This is the 18th, a really tricky 351 yard Par 4 (402 yards from the back tee), dog leg right, with OOB all the way along the left of the fairway and a second shot played steeply uphill to an elevated plateau green guarded by large deep bunkers and overlooked by a veranda at the front of the clubhouse.  The two-tiered green slopes downhill from back to front, so finding the right level of the green is vital.  I'd split the fairway with my drive (another rarity) and with 145 yards uphill to the flag, I managed to find the left of the green with a rescue club.  The holes was on the bottom half of the green, but my 30 foot slightly downhill putt had at least a 4 foot break, so a closing par from there was pleasing.  I'd done the back 9 in 38 for a gross 81, net 71 with 31 putts.  Net 2 over was not bad, but I doubt I'd have got near that without the helpful advice of my playing partners (well, it was a bounce game!)

There are some really good holes at Ballumbie Castle.  10 is probably my favourite, followed by 18 (I was just glad we didn't have an audience on the veranda, as this must be a pretty intimidating hole in a Medal on a hot Saturday afternoon!)  A very good course, definitely well worth playing again - maybe I'll get back there in Summertime when the greens are at their fastest and best.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

East Kilbride GC - Course no 460

Polly and I played East Kilbride GC's excellent 18 hole parkland course on 28 October 2011.  A major fire in January 2010 had destroyed the clubhouse and the club's records and trophies etc., but the members rallied round and a new clubhouse was officially opened a few weeks ago.  Such a catastrophe could have threatened the club's future, so I was keen to see the new building and play the course.  The new clubhouse is hugely impressive and the members must be justly proud of their efforts to recover from the fire.  The course is equally stunning and at 6220 yards, Par 70 off the Yellow tees, was a real joy to play.   Polly and I enter quite a few Mixed Foursomes Opens each year and one of the questions that usually comes up when we play new courses together is whether we'd want to play the course again in such competitions.   In most cases, that question isn't raised until we've finished playing our round, but here, we'd agreed halfway down the 2nd fairway that if the club has a Mixed Open in 2012, we'd be entering, other commitments permitting!

Heavy rain across Scotland in recent weeks had caused problems at most courses.  Indeed, when I'd tried to play the North Inch course in Perth a few days before playing at East Kilbride, I found that 9 of the holes at North Inch were still flooded and that temporary tees and greens were in use on the other 9 holes.  That was a completely wasted journey, so checking ahead, I was delighted to hear that the full East Kilbride course was open for play and was in pretty good condition.  That was a masterly understatement, as the course was in really good nick, with only a few areas still very soft after the rain.  The fairways were pretty slow, meaning the course played to its full length, but at least we weren't splashing our way through puddles, unlike my recent experiences at Wishaw and Larkhall. The greens were also a bit slower than I'd have preferred, but by late October most parkland greens are usually past their very best, so I'm not complaining.  This is a view from the 1st fairway.

The layout at East Kilbride is simply excellent.  At some parkland courses I've played recently, the layout has been disappointingly predictable and bland.  Not here.  Clever changes in elevation and direction abound, making this a really interesting course to play. There's no course map on the scorecard and I'm still slightly confused about the overall layout.  Course signage is also excellent and with mature trees and bushes lining most fairways, we didn't see many other players, despite the course being very busy (another sign of a good course!)  The only downside for me was the noise of traffic from nearby major roads, but as Polly said at the time, this could have been filtered out had I been concentrating properly instead of waffling on about my new clubs.  (A full set of Ping G20 woods, rescues and irons.  Only my old Cleveland lob wedge and Ping Anser 4 putter survived the change.)  The new driver goes further when hit properly, but as with any club change, practice time and a few games will help! 

There's not a weak hole on the course and I'd need to play it again to identify a favourite hole, but on the front 9 I particularly liked the 2nd, a 387 yard Par 4, with OOB beyond trees to the left of the fairway and behind the green.  The drive needs to be long and straight to give a view of the green, which sits at the bottom of a steep slope.  A lateral water hazard and good bunkering protect the small green.  Best of the 5 Par 3's is probably the 17th, as shown here.  This is a 175 yard hole, played slightly uphill to a sloping green.  I'd played a 27 degree rescue club to the right side of the green, but that left me a difficult 30 foot cross-hill putt with a 6 foot break.  That led to my third three putt of the round.  No excuses, just poor putting on the day.

This is the last at East Kilbride and a good view of the new clubhouse.  The 18th is a formidable 543 yards, slightly uphill.  I'd missed the fairway after a poor drive, missed it again after a 3 wood and again with a rescue club.  I'd only a lob wedge to the flag, but that shot found a bunker, so a closing double bogey was disappointing.  Still, an 88, net 78, with 32 putts wasn't too bad.  We'd both thoroughly enjoyed the course and I'd strongly recommend you give it a try.  You might need your sat nav to find it, but it's worth the effort and at £30, the green fee is a bargain.

Last mention of the new clubs (for now anyway) - I even managed to get into the buffer zone in the last competition of the year at my home club (Glen GC) on the day after our game at East Kilbride!  That leaves me clinging on at 10.4, but here's hoping the clubs will help to improve my game next year.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Hermitage Family Golf Course - Course no 459

This 12 hole parkland golf course is part of a complex opened in 2006 in the South side of Edinburgh including a cafe, dance studio and therapy facilities run by Autism Ventures Scotland, a registered charity that supports adults with autism.  The course is primarily designed for  families and youngsters in particular, but is open to all on a pay as you play basis.   The course is a modest 1851 yards, Par 47 off the back tees, but the course is intended to encourage participation by beginners, which I assume explains why the par for individual holes is on the generous side.  To explain, this is the yardage/par of each hole -

1    165 yards   Par 4
2     86  yards   Par 3
3    103 yards   Par 3
4    152 yards   Par 4
5    245 yards   Par 5
6    194 yards   Par 4
7    162 yards   Par 4
8      78 yards   Par 3

9      81 yards   Par 3
10  129 yards   Par 4
11   203 yards  Par 4
12   253 yards  Par 5

In principle, this would be an excellent learning facility, giving youngsters a chance to get started in the game, with the green fees helping to support the charity's important work.  However, when I turned up to play the course on 26 October 2011, I was advised that the green fee would only be a token £1, as the course was barely playable due to continuing problems in managing the rough.  One look at the 1st hole was enough to suggest that extreme caution would be advisable! This a view from the 1st tee.   The narrow fairways had grass about 2 inches long and the rough on either side (no semi-rough in sight) was up to 2 feet long, heavy and tangled after persistent rain in recent days.  Indeed, it looked as though the rough had not been cut all Summer, so anything off-line would probably be lost.  Even a cursory search would result in a good soaking and as the weather forecast was for sun all day, I'd not bothered to pack my wetsuit trousers. 

The downhill 1st is probably the easiest of the Par 4s, since at least you can see the green.  The course hugs the side of a gently sloping valley and with heavy rough, gorse and the odd semi-blind tee shot thrown in, I quickly realised that rather than blast away with long clubs that would normally cover the distance tee to green on the longer holes, risking anything remotely off-line being lost, it would be safer to play irons off the tees and as necessary, rely on my short game.  Just to add to the difficulties, the greens were small, slow, hairy and bumpy.   

This is the 9th, a downhill 81 yard Par 3, played to a double green shared with the 7th.  the 10th tee is to the left of this photo, with the green in the distance to the left of the narrow joint 7th/10th fairway.  I birdied the 9th after an easy sand iron.  This was my second 2 on the card, the first being an eagle at the 4th, a 152 yard Par 4.   The 4th is set out as a dog leg left, but a brave/foolhardy 6 iron over the heavy rough (with an extremely old ball!) set up a lob wedge chip-in from the side of the green.  I managed to finesse my way around The Hermitage course in a gross 44, with 18 putts.  I'd normally be raving about scoring 3 under gross par on any course, but the the par here is ridiculously easy if you play cautiously and avoid the rough at all costs.  For example, the 7th is partially blind off the tee, but a couple of easy wedges are enough to hit the green in regulation.  Sure, something like a 5 iron would in theory set up an eagle putt, but why take the risk? 

This is the 12th green, looking back down the fairway.  I hope that the rough at The Hermitage can be tackled properly sometime soon.  It needs to be severely cropped back and kept short and the fairways also need to be wider to allow for the kind of errant shots that are likely to be made by beginners playing the course.  If this is not done, I suspect that the course will not get much repeat business and that casual beginners might lose interest, along with a good number of balls.  There are a number of local courses that cater for youngsters and beginners e.g. the Gullane and North Berwick Children's Courses, the Templar at New Swanston and the Melville Driving Range Course, so The Hermitage is competing in a tough market.  I hope it succeeds, but to do so, it needs to make the rough far less punishing.  Play here and support the Autism Ventures Scotland charity and take extra care off the tees and/or a bag of old balls!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Larkhall Golf Course - Course no 458

I played at Larkhall on 14 October 2011 after my earlier round at nearby Wishaw GC.  Larkhall is owned and operated by South Lanarkshire Council and although it's described by them as a 9 hole course, the 3rd hole is a 525 yard Par 5, played as a 438 yard Par 4 from a separate 12th tee.  There's also separate tees on the 9th and 18th, but more of that later.  These differences make Larkhall an 18 hole course, measuring 5742 yards, Par 70 off the Yellow tees.  If anything, the Larkhall course was even wetter than at Wishaw, with pools of water on most fairways.  The fairways are generously wide, but with small greens and some really muddy conditions at various places that took heavy traffic, the course was playing long.   Although it was still dry when I teed off, rain was forecast for later in the day so I decided to play a couple of balls from each of the shared tees rather than go round the course twice.  Regular readers of this blog will have seen that we first did this at Benbecula to save time and energy and that I've done it a few times since when playing 18 holes courses with less than 18 tees.
It was a shame that the conditions underfoot were so wet, as the course was otherwise in really good condition for the time of year.  The greens were particularly good and true running and for once, my alignment was good enough to hit greens in regulation or get close enough to them to ensure easy pars.  This is the 2nd/11th at Larkhall, a 143 yard Par 3.  The flag was at the back of the green, but as the 1st green had been pretty soft, I went with an easy 7 iron, downwind, when playing these holes.  My tee shot off the 2nd went to 4 feet, giving me my only birdie of the day. 

Like most local authority courses, Larkhall caters primarily for the casual golfer who has not joined a local club and local beginners and seniors etc.  As such, the set up of these courses tends to be less demanding.  The Stroke Index 1 hole was the 12th and I was happy enough with my bogey there, given the wet conditions.  Overall, holes 1-8 and 10-17 weren't too demanding and I was only 5 over par approaching the 9th/18th tees.  Accordingly, I was pretty surprised to find that the 9th is a remarkable 481 yards Par 4, Stroke Index 10 and the 18th is a more reasonable 482 yard Par 5, but Stroke Index 9.  Both holes have OOB on the right and play into the prevailing wind to their shared green.  The 3rd/12th play downhill and downwind, so how the 12th merits its SI 1 status over the 9th and why the Par 5 18th is regarded as slightly more difficult than the Par 4 9th beats me, when there's only a yard between the two tees!  This is the view of the clubhouse and shared green from the 9th-18th fairway.  I was tempted to ask the Starter about the stroke indexing but he was busy with some customers when I passed his shop on my way back to the car.  Maybe it's as well I didn't ask, as this is the oddest indexing I've seen for a long time.  A decent enough course, though.

I scored a gross 78, net 68, with 28 putts, so net 2 under par was good, given the heavy conditions.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Wishaw GC - Course no 457

I played this 18 hole parkland course on 14 October 2011 on a dry and warm day.  Although there had been some recent rain where I live in the East of the country it quickly became clear that it had been far worse to the West, as the Wishaw course was pretty saturated. Wishaw GC is south east of Glasgow and at 5761 yards, Par 69, is not long, but with the course being so wet there was no run on the ball at all and high shots onto the fairway would plug, risking a lost ball.  I only found that out on the 10th, since the fairways were narrow and I don't think I hit a single fairway on the front 9!  It was quite an achievement to get to the turn without losing a ball, since although the rough was quite short, Autumn on a parkland course means fallen leaves, so it was quite difficult to find balls even marginally off line.

Wishaw is pretty flat and easy walking.  The first 7 holes run almost parallel to each other, separated by lines of trees and light rough.  The 8th, a short 146 yard Par 3, as shown here, at least provides a welcome change in direction.  My inaccurate driving in a gusting crosswind meant I dropped a shot on each of the first 6 holes, so a poor start.  Pars at 7-9 meant I was out in 41, but the front 9 was pretty bland.  The back 9 was more interesting, with more significant changes in elevation and direction of play.

This is the 11th, a 156 yard Par 3 played from an elevated tee, with OOB to the left.  I'd hit a reasonably good shot just left of the green and just missed my birdie after a good chip, but at least I was playing pretty well, despite the wet ground conditions.  I also had a good birdie chance at the short 275 yard Par 4 13th after finding the middle of the fairway for once off the tee, in yet another plugged lie.  I'd packed my laser range finder and was a bit nervous about using it as there were a couple of greenkeeping staff working at the back of the green.  The hole was front left of the green, well protected by a large bunker and I'd 84 yards to the flag.  At least the guys stopped working while I played, but they (and the bunker!) were well within range, so I was really pleased to hit a good wedge to within 4 feet. It's tempting to blame my missed putt on the recently-tined green, but I suspect I just misjudged the line.  Still, an easy par there was satisfying.

This is the 17th, a 178 yard Par 3 played directly into the wind, with an upslope in front of the green adding to the  playing length.  Indeed, I needed a decent hit with my driver to make the front of the green for another par.  This hole is called "The Glen" the name of my own home course in North Berwick, one of several holes I've come across that have that name.  Maybe not enough for a composite course yet, but who knows?  It would be nice if there were enough such holes to make up at least a 9-hole composite!

I'm not sure whether there's a clear "signature" hole at Wishaw, but my own favourite was the 18th, a tricky dog leg left 392 yard Par 4.  I'd hooked my drive into trees on the left, but I found a reasonable lie away from the puddle I'd landed in and there was a gap back to the fairway.  An easy 7 wood, wedge and a couple of putts and I'd finished the back 9 in 39, for 80 in total, with 32 putts.   A net 70, or net 1 over par was pretty good really.  Wishaw is probably a good test off the back tees in good weather, but it was not at its best when I played it, due to the soaking wet underfoot conditions.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Palacerigg Family Golf Centre - Course no 456

This golf centre is just outside Cumbernauld, under a mile from the separate Palacerigg Golf Course.  As the name suggests, this centre is primary intended for practice and game development for all ages and playing levels and with a covered 20-bay driving range and indoor training facilities and a PGA Pro, alongside a 9 hole course (and an on-site pub and restaurant), it's certainly well-equipped.

I played the 2675 yards Par 34 course after my earlier round on 4 October 2011 over the Palacerigg course.  I'd only just dodged a heavy shower at Palacerigg by getting round quickly, but the rain had stopped by the time I teed off again.  The views to the west from Golf Centre course extend 10 miles or so to Glasgow, or would have done had it not been raining there when I teed off.  It looked as though I could get most of the way round before the rain arrived, but not so.   My wet suit and rain hat were on by the time I left the 2nd tee and it was fair belting it down by the 3rd, but at least it was only a 9 hole course, so how bad could it be?  Pretty bad as it turned out, since although I was round in under an hour, it seemed longer in the driving rain and even stronger wind.
I've found that at most short courses attached to driving ranges the layouts are pretty undemanding, geared towards beginners. The Palacerigg Golf Centre course serves that market too, but is more of a test than some I've seen on my travels.  The course is also quite hilly and the ditch that cuts across the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 9th holes adds to the interest (and difficulty).  The recent wet weather meant that grass on some of the fairways was on the long side, so the course would have been playing very long, even without the wind and rain when I played it. 
The 1st hole is a steeply downhill short Par 4 of only 250 yards.  There's lots of hang time on the drive and with a strong side wind blowing, I was lucky to find my ball after it had  been blown left into wet and clinging rough.  Add to that a tiny and steeply sloping green (thankfully slow due to the wet ground conditions) and I'd started with a double bogey.  The 216 yard Par 3 2nd is steeply uphill directly into the wind and I needed a good single putt for par.  The 3rd is a 142 yard Par 3, played over a ditch, again into the wind and rain.  Another good single putt there for par.  The 4th was at least downwind, but at 324 yards and with a small green, I was happy enough with a bogey.  By then the weather was pretty awful and on a longer 18 hole course, I'd have been thinking about walking in.  However, there were only 5 holes to go.  The 5th was again straight into the driving rain and at 490 yards over a ditch and heavy rough ready to trap anything wayward, this was a tough test.  Double bogey there!
I'd hit a good drive on the 6th, but I then faced having to hit a wedge over a small tree to a green on the crest of a steep hill.  An 8 iron might have been a wiser choice, so another bogey.  The 7th is a downhill 183 yard Par 3.  It had actually stopped raining by then and the wind had dropped.  Even so, my 7 wood was wide of the small green and only a good pitch saved the par.  Back on came the rain,  another hill to climb up the long 8th and another bogey.  This is the 9th, a closing 347 yard Par 4, with the driving range in the background.  I managed a closing par for a gross 40, net 35, or net 1 over par with 13 putts, a good score given the conditions.  As I climbed the slope back up to the driving range and car park the clouds cleared away and the sun came out.  Just my luck.

My thanks and best wishes to Nigel, the owner and Pro for his generous help.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Palacerigg GC- Course no 455

Palacerigg Golf Course is laid out over part of Palacerigg Country Park, just outside Cumbernauld and is an 18 hole course, owned and managed by North Lanarkshire Council and is home to Palacerigg Golf Club.  Most of the course is heathland in nature and apart from a few minor slopes, is pretty flat and easy walking.  I played here on 4 October 2011 and had expected that the course would be relatively dry after some unusually hot and sunny weather at the end of September, but more recent rain meant that the course was completely saturated, with casual water throughout.  Indeed, a couple of the greens were flooded, with temporary greens in play and it was occasionally necessary to take a preferred lie in the light rough to minimise the spray when taking any divot on second etc. shots.  The saving grace was that it wasn't raining (yet!).  The course wasn't busy, so I got round in well under 3 hours, thanks to the 3 guys who let me play through on the 2nd (I later passed them again when playing the 15th.  They were on the 8th by then and would catch some heavy rain later in their round, by which time I was already playing my second course of the day).

With a strong swirling and blustery wind blowing, it was difficult to make club selections and any shots landing in casual water would stop dead or plug.  These conditions meant that the course was playing its full length of 5972 yards, Par 71, off the Yellow tees.  The greens were heavy and very slow, but were true running and in good condition.   The course is laid out in 2 loops of 9 holes with both the 9th and 18th finishing in front of the clubhouse windows.  The front 9 is mostly parkland in nature, set amongst mature trees.  This is the view of the clubhouse from the 9th, a 329 yard par 4 played directly into the strong wind (I needed my Driver and a 7 wood to reach the green in regulation!) but a good couple of putts for par meant I was out in 40, or 5 over par.    That was pretty good, considering I'd lost a ball and had a double bogey on the 475 yard Par 5 7th, the Stroke Index 1 hole.  I'd hit a good 3 wood, but the sidewind blew it into high soaking wet rough, never to be seen again.

The back 9 is more heathland in nature and if anything was even more saturated.  I was therefore surprised to see the greenkeeper mowing the 10th fairway, splashing through pools of water and throwing up spray and cuttings as he went.   The 13th is an unremarkable 265 yard short Par 4, I'd hit a good drive into the wind and had only a short punch with a wedge to the green, as shown here.  My stance was reasonably dry but the ball was obviously on casual water, but the fairways here are generously wide and I couldn't be bothered to take a drop on drier ground.  In the circumstances, my shot to within a few feet pin high must have been pretty good.  I didn't see it, though, as I got my face and clothes washed for free by the spray!  I did at least hole the putt for a solitary birdie and my clothes dried off by a couple of holes later. 

This is the 18th, a tricky 447 yard Par 5, played directly into the wind, with a lateral water hazard down the right side of the second half of the fairway.  I'd hit a good drive but my ball finished on an awkward sideslope.  I should have laid up to the left side of the fairway with a 6 or 7 iron, but was too ambitious with a 3 wood, narrowly missing the water hazard.  I then under-hit a pitch and run into more casual water (in those conditions, definitely the wrong choice of shot!) and bogeyed the hole, for 39 on the back 9.  I'd had a 79, net 69, net 2 under par, with 28 putts.  I liked the Palacerigg course despite the underfoot conditions.  It's not very difficult and would have been even better had it been drier. 

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Muckhart GC - Courses 453 and 454

There are 3 separate 9 hole loops at Muckhart GC, all heathland in nature, that can be combined to form 3 separate 18 hole layouts.  The Cowden, at 3114 yard Par 36, was opened in 1908 (annual subs then were £1 a year per family!).  The Arndean, at 2652 yards Par 35, was opened in 1970 and the Naemoor course, at 3039 yards par 35, was opened in 1998.  These combinations provide three 18 hole courses, namely -

Arndean/Cowden, 5832 yards Par 71
Arndean/Naemoor, 5757 yards Par 70
Naemoor/Cowden, 6153 yards, par 71.

I've listed the total "Casual Yards" from each of the 3 scorecards, each of which equate to Yellow yardages and as might be expected, the Medal Yards courses are longer, but there's an additional twist to the Cowden Course.  The 1st hole is played from a tee outside the clubhouse windows for casual rounds ( a 173 yard hole) but there's a completely different 1st hole for medal play (a 109 yard hole) served by a separate tee and green.  I mention this because although the 1st Medal hole at Cowden was not in play when I played each of the 3 loops back to back on 28 September 2011, I'd played that hole a few years ago with Polly in a Mixed competition over the combined Arndean/Cowden course.

The Muckhart club nominates a course combination of the day and the  club's seniors were out in force on the Cowden course when I arrived, but with advice from the helpful Pro, it was possible to play Muckhart in an Arndean, Naemoor and Cowden sequence without being held up (and 27 holes back to back in under 4 hours in humid 24 degree conditions was good going!)
The Arndean Course is only 2652 yards but is quite hilly, with some pine tree plantations that can snag wayward shots.  The first three opening Par 4s are easy enough, ranging from 278-290 yards and need only a straight drive and short pitch to get you going.  I'd parred holes 1 and 2 and a good wedge to 3 feet on the 3rd, as shown here, set up an easy first birdie of the day.  The views from the Arndean Course are pretty spectacular, especially from the 5th, aptly named "Top of the World."  I'd caught this course early in the day in calm conditions and while most of the holes are short, they are pretty exposed so Arndean on a windy day would be far more testing.  I thought the best hole on Arndean was the 7th, a largely downhill 469 yard Par 5 with a blind second shot.  I managed a bogey after hitting a severe hook onto the adjacent 6th fairway, adding to the dog leg on the hole, so bogey from there was a good result.
I also liked this, the 9th, a downhill Par 3 with OOB all down the left side of the hole. For some reason we were using the Medal tee at 209 yards rather than the shorter 135 yard tee for casual play.  I'd hit an easy 3 wood to within a yard of the OOB and was stymied by some trees, but it could have been worse as the OOB also features a couple of houses, gardens and the road to the clubhouse.  I went round Arndean in 38, only 3 over par, with 14 putts, so I was off to a good start.  Naemoor was next, and as the name suggests, this course is almost flat.  At 3039 yards, Par 35 it didn't look too tricky either.

The contrast in design and turf between Naemoor and the other courses is obvious from the start.  Naemoor is more open, flat and easier walking, but where Arndean and Cowden were free-draining, Naemoor showed more signs of the recent rain, with a few really soggy patches and casual water.  This is the 5th on Naemoor, a short 289 yard Par 4.  The early morning breeze had strengthened considerably, so with a tail wind I only had a blind lob wedge shot up to a plateau green and another easy birdie was in the bag.  I played steadily from there with a bogey on the Stroke Index 1 6th after laying up short of a fairway water hazard and good pars on 7 and 8, but I really came unstuck on the closing 394 yard par 4.
This is the 9th green on Naemoor.  I'd lost a ball off the tee  after another wild hook off the tee and was lucky to escape with a double bogey after a good 6 iron approach. Still, I'd gone round in 39 or 4 over par, with 14 putts, so at least the combined score over Arndean/Naemoor would be good.  The Cowden course wanders its way through mature pine forest over some substantial hills and is a stiffer test than the other two courses.  It's not long at 3114 yards, Par 36, but with the wind having increased further since I'd finished the flatter and lower-lying Naemoor course, Cowden looked set to be a tougher test, and so it proved.
The 1st "Casual Play" hole is a 173 yard Par 3, as shown here, and anything left, right or long would be bad news.  I just missed the green on the right, but the green was faster than those I'd played earlier, so I'd an opening bogey.  The 2nd was a 353 yard par 4 played from an elevated and exposed tee with a blind second shot over a hill, and anything left off the tee would find a swamp. I was happy enough with another bogey, but not so pleased to bogey the 3rd, a short downwind Par 4.  I did at least par the 4th, but Cowden was clearly a more testing course.
This is the 5th, the Stroke Index 1 hole, played from an elevated tee to a narrow fairway which has several severe undulations creating blind shots if you're at all short with the drive or fluff your second shot.  A double bogey there after just such a fluffed second and further bogeys on 6 and 7 were also disappointing.  The 8th is a 307 yard par 4 played over a hill that I suspect plays shorter than it looks.  My drive had run down the other side of the hill to within 20 yards of the green.  I managed to miss the green from there (!) but at least a chip-in saved the birdie.
The last hole on Cowden is a really good 501 yard Par 5, with OOB all the way down the right and a stream that cuts across the fairway 130 yards out from the green.  I had an easy par there after laying up short of the stream in 2, for a gross 42, 6 over par, with 15 putts.

My combined scores for the 3 courses were -

Arndean/Cowden, 80, net 70 with 28 putts.  A net 1 under par round.
Arndean/Naemoor, 77, net 67 with 27 putts.  A net 3 under par round.
Naemoor/Cowden, 81, net 71 with 29 putts.  A net par round.

Muckart GC is well worth a visit.  You might not want to play the full 27 holes unless you're fit and the weather's fine, but the Arndean/Cowden combination is particularly good.