Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Grangemouth GC - Course No 369

I played this excellent municipal 18 hole parkland course, as operated by Falkirk Council, on 25 January 2011 with Davie, a 3-handicapper and local member I'd met in the Pro Shop. I'd played my previous 4 new courses this year pretty well (and was also on the winning team in a Texas Scramble played at the Glen GC on 22 January - winning £25!), so I was hoping for another decent score at Grangemouth, which plays to 6049 yards, par 70, off the yellow tees. Some winter tees and 3 winter greens were in operation, so the course was probably playing to about 5500 yards. The greens had recently been hollow-tined so putting was far from easy and a good short game was needed to get the ball close enough to have a chance of a single putt. I'd done some Internet research and found reviews that reckoned this was a really under-rated course and Davie quickly reassured me that not only was the design good, testing all of his game, the greens were normally some of the best in the Falkirk area. The course sits between the M9 motorway and Scotland's biggest petrochemicals refinery and when the wind blows from a particular direction, a large rubbish landfill site nearby is also evident, but don't let those distractions put you off, because this is a really good and interesting course.

The 1st hole is a 365 yard par 4 requiring a good mid-iron to an uphill green that plays longer than it looks, hence my opening bogey. The 2nd was a short blind Par 4, played over a hill to a small green, which I missed with a wedge. However, I redeemed that mistake by chipping in with my lob wedge from 20 feet, so a first birdie (yes, there were more!) I bogeyed the 3rd after a thinned lob wedge to the winter green, some way short of the real green, but managed another birdie at the Par 5 5th hole, playing to about 480 yards off a forward tee. I was back on level par after 5 holes and playing well. This is the 6th green, on a 289 yard Par 4. If you look closely, you might see my ball, inside 3 feet to the left of the hole, after a lovely sand iron from 70 yards. I managed to hole the putt for a 3rd birdie in 3 holes, to go 1 under par. I thought the best hole at Grangemouth was the 7th, as shown here. This is a 183 yard Par 3 played over a fishing pond to a raised green protected by 10 pot bunkers (Davie commented that some club members don't like changes to this hole, as it used to have only 4 bunkers). I missed the green way left of any bunkers, but a bogey was fair enough as this looked a pretty tricky test from the tee. The Stroke Index 1 hole was next, a fearsome uphill dog leg left 399 yard Par 4, played to a small shelf of a green on a hill, with real trouble below and left of the green (where my approach shot ended up!) A double bogey there, followed by a bogey at the 9th and I was out in 39, but still only 3 over par, so there was still a chance of a good score.

Holes 10-15 are played across a hill overlooking the oil refinery, which I'm pretty sure is the largest industrial site in Scotland. The sheer scale of the site is very impressive. You just don't want to think of the implications of an explosion, but it's certainly an unusual backdrop to a golf course! My good play continued on the back 9, despite the odd poor shot that cost me a stroke. No more birdies, so I had to settle for 38 back, after dropped shots at 11, 13, 15 and 18. This is the 18th, a good 401 yard slightly uphill Par 4, and another hole that plays a lot longer than it looks. I'd gone round in 77, net 67, or 3 under net par, with 3 birdies and 28 putts, so my short game was pretty sharp. Another good score on a really good course.
Davie and I had a great blether going round, such that neither of us was really concentrating too hard on the golf. Davie suggested that I should try to play Grangemouth again in the Summer months when the course would be at its best. I don't know when, but this is a course I'd gladly play again.

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