Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Cowglen GC - Course no 372

I played this excellent 18 hole parkland course on the South side of Glasgow on 8 February 2011. Cowglen was the closest golf course to where I lived until I left home aged 20, to find fame and fortune in London (and failed dismally!) As I mentioned in my first posting, I'd thought as a kid that golf was for folk with more money than we had, but had it been possible at the time, it's likely that I would have joined Cowglen as a junior. I do remember the thought that if I ever took up golf, I'd play this course one day but it's certainly taken me a very long time to fulfill that old ambition. I must have passed Cowglen many thousands of times on the Number 48 bus en route to the city centre or to college. The course is within a mile of my former secondary school and is also overlooked by an office block where my mother worked in the 1960's, so in a sense, this was more than just another new course on my way round Scotland, it was the fulfillment of that old ambition. I really enjoyed this course and spent much of the round musing on what I'd missed over the years.

Cowglen is a gently undulating parkland course playing to 5867 yards, par 70, off the Yellow tees. Some Winter tees were in operation, some of the greens had been hollow-tined and as I had been advised by the Pro, the Par 3 9th hole was being rested, with a temporary Par 3 hole, played to the normal practice putting green, inserted after the 16th. There had been some heavy rain recently, so there was little run on the fairways and I was dropping the ball to the side of the fairways as part of the club's Winter upkeep. So, I reckoned that a net 70 would be a pretty good score.

Cowglen starts with a flat 420 yard Par 4. With no run on the fairway, I was still just short of the green after a solid driver and 3 wood approach. The green was pretty slow, having been hollow-tined, and I bogeyed the hole. A good drive at the 319 yard Par 4 second left me with a blind sand iron over a hillock, but a steadying par here and another at the 346 yard Par 4 3rd, named "Glen." Cowglen was founded in 1906, the same year as my own club, the Glen GC, but the hole reflects the lie of the land, rather than an early linkage between the 2 clubs. I'd caught up with a 3-ball in front and watched them playing their drives at the 4th, the Par 4 337 yard Stroke Index 1 hole. This was still a really testing hole despite the Winter tee reducing it to something nearer 310 yards. Above is the view from where my drive finished, comfortably left of the fairway and around 60 yards short of the green. Overhanging branches were an obvious problem, but there was also a hidden dip in front of the green, with a water hazard ready to collect any attempted pitch and run. I tried a low 8 iron pitch to the front of the green, only to hit the silver birch on the right. I then hit a good wedge to within 10 feet, but missed the putt for what would have been an outrageous par. Possibly my favourite hole on the course. This the view back to the 4th from the path up to the 5th tee. The 5th is a short Par 3, leading to stretch of 3 long holes that require good drives from elevated tees. The Par 4 6th plays even longer than its 435 yards, so thanks to the friendly greenkeeper for conceding my bogey putt from 3 feet! I parred the 7th OK, and had a few minutes to ponder this, the view from the elevated 8th tee. The 8th is a 489 yard Par 5, also playing longer than it looked, but at least I'd hit a good approach with a 9 iron to set up an easy par. Since the 9th was being rested, I was out in 36 against the par of 32, so not too bad a round so far. The guys in front kindly let me play through on the uphill Par 4 10th and despite playing fast to get out of their way, I managed another good par. The 11th is another great driving hole from an elevated tee, but apologies are due to the 2 other guys standing on the 10th tee! That slice cost me a double bogey. I'd lived near this course from 1950-1970 and passed it thousands of times, so why the 12th is named "Racecourse" escapes me. The 12th is a good Par 3 of 176 yards with a small green cut into the side of a steep slope. I'd not bought a Stroke Saver course guide, so didn't know about the hidden bunker that stops the obvious shot played to the right that would otherwise roll onto the green, so that was another bogey on the card.

Still, that hole started a run of 4's on the card, including a birdie at the 480 yard par 5 14th hole, shortened considerably by a Winter tee. I should have parred the 16th, a 157 yard Par 3, but 3-putted from 30 feet. As advised by the Pro, the extra hole on the back 9, substituting for the 9th came into play next. This was a downhill hole of around 120 yards, which I was lucky to bogey after a poor 9 iron. I also bogeyed the Par 4 17th, another excellent driving holes, so I needed a par up the last for a net 69.
The 18th was a 397 yard slightly uphill par 4, shortened slightly by a Winter tee. I hit my best drive of the day, followed by a slightly hooked 9 iron to the left of the green and a lob wedge to 5 feet, as shown here. The 18th turned out to be the fastest green on the course, with my par putt nearly running off the green. Thankfully I holed the return, so I'd gone round in 80, net 70, with 31 putts. I hope that it doesn't take me another 40 odd years to play here again. Mind you, I'd settle for an 80 if that happens, as by then I'd be at least 101! This is a really good course with some great driving holes and I'd strongly recommend it.

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