The Duke's ranges between a daunting 7512 yards off the professional Black tees to a more modest 5216 yards for the ladies Red tees. Being the mug that I am, I opted for the White medal tees, which at 6550 yards, par 71, was a pretty formidable test given the cold and heavy conditions. I'd been quite warm walking around the town after breakfast, but the Duke's is set on an exposed hilly site with impressive views down to the town and the sea beyond, so the temperature was well down and a two-jumper wind was blowing in off the sea. Added to that, there had been heavy rain in recent days so the fairways were very wet underfoot, with almost no run. Like most Scottish inland courses at this time of year, the greens were slow, a bit bumpy and very difficult to read.
Just to make things more interesting still, the Pro had advised us that the course was played in reverse order during the Winter, with holes 10-18 forming the front 9 and holes 1-9 as the back 9. We didn't think to ask why this was done and we were none the wiser after playing the course. If anything, the "Winter" order seemed pretty natural, since the 9th hole finished immediately below the clubhouse windows, whereas the 18th finished lower down the hill out of sight from the clubhouse windows and left a long and steeply uphill walk to the 1st hole teeing ground. To keep things simple, I'll go through the round as we played it, starting at the 10th. This is a slightly downhill 400 yard par 4 dog leg left and a good strong opener, with OOB to the right and a burn running across the fairway, as shown above, to catch any mishit second shot. I played the hole pretty well, just missing the green in 2, but walking off with a 6 after completely misjudging the speed of the green. I'm not sure what the Stimp meter reading would have been. Maybe a 3, but to be fair, the Duke's course is pretty high up and greens like these have to be cut conservatively to protect them against potential frost damage. After that bad start, the 11th turned out to be a 552 yard Par 5, playing to nearer 600 yards into the cold wind, Stroke Index 1. I was happy enough to board the green in 4 shots, avoiding some huge bunkers and another burn protecting the green, but 3-putted from no great distance to go 4 over par after only 2 holes. The 12th is an uphill 189 yard Par 3 that plays a lot longer than it looks. Sadly, my 7 wood was just short of the green, leaving a 60 foot uphill putt. Another 3 shots from there, so still no sign of a par to get the round going!