David (my best mate and doubles partner at the Glen GC) and I had a great time playing this excellent 18 hole parkland/heathland course on 22 February 2011, despite the unexpected rain that dampened much of the round. We'd turned up without booking ahead, so were really delighted to be given courtesy of the course in recognition of the Cancer Research fundraising I'm doing as part of my challenge with Craig and Stu to play every Scottish course. Indeed, Duncan Williamson (the Pro) and his wife could not have been more welcoming and we were in awe of Duncan's recent remarkable achievement of raising over £6,000 for a local hospice by playing the Kirkhill course 8 times in a single day, taking 20 hours and walking (I reckon) around 40 miles. To cap it all, he thought it would be possible to squeeze in a 9th round, next time. If ever I feel tired doing my own trek, I'll be taking encouragement from Duncan's achievement. Truly inspirational, but I did wonder whether it was just coincidence that he'd just returned from the physio when we met him yesterday.
OK, it might be possible to go round a short and flat course a few times, but as we were to find out, Kirkhill is neither short or flat, making Duncan's achievement all the more remarkable. (Neither is it, as David's somewhat whimsical navigational skills suggested, at the top of the hill beside the church). Kirkhill purports to be 5778 yards, Par 70 off the yellow tees and although there were 3 temporary greens in operation, the fairways were pretty saturated and the steady rain on the front 9 didn't help either. Unlike many other hilly courses I've played, the Kirkhill course seems to go up and down several times rather than, as at Lothianburn for example (our former club in Edinburgh) involve one long climb up and a steady descent. Accordingly, Kirkhill was pretty demanding physically and was playing a lot longer than it looked on the card.
The first couple of holes (a par 5 and a short par 4) are straight uphill, so Kirkhill gets your attention pretty quickly. We'd both played at North Berwick and the Glen in recent days on links greens that were running fast and smooth, so it took us a while (all 18 holes in my case!) to adjust to the slowness of Kirkhill's greens. The course is pretty high up and exposed to the elements and it's still only February, so it's understandable that the greens should be markedly slower than we were used to, with the grass being kept that crucial bit longer to protect against frost etc. damage. However, I was finding it really difficult to judge putts and was out in a very poor 47 (11 over par) after a series of missed short putts, poor play in the rain and finding the odd bunker or three en route.
The rain went off on the 10th tee, the wet suit jacket was stowed away and I'd run out of excuses, so it was a relief to post 6 successive 4's, even if that did include a couple of bogeys on the par 3 10th and 14th holes. We both thought that the back 9 was particularly good. The 10th was playing to about 120 yards off a forward tee and again, the slow pace of the green led to a bogey. The 11th was a 340 yard uphill Par 4, as shown here. I'd hit my drive just short of the whin bushes on the left, but David, being longer off the tee, lost 2 balls left and right of the fairway and gave himself a 9. The second shot was blind over a hill but at least I'd had an easy par. Another followed on the excellent 12th, a 403 yard par 4. I'd failed to clear a hill 250 or so yards out from the tee, so had another blind shot to a small green. Another par.