Polly and I played this excellent course on 28 February 2011 on a lovely sunny day. I took the jumper off it was so warm, so hopefully that's the end of the worst of the Winter! Anyway, Kirkintilloch is an interesting parkland course just north of Glasgow, playing to 5599 yards, Par 70, off the Yellow tees. As Winter tees were still in operation, the course was playing shorter than that, but the downside was that the greens were slow and bumpy, a common feature of parkland courses at this time of the year. Polly was disappointed that there were no Ladies Winter tees, meaning that "her" course was a bit longer than she'd expected. Thanks go to the club for all of their help and generous support and a very friendly welcome.
The course is an old James Braid design, updated considerably in 2000 and with further changes in 2009. However, I suspect that much of the orginal layout remains, as there's an established feel to the place, with the newer holes fitting in very well. Kirkintilloch is fortunate to have Colin Mongomerie as its Honorary President (and I don't know how it managed that considerable coup!) and Colin rightly describes the 7th, 9th and 12th holes as particularly testing. However, there's far more to this course than just those holes. As shown here, the 1st is a particularly attractive opener, a 370 yard par 4. Mats were mandatory on the fairways but I didn't need mine then after a hooked drive into the trees on the left that cost me an opening bogey.
The 2nd was a good uphill Par 3, but I found one of the many bunkers so that was another bogey on the card. The 3rd is normally a par 4 of only 270 yards, but I couldn't see that there was also a temporary green in operation , so my drive ended up 30 yards beyond the flag! This is the 4th, a super little slightly downhill 267 yard Par 4. The tee was slightly forward, enabling me to drive to the front of the green. However, the green slopes uphill from there, so I only parred the hole, after the first of many more failures to adjust my putting to the lack of pace on parkland greens still having to be kept long to minimise risks of frost damage.
The 7th is the Stroke Index 1 hole and is a 415 yard par 4 with a pond and a stream in front of the green. I'd found a fairway bunker from the tee and had a 7 iron for my 3rd shot, which found a copse of trees to the right and short of the green. Even so, I was only a few feet away in 4, so a bogey would have been OK. However, this green was particularly difficult to judge and I 3-putted it for a poor 7. The 8th was the only hole that was really wet underfoot, being particularly low-lying and again, putting was a bit of a lottery in the Winter conditions. The 9th was another good hole, a 370 yard par 4 with an uphill 2nd shot that's a bit longer than it looks. I'd hooked a wedge so that was another bogey for an outward 43. Not very good.
The 10th is a good strong Par 5 of 494 yards and was playing to all of that. A rare single putt from all of 6 feet (our longest putt of the day!) and I'd got another par. However, a sh--- at the 178 yard Par 3 11th cost me a triple bogey and led to much much dark muttering that I'll not repeat in the interests of any sensitive readers. Suffice to say that I did not spare the horses off the next tee. The 12th is a superb hole, 412 yards par 4, playing shorter off a Winter tee. Even so, I'd a blind uphill 7 wood shot to a long and narrow green, played to perfection for an easy par.
I suspect that the best hole at Kirkintilloch might be the 16th 298 yard par 4, played from an elevated tee with the green half-hidden by mature trees that guard the entry on both sides of the green for second shots, such that the tree bark on the "fairway side" is heavily scarred by countless years of wayward approaches. However, a Winter green short of these trees had reduced this to a drivable hole, even for me, and my par there was something of a disappointment.
As shown here, the 18th is also an excellent hole, with redesigned bunkering and new trees that in a few years will really toughen the finish to the course. The 18th is a 325 yard par 4 from an elevated tee and offers a final opportunity to open the shoulders for a memorable drive. I played to the green OK but got above the hole, so that was another 3 putt. I'd gone round in 85, net 75, or 5 over net par. I'd also taken 35 putts, holing nothing over 6 feet and 3-putting 3 times. Still, I'd really enjoyed the course and was sure that the greens would quickly return to their best once the Spring arrives. For the record Polly won the bragging rights, beating me by a single Stableford point after my 3-putt on the last and some good driving in particular, so well done her!
Kirkintilloch is well worth a visit and has some great views over the nearby Campsie Hills.