Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Muthil GC - Course no 389

 I played this course on 29 March 2011 after my exploits at Culcrieff.  Although I was pretty tired after my recent gardening and earlier golf at Dougalston and Culcrieff, I still had a few hours to kill before picking Polly up after a meeting she'd been attending in nearby Perth.  It was still a lovely early Spring day and I would finally get a crack at Muthil, after passing it some months before.  Muthil is a 9 green course with 18 tees, making it an 18 hole course so I played it Benbecula-style (see my blog entry for Course No 278) playing balls off each of the twin tees, saving time and precious energy.

Muthil is short at only 4438 yards, par 65, but is great fun to play.  There are 7 par 3's ranging from 106 to 201 yards and 11 Par 4's, from 220 to 378 yards, with pretty small greens and fast running fairways (and some more hills!).  I thought the best holes were 3/12, playing to 244 and 260 yards downhill, as shown here.  My tee shot off the 244 yard 3rd finished 20 yards short and right of the green leaving an awkward pitch skirting close to a bunker.  However, my drive off the longer 12th was just short of the green, from where I birdied the hole, scoring a par with the ball I'd played off the 3rd tee. 

I also liked the 8th/17th, playing to 329 and 325 yards respectively, with OOB on the right and  blind second shots played to a small plateau green.  I was happy enough to bogey both holes after almost going out of bounds off the 8th tee and being too far left off the 17th tee.  Muthil's signature holes are definitely 9/18, a couple of par 3's playing to 201 and 195 yards respectively.  This is a view from the 18th tee, with the 8th/17th green in the foreground.  The club's website refers to the last green as being just large enough to park a small car.  I don't know about that, but it's certainly tricky to find.  I bogeyed both holes and went round in 75, net 65, level net par, with 29 putts.   I really liked Muthil as a small village course and I'd recommend it.

Culcrieff GC Par 3 Course - Course no 388

I played here on 29 March 2011 after my round over the main Culcrieff course.  The Par 3 course has only 5 holes, totalling 502 yards, Par 15.  This is a view of the 97 yards downhill 1st hole.  This is really only a beginner's course, but don't go thinking it's a pushover.  The holes are all short ranging from 84 to 125 yards, but the greens are tiny, with those on holes 1-4 sloping down away from the tee.  Accordingly, it looked as though it would be unwise to try to hit any of these greens directly from the tee.  That's my excuse anyway for under-clubbing and failing to hold any of the greens in "regulation".  At least my pitching was up to the mark, as I scored 3,4, 3, 3, 3 to go round in 16, or 1 over par, with only 6 putts.   The greens were super-slick compared to the main course. 

The best hole was probably this, the 5th, an uphill 103 yards.  Anything too big here ends up in the car park or runs down the road.  The Par 3 course is also overlooked by the nearby clubhouse windows, just to the right of this shot, so this is not the place to make a mistake.  Thankfully, my wedge stopped in the fringe of grass between the green and the hedge behind and a good lob wedge left me a tap in.

A good wee course for beginners, though.

Culcrieff GC - Course no 387

I played here on 29 March 2011, the day after I'd played at Dougalston, hard on the back (in more ways than one!) of several day's hard work trying to knock my garden into shape before the perennial weeds get a grip.  Culcrieff is owned and operated by Crieff Hydro, a large up-market hotel in upland Perthshire.  Although Culcrieff is short at only 4876 yards, par 66, it is extremely hilly and physically demanding.  Either that, or I'm not as fit I should be, since I was pretty tired by the 10th hole, yet another steep climb.   This is a view of the 1st green, giving a good indication of the hilliness of the course.   It was only after a few holes here that I remembered a conversation with a member at nearby Crieff Ferntower about hilly courses, which included a friendly warning about Culcrieff not having a single flat hole.  Still, the scenery was outstanding and despite the hills, this is a really good course, well worth a visit. 

I'd gone out in 39, or 5 over par, and not too bad.  Thankfully, the back 9 was the slightly shorter half of the course, since it was even more hilly. This is the 12th green (not even the highest point on the course!).  I missed the birdie putt, but it was a lovely early Spring morning and I'd time to take in the view, with the distant mountains still showing the last (I hope!) of the Winter's snow.  I'd parred holes 10, 11,12 and 13 (almost flat!) so all was well with the world, despite some tiredness.  The 14th was an easy looking downhill 132 yard Par 3, but I forgot to hit through the ball with my 9 iron and was lucky to escape with a bogey, much to the amusement of the greenkeeping staff working  beside the tee.  Honest guys, I'd been playing OK earlier!

There are some really good holes at Culcrieff, but I particularly liked this, the 18th.  This is a steeply downhill 212 yard par 3, with outside seating by the clubhouse and a children's play area alarmingly close to the back of the green, hence the sign by the tee cautioning golfers not to over-club.  I'd hit a suitably cautious 7 wood to the right of the green and managed to almost hole a pitch and run for a closing birdie.  Still, my closing par meant I'd come back in 34 for a 73, net 63, or 3 under net par.  I'd taken 32 putts on greens that were surprisingly good for the time of year and exposed nature of the course,

Culcrieff is a good test and even if you're not up to it, the views are great.  Give it a try.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Esporta Dougalston GC - Course no 386

Polly and I played here on 28 March 2011.  Dougalston GC is 5653 yards, Par 68, off the Yellow tees.  Some Winter tees were still in operation, so the course was probably playing more to 5500 yards.  Dougalston is owned and operated by Esporta, a prominent leisure company and is part of a large and impressive multi-sports complex to the north of Glasgow.  Although it's situated close to some pretty up-market housing, the feeling is more of a rural heathland course.   We pretty much had the course to ourselves, the peace being disturbed only by the air conditioning unit on top of the sports hall, which could be clearly heard on several of the holes and more significantly, the many low-flying planes coming into Glasgow International Airport - the course is directly below the main flight path.  Those minor distractions aside, I thought that Dougalston was a really good course, full of interest and with some challenging holes.   This is a view from the tee on the 1st, a 259 yard par 4.   The drive looks intimidating, but the landing area is quite generous and after a good drive and sand Iron, I duly canned a 15 foot putt for an opening birdie.  Indeed, I had 6 pars in the opening 9 holes, to go out in 36, only 2 over par. 

This is the 8th hole, a 357 yard par 4, with Polly striding ahead (she'd laid up in front of the pond, finishing only a few feet short of the hazard).  Credit where it's due, she played the hole really well! The 8th looked as though a fade was required off the tee, but I'd not noticed that the hole was named Aquarius.  Sure enough, there was a large pond in front of the green.  Not only that, my second shot from around 130 yards was obscured by some low branches.  I opted for a low-punch with a 5 iron, which miraculously came off, stopping around 12 feet behind the flag.  I missed the birdie chance, but I'm not complaining, as this was the Stroke Index 2 hole.

The 10th, a 403 yard uphill Par 4, is rightly the Stroke Index 1 hole.  The fairway is extremely narrow, with trees on both sides.  Some pine tress had been cut back on the right, but only a dead straight and long drive would do.  I was just short of the green in 2, but took 3 more from there for a disappointing bogey.  This is the 11th, an outstanding 163 yard Par 3, played from an elevated tee to a small target with a pond to the left of the green.   My tee shot finished only 20 feet to the right of the hole, but I'd not noticed how downhill my putt would be, so 3-putted the hole.  Very poor.

I'll not go through the agonies of the 16th, a tight 427 yard par 4, or how I managed to take 6 shots from 40 yards out, for a ruinous 8, but there was a sh--- involved which ended up in a water hazard.  That hole contributed to my 43 on the back 9, so I was round in 79, net 69, with 32 putts, so 1 over net par after such a good front 9 was a bit disappointing. 

Dougalston was in really good condition and is well worth a visit, but be warned, it's far from flat and there are a few tight holes to catch the unwary, not least this, the 9th.  This is a 175 yard (very!) uphill Par 3, which plays longer than it looks.  I'd hit a good 3 wood to 25 feet, but had a steeply downhill putt, hence the bogey.  I'd certainly play here again.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Lanark GC - 9 Hole Course - Course no 385

I'd played the outstanding heathland course at Lanark GC some years ago with my friend Martin and had fond memories of the round, which Martin won quite comfortably.  Although Lanark is a heathland course, it plays more like a links in the Summer and is in my view one of the best inland courses in Scotland.  The last hole finishes right in front of the clubhouse bar windows, with the  green perched on a shelf with a steep bank off to the left.  Martin was playing off 8 or so at the time, but had the yips with his pitching wedge, such that he'd often hit it far too hard, the ball careering through the green into whatever undergrowth etc. lay in wait.  On that particular day, Martin's approach to the green had finished around 10 feet below the green to the left, leaving him with a steep bank to negotiate, before a small gallery of club members watching from the bar.  Indeed, from where his ball had finished, only the top of the flag was visible, with the bar windows in view alarmingly close behind.  Now Martin is blessed with a lovely languid rhythm to his swing and being quite tall and lean, he looked the part.  However, his chip up the bank was nothing like his elegant practice swing and sure enough, his ball bulleted over the green, hit the clubhouse window frame, bounced back onto the green and trickled back to his feet.  His next failed to climb the bank at all and if memory serves, a sh--- was next, but at least he was finally on the green.  The obligatory 3 putt followed, much to the amusement of the ghouls hovering by the bar window.  It was a warm day, so I wasn't going to miss out on a cooling beer, though  I suspect Martin could happily have missed the opportunity to meet his audience.  Luckily, he has a great sense of humour!

I mention all of this because there's a 9 Hole Course at Lanark that I'd not played.  Lanark is only a few miles away from Douglas Water, so the 9 Hole Course was my third round on 21 March 2011.  This little course is 1337 yards, Par 28, with holes ranging from 75 to 233 yards and is primarily for practice.  This is a view of the 2nd hole, with some houses  close behind.  Since the 9 Hole Course is used by beginners, I'm not sure I'd want to live there, despite the outstanding views over the championship course.

The best hole is probably the 6th, a short 233 yard Par 4 that gives a flavour of the bigger course.  As might be expected, the 9 Hole Course greens were pretty small.  I managed a Par on the 6th OK, but I'd taken the opportunity to play 2 balls (this being a practice course!) and birdied the hole with my 2nd ball.  However, the Par counted on the scorecard, so I was round in 31, 3 over par, with 14 putts.  This is a good practice course and if you ever get the chance to play the championship course at Lanark, take the time to loosen up on the 9 Hole Course. 

This is a view of the 9th hole on the little course, with the excellent clubhouse in the background.  The greens had been top-dressed and played remarkably well.  The championship course also looked to be in excellent condition and I'd strongly recommend a visit to Lanark GC.

Douglas Water GC - Course no 384

I played this good 9 hole moorland course on 21 March 2011 after my game at Leadhills.  The Douglas Water course is 2951 yards Par 36 off the White tees.  The scorecard doesn't list the yardage from the Yellow tees I played from, but I guess the Yellow yardage was about 2800.  The first thing you notice about Douglas Water is the impressive new clubhouse, as opened a couple of years ago.  The old clubhouse is still standing (just) by the 1st tee and rather detracts from the quality of this course, but one step at a time as this is a small village club with, I imagine, modest resources.  Accordingly, it was all the more impressive that the club waived my green fee (a real bargain at only £6), so that's yet another small donation into the cancer research charity we're supporting. 

The second thing you notice about Douglas Water is that it's very hilly, as this look back down the 1st hole shows, with the new clubhouse and my car (the only one in the car park!) in the background  As this photo may also suggest, the greens were superbly maintained, running fast and true.  Indeed, these were the best inland greens I'd played on this year.  The rest of the course was in equally good condition and far better than some of the bigger courses I've played over recent weeks, so well done to the greenkeeper. 

Just how hilly this place is can also be seen from this view of the 4th green, with a low-flying RAF cargo plane passing by below the level of the green.  I'd parred the opening 4 holes by that time, but just when I thought that a really good score was on, Douglas Water struck back with two back to back Par 5's, the first into a strong head wind, and the second, at 565 yards to a tiny green, the Stroke Index 1 hole.  I dropped 3 strokes over those 2 holes, but managed to par the last 3 holes, including the 8th, a downhill 382 yard Par 4.  This is the view from the 8th tee, with OOB to the left and a temporary water hazard (after all of the recent rain and snow) 100 yards or so from the green.  A large open cast coal mine on the horizon is at odds with the tranquility of the course itself - I was alone for most of the round apart from a guy walking his dog.

However, I really enjoyed the course and went round in 39, 3 over par, with 15 putts.  Seven pars out of 9 isn't bad at all, for me anyway.  If you still have the energy after playing one or more of the other courses in the area, give Douglas Water a try.  You'll be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the course, despite the hills.  The greens are great, but if there's a flat bit on this, the 9th, I certainly didn't find it, after spending some minutes practising my putting after the round.  I'd missed the 9th green to the left (the green is blind from the tee) but hit a lob wedge to within a foot and thankfully I don't miss from there too often.

Leadhills GC - Course no 383

I played this remote 9 hole moorland course above the village of Leadhills in the Borders hills on 21 March 2011.  The course is easy to find but take care, as the single track approach road is in terrible condition!  At over 1,500 feet above sea level, this is officially the highest course in Scotland and is built on land that still shows traces of long-closed lead mining in the area.  This is the modest clubhouse.  Leadhills is short, at only 2084 yards, Par 33 off the Yellow tees.  Although there had been high wind warnings for all Scottish mainland road bridges and it was far from calm when I played, there was certainly none of the wild weather that can trouble this very exposed course.  The course was also showing some of the effects of the Winter, with the tiny greens being particularly difficult to find, hold and putt on.  Despite that, I managed a decent score going round in 36, or 3 over par, with a couple of birdies, so not too shabby. 

The 3rd is a downhill and blind 135 yard Par 3.  This is a view of the green.  I'd played an easy 8 iron and miraculously (given the roughness of the green) holed out from 12 feet for an unlikely 2.  The landscape really is as bleak as the photo suggests, fit only for sheep (hence the abundance of their droppings across the course) and dedicated golfers.  Leadhills GC survives only thanks to the hard work of its members, so well done to them for keeping the sport going in such a remote and testing environment.   Winters up there must be pretty hard. 

This the 8th green, a hole named "Highest Tee" for obvious reasons.  The 8th was a downhill 229 yard Par 4, but needed a driver into the wind and a short pitch to leave a tricky 15 foot putt with 3 feet of break from the left.  The greens had been tined recently and were pretty bumpy, so I was delighted to birdie that hole, from the highest tee in Scotland.  The highest green in Scotland is the 9th, an uphill 206 yard Par 3 (into the prevailing wind, often at gale force, this would be a formidable test).  I bogeyed the 9th after going through the back (and another 3 feet higher!) with my second shot. 

I've now played the highest, the lowest (surely Garmouth and Kingston - unless you know better), the most westerly (Barra) and we're playing the most northerly and easterly (Whalsay) in June 2011.  That will leave only the most southerly (St Medans) and many in between.  There's still a long way to go, but Leadhills was a significant marker towards our final target. 

Friday, 18 March 2011

Clober GC - Course no 382

I played this excellent 18 hole parkland course just north of Glasgow on 18 March 2011.  Clober is only 4824 yards, Par 66 off the Yellow tees and was playing even shorter as some Winter tees and greens were still in play due to frost and recent heavy rain and snow.  In the circumstances, the course was in surprisingly good condition.  Although most of the course was pretty flat and easy walking, there were some ominously severe looking hills, as in this view from the side of the 1st green.  The course is pretty compact, with several tees in view from some greens, so the map on the scorecard was invaluable.  Even so, my navigation skills were tested to the full - and yes, the 14th really does go up that improbably steep hill!

I played the opening holes reasonably well and was pretty confident of playing such a short course in under net par.  There are  some seriously good holes at Clober and some that although short, require absolute accuracy.  This is not my strong point at present as my alignment problems over Ardeer demonstrated so scoring well would still be a test.   My favourite hole at Clober was the short 109 yard par 3 5th, as shown here.  A Winter green was in play reducing the hole to around 90 yards, so anything other than dead straight would be severely punished.  I managed a good par but this was a lovely looking hole. 

The Winter tee at the 6th was actually at the very back of the medal tee, turning this into a fearsome 310 yard Par 4.  Sounds short enough, but the hole is blind, requiring a dead straight drive to avoid OOB on the left and doing serious damage to anyone playing the 15th, as this view from the tee suggests.  Thankfully, I managed a good drive and an easy par.  The 7th competes with the 14th for the hilliest hole at Clober and is justifiably the Stroke Index 2 hole.  Although only 345 yards long, only a huge drive is likely to crest the hill, so I'd a blind second, played into a strong head wind, completely blind, with only the passing clouds to aim at.  Well, that's my excuse for a lucky bogey that could have been much worse!

I'd gone out in 35, 2 over par, with a birdie at the 8th hole, a 469 yard Par 5, after a good single putt on the Winter green, some 30 yards short of the normal surface.    I particularly liked the 11th, a 318 yard par 4, sharp dog leg right.  I'd hit a good drive but was too close to some trees blocking the route to the green, where the head greenkeeper was busy moving the hole.  He very kindly stood aside to let me play, but my second shot hit the top of the tallest tree and my third hit another tree, rebounding into the open fairway.  Thankfully a 50 yard pitch to 3 feet was enough to let me escape without further embarrassment but the greenkeeper had finished his work before I had!

I'm not a great fan of blind par 3's so was disappointed to find that the 153 yard 15th was blind, over another steep hill.  I'd only just got my breath back after the 14th, so walking 100 yards uphill to get a line was all I needed.  This is the view half way to the 15th green.  The line looked to be well left of the green, allowing the ball to run down the hill.  Unfortunately, the grass was just long enough to hold my ball on the down slope, but a good 15 foot putt saved the par.  The 18th is a 285 yard Par 4, drivable for the bigger hitters.  I needed a short sand iron for my second shot, but had to wait for a few minutes for the greenkeeper to finish work blowing leaves etc.  from the green.  The 1st tee is just to the right of the 18th green, well within sh---ing range, so with a crowd of 12 or so seniors waiting to play off, it was no surprise that I missed the small green to the left.  A good lob wedge from there to within 2 feet helped me escape with a closing par.  I'd gone round in 73, net 63, or 3 under net par, so a good round.  

I'd really enjoyed the Clober course, and I'd recommend you give it a try.   

Ardeer GC - Course No 381

I played at Ardeer GC on 17 March 2011.  This is an 18 hole parkland course in North Ayrshire measuring 5720 yards, par 69, off the Yellow tees.  Although the course was in really good condition for the time of year and had medium-paced and true greens, there had been heavy rain and some snow in recent days, so the course was pretty wet underfoot, meaning that there was no run on the fairways, with some balls plugging where they landed.  Ardeer is also hilly in parts, so with the wet conditions it was certainly good exercise.  The lay out is really interesting, with many changes of direction and elevation, to the extent that a course map would have helped.  Indeed,  I'd been following a couple of guys for the opening holes only to find they'd cut in on the 7th after playing the 3rd, much to the surprise of two other guys playing the 7th at the time.  Still, at least they were able to give me directions and some background on the course.  It seems that Ardeer had previously played over links land nearby but had been compulsorily re-located in the 1960's to make way for a major chemicals plant.  It was easy to appreciate the upheaval that this would have produced and to agree with their view that despite the heavy conditions underfoot when I played it, this would be an excellent course in Summer conditions.

Ardeer is odd, in that starts and finishes with two Par 3's of equal length (152 yards) off the Yellow tees.  I'm struggling to think of any other full-length Scottish course that starts and finishes with par 3's, so would readers please use the comments box below if they know of any!  This is the 1st hole, played slightly downhill and downwind.  An opening bogey after under-estimating the speed of the greens, but a strong and interesting start to the round.  I also liked the 5th, a largely downhill 482 yard par 5, with water and OOB on the right.  I suppose there must be a few holes called "The Glen" but the name reminded of my own home course in North Berwick. 

I thought the best hole at Ardeer was the 9th, a 324 yard Par 4.  This hole looked innocent enough from the tee, with a wide fairway bordered by mature trees.   I've been having alignment troubles recently and had even spent £15  on some day glow yellow alignment sticks. I thought I'd lined up properly, not bothering to use these sticks from the tee.  However, my tee shot was too close to the trees on the right and ended up down a bank towards a serious-looking water hazard that had been hidden from the tee.  I had an awful stance but it was an old ball and a lifetime 8 iron was the brave i.e. stupid choice.  My ball ended up in trees to the left of the green, leaving me this interesting view. Had I known that the green is fronted by a wide moat, as shown here, I would have been a bit more cautious!    I scrambled a bogey 5 from there, but the 9th is a superb hole, full of danger for the unwary (and even for members, who know what hazards await to the right and in front of the green).  I'd gone out in 42, or 6 over par.

The 11th was another strong hole, a 326 yard par 4 and Stroke Index 1 on the card.  The tee shot is played over the marker on the crest of a hill.  This fairway was not unusually wet, but it took me ages to find the ball (ironically close to my bag!), firmly embedded in mud.  Still a good 9 iron and a couple of putts for my par was pretty satisfying.  I'll not forget the 14th in a hurry either.  This was an unremarkable 124 yard uphill Par 3, but in getting a tee from my pocket, I managed to stab myself with the sharp point of a new pencil under a finger nail.  I'm afraid that it's just as well there was no-one within earshot!

This is a view of the 18th green.  My ball is actually further away than it looks (click on the photo to expand it), so I missed the birdie putt.  However, an 83, net 73 (4 over net par) wasn't bad in the conditions.

Ardeer is a really good and interesting parkland course and is well worth a visit.  It's understandable that most visiting golfers are attracted to the outstanding links courses nearby e.g. Royal Troon, Dundonald etc., but I really hope that more will give the smaller local courses a try, such as Ardeer and Loudon Gowf etc.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Eastwood GC - Course no 380

David and I played this heathland/moorland course on 8 March 2011 in a howling gale that worsened as the round progressed,  with lashing rain over the last few holes.  Eastwood GC lies on high exposed moorland to the south west of Glasgow en route to Kilmarnock and is an 18 hole Par 70 course of 5757 yards off the Yellow tees.  The weather forecast had been pretty accurate with high wind warnings across the west of the country on the car radio, so we were clearly in for a battle against the elements. The greens had obviously suffered badly during the Winter and were understandably slow, bumpy and in need of some heat and sun.  All of the greens were in operation and we were playing off some forward tees that shortened the course yardage.  However, playing in such a gale nullified that advantage and led to some bizarre club selections - and results.  I'd opted to carry my Sun Mountain H2No bag and a full set of clubs, but Eastwood is very hilly, so the round was also physically demanding.  David had unwisely taken his pull trolley, but had to push it downhill on the 14th, such was the strength of the "4-club" wind! 

Did we enjoy the course in such extreme conditions?  Did we think that this was a good course?  A resounding yes in both cases, as the layout was simply great fun to play, with several outstanding holes and clever use of elevation changes and water features.  If you get bored playing here, you're just trying the wrong sport. The layout had been substantially changed a few years ago due to the construction of the nearby M77 motorway, and I'd obviously not played the original course, but the new holes, from 5-11, are well designed and blend in well with the older holes.  Some of the more hilly courses I've played I'd be content not to play again given my preference for links layouts, but by the time we we half-way round, we were already promising ourselves we would try to play Eastwood again in warmer conditions, once the course had recovered from the battering it had obviously taken in recent months.   Eastwood might not be on any list of must-play Scottish courses, but just give it a try.  It's relatively short, very hilly and exposed to the elements, but there's not a weak hole and on a warm sunny day, we thought it would be a real treat.

We'd had a warm welcome from the Pro and had been able to start in the middle of a Ladies 4-Ball competition.  But with an audience on the 1st tee and the gale straight into our faces, it didn't take us long to suspect that this would not be a low-scoring round.  My opening drive went all of 150 yards, leaving 200 yards to a small shelf of a green and I was happy enough to escape with a bogey 5. The 2nd hole was a tricky 188 yard Par 3, again into the wind, but the flag had blown over, making the green invisible from the tee.  Thankfully, my driver was on line (but still 20 yards short!), so that was another bogey.  The 3rd was a downwind (i.e. drivable)334 yard Par 4, so at least I recorded a first par.  We both thought the 4th was a terrific hole, a dead flat downwind 360 yard Par 4, with a stream splitting the fairway just about where my drive would normally land.  The gale meant that I was well clear and could play a short iron onto a slope running down to the green from the left, avoiding the lateral water hazard to the right of the green.  It would be tempting to add a bunker to the left of that green to restrict that approach shot, but that might be a bit excessive!

The 5th was a 288 yard downwind but uphill Par 4.  David drove the green OK, but the land falls away dramatically to the right of the green into wild rough, so that cost me a double bogey.  The 6th is another superb hole, a roller coaster of a 498 yard Par 5, played from an elevated tee.  This is a view from the fairway.  I had a short sand iron for my third and holed an easy 3 foot putt for my only birdie of the round.  I say easy, but in reality putting was a lottery, given the effect of the wind on the ball and the recently tined greens.

The 7th is an uphill 171 yard Par 3 with bunkers in front of and behind a steeply sloping double tier green.  With the gale helping from the left, club selection and stability over the ball was tricky.  Even so, a 6 was disappointing, including a 3-putt.  Holes 8 and 9 were good short Par 4's, so I was out in 42 and 1 up against David.  The 10th was another short par 4, played directly into the wind.  There's a single spindly tree to the left of the fairway and I could have stood on the tee all day and not hit another drive right behind it, blocking my way to the green.  That mistake led to a costly double bogey en route to the 11th, a slightly downhill 175 yard Par 3, which we thought was the best hole on the course.  This is the view from the tee.  The gale was blowing almost directly into us, so I needed my driver to find  light rough just off the green, pin high.  David had hit his 3 wood way right, leaving himself an almost impossible downhill pitch, since the green slopes down to the water.  I managed another par here to win the hole, but what a great little hole.  The 12th was another great hole, this time a downhill 383 yard par 4, into the wind.  I needed a full 4 iron from 120 yards to reach the green, but missed a short putt for an unlikely par.  The 13th was an easy uphill 451 yard Par 5 that I should have birdied.  Again, the ball bobbled on its way past the hole.  The 14th was the Stroke Index 1 hole, a monstrous 467 yard Par 4 off the White medal tee, straight into the wind.  Our elevated tee was a bit short of that and the hole was steeply downhill off the tee and uphill towards the green.  I took 7 after the wind died, just as I was hitting a full wedge to the green for my third shot, the ball ending up way through the back, down another hill.  We should have parred the short 15th, a flick with a wedge from an elevated tee, but again we had trouble on the green from no great distance.

This is the view from the 16th, a cleverly designed 330 yard Par 4.  The line is over the Saltire flag to a steeply downhill fairway.  I'd thought about running a low chip down the hill, but there's a stream in front of the green, invisible for all but the big hitters.  Here's David trying to look cheerful on the bridge at the 16th in the rain that by then was chucking it down.  Bogeys on the last 2 holes meant I'd gone round in 87, net 77 with 34 putts.  I'd also held on to just beat David by 1 Hole.  Still, at least  David had found his (by now wet) Skycaddie at the bottom of his golf bag after "losing" it a few days before and alerting the police and 2 local golf clubs where he might have dropped it.  And yes, he does qualify for Seniors events!

Hopefully, we'll play Eastwood again.  If not, we'll just remember fondly the day we beat the wind and rain on a very good golf course.  I recommend you try it sometime yourself.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Polmont GC - Course no 379

I played the nearby Polmont course after my round at Bridgend and District on 2 March 2011. Polmont is (definitely) a 9 hole course of the Yellow tees and although only 6 miles from Bridgend is more heathland in nature, with faster and drier fairways and speedier greens.  Indeed, the greens here were surprising fast and smooth for the time of year and after our tough Winter.  The small clubhouse was closed and the car park almost empty, but thankfully a lady coming off the course had an old scorecard and gave me directions to the 1st tee, so I didn't get lost.  This is the view from the 1st tee and not the prettiest opening hole I've seen.  However, this is only a  modest little course built in a former mining village, hence some of the hole names e.g. "Fit o' the Bing" (foot of the shale waste hill) and it's great that such small clubs still have their place.

My "new" Pal was on better form here and I had 6 single putts (12 in total) in my round of 38.  Polmont is only 2895 yards, Par 35 off the Yellow tees and despite being moderately hilly, was an easy enough walk.  If you hit the ball straight and made allowance for side slopes that make some holes tricky, there wasn't really not much real trouble to be found when I played it (a windless day in benign dry conditions).  That said, the greens are small and I suspect that when the course is really dry and the wind is blowing, this wee course might have some teeth!

Anyway, I went round in 38, or 3 over par.  I thought the 9th was the best hole, a 308 yard par 4.  This is the view from the tee.  I'd hit my drive up the left side and had an easy wedge to the green.  However, it turned out that the green was even smaller than I'd thought and I'd found a nasty bunker behind the green, invisible from the fairway.  To be fair, the bunker probably stops balls from running down to the 1st tee.   I also mention that bunker since that's where my second shot ended up, for a closing bogey.  This is the green itself, with the Grangemouth oil refinery in the distance. 

I enjoyed the round at Polmont, but with so many excellent  courses in East Lothian where I live, I doubt I would play this course again.


Bridgend and District GC - Course no 378

I played this little course near to Linlithgow on 2 March 2011.  I was particularly keen to play here as the course is currently up for sale, with a recent news release giving the following details -

You don’t have to be a billionaire like Donald Trump to own your own golf course. And there are no endless planning enquiries and millions of pounds of investment required to buy the Bridgend and District Golf Club, by Linlithgow, which is on the market through DMH Baird Lumsden at offers over £295,000. The nine-hole golf course, which was founded in 1994 with a par of 34 is set in around 39 acres and also comprises a purpose-built clubhouse of just under 5,100 square feet with a large reception area and adjoining offices, bar lounge with restaurant, dancing area and all the other amenities you might expect in a modern golf club.  In addition, the clubhouse has an extensive attic area of just over 2,500 square feet within the roof structure which has been designed to allow easy conversion to additional accommodation subject to required consents. Linlithgow, with its impressive royal palace and an extensive range of social, shopping, sporting and transport facilities, is only three miles west of Bridgend, a residential village with its own primary school and local shop.  The golf club is situated on the west side of the village and has fine views over the adjoining countryside and across the Forth. The surrounding land is mainly agricultural and to the south stands the impressive landmark, Cockleroy Hill.  Duncan Fergusson of DMH Baird Lumsden, who is marketing the club on behalf of its 130 members, said: “The course and the clubhouse offer an exciting opportunity for a golf course operator or a private individual who is fanatical about the game, to buy and operate it on a commercial basis. In addition the extensive attic space could be converted subject to the required consents to form first-class residential accommodation.”

Although the course is described as having 9 holes, the 2nd green is played as a 200 yard Par 3 (2nd hole) and as a 262 yard par 4 (11th hole).  Under the definitions that Craig, Stu and I play to in our all-courses challenge, this makes Bridgend an 18 hole course measuring 5076 yards, Par 67, off the Yellow tees.  Although the course was still showing signs from the tough Winter we've had and was still pretty wet underfoot, I really enjoyed playing here.  I imagine that there's a limited market for such a property but I hope that someone with the necessary vision buys it and that it survives as a local amenity for the village and surrounding district.  The layout is pretty good and the holes just get better as you go round. 

I played Bridgend by putting 2 balls in play from each tee (and a single ball from the 2nd and 11th tees) rather than walk the course twice, in line with the way we'd played the Benbecula course and others that have 9 greens and more than 9 tees (the first ball counts for the front 9 and the second for the back 9 holes, saving on time and energy).  However, Bridgend has some tricky holes, so don't try this unless the course is as quiet as I found it.

Hole1/10 is an uphill 344 yard par 4, that plays a lot longer than it looks.  Trees to the left make the opening drive quite testing and my hooked tee shot contributed to an opening bogey.  I found the fairway with my second ball but again underestimated the distance to the green, so another bogey there.  The 2nd is a 200 yard par 3 and the 11th is a 262 yard par 4, both played to the 2nd green.  The fairway was saturated so with no run, I bogeyed both holes.  Hole 3/12 is a 129 yard downhill par 3, as shown here.  The green is quite shallow, but I managed a couple of pars after holding the green with good wedge shots.

Hole 4/13 is a 294 yard par 4, played blind over a hill with the small green tucked away to the right, with OOB behind, bushes to the right and trees obstructing any drive to the right of the fairway .  I'd hit good straight drives, but each was embedded in its own plug mark, given the wet fairway.  I escaped with a couple of bogeys but the positioning of the green means these are tricky holes.  Hole 5/14 is a 160 Yard downhill par 3 with OOB on the right for anything wayward.  A par and a bogey were OK.  Next were the formidable Stroke Index 1 and 2 holes, a steeply uphill 401 yard Par 4.  With no run, I couldn't reach the green in 2 shots either time, so another couple of bogeys.  Hole 7/16 is named "Gambler's Corner" and is a steeply downhill dog leg right 384 yard par 4 with a couple of water hazards crossing the fairway.  The green is tucked away behind trees that limit options for anything hit to the right from the tee and the green is anything but flat, so a 6 and a 5 went onto the card.  Hole 8/17 is back up the hill and at only 279 yards, Par 4, should be easy enough.  However, there's a hidden water hazard about 220 yards off the tee, so you need to be careful.

Hole 9/18 is a downhill 316 yard Par 4, dog leg right, finishing in front of the impressive modern clubhouse, with more water hazards to avoid.  For me, these were the best holes on the course.  The fairway is narrow, with OOB all the way down the right side and trees to the left.  I'd hit 2 decent drives and had only a wedge to the green each time, but the green is shallow and there's a bunker hidden right behind it.  Closing bogeys were disappointing, but I'd gone round in 81, net 71, or 4 over the net par.

Like the other inland parkland courses I've played recently, the greens at Bridgend were understandably on the hairy and slow side.  I normally putt with a Ping Anser 4 that I've had for at least 15 years, with an even older Ping Pal gathering dust in the garage.  The Pal has a brass head that's quite a bit heavier than the Anser 4 and I hadn't carried it for many years, but I thought I'd give it a try.  I still had 32 putts going round Bridgend, but at least I was getting the ball up to the hole easier so the Pal might get a run, at least until the Spring helps to speed up the greens I'm playing!

Bridgend is a good wee course.  You might not want to get the cheque book out immediately afterwards, but come the Spring this will be a good way to spend an hour or so.  The clubhouse is good too.