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.

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