Muirkirk was also more quirky, as this next photo might suggest. Just a tree, but notice the scarring on the trunk? This photo was actually taken a yard or so forward of the Yellow tee markers at the 1st tee. The hole is a sharp dog leg right 287 yard Par 4, so the brave line is over the trees to the right. I'd taken the wrong line and only narrowly missed the tree in front of the tee. I'd ended up close to the 9th tee, towards the left of the photo, and I managed an opening Par easily enough, but struggled to find the 2nd tee (back up the hill and tucked behind the 9th tee if you ever play here!)
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
This was my second course played on 26 April 2011. Although New Cumnock is only a few miles away from Sanquhar, the courses are very different. Sanquhar is a moorland course that looked to be prone to flooding in heavy conditions, whereas New Cumnock is a mature parkland course that looked far more free draining and fast running. At 2666 yards, Par 34, it was almost the same length as Sanquhar, but was a real pleasure to play, with really good fast and true running greens. Green fees were payable at a local 4-star hotel, but I suspect that the receptionist was not a golfer, since she clearly didn't understand my need for a scorecard. A wee bit more customer care needed there. Anyway, back to the golf.
The first sign that the course was fast running came at the 1st. I'd hit a good drive up the left of the fairway. The green was slightly uphill, but easily within reach of my sand iron. The hole is 349 yards long. On similar holes at Sanquhar I'd needed driver and 5 iron. Same story at the 2nd, a 328 yard Par 4, Driver and sand iron. I needed Driver and a wedge at the 3rd (273 yards) after finding trees to the right of the fairway, ending up 30 yards through the green. New Cumnock was playing more like a links course in the Summer! This is the 5th, a 374 yard Par 4 and the Stroke Index 1 hole. I'd stopped just short of the water hazard that cuts across the fairway and had a semi-blind wedge to the green. I missed that shot to the left (wrong aligmnent again!) and bogeyed the hole.
I also liked this, the 7th hole, a 323 yard Par 4. The course was quite busy and I'd caught up with a couple of guys on the 6th. The 7th plays over a steep hill, with a blind second shot to a small green, as shown. The guys had waved me through and were standing to the side of the green when I played an easy 7 iron, so it was nice to hole the 30 foot putt for my solitary birdie. The 8th I didn't like much. This was a 225 yard Par 4, steeply uphill to a small exposed plateau green. I'd missed the green short and right and bogeyed the hole after a mediocre pitch with my lob wedge also missed the green.
Still, the 9th was better, as shown here. This was a 137 yard Par 3 with a water hazard in front, OOB behind and the well-protected clubhouse within sh------ distance to the right. I'd found the very shallow bunker to the left of the green with my 7 iron tee shot, but escaped with an easy par (New Cumnock also had unusually shallow bunkers!)
I'd gone round in 38, 4 over Par, with 13 putts and a birdie, so not bad scoring on a good course that I'd happily play again.
This is one of three 9 hole courses that I played on 26 April 2011. Sanquhar is not too far from Leadhills GC (the highest course in Scotland) but is lower down and easy walking, with only a few modest slopes to contend with. At 2670 yards, par 35, it's also pretty short, but with small greens (in surprisingly good condition, given the recent hard Winter) and some poor playing on my part, decent scoring was a bit of a struggle. This is the 3rd hole, a 380 yard Par 4, with a blind second shot played over a hump in the fairway. I'd missed the fairway to the left, hitting my ball into a dried up swamp area (there were signs that the course could become seriously boggy in wet conditions), finding an awful lie. From there I took a double bogey. Notice the fallen pine tree - another suggestion that the course is exposed to the weather.
I thought the 6th, a 138 yard Par 3, was the best hole at Sanquhar, as shown here. With a gentle breeze from behind, I'd have preferred to play an easy 8, but I'd only taken a half-set of clubs, including my 7 and 9 irons. I tried a very easy 7, but the green slopes from the middle to the front, back and both sides. I did at least hit the back of the green, but the ball was saved from going into the trees by a small shallow bunker on the back left side of the green (the bunkers were all shallow, and on such an exposed site, I wondered how much sand was lost over a playing year). This is a side view of the 6th green from the side highlighting the camber. I managed a bogey, but the pin was really in an awkward position, with nothing to stop anything overhit from finishing in the trees and heavy rough behind the green.
I also liked the last hole, a 451 yard Par 5, with the green hidden beyond a hill in the fairway. This is a view of the small green. I'd played an easy sand iron over the hill, finishing just short of the putting surface, but at least I'd avoided the trees and heavy rough that would capture anything overhit. I parred the hole easily enough, to go round in 41, or 6 over par, with 14 putts. I'd also birdied the 5th, a 286 yard Par 4, but in truth my play was pretty indifferent.
The Sanquhar course is a good amenity for the village, but I doubt whether I'd play it again.
Friday, 22 April 2011
Polly and I played here on 22 April 2011 after our round at Dalmunzie. Blairgowrie is in my view one of the best inland golf complexes in Scotland, with 2 excellent 18-hole courses, Rosemount and Landowne, that I'd previously played a number of times. Both of these courses are heathland in nature, laid out amongst mature forest, mainly pine and birch, with heather bordering most fairways. The Wee Course is a 2373 yard 9-hole course, Par 32, that is just like the bigger courses in miniature, providing an excellent short course that is ideal for juniors, seniors and general practice. At some clubs I've visited, such shorter courses are fairly modest in design and with less spent in maintenance and general course presentation. Not so here, as the Wee Course ranks alongside some of the best 9 hole courses I've played so far in my travels. The 1st is a gently downhill 182 yard par 3. I missed the green to the left, had an awkward lob wedge over a deep bunker and ended up bogeying the hole.
This is a view of from the 2nd fairway, giving a flavour of the landscape at Blairgowrie. The 2nd is a downhill dog leg right 340 yard par 4 and my favourite hole on the course. I'd hit a good drive that must have run a long way, as it was only 40 yards or so short of the green. An easy pitch over the front bunker, avoiding the 2 large sentry pines and an easy par followed. I birdied the 331 yard par 4 3rd with a driver and sand iron approach to 20 feet and a good putt. I wish I'd at least parred the 4th, named "Mcpherson of Cluny" (presumably after the McPherson Clan Chief), but I missed the green and took bogey. I also took bogey on the 5th after nearly hitting a very young lad playing in front of us with his young sister. I'd tried a 7 iron out of a bad lie, and had an sh---. The 6th is another really good hole, this time a dog leg left 297 yard par 4. The tiger line is over the big trees to the left of the fairway. I'm usually more cautious, but had a go, almost reaching the green, but was well stymied by more trees. Taking 5 more shots to get down from 20 yards is poor, though!
This is the 9th an uphill 173 yard par 3. I'd hit an easy 7 wood to the front right of the green, leaving an uphill putt (which I missed), Still a closing par meant I'd gone round in 38, with 17 putts, so not a bad score. The Wee Course was great fun to play. If you don't have time for 18 or 36 holes over the bigger courses at Blairgowrie, then try the Wee Course. You'll love it, just as we did.
There's one other thing about Blairgowrie that I really like. The Rosemount championship course finishes right in front of the clubhouse and a large sun terrace, which provided Polly and I with the ideal excuse to have a post-round pint in the Spring sun, watching the golf. Happy days!
The course was described to us by the hotel staff as demanding and tricky, a fair description as it turned out. The greens are tiny and unfortunately still showed some damage from the recent Winter, as might be expected. Leadhills claims to be the highest course in Scotland, but Dalmunzie can't be far behind. The course is pretty well-maintained, but even so, the greens were fairly bumpy and mossy, making putting pretty tricky. Dalmunzie opens with a 235 yard Par 3, Stroke Index 1, played from an elevated tee over a river to a small green protected by trees on the left and the river (again!) on the right. This is a view of the 1st green, sloping devilishly towards the water. I'd hit a good drive but was stymied by the trees, my pitch and run ending up hard against the fence that at least saved my ball from going OOB. However, a double bogey was not the start I'd been looking for. The 2nd, at 140 yards, plays shorter than it looks. In other words, my 5 iron was far too big, almost going OOB behind the green.
The 3rd reminded me of the 1st at the Glen GC, my home course (and I can't play it either!) At 354 yards, Par 4, the 3rd looks OK, but the second needs to get up a very steep hill and anything short is completely blind. This is a view from the fairway. I escaped with a bogey here. The 4th was a 162 yard Par 3, played over a bank to a small green, perched on a shelf, meaning that anything left or long could finish a long way away. No surprise I went right off the tee, but this left an extremely tricky downhill pitch, so another bogey.
This is a view of the 5th, a 160 yard par 3, with the hotel in the background, as taken from the 4th green. Note the Ladies tee to the left of the picture. The scorecard said 70 yards, but I doubt it was more than 50. After yet another bogey, I tried my 60 degree lob wedge from the Ladies tee, but went 20 yards through the back! Dalmunzie was proving to be just as demanding as we'd been advised. Still no par in sight and next, the 450 yard Par 4 6th hole, played from an elevated tee to a wide fairway, with the river coming into play again. I'd hit a good drive, but the tiny green, adjacent to the 1st, is well protected by trees and the river, so another bogey went onto the card and with only 3 holes left, I was in danger of recording a parless round.
The 7th is a flat 116 yard par 3, with a steep bank behind the green. Should be easy enough, but the river sits right in front of the green as shown here. You know it's there, but the flatness of the hole means the river isn't visible from the tee. I found the back left of the green easily enough with a 9 iron, but this green was even more bumpy and slow, so a 3-putt simply increased the pressure for a par. The 8th hole was a 162 yard Par 3, well protected by a trees to the right and OOB behind the green. I'd eased back on a 7 wood off the tee, hit a tree and finished just short of the green. Thankfully I got down in 2 from there, so at last, I'd actually parred a hole. Any joy was pretty short-lived as I made a right old mess of the 9th a right dog leg 320 yard Par 4. My drive was OK, but I'd left myself a wedge over a lateral water hazard (a swamp with mature trees and bushes blocking any view to the green). A triple bogey and a lost ball was all I deserved after not clearing the hazard.
I'd gone round in 42, with 17 putts, so not very good. Still, the greens were tricky and this was a course where it would definitely help if you kew where you were at least trying to go, so maybe I'd score better next time round. For all that, Dalmunzie was great fun to play and I'd recommend you give it a try. Don't be fooled by the shortness of the course though, as you'll need some straight hitting and luck on the greens to score well.
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
I'd not realised before fronting up at Carluke GC on 12 April 2011 that the club also had a 6-hole Par 3 course used for beginners, juniors and general practice. Although the holes ranged from 46-107 yards, totalling 506 yards together, Par 18, this still scores as separate golf course under the definition that Craig, Stu and I are using on our travels around Scotland.
I'd dodged some heavy showers during my round over Carluke's 18 hole course earlier in the day and the weather seemed OK when I started the Par 3 Practice Course. This is the only photo I took, looking up the course from behind the 1st tee (green to the right). I'd no sooner parred the 1st than a dark cloud arrived, quickly followed by heavy rain that encouraged me to play the course in only a few minutes, taking 3, 3, 4, 3, 3, 4 (8 putts).
A good practice facility, though.
Even so, my 3 iron (played in preference to my usual 7 wood in an effort to keep the ball lower into the wind) hit one of the sentry trees, leaving me this interesting pitch between 2 trees. I bogeyed the hole, but this hole is a potential card-wrecker. The 9th is another very good hole. This is a 478 yard Par 5, played downwind, with a blind tee shot over a hill. Thankfully the 2 guys playing in front of me hadn't reached the 10th fairway, since I'd hit a really wayward drive. The green was just about reachable, but a water hazard running across in front of the green prompted the sensible lay-up. An easy pitch and a couple of putts later and I'd secured the par and gone out in 41. 6 over par, but not bad.
The 12th is called "Hill o'Hope" and is a really tricky 228 yard Par 4. This is the view from the tee, with a stream cutting in from the right, trees to the left and goodness knows what lying over the brow of the hill in front of the tee. Being inherently adventurous (i.e. stupid) I opted against an exploratory walk that would have led me to exercise more caution from the tee. No, I simply hit an easy 7 wood up the left side. This quickly ran out of fairway, leaving me in deep rough, almost blocked out by some bushes, with the green perched at the top of an improbably steep hill. As I was to find out, there's also OOB close behind the green. How my wedge managed to clamber its way over the hill and stop before going out of bounds I'm really not sure, but what a great little hole. No doubt some big hitters would go directly for the green, but if they do, the OOB awaits. Just to make it more interesting, the collar of light rough that prevented my ball from exiting the course sits above the green, which slopes steeply back towards the fairway. I hit what I thought would be a good lob wedge, only to see it roll right through the green and almost go down the steep hill. Who needs long and boring Par 4s? I escaped with a bogey and was thankful for it.
The 13th is an uphill 276 yard Par 4 with a plateau green well defended by a huge tree. The second shot is blind, over or around the tree, but there's a nasty bunker right in front of the green (note to self - buy a stroke saver, you muppet!), so that was an avoidable double bogey.
This is the 16th, the last of the Par 3s. At 162 yards slightly uphill, it's made more difficult by the OOB beyond the fence on the right. Factor in the strong cross wind blowing towards the OOB and this was a seriously narrow hole. The green also slopes steeply from back left to front right. I was happy enough with a 4, having played my tee shot 40 yards left of the OOB only to have the wind blow it to within a yard of the fence. Carluke has one more trick up its sleeve. The 18th is a dog leg right 312 yard Par 4 slightly uphill. The bunker-like feature to the left of the fairway, as viewed from the tee, is actually a roadway and for me at least was out of range given that the hole played directly into the wind. The real trick is that the clubhouse windows overlook the 18th green. Indeed, any really poor second and subsequent shots could be pretty embarrassing (and expensive). The course had been quite busy so there were a good few folk watching me tackle the 18th. Thankfully I holed a 15 foot uphill putt for my closing par.
I'd gone round in 83, net 73, or net 3 over par, with 32 putts. Carluke is a seriously good course and was in great condition when I played it. Play it if you ever get the chance and enjoy, just as I did!
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Polly and I played this excellent course on 8 April 2011. The Aberfoyle course is only 4767 yards, Par 66 off the Yellow tees and we'd played it on the warmest day of the year so far, with only a very light wind, but this little course was far from easy. The main difficulties are that the greens are small and the course as a whole is very hilly. The greens had obviously suffered during the Winter and were not at their best, with a few bare patches and bumps, but although we had caught the course before it would be at its best, we loved it as a challenge. This is the 1st, a 262 yard par 4, with the green in a dip that left a blind second shot to the green. Polly hadn't read the scorecard too well, as her second shot (a 3 wood!) was well through the green. This was the first of a few blind shots and one of the larger greens.
How small were the greens? This small! This is the 3rd hole, a 307 yard uphill Par 4, looking back down to the tee and the second hole. I was through and above the green in 2 shots, but my third, although played softly with a lob wedge went right through the green and down the hill and I ended up with a double bogey. Although the village of Aberfoyle at the South end of the Trossachs (a lovely part of Scotland) is less than an hour's drive north of Glasgow, the course looks feels and plays like a Highland course and reminded me of Kingussie or Pitlochry, a couple of excellent courses in their own right.
This is me playing the 5th hole a 148 yard downhill Par 3, with a great view behind the green. I'm not sure about that flat swing or the closed stance, but on such a scenic course I wasn't really concentrating very well. I'd also made the mistake of going round the Renaissance course the day before, prior to working there as a caddy this year, so I wasn't exactly at my freshest playing such a hilly course. Still, Aberfoyle is great fun to play and there's not a weak hole on the front 9. I was out in 41, nothing spectacular (an I was certainly not competing with the scenery!).
The back 9 at Aberfoyle starts with a great Par 3 of only 118 Yards, slightly uphill, with a stream to the right and an old dry stone dyke to the left and various trees to avoid en route. I'd found the top level of the green OK, pin high. Polly had been only slightly wayward off the tee and had a tricky shot over the wall. I wish I'd taken a photo of her second shot, a great lob wedge to a few feet which deserved a par. Sadly, the green was a bit bumpy, but take my word for it, she deserved a par. Roll on the mixed 4's competitions this year! The 10th is probably the best of the 6 par 3s at Aberfoyle (other holes are 12 Par 4s from 247 to 403 yards with no Par 5s), but the 12th is also a superb little hole. At only 130 yards, it looks easy enough, but the green is cut into the side of a hill and anything short or left (such as my tee shot) ends up well below the level of the green. Still, I can't defend taking 6. It was just rank poor play.
This is another view of the surrounding grandeur at Aberfoyle, this time behind the 14th, with the ever-patient Polly waiting for me to finish taking yet another view of the outstanding scenery. I'd gone round in 84, net 74, or net 8 over par, with 33 puts, so not an impressive round. Great course, though and I'd strongly recommend it. Even if you don't play well, the views are great and the small clubhouse is cosy and friendly too. We'd finished mid-afternoon and there were some fresh scones and cold beer awaiting. Just play it if you get the chance.
Tuesday, 5 April 2011
I played the 9 Hole Course at Caird Park on 5 April 2011 after my round over the 18 Hole Course. The 9 Hole course measures 1758 yards, Par 29 and has clearly been designed for beginners and general practice. This course is actually quite tricky and not quite what I'd been expecting. Fair enough, the opening hole, a narrow 265 yards, has been made a Par 4. Even so, it was played into the strong head wind I'd experienced earlier in the day, so I was happy enough with an opening bogey. Worse still, the 2nd, a 235 yard Par 3 with OOB on the left and a narrow entrance to the green, again into the wind, was a really tough test. I nailed a driver but was still short, so another bogey, even with a single putt. This is a view of the 5th, a 199 yard Par 3 with a particularly small green with OOB close behind it. Not too tricky, you might think, but the tee shot is completely blind from an elevated tee. I hit a 3 iron (there's a first time for everything as this is usually carried for no apparent reason) just short, but a good par.
This is the 7th a 167 yard Par 3. The wind was blowing from the right, taking the tree out of play, but in other circumstances this could be really tricky hole. The greens were small enough to leave short putts, so although I didn't hit a single green in regulation, I'd only 11 putts in total. I'd gone round in 32, or 3 over par, in around 50 minutes.
A good practice course and a reasonably good score.
A good practice course and a reasonably good score.
I played both the 18 and 9 hole courses at the Caird Park sports complex on 5 April 2011. These courses are owned and operated by Dundee City Council and are another good example of the provision of golf facilities by Scottish local authorities ensuring that golf is accessible at community level. The 18 hole course measures 5772 yards, Par 69 off the Yellow tees that I played from and is a mainly flat parkland course just off one of the main roads running through Dundee. Being pretty flat, this course should have been easy walking, but there were high wind warnings across most of the country, so the round was quite tiring. Although the fairways were mostly tree-lined, giving good separation between individual holes, the strong blustery wind also made shots played into the wind pretty challenging.
The front 9 holes were generally pretty unremarkable, with the first 5 being short par 4s played into the prevailing and swirling wind. I'd been let through on the 1st tee by a 3-ball (thanks again guys) but quickly got stuck behind a seniors 2-ball who clearly had all day to play their (thankfully!) 9 hole part-round. I was out in 44 after losing a newish ball on the 3rd with a wild hook into trees made worse by the strong head wind. Still, at least my ball had stopped short of the busy dual carriageway just beyond the OOB. I'd teed off at 1030 hrs expecting a reasonably quick round but my packed lunch was still in the car and I was hoping for a more interesting and speedier back 9.
The back 9 is by far the better half of the course and I had over 2 hours to study it, thanks to the 3-ball I caught up with on the 10th. OK, a single player has no status on the course but guys, when you can't find a ball (twice!) and can't hit a drive more than 150 yards downwind between you, try thinking about whether the guy behind you might be invited through without any impact on your own game. Thankfully I found a rather elderly Snickers bar in my bag, which helped take my mind off the hunger and boredom of waiting for my turn to play. The best hole was probably the 12th, a 196 yard Par 3 played over a gully with a stream running through it, with the green half hidden by a tall tree. This is the view from the tee. I needed my driver, straight over the big tree, given the head wind on this hole, but managed an easy par.