Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Brucefields Family Golf Centre - Par 3 Course - Course no 409

I played the Par 3 Course at Brucefields on 31 May 2011 immediately after my round over the Main Course.  The  Course has 9 Par 3 holes ranging from 64 to 132 yards and as I'd expected, tiny greens requiring accuracy at all times.  This is the 100 yard uphill 1st hole, looking back down to the Clubhouse.  The greens were also much faster than on the Main Course as they had not been tined.  Although I went round in 29, or 3 under net par, with only 10 putts, I had to rely on good lob wedges and pitches.  Although I hit most greens, none of my tee shots held them.

The course was also quite tight, as this photo of the 78 yard 7th hole suggests.  This hole was also exposed to the awkward crosswind and I should have played a low punch with my 8 or 9 iron.  Instead, I tried my sand iron, but came up short, so wrong club selection there.   I birdied the 4th and had 3 bogeys (including the 7th).   This is a really good course for practising the short game, especially if like me you miss all of the tiny greens from the tee!  Great fun, though.

Brucefields Family Golf Centre - Main Course - Course no 408

I played this 9 hole Parkland pay as you play course on 31 May 2011, on a blustery day that threatened rain (which seemed to fall everywhere but on the course).  The course  is in Bannockburn near Stirling and is part of a large commercially-operated golf centre that includes an excellent par 3 course, driving range, shop, restaurant/bar and even a sports injury clinic.  I'd given playing a rest for a few days, now that I've started a new caddying job at a nearby club to raise some more cash to cover fuel etc. costs.  However, I'd had an encouraging 79 off the back tees at my own course on 30 May, so I was keen to get some more new courses done before a major trip to play the 3 Shetland courses with Craig and Stu starting on 6 June.  the main Course is a short 2419 yards off the yellow tees, Par 34.  This is the 1st Hole, a slightly downhill and downwind 279 yard par 4.  I'd almost driven the green and had an easy pitch to the green.  Unfortunately, the greens had just been tined prior to overseeding and topdressing and were disappointingly slow and bumpy.  They'd be fine in a few days, but I guess I just got my timing wrong.  Anyway, a couple of putts and I'd had an easy opening par.    The 2nd was more testing, a 393 yard Par 4 Stroke index 1, played over a pond (that was more in play on the 4th).  I dropped a shot after missing the green in 2 and falling foul of the slowness of the green.  The 3rd was an uphill 146 yard Par 3.  A good 15 foot putt for par there.  The 4th was a tight 254 yard Par 4, downhill dog leg left, with OOB on the left and a pond just about in range to the right of the fairway.  A really straight drive would have left only a short pitch to the green, but the safer option was a long iron, short of the pond.  Fool that I am, my driver was only slightly to the right of centre, but what I'd failed to note was that the fairway sloped down towards the pond, costing me a bogey and a nearly new ball. The 5th was a steeply uphill 467 yard par 5, with OOB all the up the right side.  Another bogey there, after missing the fairway with a pulled drive. 

This is the 6th, a steeply downhill 125 yard Par 3, requiring an accurate tee shot to find the narrow green and avoid trouble all around, particularly to the left of the green.  This hole is named "Battlefield" in tribute to the battle fought nearby in 1314 which features so prominently in Scottish history.  There was a stiff crosswind, right to left, but an easy 9 iron or wedge would have been the
sensible approach.  Instead, I hit a full 9, which rode on the wind and finished 30 yards through the green on the path to the next tee.  Luckily, I had a free drop under a local rule, hit a pitch to within 10 feet and holed the putt for an unlikely par.  My thanks to the 2 elderly ladies who had let me play through and applauded this lucky recovery.  The 7th was an easy downwind 273 yard par 4.  I only had a short lob wedge to the green and holed the short putt for a good birdie.  I should also have birdied the steeply uphill 303 yard Par 4 8th hole, after a good drive and a wedge to front of the green.  I rattled the pin with another wedge from just off the green, and had a tiny tap in for par.

This is the last hole, a 179 yard slightly downhill and downwind Par 3. I missed the green to the right and had to settle for a closing bogey and a 37 total, net 32, or 2 under net par.  Not bad and 14 putts on (temporarily) slow greens wasn't too shabby either.   There's a good variety of holes here and it was an enjoyable round, dodging rain clouds.  I'd certainly recommend the Centre as a whole for anyone taking up golf or just wanting somewhere to practice.  The facilities are very good indeed.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Portpatrick GC - Dinvin Course - Course no 407

I played this 9 hole Par 3 course after the round at nearby Stranraer on 18 May 2011.  Polly and I had played the excellent 18 hole course here some years ago prior to a previous golfing holiday to Ireland, but we didn't have time to play the 9 hole course (1346 yards, par 27).  The holes here range from 84 to 222 yards and since the course is quite compact, accuracy off the tee is paramount.  For example, this is a view of the 2nd, a 151 yard Par 3 played blind over the marker, with gorse to the left of the green, OOB behind and heavy rough to the right. Factor in my poor play at Stranraer, the strong cross wind and that I'd only 1 spare ball in my bag and this became a tricky round. 

The course is also relatively hilly, with a number of rocky outcrops close to the greens, ready to deflect anything slightly wayward.  This is the 158 yard 6th, close to where my tee shot finished after hitting a rock, costing me a bogey.  This is a good practice or warm up course for the more significant challenges on the main Portpatrick course.  However, the greens are tiny and well hidden, with several blind shots, so play under your handicap here and you're doing really well.  I went round in 33 with 14 putts using the same ball!) so not bad.

Stranraer GC - course no 406

Polly and I played here on 18 May 2011 en route to Ireland for a few days' golfing.  The Stranraer course played to 6046 yards off the Yellow tees, Par 70 and was quite links-like in nature, overlooking the sea just outside the town and the Stena ferry port to Belfast. The A75 to Stranraer is pretty good, but our car's Sat Nav had suggested a more direct route which we foolishly opted for, via some very twisting minor roads.  Accordingly, we were somewhat late and frazzled by the time we arrived at this excellent course, the last one to be designed by James Braid.  There was a members' competition on, and we had to rush to catch our tee time.  It had been a quiet morning, weather-wise, but the fine drizzle that started when we boarded the 1st tee quickly became a real storm, soaking us over the first 4 holes.  This was not what we'd expected and I'd stupidly left my rain hat and umbrella in the car, such was our rush to catch our tee time.  The course starts quietly enough with a short 281 yards, slightly downhill and very much downwind Par 4.  I'd driven to within a few yards of the green, fluffed a chip in the growing deluge and 3-putted from 20 feet.  The 2nd was only 330 yards, played directly into the gathering storm.  I'd hit a good drive but found a stream that I'd assumed was out of range.  Even with a couple of  good putts from long range I'd stumbled to a triple bogey.  The blustery conditions continued and I 3-putted both of the next 2 holes, so I was 1 under level 6's after 4 holes, soaking wet, cold and generally cursing the fickleness of the weather, the Sat Nav and our decision to choose that particular day to play before catching the next morning's ferry to Belfast.  I'd also arranged to play at nearby Portpatrick immediately after this Stranraer round, so I needed something good to happen, and fast.

Stranraer's signature hole is the 5th, a 382 yard par 4 played from an elevated tee almost directly into the teeth of the wind (it had almost stopped raining, but the damage had already been done!)  This is a view from the tee, taken later in the round once the wind had died enough to risk getting the camera out.  The drive was tricky given the conditions, but I'd been a bit too ambitious and got my alignment slightly wrong, so that was the end of my newish Pro V1, with a single red dot below the number, as always.  Rather than climb back up the hill I took a stroke and distance penalty, but how did I end up with a 10?  I'll spare you the sorry details, but as short single putts go, at least I'd ended the hole with a positive stroke.  However, I'd taken a remarkable 33 shots for 5 holes and taken a thorough soaking.  By the time we'd finished the Par 3 6th hole (my first Par!) the sun had come out, introducing sauna-like conditions while the rain evaporated off the course.  I'd gone out in a pathetic 50, a mere 15 over par!

This is the excellent 14th, a 496 yard Par 5, with the ferry port in the background.  I'd creamed a driver and hit an easy 7 wood to just short of the green, but took 4 from there after yet another misread on the green.  The greens were in really good condition but had all sorts of subtle breaks that I struggled to see.  I also had trouble getting the pace right, so not good.  Indeed, I three-putted 5 times, which I think is a record since starting this Blog, almost 200 courses ago.  I suspect that my final score of 101, net 91 is also my highest since starting the Blog, but by the time I'd finished I was past caring.  It was just one of those rounds where little if anything went right and the harder I tried, the worse it got.

The 18th hole just about summed it all up.  Fittingly called "Braid's Last" this is an unremarkable 336 yard Par 4.  I'd hit a reasonable drive but found a bunker with my 8 iron.  This bunker shot was actually quite good, finishing around 6 feet away.  However, my putt missed by a generous margin, so another bogey.  I have to confess that I didn't enjoy the round much at the time, given my poor play, the initial soaking and subsequent sauna.  Looking back, though, this was a seriously good course, well worthy of Mr Braid at his best.  It's just a pity that I played so badly.  Maybe next time, as this is a course I'd like to play again.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Castle Stuart Golf Links - Course no 405

Polly, Craig, Stu and I played here on 16 May 2011.  In a word, awesome.  Although this new links course has only been open for a couple of years or so, it has already received rave reviews from folk that know more about golf course design than I ever will and it will be hosting the Scottish Open this coming July.  Don't miss the TV coverage, since if our visit to Castle Stuart is anything to go by, HD pictures from here will be simply stunning.  Craig, Stu and I played the course from the White tees, 6553 yards, Par 72.  Polly sensibly opted for the Ladies Red tees. The Black tees were closed in preparation for the Scottish Open, but since they can measure anything up to 7400 yards and the course is exposed to the elements, it might have been a long day had we played off the Blacks.  This course is very playable and challenging without being so difficult that average players like us wouldn't score reasonably well and enjoy the experience.  I'm sure that the pros will really enjoy Castle Stuart as a warm up to the 2011 Open and practice their links play, without being beaten up by a monster course or blown away if the wind is even stronger than we had it.  They might of course be blown away by the outstanding quality of the design and condition of the course, the views of the Moray Firth and the Black Isle and the appreciation that the local spectators will have of their play on this great new course.  I just hope the weather is kind!

One of the more random tests of the new courses I play is the number of photos I take going round.  At some courses, a couple of photos are enough to prove that I've been, played it and am one course nearer to the final target.  Here, I took 37 photos and wish I'd taken  more, such was the beauty of the course.  As the course's website says (www.castlestuartgolf.com), great use has been made of rumples, hollows and folds in the fairways and around the greens, and clever features such as infinity edges and old railway sleepers.  Although the Castle Stuart course is new, the design is timeless. Just use the above link, go to The Course/Distinctive Course Features, turn up the sound on your monitor and enjoy!  On some websites clever and selective photography can enhance even the dullest course, but you really do get what you see in this presentation (although the stirring music may be missing when you play!)
The course is laid out on 2 different levels with the sea being visible from every hole.  Indeed, on many of the holes the sea is within a few feet of the tee, fairway or green.   Some of the shorter Par 4s are drivable by longer hitters, but for mere mortals like me, placement on the fairways is crucial.  For example, here's where you don't want to be on the 290 yard Par 4 3rd, which on the day played directly into a strong gusting head wind.   I managed a bogey from there, but I'd parred the 530 yard Par 5 2nd hole (also played into the wind) so 2 over after 3 holes played directly into the wind was acceptable.  I also parred the 4th an outstanding 176 yard Par 3, with Castle Stuart in the background.  The green looks as though it's perched directly behind a hollow, but there's actually 30 yards of flat fairway beyond that hollow, so don't be fooled by the infinity edge on this hole.  The green is further away than it looks.

I was doing reasonably well until the 6th, a 522 yard Par 5 played into the wind.  I'd hit what I thought was a pretty good pitch and run for my third shot, only to run into an almost unplayable position close to a bunker, as shown here.  That led to an ugly 8, but I'd recovered enough to get to the turn in 44 and some hot soup at the Starter's Hut/Half-Way House.  I'd also taken only 13 putts, despite the greens being huge and faster-running than my own course, but any complacency about my putting skills was soon to be sorely tested.

We'd been impressed by the views on the front 9, but we weren't prepared for this, the stunning view from the 10th tee.    In reality, the fairway is wider than it looks, but with a strong wind from behind this 360 yard Par 4 looked almost in range.  I only had an easy sand iron pitch to the green but the clever use of humps and hollows made this quite a tricky proposition and I only bogeyed the hole after leaving my pitch slightly short.  The 12th is a 518 yard Par 5, again played downwind.  The fairway is narrow, but I'd hit a great drive and was able to nurse an easy 7 wood to the front of the green.  5 putts later and I'd actually finished the hole.  Now anyone that knows me may not believe this, but I was still smiling en route (up a long hill!) to the 13th tee.  In days gone by, my putter might have gone for a swim!  However, it took me a few holes to recover any confidence with the putter, but I was pleased to par the last 3 holes, all with single putts.

The 18th at Castle Stuart is just a brilliant hole.  At 595 yards from the Black tee played directly into the prevailing wind, it will test the Pros.  Even at 508 yards from the White tee, this was a great hole.  This is a view from the fairway about 200 yards out.  Bearing in mind that you're playing directly into a strong wind and there's a deep hollow in front of the green, you lay up if you've any sense, but then you face a semi-blind shot to avoid the worst of the deep hollow.  That's how I played it anyway, escaping with a par.   I went round in 88, net 78, or 6 over net Par, with 32 putts.  Not bad, considering my problems on 6 and 12, but I'll be aiming to do even better next time.  Polly also played well and beat me in the opening round of our annual golf challenge for a small replica of the Claret Jug and a year's worth of domestic bragging rights - the latter being the more valuable.  Modesty (and continued marital harmony) suggests I should not mention, even in passing, who currently holds the trophy!

From behind the 18th hole, as shown here, you can just see a narrow low-lying peninsula on the far side of the Moray Firth known as Chanonry Point, with a lighthouse on it.  This Point also includes the remarkable 18 hole Fortrose and Rosemarkie GC (see www.fortrosegolfclub.co.uk), one of my favourite Scottish courses.  As I've said before, there's no need for golfing tourists to play only the famous trophy courses.  Castle Stuart and Royal Dornoch are certainly two of the leading courses in the Highlands, but the likes of Fortrose and Rosemarkie are just as memorable in their own way.

If you haven't guessed by now, I'd strongly recommend you give Castle Stuart a try!  Polly rates it as her new favourite Scottish course and it's certainly high on my own list. But don't take our word for it.  Just go and play it yourself.

Huntly GC - Course no 404

Polly and I played this course on 15 May 2011 in the Huntly Golf Club's annual Greensomes Open.  The competition was open to any combination of pairs, so we were drawn to play with Mike and Dod, a couple of guys from Inverurie GC (another course I've yet to play).  For any readers not familiar with a Greensomes format, both players drive, select the best drive and take alternate shots to complete each hole, with a handicap deduction based on individual handicaps.  My handicap is still 10 and Polly's is 20, so we had a handicap of 14.  The guys from Inverurie had a 17 handicap (but more about them later).

Huntly is a 5359 yard Par 67 (off the White medal tees I played from) and is a flat parkland course in rural Aberdeenshire.  When we'd entered this competition several weeks ago, we'd not realised that we would be teeing off within minutes of the start of 2 major football matches (in Scotland anyway) involving Rangers and Celtic that would determine which of those 2 teams won the Scottish Premier League title for 2011.  I'd arranged for any scores to be texted through, but even before we'd teed off, my team were 3-0 up, ensuring yet another league title was Rangers-bound.  I mention this only since this was to be a really memorable day.  We'd known that Huntly was a short parkland course, but we'd not known just how good it would be.  OK, the greens were far slower than those at The Glen, our home club, and the drizzle that fell for most of the round was just enough to be annoying, but Huntly turned out to be a really good course, with some excellent holes.  The Greensomes format can be tricky and real test of relationships if taken too seriously, but given the  football scores coming through (Rangers eventually winning 5-1) we were both happy enough, regardless of our actual golf.  This is a photo of the 1st hole, a 352 yard Par 4 with OOB on the left and a stream cutting across the front of the green.  We avoided that hazard but still ran up a double bogey, so not the strongest start.  We were out in 42, or 9 over par, so nothing too exciting there.

Our mediocre play was to continue on the back 9, with a bogey on most holes, a notable exception being the 339 yard Par 4 11th, the Stroke Index 1 hole, which we parred thanks to a good single putt from Polly.  Meanwhile, our new buddies from Inverurie just got better and better as the round progressed, with back to back birdies, great recovery shots and accurate iron play, enabling them to record a net 61 (losing out to a 60.4!)  Polly and I limped home in 43, for a gross 85, net 71,  with 35 putts, which clearly didn't trouble the leaderboard.  This is the 18th, a 280 yard Par 4, slightly uphill, finishing as all good final holes should, right in front of the clubhouse windows. Polly had a blind second shot which found a bunker to the left of the green, leaving me a tricky shot in front of the small gallery at the 19th, but at least I got it out and we scored yet another bogey.

We really enjoyed the course and would recommend Huntly.  Not a long course by any means but good fun to play.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Airthrey Golf Course - Course no 403

I played here on 4 May 2011 after my round at the nearby Bridge of Allan GC.  Airthey is a Par 3 Course of 1104 yards, par 27 operated by and within the campus grounds of Stirling University.  It's open to the public but when I played it around lunchtime, it was busy with students and lecturers out for a quick round between lectures etc. The holes range between 86 and 154 yards. Here's a view of the 154 yard 1st hole, with the famous Monument to William Wallace in the background.    The Starter had commented that although the course was usually a fine test, with small greens and trees that really tighten the holes and call for accuracy off the tee, the greens were in a simply dreadful condition, despite recent top dressing and intensive care.  This was a fair and very honest assessment since the grass on most greens had either died back or was really struggling to stay alive.  This was a great shame, since the University is well known for its links to golf and the course forms part of some other impressive golf training and educational facilities on campus. 

Scoring was just a lottery, since tee shots landing on bare dry earth (there's been no significant rain for 2-3 weeks) would invariably run off into the light rough nearby.  Indeed, after my opening tee shot had hit the green and bounded through into such rough, it occurred to me that it might be better to aim for the rough rather than the greens.  I managed to par the 4th, 7th and 9th holes, but otherwise, this was a round to forget and move on.  This is a view of the 7th green, with some of the campus grounds in the background.  Note the unfortunate absence of grass.  I'd missed the green short, pitched onto the front of the "green" and finished close enough to nudge in a single putt.  I also holed out from a remarkable 12 feet on the 9th for a closing par, a putt that could just as easily have bounced off the various bare sections and missed by a considerable margin.  I'd gone round in 33, with 15 putts.  As I left, the soil on the 9th green was being tested for Ph levels, but I fear that some of the greens may have to be replaced or returfed, such is the damage that has occurred here. 

Bridge of Allan GC - Course no 402

I played here on 4 May 2011, on yet another warm sunny and almost cloudless Spring day.  The Bridge of Allan GC sits on high ground above the Village that also bears its name and is near to Stirling.  This is a 9 hole hilly parkland course of 2560 yards, Par 33, off the Yellow tees that I played from.  The course starts with a 223 yard Par 3, steeply uphill, with a dry stone dyke (a wall, for any non-Scots readers!) some 20 yards in front of the green.  The steepness of the hill meant I couldn't even reach the green with my driver, so a tricky start.  The 2nd hole has OOB all the way up the left side of the narrow fairway, with the drive played blind over another hill.  I managed a good par there to recover from the bogey at the 1st.  However, the 362 yard Par 4 3rd hole also had OOB up the left side and a small plateau green, so a second bogey there.  This is a view from the 4th fairway, with Ben Lomond in the far background.  At least the views were superb, as the golf was pretty average at best.   The 4th is a 314 yard Par 4.  I'd taken driver and hit it way left into the rough, leaving an easy wedge to the green for a good par.  The right club from the tee for me would have been no more than a 3 wood, since the hole is pretty much downhill, with the left side of the fairway leading to heavy rough, hidden by another dyke.

The 5th is a good 208 yard Par 3, steeply downhill, with OOB beyond a small dyke immediately behind the green.  I'd over-clubbed again with my 7 wood, but at least the dyke stopped my ball from being lost in the woods beyond the OOB.  a good pitch and run and a single putt and I'd rescued a par.  The 6th is steeply uphill and blind for both the tee and second shots, but at least I found my ball, 20 yards through the back of the green in heavy rough.  Another bogey there, though.

This is the 7th, a really good driving hole from an elevated tee, played with a draw over the tree in the middle of the photo.  At only 289 yards, this Par 4 would have been drivable had I got the drive on line.  However, I hit my drive almost pin high into the line of trees beyond the line of bunkers to the right of the fairway, so another bogey.  I parred the 8th OK, a 390 yard steeply uphill Par 4 and the Stroke Index 1 hole.  I was certainly glad that this was only a 9 hole course and that I would not need to go round again, but the steepness of this  fairway would certainly have been a demanding 17th, had I gone round a second time. 

The 9th is a 167 yard par as shown here.  The hole is downhill so plays much shorter than you'd think.  I got to the front of the green with an easy 8 iron, played to the left of the green to take full advantage of the slopes.  However, I got lucky, as there's some gorse bushes lie hidden awaiting anything slightly wayward from the tee.  A good finishing hole, though.  I went round in 40, 7 over par, with 15 putts, so not too good, for my 400th new course.  Only around 225 to go!  The Bridge of Allan course was in great condition, with fast and smooth running greens and I'd recommend it.  The views are really tremendous, but don't carry your full bag, as I did!  The climbs will get enough of your attention without you adding to the challenge by carrying a number of clubs that you probably won't need.   

Monday, 2 May 2011

Tower of Lethendy Golf Course - Course no 401

Craig, Stu and I played played this excellent parkland course on 2 May 2011, with Iain (and this was another new course for him as well).  The Tower of Lethendy golf course forms part of a private estate and as such is never open to the public.  It's possible to rent the hugely impressive Tower of Lethendy (some parts of the building dating back to the 15th Century) for £20,000 a week and play the course while you're there, so we were hugely grateful to the owner for letting us play here as part of our Cancer Research UK fund-raising efforts.  This is me, pretending I can afford to be here - I wish!

We'd all played on 18 hole courses with 9 greens and 18 or even fewer tees, but in our experieince (including Ian's achievement in playing over 600 courses), the Tower of Lethendy course is unique in Scotland.  This may be complicated, but bear with me.  The course has 6 greens and 8 teeing areas.  The teeing areas provide space for 18 separate tees.  For example, one teeing area in the middle of the course houses the tees for holes 5, 11, 14 and 17.  Picture a rectangular course set out amongst a wide variety of mature trees, with 2 greens close to each other in the middle  and one green at each corner.  The full 18 hole course measures 3274 yards, Par 57 (3 Par 4s and 15 Par 3s) but is laid out on land measuring only around 250  by 350 yards.  As such, the course is not really designed for general play, since as many of the holes cross each other and there are only 6 greens, it would be pretty dangerous (and slow!) if more than a handful of players were playing at any one time.  The design is really ingenious, since at first glance it doesn't seem possible that such a small piece of land could accomodate an 18 hole course.  The course looked to be relatively easy but with so many tall (and wide) trees to be avoided on every hole, absolute accuracy was essential (not my strongest point).  Indeed, we wondered whether it would be possible to play the course without hitting a tree.  Craig managed to go 17 holes before coming to grief on the last, but as this view from the 2nd tee suggests, this novel approach to play would be a real challenge.  I hit so many I can't really remember when the first one was (maybe the 7th?).

Even when  we'd avoided trees finding and holding the small greens was pretty difficult.  I'd put it pretty close at this, the 118 yard Par 3 3rd, but still missed the putt (the greens were slower than the greenkeeper wanted to get them, but it was still early in the golfing year and the greens didn't get much wear, as the course is only lightly used).  I was round in 70 gross, net 60, or 3 over the net par of the course, with 26 putts.  Not very good, considering the shortness of the course.  now if only I could learn to hit the ball straight, or even where I think I'm aiming...

Here's a final view of the course, this time from the 18th fairway, the last being a 325 yard Par 4 and an excellent closing hole.  It was a real privilege to play this excellent and unique course, so thanks once again to the owner and his  staff for being so generous and accomodating.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Monksford House Golf Course - Course no 400

Polly and I played here with our friends Dave and Iain in a 4-ball Texas Scramble charity fund-raising competition in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support  on 1 May 2011.  The Monksford House Golf Course measures 2538 yards, Par 34 and is in my view one of the best parkland 9 hole courses in Scotland.  The competition was over 18 holes, so we had the chance to play the course twice.  It's really the kind of place that you'd want to play twice (or more!) in a day.  The layout of the course was just outstanding, with a succession of excellent and challenging holes.  For example, this is a view of the 1st, a 154 yard Par 3, played as our 4th and 13th holes, over a deep ravine through a narrow gap in mature pine trees, with me trying to look like I know what I'm doing.  Regular readers of my blog will recognise the trusty 7 wood (too much club and poor alignment!) swung easy in an effort to keep it straight.  I did that OK, but cleared the flag by 30 yards, landing on the 3rd instead, so I had to rely on my team-mates on that hole.  Thankfully Iain played the hole better, winning himself a bottle of Whisky for a nearest the pin shot.  Iain had already played just over 600 Scottish courses, so this was yet another to add to his impressive total.

The Monksford House course is part of an impressive private country estate in the Scottish Borders and is maintained for the exclusive use of the owner's family.  However, the owner had very kindly made the course available for this charity event and could not have been more helpful to us all, so thank you again Paul, we all enjoyed your kind hospitality and really appreciated your help in raising funds for this charity.   With a shotgun start, our team had teed off at the 7th, the furthest point on the course from the car park, but our host generously gave us a lift in the family buggy, saving us a long walk in the warmth of a perfect Spring day.  Polly and I had been playing a lot of golf in recent days, so that help was really appreciated (and may just have helped to tip the scales in our team's favour in a closely contested competition). 

Is there a better 9 hole parkland course in Scotland?  I'm not sure, but such views are inevitably subjective anyway and are often based on a single round.  Let's just say I can't think of many 9 hole courses that come anywhere near to Monksford House for design, presentation and setting - maybe the Wee Course at Blairgowrie?  This is a view from the 7th fairway, highlighting the lake that makes the 465 yard Par 5 7th and the 309 yard Par 4 8th holes so interesting and challenging.  The greens were a wee bit slower than I'd have preferred, but perhaps that's asking for trouble, given the slopes on some of them.  The 3rd and 9th greens were particularly testing and had they been as fast running as those on my own course, we could have been there a long time.

Although I played pretty well, the Texas Scramble format meant that this round was a team effort, with Dave, Iain and Polly all contributing some excellent shots, with Polly a particular star on the greens (and the longest drive on the downhill 8th!)  We'd been given a team handicap of 5 and with 8 birdies and 1 bogey we were round in 61 gross (7 under the course Par of 68 for 18 holes).  Iain had won his whisky (a great 6 iron, Iain) and we'd scraped home as winners with a net 56, just beating another great team score of 56.5 into second place.  Overall, the perfect end to a hugely enjoyable round on a really excellent course.  Who said it was just about taking part?  Well done our team! We're also glad that MacMillan Cancer Support was the real winner on the day, as it does invaluable work combatting cancer.  Thanks also go to Mike and Lee from the Borders Barmy Army for all of their fund raising efforts on behalf of that charity and to Paul for making the event possible.