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.