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.