Polly and I played here on 3 July 2011, on another (for Scotland) baking hot day, a bit too hot for comfortable golf really, as we're not used to such heat. Belleisle is a pay as you play 18 hole 6047 yard Par 69 municipal golf course in Ayr operated by South Ayrshire Council. There's another 18 holer (Seafield) on the same site which I've still to play. Ideally, I'd have played both courses on the one day, but it was too hot and in any case, we had lots of courses to do over the next few days, so I'll need to do Seafield another time. Belleisle has a high reputation as one of the best and most difficult municipal courses in Scotland. This course also marked the resumption of my games with Polly for our Summer Stableford Competition (with Polly leading 3-2 after some previous games in Ireland), so I thought I'd need to play well to draw level. These 2 courses share the same clubhouse and although some of the buildings need some repairs and refurbishment, the setting is still impressive from a distance. For example, this is a view of the clubhouse from the 1st tee.
Belleisle is a reasonably flat open parkland course and is pretty busy on most days, so we'd booked well in advance. I don't know whether it was just the weather, but the course was pretty quiet. I don't know whether it was the heat or the attraction of the nearby beaches, but the 2 young guys in front of us only lasted 3 holes before waiving us through and then walking in. The course was very dry and fast running, the greens were pretty good and I'd started pretty well. I thought the best run of holes on the front 9 were 6-8, as shown here. Hole 6 is a slightly downhill 385 yard Par 4. I just missed a birdie putt there, but an easy par. The 7th is a good slightly uphill 140 yard Par 3, well protected by bunkers, with OOB a few yards behind the green. I'd hooked an 8 iron way left, onto the 8th tee, hit a great lob wedge from there and holed an outrageous 15 foot putt that broke about 4 feet for an unlikely par, but I suspect there's an easier way to play the hole. I'd hoped to par the 8th too, after finding the green in regulation, but I failed to get down in 2 putts from around 60 feet. Still, I'd got to the turn in 40, or 5 over par so maybe Belleisle wasn't so fearsome after all.
I also parred Holes 10-12, this being a view of the 12th green, with the clubhouse in the background. Unfortunately, the pub to the right of the picture was closed and boarded up, adding to the feeling that the place was a bit run down and in need of major cash investment - an unlikely prospect these days. I thought the best hole on the back 9 was the 16th, a 393 yard par 4 made all the more tricky by a burn running across the fairway just far enough out to catch a good drive. Any hole named "Ca' Canny" (Be Careful) deserves respect, but after laying up with a 3 wood short of the burn, my 7 wood found a greenside bunker, costing me a shot.
Still, I'd picked my way around the first 17 holes without a double bogey or a 6 on the card. The last at Belleisle is a slightly uphill 503 yard par 5. This is a view up the 18th fairway. I'd hit a good drive and fairway wood but found a bunker to the right of the green with my third. I'd an awkward hanging lie in the bunker, there wasn't much sand and I was a couple of feet above the hole itself, so a par from there would be difficult. I got the ball out OK, but I'd a 30 foot putt for par to keep a 6 off the card, which I missed, leaving the ball woefully short. I holed out for bogey and a gross 78, net 68, with only 29 putts. I'd finished 1 stroke under the course par and drawn level with Polly at 3-3. Polly had played pretty well, but there's a remarkable 7 Par 5s on the Ladies Card (Par 74), making Belleisle a really tough test and her time would come later in the week.
Belleisle is also a good test off the Yellow markers and it's certainly one of the best municipal courses I've played for a long time. There are some great courses along the Ayrshire coastline, but Belleisle is well worth a visit.