Polly and I had finished our round at Alford by lunchtime on 12 July 2011 so we'd time for another new course nearby, the short 9 Hole parkland course in the village of Tarland in rural Aberdeenshire. I'd been thinking about playing at Lumphanan (another local 9 hole course) after the round Alford, but the Alford greenkeeper told me it was very hilly and he recommended we try Tarland, which he said was much flatter and in good condition. It had turned into a warm sunny afternoon and I really didn't fancy a hilly course after all of the games we'd had recently. We'd also booked to play the next day at Inverurie, so I'll do Lumphanan another time. Polly opted for a good book and a gin and tonic on the clubhouse veranda. There was a mens' medal competition on, but the course wasn't busy and as at most small village clubs, visitors were still welcome.
The Tarland course is 2764 yards, Par 33 off the Yellow Tees and was in really good condition, with excellent small greens, once you found them. The 1st was a 293 yard Par 4 with a couple of hillocks in the fairway to add to the difficulty. I'd hit a poor drive short and left, but a reasonable 7 iron to just short of the small green, a good pitch to within a foot and I'd parred the opening hole quite easily. The 2nd Hole seemed equally straightforward, a 338 yard Par 4, slightly uphill for the second shot. I'd missed the green to the left but this time I was above the level of the green and the pitch was quite fast downhill, so that cost me a bogey. This is the 3rd, a slightly downhill 170 yard Par 3. I found the green with my 6 iron tee shot and had another par, but thencame to grief on the 4th.
The 4th, as shown here, is an awkward 373 yard Par 4 with a semi-blind tee shot over a small hillock in the fairway. I'd been waived through by 2 ladies searching for a ball in rough to the right of the fairway. I sometimes find it tricky to hit a good shot after being waived through, this was one of those times and I hit my tee shot left into equally heavy rough. I found it OK, but the lie was poor and I'd 170 yards or so to the green. I gambled with the 7 wood but only just cleared a lateral water hazard around 30 yards short of the green, my ball finishing in another poor lie a few inches from the stream. Playing back-handed wasn't really an option so I ended up balancing on my left foot, my right in mid-air above the water, trying to play a pitch and run. I was desperately hoping not to fall backwards into the hazard, since by then the ladies behind me had a good view of the proceedings. I was happy enough to hit the ball short of the green and preserve some dignity with another pitch and a couple of putts, but a double bogey was not what I'd been hoping for.
The 5th was a 212 yard Par 3, with the left side of the green obscured by trees around 50 yards or so from the tee. The flag was on the right side of the green but even so, this was a really difficult hole and I was happy enough with a 4. The 6th was a 410 yard Par 4. I'd missed the green with my second and had only a short lob wedge to the flag. Where the sh--- came from I don't know, but that cost me another bogey. I'd caught up with 3 senior Tarland members by then, but bearing in mind my mistakes on the 4th, I declined their invitation to play through. The 7th was an uphill 172 yard Par 3, not made any easier after I'd watched these guys play the hole, as I think their best was a 6. I'd waited until they were on the next tee and hit a good 7 wood to the light rough at the back of the green, leaving a 20 foot downhill putt with around a 2 foot break from the right. This was one of the most difficult and sloping greens on the course so it was great to hole that putt for a birdie, as witnessed by the greenkeeper, taking a deserved break from bunker repair work after the heavy rain that had affected the area in recent days.
The 8th was a 428 yard Par 4 with the fairway sloping steeply from right to left. I'd hooked a drive and took 3 more shots to find the green, bit a good putt limited the damage to another bogey. And so to this, the 9th, a 368 yard Par 4. This was my favourite hole at Tarland. The tee shot is from an elevated tee, giving a final chance to open the shoulders. I'd hit a good straight drive and had only a 9 iron to the green. However, I had seen that there was a stream running across the fairway a few yards in front of the green, so I opted for an easy 8 iron, finding the middle of the green and leaving an uphill 20 foot putt. I left that one less than 2 feet short and stopped to waive at Polly, still sitting by the clubhouse relaxing in the sun. Now I'm usually not bad with straight short uphill putts, but instead of concentrating on it, I left it short again for a careless closing bogey. I'd gone round Tarland in 39, or net 34, 1 over the net par, with 14 putts. The course had been in great condition and wasn't too tricky but I'd definitely left shots out there. I'd need to play concentrate and play better at Inverurie the following day.
I liked the Tarland course and would recommend it if you're in the area and have an hour or so to spare. It's easy walking and a fun course.