Monday, 15 August 2011

Isle of Eriska Golf Course - Course no 436

I played this very scenic 9 hole course on 11 August 2011 after the round at the nearby Dragon's Tooth course.  Craig, Stu and Bert also played here later the same day after their game at Spean Bridge.  Access to Eriska is by an old iron and wooden bridge that looks a bit flimsy for the job, but was clearly still fit for purpose.  The course is part of leisure facilities available at the very upmarket Isle of Eriska Hotel and Spa on the island.  The views of Lismore and other islands and across the loch are good, and this view back down the 6th gives a flavour of the setting.  However, I found the hotel/course management a bit disappointing.  The course had recently been lengthened from 6 to 9 holes and Steven the greenkeeper (who was originally from East Lothian, knew some of the members of my own club and had played it many times) was clearly doing a great job in maintaining the course, but since it had clearly taken some considerable time to create 3 new holes, it was frustrating to find that the hotel did not have an up to date scorecard.  Accordingly, I had to decide for myself the length and layout of the new holes.  Maybe that's not an important point for hotel guests playing the course on a purely casual basis, but I for one like to know hole yardages and as I keep every new course scorecard as a record of my efforts to play every Scottish course, it was disappointing to pay £15 for 9 holes and be presented with a 6 hole card.   It's not as though the new holes were created overnight!  After some discussion with Craig, Stu and Bert, we agreed that the new holes were probably around 440, 155 and 435 yards, making the Eriska course a 2814 yard Par 33.

Being so close to the shores of the Firth of Lorne and laid out on heavy peaty soil, the course was extremely wet underfoot and some parts, particularly the new holes 6-8, were partially flooded, adding to my frustrations about the scorecard.  The best hole was probably this, the 2nd, a 186 yard Par 3 laid out close to the water's edge.  The Hotel offers a wide range of leisure pursuits, including clay pigeon shooting, but the shooting range is within yards of the 2nd hole.  It was safe enough, but still a bit disconcerting to be playing so close to incessant shotgun fire, so that's my excuse for taking bogey at that particular hole.

I also liked the new 7th, a roughly 155 yard Par 3 played over the tops of bracken and gorse bushes.  There's good bunkering short of the green, but you don't see that from the tee, as only the top half of the flag is visible over the bushes.  A good hole, though.  The 8th was also a contender for best hole and were the Hotel ever to bother to include a Stroke Index on its scorecards, I suspect this might become Stroke Index 1.  The air was mercifully free of the dreaded Scottish midges, but there were an alarming number of clegs (even nastier) around the back of the 8th green.  These beasties are about a centimetre long and give a really painful bite.  I don't quite know how, but I managed to get one in my mouth and my resultant choking was barely relieved by the dregs left in my water bottle.  At least I didn't get bitten, but in the confusion I missed the 9th tee and ended up back at the Hotel Spa reception desk and had to walk back from there up the 9th to play the hole, adding a half-mile to my round.

I finally finished the Isle of Eriska course with a another bogey for a total of 42 strokes, 9 over the course par, with 13 putts.  I'd enjoyed my 10 minute blether with the Greenkeeper, but I'm afraid I'd not be rushing back to play here again, even once a new scorecard is finally produced.

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