Saturday, 13 August 2011

Dragon's Tooth Golf Course - Course no 435

I played this excellent parkland course in Balluchulish on 11 August 2011 with Stu, Craig and Bert, Craig's Dad.  Stu's Dad Jim was also supposed to join us but got delayed by business commitments and we were all originally planning to play in the Iona Open on 12 August.  Work pressures etc led to only me entering that competition - and see my report on Course no 435 for details.  Anyway, there had been heavy rain across Scotland for several days before this game at Dragon's Tooth and as I left home early on the 11th for the 3 hour drive it was fairly chucking it down.  Flood warnings had been issued across the Central Belt, but as Dragon's Tooth is pretty close to Fort William (surely the wettest town in Scotland!), I was hoping we'd avoid most of the really wet weather.  We needn't have worried as by the time got within 30 miles of the course, the rain stopped and the roads were dry, so it looked as we might even get a game in.  Dragon's Tooth is currently a 9 hole course measuring 2512 yards, Par 34, off the men's tees, but 9 additional tees had been built earlier this year but were not yet open for play.  The course will in due course become a Par 68 18-holer, playing to 4713 yards, so we'll need to return once the new tees are open.
The first thing you notice about Dragon's Tooth is the scenery, which is simply stunning.  Two mountains over 3000 feet (Sgorr Dhearg and Sgorr Domhnuill) dominate the skyline on one side of the course, with a smaller sharp sided peak, Dragon's Tooth in between them.  With Loch Linnhe and other peaks on the other side, the setting is just great.  There are quite a few play as you play courses in Scotland, using spare agricultural land under diversification schemes and this is probably one of the best.  This is Bert on the 4th fairway, with the impressive Dragon's Tooth in the background.  The course was in remarkably good condition, considering all the rain that it had taken over recent days and weeks.  The course website claims that "it boasts fantastic USGA greens, allowing all year round putting and giving firm, dry summer putting surfaces, it stands up very well to whatever the west coast climate can throw!"   I don't know about its playability in the depths of Winter, but the rest of that quote is spot on.

The best and the Stroke Index 1 hole at Dragon's Tooth is the 2nd, as shown here, a 185 yard slightly downhill Par 3.  the small sloping green is well protected by a stream, trees and rocky outcrops so a Par here was really satisfying.  I'd hit my 7 wood (I'd only packed a half-set of clubs, given the expected rain and tough ground conditions  on the courses I'd be playing on this trip) and hit a good wedge from just off the green, leaving only a tap in for Par. I was hitting the ball well and pretty straight, but the greens were really small and mostly built on slopes, so it was just as well my putting was good on the day.

I also parred holes 6, 7 and 9, with 9 being another really good hole.  This is a 198 yard Par 3 played over a river (in torrent) and the road to the clubhouse.  This is a view of the 9th green and the clubhouse, with some people (riding? is that the word?) segways.  Standing on a powered moving platform didn't look like fun, but it seemed to be popular enough, with more people doing that than playing golf!  I went round in 41, net 35, so 1 over net par  with 12 putts was a good start to the trip.  We'd gone round in just over an hour, not bad for a 4-ball, so we'd plenty of time for more courses.  Craig, Stu and Bert headed off to play the 9-holer at Spean Bridge, followed by the course on the Isle of Eriska.  I'd already played the Spean Bridge course so I just drove down to Eriska and on to Oban, where we'd booked to stay the night.

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