Saturday, 27 August 2011

Pollok GC - Course no 442

Playing here on 26 August 2011 was the fulfillment of a long-held ambition.  I'd lived a couple of miles away as a boy and my secondary school was just along the road from the course.  But the nearest I got to playing here was hanging around the car park in my early teens hoping for a caddying job and scuttling amongst the bushes and trees looking for lost balls to sell back to the members to supplement our meagre pocket money.  Many's the time we were chased off, but we meant well and our trespassing was harmless enough in reality.  I also have a vague memory of dodging school in the early 1960s to watch a professional tournament played here by the likes of Harry Bannerman, John Panton and Eric Brown, all famous in their day as top Scottish professionals.  Since then, I'd seen Pollok as a top course, not the place where a local kid brought up in a nearby council housing estate would necessarily get to play, even in his adult years.  So, I was really looking forward to playing here and I'd entered the club's Senior Open, as played on 26 August 2011.

Pollok exceeded even my high  expectations.  The members were tremendously welcoming and friendly, the competition was one of the best-organised of the many opens I've played in over the years and the course itself was simply outstanding and in great condition.  Pollok is a parkland course measuring 6043 yards, Par 71 off the yellow tees (well, it was a seniors event). The course was refreshingly flat and easy walking after my many successive days of golf and caddying and only the occasional background traffic noise reminded me that the course is only a few minuted drive from the centre of Glasgow.  The course is laid out amongst deciduous woodland (mainly ash, beech,  oak, elm and chestnut trees) of the former Pollok Estate, also now home to the world famous Burrell Collection, now housed in the impressive Pollok House.  Few courses have such an impressive setting and I hope that this view from the 15th green over to Pollok House gives a flavour of this.   

I'd also been lucky to play with a couple of great guys from nearby courses and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.   Thanks again,Tommy and Brian!  I'd started nervously with a 50 yard duck hook into heavy rough, so a double bogey opener didn't auger well for my chances.  However, I steadied from there and such was the lushness of the fairways I could even play some long irons pretty well.  However, trouble on the 7th and 9th meant I was out in 45.  I'd been 40 yards short in 2 from the green at the 420 yard par 4 9th, the Stroke Index 1 Hole with a decent lie in light rough, only to sh---  the ball into rough around a foot tall, another 40 yards to the right of the green.  How I got a lob wedge to within 5 feet from there I'll never know, but it was more luck rather than skill.  If I'd been that good, I'd not have been there in the first place!  Sadly, I missed the short putt, but that was certainly my shot of the day.   

The back 9 at Pollok was even better than the front, with a succession of great holes, my favourite being the 366 yard 14th, a Par 4 dog leg left requiring a long tee shot over a bend in the White Cart River that runs alongside that part of the course.  I'd hit my best drive of the day, followed by a low 4 iron to the heart of the green, only just missing my birdie putt on the Stroke Index 2 hole.  I bogeyed the 15th after finding a greenside bunker, but I finished strongly, parring each of the last 3 holes.  I really don't like being anywhere out in the open when there's thunder and lightning around, so when the first roll of distant thunder started as we teed off from the 16th, I was expecting to hear the klaxon suspending play.  It had been a hot and humid afternoon, just right for lightning, so when the air got even heavier and the skies darkened we knew trouble was approaching. 

This is the 18th, an uphill 382 yard Par 4 with some menacing clouds overhead.  The temperature dropped just as we finished the hole, the skies darkened further to the point that the external lights on the clubhouse came on and the skies opened.  I sheltered by the clubhouse door for a few minutes, but with the torrential rain showing no signs of abating, some unlucky golfers scurrying for shelter from the storm and the car park rapidly turning into a quagmire, I decided to return to the car.  I was soaked by the time I got there, despite risking using my umbrella, only to find I'd forgotten to hand in my scorecard.  So, back up the path to the clubhouse I went, only to find that by then the course had flooded and the competition would in due course be void.  I'd gone round Pollok in 88, net 78 with 34 putts.  Not the score I'd been hoping for, but I'd had 9 pars.  It's just a pity that the other holes were so bad.  Still, I've now got some idea how to play the course and I'd love to play here again, so I'll be entering next year's Senior Open. 

This is an outstanding course.  A "must play" if you're ever in the area.

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