Friday, 23 September 2011

St Medan GC - Course no 446

St Medan is Scotland's most southerly course at Monreith in Dumfries and Galloway in the far south west of the country.  It's a moderately hilly links course with 9 greens and 18 separate tees, making it an 18 hole course.  At 4405 yards Par 64, it's also extremely short, but since the course is fully exposed to the wind, which was blowing pretty strongly when I played it on 22 September 2011, scoring can still be tricky.  The greens are small and were running fast and true, but miss the greens or get above the hole left awkward shots that fully tested the short game.  This is a view from the 1st fairway down to the green, with the 3rd/12th and 7th/16th greens in the background and the large hill that dominates the course.  I'd wondered what the wall-like features were towards the top of this hill.  On closer inspection, they turned out to be wind-breaks to provide shelter from the prevailing wind on particular tees and protection against wayward shots.  Not the prettiest features, but important nevertheless. The 1st hole is a 208 yard Par 3, playing to 236 yards as the 10th.  Given the strong wind coming almost directly up the hill I was short of the green both times with my driver.  The small green slopes steeply away from the tee direction, so this is a really tricky opener to both halves of the round.  I scored a bogey on the 1st but sneaked a par on the 12th after a good single putt. 
The 2nd/11th holes are played from the same teeing ground and are short par 4s of 268 and 263 yards respectively.  The tee shots are easy enough, but the prevailing wind will narrow the landing area and unless you can hit a huge drive, you're left with a blind second shot over a hill to a small plateau green.  Be too bold or veer to far right and you lose your ball over a cliff.  I parred both holes.  The 3rd is a largely downhill 209 yard Par 3 which played far longer than it looked due to the prevailing wind in my face.  The green is tucked away on a small plateau behind a hillock.  I'd hit my driver, but was still short, but escaped with a par after a decent putt.  The 12th shares the same green as the 3rd and at 249 yards into the wind is a fearsome test.  This is by far the most difficult of the 8 Par 3s at St Medan but it was surprising that it only ranked 11 on the Stroke Indexing.  This is the view from the 12th tee.  I was well short of the green with my driver and needed a full wedge to find the green.  A 50 foot putt secured an unlikely par!

The club's website gives the 4th as the signature hole, as shown here.  This is a downhill 284 yard Par 4 played from a very elevated tee to a small green protected by a small hillock.  Railway sleepers create a vertical face to that hillock, but clear them and your ball runs down to the green.  To make things more interesting still, the hole ran almost side on to the wind, so my tee shot risked being pushed left into dense bushes on the downslope of a cliff.  Long, bold and very straight is your only option from the tee.  I'd hit a great drive, but was still a few yards short of the green, but with a decent lie.  Much to my amazement, which will be shared by those who know me, I chipped in for an eagle 2.  Played as the 13th, the hole becomes a slightly more manageable 233 yard Par 4 (appreciably shorter and easier than the 249 yard Par 3 12th hole!).  The 12th is the Stroke Index 1 Hole (the longer 4th being the SI 10 hole for some reason).  Both require the utmost care, but after an eagle at the 4th and a par at the 12th I was quite pleased with myself.
The 5th and 14th holes are both short Par 4s requiring something reasonably straight off the tee and a decent wedge to the small plateau green.  I missed the green in regulation on the 5th but had an easy par on the 14th.  The 6th and 15th are 320 yard and 278 yard Par 4s with a narrow fairway intersected by a small road that runs down to the beach.  I cleared the road with my drive on each occasion, but the green lies on an area of raised beach on a small headland sticking out into the sea, fully exposed to the strong wind.  I bogeyed both holes.  The 7th and 16th Par 4 holes are also pretty tricky.  This is the view from the 7th tee, with the green completely hidden behind the large hill and OOB to the left of the fairway.  The 7th is 281 yards, and the sensible approach is to lay up and hit a wedge over the left flank of the hill.  The road down to the beach also runs in front of the hill and comes into play if you're too ambitious.  Unfortunately, the line of sight from the 7th is quite limited and it's possible (as I did) to ensure there's nothing coming on the road, hit your drive, only to see a car coming into view while your ball is still in the air.  I'd tried to lay up with my 7 wood, but the hole was downwind.  I  missed the oncoming car and the OOB by only a few feet and had a blind second shot.  An easy par followed, but after a more cautious approach when playing the 16th I lost a ball on the far side of the hill and carded a double bogey 6.  

The 8th and 17th are long uphill Par 3s.  There's a good map on the back of the scorecard, but when I drove of at the 8th, I'd aimed at the adjacent 9th and that stupid error cost me a bogey, a feat repeated when I played to the correct green off the 17th.  This is the view from the 9th, a 151 yard Par 3 made all the trickier by the wind blowing hard across the hole towards the clubhouse.  This supposedly the easiest hole on the course  but I needed a good 5 iron to find the green and a couple of putts to secure my par.  Played as the 18th, this hole becomes a difficult 187 yard Par 3 and with the wind having turned into my face, I needed a full 3 wood to reach the green.  I'd a 20 foot putt for birdie and a gross 69, which I duly charged and nearly missed subsequent 5 footer for a closing par. 

I'd gone round in 70, net 60, net 4 under the par of the course, with 30 putts.  Not bad, but a missed opportunity to break 70 on an 18 hole course.  St Medan was great fun to play and if you're ever down that way, don't miss it.  I've now played the most southerly and well as the most westerly (Barra), northerly and easterly (Whalsay) courses on Scotland.  One rainy day I must work out which course lies closest to the middle of the country.

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