Bellshill GC is an 18 hole parkland course east of Glasgow measuring 5818 yards, par 68, off the yellow tees. As the club's website explains, the course layout has been changed considerably since it was opened in 1905, with the current course being laid out in 4 separate sections connected by pathways, with a main railway line splitting holes 7-14 from the rest of the course. There are a few elevation changes and modest hills to cope with which add to the interest of the course. The website also says, and rightly so, that the first 5 holes are particularly demanding so I was happy enough to negotiate these in 3 over par. The 4th is only 375 yards but is the Stroke Index 1 hole, requiring a long drive to reach the corner of the right dog leg to set up another long shot uphill. Being a tree-lined course, it doesn't pay to flirt with the corner of the dog leg and an internal OOB all along the right of the hole adds to the difficulty. I missed a long putt for a par but was pleased enough to get the bogey.
Holes 6 and 7 are in a separate field accessed by a bridge over the railway line. This is the 6th, a good birdie opportunity at only 292 yards, steeply downhill. A cleverly-placed fairway bunker blocks the big hitters from going for the green, so it's all about the second shot. The green is small and sheltered by mature trees, to the extent that the green was far softer and damper than the other greens. I missed a reasonable birdie chance here, but I was hitting the ball reasonably well. The 7th runs parallel to the 6th, back up the steep hill, with a plateau green that's further away than it looks. I'd just missed the green in regulation to the right, but the rough around the greens at Bellshill is quite tough and though pretty short is tricky to escape from, hence by bogey 5. An awful lie in a bunker at the short 8th cost me another shot.
The best hole on the front 9 was the 9th, an excellent 383 yard downhill dog leg left par 4 with a blind tee shot. My drive had finished in an awkward hanging lie, leaving me this view of the green. Another bogey there, but I'd gone out in 40, or 6 over par, so not bad. The 378 yard Par 4 10th Hole is called "Lone Tree" and perhaps it only had a single specimen when the hole was named. The name was still pretty apt, since I missed at least one of the many trees that now line the fairway. A double bogey 6 there was actually a good score after I'd gone into trees to the right off the tee and ran into trees on the left with a 6 iron pitch and run recovery shot. My low 9 iron played under overhanging branches and over a fairway bunker to just short of the green was one of my better shots!
By then I'd just about caught up with 3 local members and after seeing me get my par at the downhill 358 yard Par 4 11th, they waived me through. I'd not been held up much as they were reasonably quick players but no matter how often it happens, I always find the tee shot on a waive through hole quite demanding. The guys had hit decent tee shots up the 12th, so it was a pleasant surprise when my drive cleared their best by 25 yards. Even better, I hit the green with my second, just missed the birdie there, but knocked in a short birdie putt on the downhill 296 yard Par 4 13th. The 14th is another uphill Par 4, this time a dog leg right. I'd gone into the trees on the corner of the dog leg, but there was a gap in the foliage if I could get a 9 iron up quick enough. That was definitely the shot of the day, saving a double bogey or worse, so I was 8 over after 14 holes.
The last 4 holes at Bellshill are particularly interesting and a really strong finish to the course. The 15th and 16th holes are played from elevated tees across a gully with old furrow lines on the fairways, echoing the course's former agricultural usage. The club's website highlights the 17th as the course's signature hole. This is a testing downhill 148 yard Par 3 played over OOB and a large tree that almost completely blocks any sight of the green from the Yellow tee. It's certainly a challenging hole, but I think it's time to prune the top branches a bit in order to let players see the pin position.
The 18th was my favourite hole at Bellshill, an uphill dog leg right 342 yard Par 4. I'd hit a really good drive close to the 150 yard marker (to the front of the green) but could only see a bunker to the left and a sliver of the green itself. The 3 guys who'd waived me through earlier were by then on the nearby 16th tee and advised me to hit a fade, aiming at the bunker. I'd have been happy enough to land anywhere near the green, but to my delight my 7 wood fade finished only 15 feet away, hole-high. It was an easy closing par from there, so these locals had seen me make 3 pars and a birdie. If they ever read this blog entry, my overall score was not quite so impressive i.e. 81, net 71 or 2 over net par, with 29 putts. Still, I'd played reasonably well, enjoyed the course and dodged the heavy showers that had been forecast. May you be so lucky if you ever play at Bellshill.