Thursday, 29 September 2011

Muckhart GC - Courses 453 and 454

There are 3 separate 9 hole loops at Muckhart GC, all heathland in nature, that can be combined to form 3 separate 18 hole layouts.  The Cowden, at 3114 yard Par 36, was opened in 1908 (annual subs then were £1 a year per family!).  The Arndean, at 2652 yards Par 35, was opened in 1970 and the Naemoor course, at 3039 yards par 35, was opened in 1998.  These combinations provide three 18 hole courses, namely -

Arndean/Cowden, 5832 yards Par 71
Arndean/Naemoor, 5757 yards Par 70
Naemoor/Cowden, 6153 yards, par 71.

I've listed the total "Casual Yards" from each of the 3 scorecards, each of which equate to Yellow yardages and as might be expected, the Medal Yards courses are longer, but there's an additional twist to the Cowden Course.  The 1st hole is played from a tee outside the clubhouse windows for casual rounds ( a 173 yard hole) but there's a completely different 1st hole for medal play (a 109 yard hole) served by a separate tee and green.  I mention this because although the 1st Medal hole at Cowden was not in play when I played each of the 3 loops back to back on 28 September 2011, I'd played that hole a few years ago with Polly in a Mixed competition over the combined Arndean/Cowden course.

The Muckhart club nominates a course combination of the day and the  club's seniors were out in force on the Cowden course when I arrived, but with advice from the helpful Pro, it was possible to play Muckhart in an Arndean, Naemoor and Cowden sequence without being held up (and 27 holes back to back in under 4 hours in humid 24 degree conditions was good going!)
The Arndean Course is only 2652 yards but is quite hilly, with some pine tree plantations that can snag wayward shots.  The first three opening Par 4s are easy enough, ranging from 278-290 yards and need only a straight drive and short pitch to get you going.  I'd parred holes 1 and 2 and a good wedge to 3 feet on the 3rd, as shown here, set up an easy first birdie of the day.  The views from the Arndean Course are pretty spectacular, especially from the 5th, aptly named "Top of the World."  I'd caught this course early in the day in calm conditions and while most of the holes are short, they are pretty exposed so Arndean on a windy day would be far more testing.  I thought the best hole on Arndean was the 7th, a largely downhill 469 yard Par 5 with a blind second shot.  I managed a bogey after hitting a severe hook onto the adjacent 6th fairway, adding to the dog leg on the hole, so bogey from there was a good result.
I also liked this, the 9th, a downhill Par 3 with OOB all down the left side of the hole. For some reason we were using the Medal tee at 209 yards rather than the shorter 135 yard tee for casual play.  I'd hit an easy 3 wood to within a yard of the OOB and was stymied by some trees, but it could have been worse as the OOB also features a couple of houses, gardens and the road to the clubhouse.  I went round Arndean in 38, only 3 over par, with 14 putts, so I was off to a good start.  Naemoor was next, and as the name suggests, this course is almost flat.  At 3039 yards, Par 35 it didn't look too tricky either.

The contrast in design and turf between Naemoor and the other courses is obvious from the start.  Naemoor is more open, flat and easier walking, but where Arndean and Cowden were free-draining, Naemoor showed more signs of the recent rain, with a few really soggy patches and casual water.  This is the 5th on Naemoor, a short 289 yard Par 4.  The early morning breeze had strengthened considerably, so with a tail wind I only had a blind lob wedge shot up to a plateau green and another easy birdie was in the bag.  I played steadily from there with a bogey on the Stroke Index 1 6th after laying up short of a fairway water hazard and good pars on 7 and 8, but I really came unstuck on the closing 394 yard par 4.
This is the 9th green on Naemoor.  I'd lost a ball off the tee  after another wild hook off the tee and was lucky to escape with a double bogey after a good 6 iron approach. Still, I'd gone round in 39 or 4 over par, with 14 putts, so at least the combined score over Arndean/Naemoor would be good.  The Cowden course wanders its way through mature pine forest over some substantial hills and is a stiffer test than the other two courses.  It's not long at 3114 yards, Par 36, but with the wind having increased further since I'd finished the flatter and lower-lying Naemoor course, Cowden looked set to be a tougher test, and so it proved.
The 1st "Casual Play" hole is a 173 yard Par 3, as shown here, and anything left, right or long would be bad news.  I just missed the green on the right, but the green was faster than those I'd played earlier, so I'd an opening bogey.  The 2nd was a 353 yard par 4 played from an elevated and exposed tee with a blind second shot over a hill, and anything left off the tee would find a swamp. I was happy enough with another bogey, but not so pleased to bogey the 3rd, a short downwind Par 4.  I did at least par the 4th, but Cowden was clearly a more testing course.
This is the 5th, the Stroke Index 1 hole, played from an elevated tee to a narrow fairway which has several severe undulations creating blind shots if you're at all short with the drive or fluff your second shot.  A double bogey there after just such a fluffed second and further bogeys on 6 and 7 were also disappointing.  The 8th is a 307 yard par 4 played over a hill that I suspect plays shorter than it looks.  My drive had run down the other side of the hill to within 20 yards of the green.  I managed to miss the green from there (!) but at least a chip-in saved the birdie.
The last hole on Cowden is a really good 501 yard Par 5, with OOB all the way down the right and a stream that cuts across the fairway 130 yards out from the green.  I had an easy par there after laying up short of the stream in 2, for a gross 42, 6 over par, with 15 putts.

My combined scores for the 3 courses were -

Arndean/Cowden, 80, net 70 with 28 putts.  A net 1 under par round.
Arndean/Naemoor, 77, net 67 with 27 putts.  A net 3 under par round.
Naemoor/Cowden, 81, net 71 with 29 putts.  A net par round.

Muckart GC is well worth a visit.  You might not want to play the full 27 holes unless you're fit and the weather's fine, but the Arndean/Cowden combination is particularly good.

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