The heavy overnight rain that had been forecast had duly arrived and was forecast to go off around 1000hrs on 23 September 2011. I was a long way from home and I wanted to squeeze in another couple of courses before getting back, so although it was still chucking it down when I arrived at this 5546 yard Par 68 parkland course, I really didn't have much time to spare, so out I went, with wet suit, hat and umbrella all fully deployed. Needless to say there wasn't a queue for the first tee and it was only on the 6th, that I saw anyone else on the course, some 6 holes ahead of me. As I left the clubhouse a member said I must be either very keen or completely daft. I replied that I was probably both, and meant it. I'd caddied for 36 holes at Renaissance on the 17th, played on the 18th, caddied on the 19th and 20th in the Sir Ian Botham and Darren Clarke charity event at Archerfield and played 27 holes over St Medan and Wigtown & Bladnoch on the 22nd, so my energy levels were pretty low. As I climbed up the long hill to the 3rd tee at Newton Stewart I realised this would be a really tough physical challenge and maybe I'd have been wiser to at least wait for the rain to go off. David Howell had been playing in the group I'd caddied for at Archerfield but any lingering thoughts of implementing some tips from watching this top European Tour player's smooth swing, course management and impressive iron play had quickly disappeared on that climb. My challenge at Newton Stewart would simply be to get round the course without getting too wet and dispirited. This is the 3rd hole, an uphill 172 yard Par 3, with a steep bank in front of the green. I'd parred the 1st, bogeyed the 2nd and wasn't too hopeful here, but a good swing and I'd almost made the green, so a chip and and a tap in later and I was off to a reasonable start. As forecast, the rain stopped around 1000 and although the course was saturated and heavy underfoot, I was playing OK and enjoying myself, despite being really tired.
The Newton Stewart course is mainly parkland but it climbs into forested moorland country from the 6th before coming down again from the 11th and this is a really pretty and interesting stretch of holes. This is the 9th, an uphill dog leg left 338 yard Par 4, complete with a small herd of deer crossing the fairway. I also liked the 10th, a 147 yard Par 3 played across a ravine and the aptly named "Soup Plate" 12th, a steeply downhill 185 yard Par 3, with the green surrounded by gorse and other bushes and trees. Hit the green or lose your ball, simple as that. I did the latter for a double bogey 5.
This is the 17, a 152 yard Par 3. Nothing special looking, just another hole nearer to the clubhouse and a welcome rest. I'd hit a 7 wood off the tee as by that time it was just about the only club that I could be sure of hitting reasonably straight. I'd got my ball to the very back of the green, with a good 50 feet to go. The greens at newton Stewart were really good, even after all of the rain but I'd not expected to hole the putt for birdie. A closing bogey down the last and I'd got round in 82, net 72, or net 4 over par. It ad been a real struggle physically, but I'd seen enough to judge that this was a really good course, well worth playing again if I got the chance. Hopefully I'll be less tired the next time and the weather will be kinder. Play this excellent course if you get the chance.