Polly and I played East Kilbride GC's excellent 18 hole parkland course on 28 October 2011. A major fire in January 2010 had destroyed the clubhouse and the club's records and trophies etc., but the members rallied round and a new clubhouse was officially opened a few weeks ago. Such a catastrophe could have threatened the club's future, so I was keen to see the new building and play the course. The new clubhouse is hugely impressive and the members must be justly proud of their efforts to recover from the fire. The course is equally stunning and at 6220 yards, Par 70 off the Yellow tees, was a real joy to play. Polly and I enter quite a few Mixed Foursomes Opens each year and one of the questions that usually comes up when we play new courses together is whether we'd want to play the course again in such competitions. In most cases, that question isn't raised until we've finished playing our round, but here, we'd agreed halfway down the 2nd fairway that if the club has a Mixed Open in 2012, we'd be entering, other commitments permitting!
Heavy rain across Scotland in recent weeks had caused problems at most courses. Indeed, when I'd tried to play the North Inch course in Perth a few days before playing at East Kilbride, I found that 9 of the holes at North Inch were still flooded and that temporary tees and greens were in use on the other 9 holes. That was a completely wasted journey, so checking ahead, I was delighted to hear that the full East Kilbride course was open for play and was in pretty good condition. That was a masterly understatement, as the course was in really good nick, with only a few areas still very soft after the rain. The fairways were pretty slow, meaning the course played to its full length, but at least we weren't splashing our way through puddles, unlike my recent experiences at Wishaw and Larkhall. The greens were also a bit slower than I'd have preferred, but by late October most parkland greens are usually past their very best, so I'm not complaining. This is a view from the 1st fairway.
The layout at East Kilbride is simply excellent. At some parkland courses I've played recently, the layout has been disappointingly predictable and bland. Not here. Clever changes in elevation and direction abound, making this a really interesting course to play. There's no course map on the scorecard and I'm still slightly confused about the overall layout. Course signage is also excellent and with mature trees and bushes lining most fairways, we didn't see many other players, despite the course being very busy (another sign of a good course!) The only downside for me was the noise of traffic from nearby major roads, but as Polly said at the time, this could have been filtered out had I been concentrating properly instead of waffling on about my new clubs. (A full set of Ping G20 woods, rescues and irons. Only my old Cleveland lob wedge and Ping Anser 4 putter survived the change.) The new driver goes further when hit properly, but as with any club change, practice time and a few games will help!
There's not a weak hole on the course and I'd need to play it again to identify a favourite hole, but on the front 9 I particularly liked the 2nd, a 387 yard Par 4, with OOB beyond trees to the left of the fairway and behind the green. The drive needs to be long and straight to give a view of the green, which sits at the bottom of a steep slope. A lateral water hazard and good bunkering protect the small green. Best of the 5 Par 3's is probably the 17th, as shown here. This is a 175 yard hole, played slightly uphill to a sloping green. I'd played a 27 degree rescue club to the right side of the green, but that left me a difficult 30 foot cross-hill putt with a 6 foot break. That led to my third three putt of the round. No excuses, just poor putting on the day.
This is the last at East Kilbride and a good view of the new clubhouse. The 18th is a formidable 543 yards, slightly uphill. I'd missed the fairway after a poor drive, missed it again after a 3 wood and again with a rescue club. I'd only a lob wedge to the flag, but that shot found a bunker, so a closing double bogey was disappointing. Still, an 88, net 78, with 32 putts wasn't too bad. We'd both thoroughly enjoyed the course and I'd strongly recommend you give it a try. You might need your sat nav to find it, but it's worth the effort and at £30, the green fee is a bargain.
Last mention of the new clubs (for now anyway) - I even managed to get into the buffer zone in the last competition of the year at my home club (Glen GC) on the day after our game at East Kilbride! That leaves me clinging on at 10.4, but here's hoping the clubs will help to improve my game next year.