Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Hermitage Family Golf Course - Course no 459

This 12 hole parkland golf course is part of a complex opened in 2006 in the South side of Edinburgh including a cafe, dance studio and therapy facilities run by Autism Ventures Scotland, a registered charity that supports adults with autism.  The course is primarily designed for  families and youngsters in particular, but is open to all on a pay as you play basis.   The course is a modest 1851 yards, Par 47 off the back tees, but the course is intended to encourage participation by beginners, which I assume explains why the par for individual holes is on the generous side.  To explain, this is the yardage/par of each hole -

1    165 yards   Par 4
2     86  yards   Par 3
3    103 yards   Par 3
4    152 yards   Par 4
5    245 yards   Par 5
6    194 yards   Par 4
7    162 yards   Par 4
8      78 yards   Par 3

9      81 yards   Par 3
10  129 yards   Par 4
11   203 yards  Par 4
12   253 yards  Par 5

In principle, this would be an excellent learning facility, giving youngsters a chance to get started in the game, with the green fees helping to support the charity's important work.  However, when I turned up to play the course on 26 October 2011, I was advised that the green fee would only be a token £1, as the course was barely playable due to continuing problems in managing the rough.  One look at the 1st hole was enough to suggest that extreme caution would be advisable! This a view from the 1st tee.   The narrow fairways had grass about 2 inches long and the rough on either side (no semi-rough in sight) was up to 2 feet long, heavy and tangled after persistent rain in recent days.  Indeed, it looked as though the rough had not been cut all Summer, so anything off-line would probably be lost.  Even a cursory search would result in a good soaking and as the weather forecast was for sun all day, I'd not bothered to pack my wetsuit trousers. 

The downhill 1st is probably the easiest of the Par 4s, since at least you can see the green.  The course hugs the side of a gently sloping valley and with heavy rough, gorse and the odd semi-blind tee shot thrown in, I quickly realised that rather than blast away with long clubs that would normally cover the distance tee to green on the longer holes, risking anything remotely off-line being lost, it would be safer to play irons off the tees and as necessary, rely on my short game.  Just to add to the difficulties, the greens were small, slow, hairy and bumpy.   

This is the 9th, a downhill 81 yard Par 3, played to a double green shared with the 7th.  the 10th tee is to the left of this photo, with the green in the distance to the left of the narrow joint 7th/10th fairway.  I birdied the 9th after an easy sand iron.  This was my second 2 on the card, the first being an eagle at the 4th, a 152 yard Par 4.   The 4th is set out as a dog leg left, but a brave/foolhardy 6 iron over the heavy rough (with an extremely old ball!) set up a lob wedge chip-in from the side of the green.  I managed to finesse my way around The Hermitage course in a gross 44, with 18 putts.  I'd normally be raving about scoring 3 under gross par on any course, but the the par here is ridiculously easy if you play cautiously and avoid the rough at all costs.  For example, the 7th is partially blind off the tee, but a couple of easy wedges are enough to hit the green in regulation.  Sure, something like a 5 iron would in theory set up an eagle putt, but why take the risk? 

This is the 12th green, looking back down the fairway.  I hope that the rough at The Hermitage can be tackled properly sometime soon.  It needs to be severely cropped back and kept short and the fairways also need to be wider to allow for the kind of errant shots that are likely to be made by beginners playing the course.  If this is not done, I suspect that the course will not get much repeat business and that casual beginners might lose interest, along with a good number of balls.  There are a number of local courses that cater for youngsters and beginners e.g. the Gullane and North Berwick Children's Courses, the Templar at New Swanston and the Melville Driving Range Course, so The Hermitage is competing in a tough market.  I hope it succeeds, but to do so, it needs to make the rough far less punishing.  Play here and support the Autism Ventures Scotland charity and take extra care off the tees and/or a bag of old balls!

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