This is a very good 18 hole parkland course on the North side of Dundee, 5716 yards Par 69 off the Yellow tees. I played here on 1 November 2011, a gloriously sunny and warm day, a rarity at this time of year. The Ballumbie Castle course is only around 10 years old, having been built by the enterprising landowners. The course design is really interesting, making great use of 4 separate pieces of former agricultural land. This makes the course a bit fragmented and I was very glad to have the company of a couple of members, Garry and Stan, since although the signage was pretty good, I suspect I would have found navigation between the separate parts of the course difficult without their local knowledge. The fairways were in really good condition despite the heavy rain across Scotland in recent days/weeks. The greens had just been hollow-tined and top dressed in readiness for Winter, so putting was tricky, since the greens were slow and understandably, a bit bumpy. However, my playing partners assured me that the surfaces were normally very good, fast and true-running and it was easy to imagine that some pin positions could set severe tests. Overall, I liked the course and would strongly recommend you give it a try.
Holes 1-5 weave their way around a driving range located adjacent to the clubhouse that overlooks the 1st tee and 18th Hole. This is a view from the 1st tee, so your first shot needs to avoid going left and OOB into the driving range and be long enough through the dip in the fairway to give you a sight of the green. I was happy enough with an opening bogey after a semi-blind 8 iron second shot that stopped just short of the green. The 2nd should be an straightforward Par 4 but I'd gone too close to the right of the fairway and had another semi-blind shot requiring a long fade around trees, so another bogey there. The 3rd is a good Par 4, sharp dog-leg right, with the second shot played almost blind and steeply uphill to an elevated green, so a double bogey there. I'd not read the club web site's course guide, so I'd no idea what to expect and I'd already used 40% of my handicap on the first 3 holes. I needed to sharpen up and quickly. The course was pretty busy and since Garry and Stan had joined me in the queue for the 4th tee we joined up, and the guys were really helpful in guiding me round the rest of the course. Good players too!
This is the 4th, a 162 yard Par 3, with the driving range to the left. I'd gone through the back of the green after over-clubbing, but a good lob wedge to 3 feet helped to secure my first par of the day. The 5th was a potentially tricky Par 4 played from an elevated tee over a pond to the right of the fairway and the prevailing wind blowing towards the pond. However, a forward tee meant this was less of a hazard, so I managed another par there. Holes 6-8 are in a separate field, flanked to one side by new executive up-market housing. Hole 7 is the Stroke Index 1 hole, but as Garry commented, there are other more difficult holes on the course, as I was to discover! The 9th hole shares a field with the 17th, with both holes being surrounded by more up-market housing. I'd gone out in a disappointing 43, with only a couple of pars on the card.
Holes 10-16 are in another separate field, with Holes 10-12 being potential card-wreckers, so get through there in par and you're doing well. The 10th is a short Par 4 at only 338 yards dog leg right, but there's a couple of lateral water hazards to avoid to the left and across the middle of the fairway. Your second shot will probably be semi-blind. You'll see the top of the flag and be aware that there's a large pond (immediately) to the left of the small green. You might guess correctly that a hill to the right of the fairway and in front of the green runs down towards the pond. If the flag is on the left of the green, be very careful. Can you hit something like a 7 iron bullet straight? Is it your new Pro V or an old ball? I just missed the front left of the green and managed a par from there, but I'd only missed the pond by a few feet. This is the 11th, 202 yard Par 3 with more water down the left side. The flag was front right, but Garry advised that a back left pin position was almost impossible to go for safely and that's easy to understand. I was happy enough with double bogey after finding a path with my tee shot and losing a provisional ball in the water. The 12th is another Par 3, this time 141 yards, slightly downhill. This hole looks easy enough, but bunkers to the right and a pond to the left of the green are invisible from the tee, so be warned. I missed the green to the right in light rough but rescued a par from there after a good lob wedge. Next was a tough uphill 522 yard Par 5, played into the prevailing wind, so another bogey. I parred Holes 14-16 easily enough, but these are some of the easiest on the course, and no great achievement really. Local knowledge from there is particularly helpful. There's a long path to the 17th tee, but most members take a short cut through the up-market housing. I'd have been lost by then. The 17th is also an easy looking hole, but I fluffed a short pitch and run and bogeyed the hole.
This is the 18th, a really tricky 351 yard Par 4 (402 yards from the back tee), dog leg right, with OOB all the way along the left of the fairway and a second shot played steeply uphill to an elevated plateau green guarded by large deep bunkers and overlooked by a veranda at the front of the clubhouse. The two-tiered green slopes downhill from back to front, so finding the right level of the green is vital. I'd split the fairway with my drive (another rarity) and with 145 yards uphill to the flag, I managed to find the left of the green with a rescue club. The holes was on the bottom half of the green, but my 30 foot slightly downhill putt had at least a 4 foot break, so a closing par from there was pleasing. I'd done the back 9 in 38 for a gross 81, net 71 with 31 putts. Net 2 over was not bad, but I doubt I'd have got near that without the helpful advice of my playing partners (well, it was a bounce game!)
There are some really good holes at Ballumbie Castle. 10 is probably my favourite, followed by 18 (I was just glad we didn't have an audience on the veranda, as this must be a pretty intimidating hole in a Medal on a hot Saturday afternoon!) A very good course, definitely well worth playing again - maybe I'll get back there in Summertime when the greens are at their fastest and best.