Thursday, 22 December 2011

Knightswood Golf Course - Course no 467

A combination of heavy rain, flooding, some snow, frost and general cold had prevented me from playing any new courses since my round at Forbes of Kingennie.  All very frustrating but at least I'd been able to play some local courses, including my home club, The Glen in North Berwick, which thankfully usually remain playable when others, particularly in the west of the country, are  badly affected by the winter weather.  Indeed, The Glen is currently seeing a welcome increase in winter visitor numbers as hardy golfers seek out somewhere to play while their own courses are unplayable.  I'd been hoping to play the 9 hole Winter Course at the Bruntsfield Short Hole Course in Edinburgh (normally a 36-hole layout!) on 19 December 2011, but even it was closed.  However, the weather across the country had eased since then and it looked as though I'd finally be playing some new courses before the Christmas holidays.  I needed to be in Glasgow on 22 December 2011, but it looked as though I'd have time for a couple of 9 hole courses in the morning.  A phone call to the Knightswood Golf Course, owned and operated by Glasgow Council the day before confirmed that it would be open (as would the 4 other courses operated by the Council).  22 December was, however, the shortest day of the year, with only 7 hours or so of "golfing daylight" so as this photo of the clubhouse from the 1st Tee shows, it was still pretty dark when I teed off at 09.10 hrs on a balmy (12 degrees!) almost windless morning.  I was using the flash on my trusty Sony Cybershot 7.1 mpixel digital camera but as you'll see, I really needed something a lot stronger!

The Starter and Greenkeeper had both warned me that the conditions underfoot were treacherously slippy due to standing water and some mud.  I'd anticipated this, so clad in some of my oldest golfing gear and shoes, I was up for the challenge.  There was a good map of the course on the back of the scorecard, but this only became readable after 3 holes when there was enough daylight.  I was hitting the ball straight enough off the tee, but finding it thereafter was to be a real problem.  Knightswood is a 9 hole almost flat parkland course of only 2703 Yards, Par 34 off the Yellow Tees, but casual water and flooded areas meant that unless you saw exactly where the ball landed it was really difficult to find.  Either it would land in casual water and be completely covered or would get some mud stuck to it.  I'd hit a good straight drive at the 1st, a strong opening 431 Yard Par 4, but since I was certain the ball had landed in a particularly muddy part of the fairway in abnormal ground conditions, I had to drop another ball without penalty.  However, an opening bogey was OK in the circumstances.  The 2nd tee is to the left of the 1st green, with the 2nd fairway running in a hollow parallel to the 1st and 8th fairways.  This 299 Yard Par 4 was particularly badly flooded.  The Starter had jokingly told me there was a ferry every 20 minutes and I was lucky to hit my drive onto the only reasonably dry patch of light rough, leaving me a mid-iron to the small green.  An easy par followed, but the greens were ridiculously slow and were almost saturated after weeks of rain and snow in the Glasgow area (I gather that the last snow had only finally melted the day before). 
The 3rd hole, a 398 Yard par 4, is Stroke Index 1, with OOB all down the left side and green well-protected by bunkering.  With no run on the fairways (and very little on the greens either!), I was happy enough with a bogey.  The 4th is a good hole, and at only 274 yards, par 4, is a good birdie opportunity.  However, the fairway is narrow, with bunkering either side of the landing area and the hole swings hard dog leg left after around 230 yards.  I'd only 40 yards or so to the flag for my second shot, so 3 from there for another par was slightly disappointing.  The 5th is a short 118 Yard Par 3 with OOB hard against the left of the hole and a steeply sloping 2 tier green.  The hole had sensibly been cut close to the top of the upper tier, but as my ball had landed on the lower tier 30 feet away, I was delighted to escape with another par.  The 6th is a strong slightly uphill 208 Yard Par 3, requiring Driver given the wet conditions and a par was good.  This is the 6th green with the high flats on Lincoln Avenue in the background.  My parents had lived for several years in the middle block, so visiting the area again for the first time in many years brought back some happy and sad family memories.
The 7th is a slightly uphill 315 yard Par 4.  I misjudged my second shot, longer than it looked, so that led to a bogey.  The 8th is a slightly downhill 204 yard Par 3, with the blind  tee shot needing to be long enough to carry a fairway bunker.  I guess that in dry summer conditions this could be an awkward hole as OOB lurks unseen behind the green, as shown here.  I needed Driver to find the green when I played it.  In the end I gave up trying to find an area of the green not affected by casual water, so a par was pretty good in the circumstances.  I'd kept a 6 off the card so far but with the 456 yard Par 5 final hole next, I faced a tough challenge.  It was particularly boggy between the 8th green and the 9th tee with 80 yards or so of deep puddles and clinging mud.  Nice. 
I'd hit a really good tee shot and 3 wood second, leaving a short iron to the green.  This finished just short and right, narrowly missing a greenside bunker.  In normal circumstances I'd have chipped close and had a good chance of a single putt for par, but with my ball lying on mud and a very slow green, taking 3 from there was no great surprise.  I'd gone round in 39, net 34, with 16 putts.  This is  the 9th green with the clubhouse in the background.  Overall, Knightswood looked to be a typical "cooncil course" - nothing special, no great holes, but still providing a great service for grassroots golf.  At £4.90 the green fee was modest and good value.  It was just a pity that the course was so wet.  I doubt I'd play it again, but like all other "cooncil courses" it has its place and golf in Scotland is all the richer for the continued existence of such basic facilities.
I had ample time to fit in another 9 hole course as I had to meet Polly in Renfrew by 1430 hrs at the latest.  I'd been hoping to play Glasgow Council's new Ruchill Course on the north side of the city, but when I finally got there having fought my way through the pre-Christmas traffic, it was closed.  I'd heard that the Ruchill Course had been pretty poor and had only recently re-opened, having been closed for some years.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but from what I could see, the course had been completely redesigned and rebuilt, with an impressive new clubhouse, far removed from the rather dilapidated facilities that typify your average "cooncil course."  By this time it was 1115 hrs.  A quick phone call confirmed that the 9 Hole Wee Monster Course attached to the Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomond was open.  I'd just about have time to play it and meet Polly by 1430.  However, I'd not factored in traffic delays and the cloudburst once I finally got to this other course.  A frustrating and fruitless journey, but at least I'd not been late.  I'll do Ruchill and the Wee Monster another day, hopefully in drier weather.