Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Dalmuir Municipal Golf Course - Course no 472

Dalmuir Municipal is an 18 hole parkland course in Clydebank, a riverside town just outside the west side of Glasgow, owned and operated by West Dunbartonshire Council and measuring only 5045 yards, Par 67, from the Yellow tees.  When I played  with a couple of local members in the Seniors Open at nearby Clydebank & District GC on 20 July 2010 (Course no 326), one of my playing partners had warned me that Dalmuir was extremely hilly and a really testing walk.   I  finally played the Dalmuir course on 31 January 2012 on a cold and cloudy day.  Indeed, it was only 2 degrees C and  had started snowing when I arrived mid-morning so I sat in the car for a while before deciding to risk it.  I was still suffering the after-effects of a heavy cold so this looked likely to be a course that might either kill or cure. The dispiriting view from the car park was proof enough that Dalmuir would be a tough physical challenge, with some steep holes evident on what turned out to be the last few holes, but more of them later.  This is a view from the 1st tee, with OOB to the left and a stream cutting across the fairway.  The 1st is only 280 yards from the Yellow tees, but as signage was pretty basic at best, I'd started from the Medal tee by mistake, making my first hole a 300 yard Par 4.  I cleared the stream easily and had only a short pitch to the green so a good start and with so many hills still to be climbed, there was no way I was going to go back up to the Yellow tee to correct my mistake.  I'd started with an easy par.

The 2nd is a poor blind hole.  At 226 yards, Par 4, it should be easy enough, but the small green is hidden behind a huge and overgrown mound about 190 yards out from the tee.  I tried to clear the mound with my 3 wood, but came up short in heavy rough on the up slope of this mound.  Luckily, I'd a decent lie and an even luckier wedge to within a few feet set up an unlikely first (and only!) birdie at Dalmuir.  The 3rd was on the other side of a river running through the course and at 418 yards, Par 4, was the Stroke Index 1 hole.  The drive is uphill, aiming at a narrow gap between mature trees.  The fairway there slopes steeply from right to left, leaving a totally blind shot to the right of the gap and for me at least, a 9 iron to a small green well protected by bunkers.  There was no run on the fairways, so this hole played a lot longer than it looked.  I missed a 10 foot putt for par, but a bogey was OK.  I'd caught up with the player in front by then, as luck would have it the guy from Clydebank & District GC who had first warned me about Dalmuir Municipal in July 2010!  We played the next 8 holes together before he went home for lunch, after the 11th - he obviously knew what lay ahead from 13 onwards!   Holes 4-11 are all pretty straightforward, with 2 medium length Par 3s and a run of short Par 4s from 266 to 317 yards.  Scoring on this part of the course was pretty easy.  I was only 3 over par at the turn and with an easy par at the 10th and a silly bogey at the 176 yard Par 3 11th, confidence was high.

The conditions underfoot were tricky and on some parts of the course extreme care was needed to avoid slipping in muddy or frozen areas.  I'd not noticed the steep slope off the side of the 11th until is was too late and almost went head over heels down onto the 12th tee.  No great damage done thankfully but the wet suit will  need a good wash!  The 12th is a steeply downhill 92 yard Par 3 played over the river to a small green.  I miss-hit an easy wedge and missed the green by a good 10 yards for a poor bogey.  From there, signage to the 13th tee would have helped, though I'd guessed correctly that it would be on the far side of a tall hedge.  The 13th is a tough 419 yard Par 4 steeply uphill.  I'd hit a really good drive but a bogey was OK.  The route to the 14th is well sign-posted, but I struggled for a while to see where the green could be.  This is a 220 yard Par 3 and by a process of elimination I worked out that the hole must lie on the other side of the river.  The only likely candidate was a small plateau green requiring a carry of around 195 yards over the river and up a steep hill, avoiding trees to the right of the green.  My 3 wood was just short, but the ball ran a good 50 feet down the steep hill leaving me with a blind approach.  A bogey there was OK.  The 15th was just as silly.  The tee lies at the bottom of the hill that I'd tackled on the previous hole.  The scorecard said that the15th was a 150 yard Par 3 and again, the only candidate was a flag at the top of a steep hill back across the river.  Since the green was so high above the tee it was difficult to choose the right club.  It was certainly not the 6 iron I attempted, so another bogey there.   I eventually found that the 16th tee lies on the other side of the 13th fairway but by then I'd already decided that Dalmuir would not be featuring in my list of favourite courses.  Signage or a course map would have helped!
The Par 4 16th was my favourite hole at Dalmuir, being steeply downhill for a change and an opportunity to open the shoulders off the tee. It's only 367 yard and plays much shorter.  This is a view from the middle of the fairway - not pretty, but at least the high-rise residents will have a good view. I'd hit a good drive and had only a wedge to the green.  A couple of putts later and I was still 8 over with 2 holes to go.  The 17th is a bit shorter than the 13th, at only 354 yards, Par 4 but it's almost as steep.  I managed a par with a good single putt from 10 feet.

The 18th is the longest hole at Dalmuir at 439 yards, Par 4.  As shown here. It's steeply downhill, but although I'd hit a really good drive towards the middle tower block in the distance, my ball ran to the right leaving a steeply hanging lie.  The plateau green lay behind yet another hill, so I'd a blind shot of around 180 yards.  I stubbed my 20 degree rescue club, leaving me a wedge to the green.  I suppose a closing bogey was OK, but I'd lost another shot, ending up with a 76 gross, net 66 or 1 under net par.  I'd taken 35 putts on greens that were slow and fairly bumpy, so  considerable room for improvement there.

Dalmuir is a "cooncil course" that provides value for money golf but I didn't particularly like it and  I very much doubt whether I'll play it again.  The course is laid out in a compact area and does well to accommodate 18 holes.   I doubt whether anything could be done to make the course less hilly, but better signage would certainly help to improve the "visitor experience."  Even some better quality tee markers (with hole numbers and yardages, please) would improve the appearance of the course at little cost.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Castle Park GC

Castle Park GC is an 18 hole parkland course in open countryside near the village of Gifford in East Lothian, measuring 5851 yards, Par 71 off the Yellow tees.  Castle Park  opened in 1994 as a 9 holer (now the back 9) with the intention that it would be extended in due course.  I'd played the original 9 hole layout a few times as it's only a 20 minute drive from my house, but although the course was extended to 18 holes a few years ago, I only got round to playing the full 18 on  23 January 2012.  This doesn't score as a new course in my ongoing quest to play every golf course in Scotland, but at least I've now played all of the holes at Castle Park! The original 9 holes measure only 2673 yards, so the "new" holes are longer (and thankfully flatter!).  Overall, I really like the new layout.  It's a good test and well worth a visit.

The "new" front 9 starts with a good 487 yard Par 5, dog leg right and slightly uphill after the drive.  The fairway slopes left to right and there's a couple of lakes and a stream to avoid off the tee, as shown here. There had been a touch of frost overnight but the normal greens were in play (though a bit bumpy as might be expected at this time of year).  I'd hit a good drive and 3 wood but my wedge was just a yard or so short, so my third ran back down the up slope at the front of the green, leading to an opening bogey.  Although the weather forecast had suggested 4 degrees C max, there was a bitingly cold wind, requiring 4 top layers, a woolly hat and mitts to offset the chill factor. Not ideal for scoring, but at least it wasn't snowing.

The front 9 holes are generally pretty flat and open - for now at least.  Hundreds of pine trees have been planted that will in time define the fairways and when these mature in a few years the course will change considerably, and hopefully offer more shelter against the kind of wind that I faced!  This is a view from the  6th tee, giving you some impression of the openness and tree-planting I've mentioned.  This is a 370 yard Par 4 requiring a drive between sections of dry stane dyke (a wall).  This is a simple enough looking hole if you clear the wall as I did, but there's already enough trouble to cause problems.  It's already the Stroke Index 1 hole and once the trees grow.....

I liked the 7th, a 158 yard Par 3 played directly into the low Winter sun, but the 540 yard Par 5 9th hole is probably the best of the new holes.  This hole was slightly downhill and downwind,  The drive needs to avoid a bunker on the right of the fairway (that I suspect will be toughened up and/or joined by others in years to come).  Then you need to avoid the next fairway bunker, as shown here and stop short of a stream that cuts across the fairway at the bottom of a slope up to the green.  This was a fairly easy hole which can only get tougher as this part of the course matures.  An easy par for me this time!

The back 9 was just as undulating as I'd remembered it, but the small trees I'd seen some years ago had really grown and unsurprisingly, this part of the course had a more established feel to it.  Scoring is easier in principle but you need to be straight and get your distances right.  The 10th is a good 363 yard Par 4 played from an elevated tee with an uphill second to a plateau green, and a simple enough proposition, but the 11th and 12th will really get your attention.  The 11th is a 358 yard Par 4 played blind over a steep hill 100 yards or so from the tee.  Hit a good long drive and like me, you'd have only a sand iron to a small green located well below your feet.  Miss and there's an almost certain bogey in store.  I don't particularly like Par 3s that don't offer birdie chances to average golfers and the 12th definitely meets that definition.  It's only 163 yards long, but the drive is all carry over a pond around 60 feet below the tee and the green is around the same level above the tee.  All you see from the tee is a great big hill and at best the top of the flag.  If like me you don't clear the hill in the first place, your ball can run back down the hill towards the pond, leaving you with a totally blind shot over the crest of the hill.  Take a bogey and walk on! 

The 14th is a more fair blind hole test.  This is a 276 yard Par 4 played slightly uphill but totally blind (and directly into the low Winter sun).  The small green is cut into a steep slope, as shown here and is overlooked by the ruins of an ancient castle.  The course is located off a single track country road, so there was only the odd bird song to disturb the peace on this quietest part of the course.  I had an easy par after losing the flight of my ball off the tee but this is a really good little hole.  The last hole is a 378 yard Par 4 played blind over a hill (once you get your breath back after climbing up to the tee from the 17th!) with a steep hill up to the green.  I was happy enough with a bogey after missing a reasonably short putt for par.

This is the 18th green, looking over to the clubhouse.  I'd scored 81, net 71, net even par, with 31 putts.  The greens were pretty bumpy and a few putts lipped out, so with better luck I'd probably have scored a bit better.  Still, this was a good round of Winter golf and by the time I'd finished, it was even warm enough to take my hat and windcheater off.  Castle Park is only a few miles from my house so I'll play it again.  Net 71 is definitely a beatable target! 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Cameron House Hotel Wee Demon Course - Course no 471

I played this excellent 9 hole parkland course on 13 January 2012 after my earlier round at nearby Vale of Leven GC.  The Wee Demon Course is part of the excellent facilities at the 5-Star Cameron House Hotel on the west side of Loch Lomond.  Most of the course had been in shade all day so the morning's frost hadn't lifted and the greens were pretty firm and white.  Given the absence of any footprints, I was the first (and only!) player that day.  The course is just past the seaplane mooring and at the side of the yacht marina and weaves its way between and around some high end luxury timeshare lodges overlooking south end of Loch Lomond.  I'd been expecting the Wee Demon to be a gentle untesting pitch and putt course, but there's actually 4 Par 4s, water hazards aplenty and a variety of testing holes.  The course is still only 2155 Yards, Par 31, but scoring well was difficult.  I also faced a more serious technical challenge.  The batteries in my digital camera had died on the 1st tee and I'd no spares.  I'd acquired a new smartphone the day before but who reads 119 page manuals when trial and (frequent) error works (eventually)?  I finally got the camera to work on the 3rd hole and I was just glad that the course was quiet and the surrounding lodge balconies were empty as it took me a good 20 minutes of fiddling with the phone to get any photos.  I was just hoping no-one phoned me as I still had no idea how to accept an incoming call!

Anyway, the Wee Demon lived up to its name.  The 1st is a 415 yard Par 4 running along the side of the sloping course and overlooking the marina.  There's a burn hidden in a gully around 250 yards from the tee but that was out of range for me.  I was more concerned about thinning my ball out of a greenside bunker into one of the lodges surrounding the green.  This is the Stroke Index 1 hole, so bogey was OK.  The 2nd was even more tricky.  This is a healthy 237 Yard Par 3 with a 190 yard carry over a lake, with OOB to the left.  My drive had plugged in the semi-rough just short of the green and I'd just about given it up as lost before finding it.  I hit a good pitch onto the green, but the 2nd green was completely frozen and my par putt just skidded its way past the hole.  Another bogey and I was beginning to really respect the course.  The 3rd was only 117 yards, but the green was three-quarters' surrounded by the lake I'd crossed when playing the 2nd.  The teeing ground was also frozen so it was no great surprise when my footing slipped and my sliced tee shot veered 20 yards short and right of the green, just short of the lake. Luckily the green had seen some sun during the day and was softer than the 2nd.  My lob wedge hit the pin and stopped a few inches away so that was a first par.  The 4th was a 170 Yard Par 3 and its green was obviously white frozen solid. I'd hit a good drive which ran off to the side of the green and I was left with a slow put up and across a steep slope.   I got lucky with the pace, so another par.  The 5th was a 225 Yard Par 4 with another small lake in front of the green.  I'd hit a good drive just right of the green, but a clumsy chip should have been closer.  Par was OK, but that was a missed birdie opportunity.  The 6th was slightly uphill 417 yard Par 4 with another completely white green.  Another nearly lost plugged ball after my second shot and my new Titleist was clearly at risk.  Bogey there was not bad in the circumstances.

The 7th was a daunting 163 Yard Par 3 over another small lake.  I cleared the water (and the green) easily so yet another bogey.  This is the 8th, an uphill 263 Yard Par 4.  the fairway narrows at around 200 yards and a stream and road on the right come into play.  I'd hit a strong drive up the right of the fairway well past the bend in the road and had only a lob wedge to the green.  all of the lodges have balconies overlooking the course and I guess that on warm Summer evenings there might be quite a gallery of spectators eager to pass judgement (or laugh!) I should have got the lob wedge closer, but a par there was OK. 

The 9th tee was in a shady part of the course under trees and the greenkeeper had put a temporary tee further back, turning the 148 yard downhill final hole into something like a 165 Yard Par 3, as shown here.  My strategy, such as it was, was to hit an easy 3 wood.  I'd noticed that the green looked as though it had seen the sun and would be receptive to a ball carried onto it.  there's a gully behind the green and OOB (and a road and buildings) beyond the gully.  3 Wood was simply a daft choice as my ball carried the green and hit halfway up the large tree directly behind it.  I was almost stymied for the pin, but if I could just hit a lifetime lob wedge through a tiny gap in those branches....and why is it that your poor shots are invariably noticed by passing walkers etc and your lifetime shots go unseen?  I'd a 3 foot putt for par, but the greens had been unpredictable, either fast, slow, bumpy, smooth, frozen or soft.  This would be a slow and bumpy tester.  Dead centre for a closing par and a 35 total, net 30 (net 1 under par), with 15 putts.

The wee Demon is a seriously good 9 hole course and a tough test.  It's also great value for money at only £10 a round but if you play it during the Summer months, be prepared to have an audience!  There's one final oddity about the Wee Demon.  I'd need to check, but I suspect that at almost 17 inches long, it may have the biggest scorecard in Scottish golf!

Vale of Leven GC - Course no 470

I played this really good course on 13 January 2012, a windless and sunny Winter's day.  The Vale of Leven course is laid out in moorland above Alexandria, a small town just north of Dumbarton and a couple of miles south of Loch Lomond.  At 5037 yards, Par 67 off the Yellow tees, Vale of Leven is pretty short and with only one Par 5 (at 466 yards) length is not so important here.  However, the course is quite tricky and accuracy off the tee and on most approach shots is vital.  There had been a light overnight frost, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear from the Pro that the normal greens were in play, apart from a couple of greens where work was underway to make course improvements.  The only restriction was that balls landing on the fairway had to be placed in the rough to save wear to the fairways over the Winter months.  The course was pretty busy so I joined up with Stevie, a local member, from the 2nd hole onwards. 

As I was to discover, this course has a number of hidden hazards.  The 1st is a simple looking slightly uphill 338 Yard Par 4.  I'd hit a reasonable opening drive and had a 9 iron to the green after placing my ball in the light rough.  However, a burn runs directly in front of the green, at the bottom of a gully.  The green is small and anything short could lead to a double bogey or worse.  As shown here, my second found the front of the green, but this was a warning from a course that demands your attention.  Most of the holes here look straightforward enough, but stray offline at your peril.  An opening par was an encouraging start.  This view of the 1st green was also a poignant reminder of my parents, as my Mum had lived for a while in sheltered housing and subsequently in a nursing home, both locations being visible in the background of this picture and my Dad had died shortly before their sheltered housing became available.  The healthy walk uphill to the 2nd tee gave me time to reflect on their passing some years ago now.

The 2nd is the only Par 5 on the course, an uphill 466 yarder with a blind second shot over the crest of a hill.  The small green sits on a shelf and is tricky to find,  I gave myself a par there after my very short second putt was deflected by the impression of a footprint near the hole - well, it was a friendly bounce game!  The 3rd hole is a good example of the need for accuracy on this course.  At only 266 yards, this par 4 is certainly short, but unless you clear a deep gully your approach shot will be blind.  The normal tees were being rested, so the Winter tees in operation were in most cases slightly forward, reducing the length of the course by 100 yards or so.  The temporary tee at the 3rd was on a slight down slope and as the hole is slightly uphill, Driver off the tee was definitely the wrong choice.  Thankfully my wedge out of the gully plugged on the green only 10 feet away, pin high, yielding a good birdie opportunity.  Sadly, I missed the putt by some margin.

Vale of Leven is all about course management and with the 404 Yard Par 4 4th being the Stroke Index 1 hole, that element of my game was to be tested to the full.  The hole looks easy enough, but the green formerly shared with the 10th Hole, is difficult to find.  I'd hit a good second shot, but was completely blocked out by a small copse of trees.  I should have chipped out and settled for a double bogey 6, but I thought that a cute open faced lob wedge might just clear the tall birch tree in front.  Suffice to say that a triple bogey 7 was very poor, ruining my run of 3 opening pars.  Polly had given me a 27 degree Ping G20 rescue club for Christmas and the 5th, a 174 yard Par 3, seemed an ideal place to give it a try. the three ball in front of us had just left the green when I played a towering shot that plugged around 4 feet from the hole.  Stevie followed that with another great shot to within 6 feet and we both got a round of applause from the guys in front.  Another missed birdie chance, as the greens were by then slow and bumpy in common with many other Scottish courses at this time of the year. 

I'd made it to the turn in 41 and with a clear blue sky and no wind, Stevie and I were talking "warm and "hot" words not normally aired other than in desperate hope in a Scottish January!  The names of the holes at Vale of Leven are usually a good guide of what's in store e.g. "The Burn" for the 1st and "The Gully" for the 3rd.  The "Cradle" 10th sounded innocent enough and it looked as though my second shot was headed straight for the green.  However, another burn runs in front of the green, completely hidden from view until you're almost in it (which is also where my ball finished!)  My 4th shot from 30 yards was an almost perfectly played sand iron that bounced a yard in front of the hole, hit the pin and finished a few inches away.  The 3 guys in front were passing at the time had not seen my penalty drop and they must have thought, on the basis of this shot and our performances on the 5th that there were some seriously good players behind them.  It's just as well they missed my poor double bogey at the 14th a bogey at the 15th!  The 16th is another hole requiring absolute accuracy.  This is a short uphill 265 Yard Par 4.  Find the narrow gorse-lined fairway and there's only a short iron to the green, but there's yet another burn and a deep gully to negotiate on almost highest part of the course, as shown here.  I was glad that there was no wind and my 9 iron looked great all the way, plugging a few feet directly behind the pin.  I missed the putt after misreading the break, but I'd played the hole well. 

This is the 17th, Vale of Leven's signature hole, a 163 Yard Par 3 played from an elevated tee with Loch Lomond just visible in the background.  This was a  testing hole in calm conditions and must be even more difficult on a windy day.  I hit my new 27 degree Rescue club again, finding the back left side bunker.  A good bunker escape set up a reasonably easy putt for par, but the green was even slower than I'd expected, so another bogey there.  The last hole was played directly into the low Winter sun.  This is a 359 Yard Par 4, with the approach shot played blind over a hill.  Stevie and I were both on in 3 to within a few feet and our pars were a satisfying end to our round.  I finished on 80, net 70 (3 over net par) with 32 putts, so given the conditions that wasn't bad. Stevie was great company (and a better golfer than he thinks he is) and I'd really enjoyed his company and his home course.  There's nothing fancy about Vale of Leven.  It's just a very good course and well worth a visit.  Try it some time and just hope it's not too windy when you're playing the great 17th.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Piperdam Golf & Leisure Resort - Wee Piper Course - Course no 469

Piperdam is a golf and leisure resort 3 miles west of Camperdown Park in Dundee, with holiday lodges, fishing, an 18 hole course and a 9 hole course and an excellent clubhouse complex.  Polly and I had played the 18 hole course some years ago, a parkland course, hilly in parts, that surrounds a small loch.  I remember the course as being pleasant enough with some good holes but not so great that I'd play it again.  I'd not played the Wee Piper Course at Piperdam then, but my quick round at Camperdown on 9 January 2012 meant there was enough daylight to play this course.  The Wee Piper is a 9 hole Par 3 parkland Course, 1399 yards, Par 27.  With holes ranging from 111 to 201 yards and various changes in elevation, good bunkering and tight holes, this is a tricky and very interesting course, well worth playing.  I'm finding that some Par 3 courses are not much of a challenge but the Wee Piper has been well designed and was in outstanding condition, with firm underfoot conditions and smooth running sand-based greens. 

The 1st hole is a 201 yarder, played to a plateau green over a small gully.  Miss the green right and you could be talking double bogey or worse.  The flag was right at the front of the green and my 3 rescue tee shot had finished just short, some 4 feet below the surface of the green.  A good lob wedge from there and a single putt from 2 feet ensured an opening par.  The 155 yard 2nd, as shown here, was probably the best hole on the course, played over a deeper gully to a 2 tier green.  I just missed a 30 foot downhill putt for birdie, but these were the best parkland greens I'd seen for months and a refreshing change from the sodden, hairy, bumpy and slow greens to be found on most of our parkland courses at this time of year.

The 3rd is also 155 yards, this time steeply uphill, with 4 large and deep bunkers protecting the front of the green.  With the hole positioned close to the largest and deepest bunker, I was happy enough with bogey after missing the green and the bunkers.  The 4th is a 197 yard downhill hole.  Only one small bunker, but with hidden hollows to the front of the green and the hole cut at the front, this was a tricky test and another bogey on the card.  The 5th is 119 yards uphill.  Nothing too tricky, but a poor tee shot led to another bogey.  The 6th is a flat 170 yard hole.  5 Rescue to the front fringe and an easy birdie to steady the ship.  The 111 yard 7th is really tricky, with a deep gully to be crossed and 7 bunkers avoided.  A good par there.  This is the 8th, a downhill 153 yard hole.  I'd missed the green short but a 9 iron pitch and run to an impressive 2 inches left an easy tap in for par.

And so to the last, a 138 yard hole that plays longer than it looks.  This hole runs back to the clubhouse and played into a strong wind off the loch, so my 5 Rescue tee shot fell just short of the green.  Another good pitch from there and a tap in for par meant I was round in 30, with 14 putts, equating to net 2 under par.  The Wee Piper is really good fun, but far from easy, so be warned! 

Camperdown Golf Course - Course no 468

The Downfield GC's website notes that the Downfield course is "recognised as one of the finest inland course in the United Kingdom. It has played host to many events over its long history. In the past tournaments like the S.P.G.A. Masters, Scottish Boys Stroke Play, P.G.A. Scottish Open, Scottish Amateur, British Girls Home Internationals, but it was the great honour of being a Final Qualifying venue for the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1999 and again in 2007 that has put Downfield Golf Club rightly, near the top of the tree as a golfing destination."  Downfield is undoubtedly the premier golf course in Dundee and is in my view an outstanding parkland course, well worth a visit (although I still think the present back 9 should be played as the front 9!) To get to Downfield on the west side of Dundee, it's likely that you'll pass Camperdown Park, operated by Dundee City Council and the largest public park in the city.  Camperdown Park has its origins in lands originally owned by Viscount Camperdown and contains the impressive Grade A listed mansion house completed in 1828 for the 2nd Viscount Camperdown and has retained much of the woodland and gardens planted in the 19th Century as part of the Camperdown Estate.  The Park also contains the 18 hole Camperdown golf course, a 6384 yard Par 71 parkland course that surrounds the mansion house, weaving its way between the mature woodland on a gently sloping site.  I mention Downfield since it is next door to Camperdown Park and the two courses are similar in general nature.  The Camperdown course is operated by the Council, and like other "cooncil courses" in Scotland operates on a very limited budget.  Some of its rather tired looking facilities and signage could be upgraded at modest cost.  However, Camperdown is an excellent course in its own right and is certainly up there amongst the best of the "cooncil courses" in Scotland. Camperdown isn't quite in the Downfield league yet, but it offers superb value for money.  If you have time to play Downfield, try to find the time to play its less celebrated neighbour.

I'd been planning to play at Camperdown for a number of weeks, but the weather has been pretty poor of late.    Winds near where I live in East Lothian were over 100 mph a few days ago, damaging buildings and bringing down power lines and trees.  I'd gone down to the Glen when the wind was still around 90 mph, to find that not only was the course still open but some of our more foolhardy members had managed a couple of holes before abandoning their round.  Good try, Tony and George!  The Camperdown course was still showing the damage done by these recent storms. As a parkland course set out amongst mature trees, it was still littered with uprooted trees and fallen branches when I played it on 9 January 2012, so it was no surprise that Winter tees and greens were in operation (indeed, a mature 80 foot pine tree still lay across the front of the 2nd tee!)  This enforced introduction of Winter tees and greens meant that the course was playing to no more than 5500 yards.  There's also a pitch and putt course at Camperdown Park that I'll need to play sometime as part of our all-courses challenge.  It's only open in the Summer months, so when I get round to playing it, I'll have another go at the main Camperdown course. 

I'd picked up a flu bug around Christmas/New year, so this was only my third game in a few weeks.  I'm also still getting used to my new clubs (Ping G20 Driver, 3 wood, 3, 4, and 5 rescue woods and 6-SW Irons) and with Winter conditions I suspected that scoring at Camperdown would be tricky, even with the holes being shorter than normal.  Camperdown starts with a good dog leg right 400 yard Par 4 requiring a long drive to set up a mid iron to the green.  I managed the drive OK, but the Winter green was only a circle barely 20 foot wide cut in front of the green, which I missed by some margin.  I'd not packed my laser range finder so course yardages to temporary greens were just guesswork.  An opening bogey was OK, but as would become apparent, good wedge play was essential to get the ball to stay on the tiny greens.    This is the approach to the 6th, a 503 yard par 5 and the Stroke Index 1 hole.  This hole is gently uphill, but the fairway is pretty wide and on first impressions it didn't appear to merit such a ranking.  Careful words, as I fear there'll be a 7 or worse next time I play it!  Anyway, 42 to the turn wasn't too good (including an excellent par at the difficult downhill 9th, a 403 yard Par 4, played directly into the low Winter sun). 

I'd hit Driver and 7 iron on the 9th for a comfortable par and that seemed to settle me down, as I went on to par the back 9 in 35, with successive birdies on 14 and 15 offsetting bogeys on 13 and 18.  The 11th is a potential card wrecker, a steeply downhill 489 yard Par 5 with an extremely narrow fairway flanked my mature trees.  The hole dog legs sharply right after 430 yards or so and it's just a pity that the recent storms didn't also take out some trees, opening up the hole for the second shot.  The best par 3 is probably the 17th.  This would normally be an uphill 159 yard hole to an elevated green well protected by bunkering and trees.  Instead, I played it as a 100 yard wedge, getting an easy par. The best hole at Camperdown is the last, a formidable looking 415 yard uphill Par 4.  The drive is the key, avoiding a huge tree that dominates the left of the fairway.  The fairway slopes from left to right and dog legs left for the second, played blind up a hill to a large green protected to the left by another huge tree and by good bunkering (invisible from the fairway).  With no run on the fairways generally due to the heavy Winter conditions and bucket loads of recent rain, I hit Driver and 3 Wood.  My second shot would have been OK had the hole been cut on the normal green, but finished a good 25 yards past the temporary green, which explains the closing bogey.  I'd gone round in 77, net 67, with 27 putts and in little more than 2 hours.  Net 4 under par was good, but I'll be doing well to match that performance when I play the course again, hopefully during the Summer this year.  Overall, Camperdown was impressive despite the Winter conditions and storm damage and at £10 a round, was superb value.  Play and tell me if you agree!