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!