Monday, 26 March 2012

Airdrie GC - Course no 490

I played this course on 26 March 2012 after my earlier round at Ruchill.  Airdrie is a really good and enjoyable 18 hole parkland course measuring 5508 yards, Par 69 from the Yellow Tees and a more meaty 5772 yards from the Medal Tees.  Forward Winter tees were still being used but 17 of the main greens were in operation, so the course was probably playing to around 5300 yards.  The course starts gently with a 240 Yard Par 4, played downhill and blind over a small hill to a plateau green.  The 407 Yard Par 4 2nd involves another blind tee shot, followed by a downhill shot to the green.  This is a really good hole.  The 3rd is uphill and unless you hit a huge drive, the approach shot to the green is blind.  I bogeyed each of these opening holes, but the course already had my attention and respect.  This is the 4th, a 119 Yard steeply downhill Par 3.  I'd over hit a 9 iron to the back of the green, but at least I'd parred a hole.  The 5th is the Stroke Index 1 Hole and is a steeply uphill 373 Yard Par 4.  I'd skied a drive around 180 yards so had a blind 3 Wood, played to a direction marker in the trees beyond the green.  A bogey there was OK, but I'd made the classic mistakes of not taking enough water onto the course (or a stroke saver guide!).  Airdrie was pretty easy walking after that climb on the 5th, but with the course still drying out after the Winter, humidity was high and one bottle of water was not nearly enough.

I played pretty steadily after the 5th, the highlight being a par on the 441 Yard Par 4 9th, with OOB all along the right side of the fairway, as shown here. I was on in 3, but a 12 foot single putt was a real bonus and an unlikely par.  This is a dangerous hole and I'd only narrowly avoided going OOB off the tee.  The tee shot is played blind uphill and even a bogey there would have been good.  The back 9 starts gently enough, but the 13th is tricky.  This is a 400 yard Par 4, with a deep gully in front of a small plateau green.  I was just short on the up slope, but a good lob wedge to within a yard and I'd got another hole done without damage.

I'd seen stroke saver course guides for sale in the Pro Shop, but I'd gambled that the course wouldn't contain too many surprises and that I'd be able to fiddle may way around without a guide.  The 14th is a 296 Yard downhill Par 4 with trees all down the right.  The fairway is pretty wide and I'd cleared the crest of a small hill off the tee and expected to have little more than a wedge to the green.  Had I bought a course guide I'd have known about the string of fairway bunkers protecting the left side of the hole, as shown here, and aimed at the right side of the fairway.  My ball found an awful lie in the first bunker and the best I could do is move it 20 yards to another bad lie in the second bunker, leading to a double bogey and further proof, if any were needed, that a bit more thought and pre-planning might help my game. First tip - buy a stroke saver whenever possible.  Second tip - when you've a bad lie in a bunker, aim sideways to avoid going into the next bunker! Not rocket science, but enough to have saved me a stroke or two on this short Par 4.

Airdrie has some really good holes amongst some that are less testing (but still satisfying in their own way), but for me, the crowning glory was the 17th, a 399 Yard Par 4 played over or between mature trees (if you get really lucky!) from the tee.  The hole then dog legs right and slightly downhill to a small half hidden green.  This is the view from the Yellow Tee.  I was imagining what the drive would be like from the Medal tee (20 yards further back) on a windy day, if you needed a par finish to your medal round.  Scary or what?  OK, the big hitters would just blast away, but this is a potential card wrecker for medium handicappers like me who have seen their length diminish over the years.  I carried the trees easily enough but lost my perspective into the green.  I'd seen earlier in the round that the 18th tee lies beyond and to the left of the 17th green.  I'd just caught up with a 4-ball and thought these guys were en route to 18th.  They were in fact only just walking onto the 17th green so it was lucky that my second shot was a few yards shy of the green.  Apologies once again, guys!  I somehow chipped to within a foot of the hole, despite my unexpected audience.  A par there was a relief, but the 17th is a really strong hole.

By contrast, the 18th was slightly disappointing.  The green was GUR due to some drainage work, so a temporary green was in play, reducing the hole to something like a 180 Yard uphill Par 3.  I missed the green to the left and dropped a final stroke for a total of 79, net 69 (net even par) with 28 putts.  A very good course though and I recommend you give it a try.

Ruchill Community Golf Facility - Course no 489

This is a 9-hole parkland course owned and operated by the City of Glasgow Council.  Although it is run as a community facility, there was little evidence of community interest when I played it on 26 March 2012, another record-breaking day as the mini-heat wave currently affecting Scotland continued. 23 degrees C might not sound too great to some, but any time I think about the coldest I've ever been on a Scottish golf course, I go back to 1 April a few years ago at my own course, a truly numbingly freezing experience, so real heat this early in the year is just bizarre.  Playing Ruchill on a perfectly cloudless day, I'd expected the course to be busy.  Well, there were a couple of guys practising near the clubhouse, but the car park was deserted, as was the course.  Maybe it was just the aftermath of an epic Old Firm match the day before, but the course itself was littered with empty beer cans and bottles and some of the flags had obviously been vandalised.  Maybe the locals just don't buy into community-based golf - I really don't know. 

I'd heard that the Ruchill course had been closed and had re-opened a couple of years ago, so I was keen to see what had been done.  An expensive new clubhouse and a well-designed 9-hole parkland course have been built, but the condition of the course was disappointing.  It's rare in Scotland to see vandalised flagsticks and a litter-strewn course and although there's a high perimeter fence and one course boundary runs parallel to a canal, it was obvious that some members of the local community did not respect what the Council had provided at tax payers' expense.  I'd teed off at around 1030 hrs and from the absence of footprints on the greens I was the first to play that day - nor was there any signs of a Greenkeeper to remove litter or replace broken flagsticks.  There's a decent course here, but as with any course, it needs a high degree of maintenance.  The fairways had been cut recently and the greens were decent, but overgrown and weed infested bunkers suggested a lack of investment and/or care, and even casual golfers will go elsewhere if what I saw on 26 March is typical of the condition of this course.

The course measures 1863 Yards Par 31 and is an interesting layout, with 5 Par 3s ranging between 114-176 yards and 4 Par 4s of 254-297 yards.  Nothing too challenging, but this is a potentially good course for beginners and anyone seeking a casual round. The 254 Yard Par 4 1st is played blind over a gully, with the green lying 30 yards or so over the crest of a small hill.  I'd found a fairway bunker off the tee and a decent lie in a weed strewn bunker that hadn't been raked for a long while.  The flagstick had been broken into small bits, but there was still a stump to aim at.  An opening bogey there.  This is the 114 Yard Par 3 2nd, after I'd walked forward to replace the flagstick.  I'd hit my tee shot to within 6 feet and scored a first birdie, but I'm afraid that I wasn't warming to the Ruchill Community Golf Facility (why not just call it a golf course?)

I'd missed the green short on the 151 Yard Par 3 3rd, but a good chip to within a foot secured an easy par.  I'd already decided I would not be back and a badly mis-hit drive at the 271 Yard 4th didn't cheer me up any, nor did the resultant double bogey.  The 5th was a quickly forgettable Par 3, but  another par.  This is the 6th, a downhill 176 Yard Par 3, with the narrow 7th fairway running uphill beyond the 6th green.  The canal comes into play for a ball hit to the right and I thought that this was the best hole on the course. I'd hit a 6 iron onto the green, hit a couple of good putts and scored another par. 

The 7th is the Stroke Index 1 hole, played blind slightly uphill.  The hole is only 292 Yards, par 4, so get the drive right and it's only a short iron to the green.  I'd hit a good drive up the left side of the fairway.  A sand iron second to within a foot as shown here (honest, a guy walking his dog and practising out of view from the Starter's Office witnessed it) set up a second birdie.  The 8th, a downhill 176 yard Par 3, should have been another birdie opportunity, but I missed the green by some margin after duffing my tee shot into light rough.  A bogey from there was lucky, as it could have been worse.

The 9th at Ruchill is a 297 Yard Par 4 and the Stroke Index 2 Hole.   My drive was around 70 yards short of the green but a good sand iron to within 20 feet pin high left was good, as was the single putt for my third birdie of the round.  I'm not sure if I've ever birdied the two most difficult holes on any course.  Then again, I'm not sure that the stroke indexing at Ruchill is completely right.  I'd gone round in 32 (4 under net par) with 14 putts.  A good score but not enough to encourage me to play here again.  It was disappointing to see a well-designed layout in such poor overall condition.  Some TLC, better litter-control and more effective marketing might help.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

a moving target....

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that our list of courses keeps creeping up as our research and trips to various courses throw up new additions.  We started on 625 and we're now on 641.....and counting! Occasionally it's just finding a par 3 course attached to a known 18 hole course, such as the one I found when playing at Brighouse Bay recently.  On other occasions, reading new websites can throw up new course names.  A couple of days ago I stumbled on a site dedicated to celebrating 9 hole courses.  Nothing new in the courses covered, I thought, until I came across a reference to a free course in Shetland. 

Free golf usually gets my undivided attention anyway, but on Shetland?  We'd been up there last year and played the Whalsay course (the most northerly course in Scotland), the Shetland GC course just outside Lerwick and the uniquely reversible Asta courses.  A great trip, but expensive.  Shetland is a long long way from Edinburgh and involves a flight or a long overnight ferry journey.  A great place to visit, but surely there isn't a free course that we'd missed on our trip?  I'd been to Shetland umpteen times on business over the past 12 years or so, without seeing or hearing about this course, so I sent an e-mail today to Shetland Islands Council in the hope they could give me some background.  Sure enough, Magnus from the Council e-mailed me within the hour to advise that yes, the 9-hole  pitch and putt course on the Knab in Lerwick will be open this year between May and late August.  I guess we'll leave a second trip to sometime next year, but Shetland's really a great place, so we're not really complaining.  I'm just hoping that in the near future we'll finally have identified all of the courses we need to play!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Greenock Whinhill GC - Course no 488

I played here on 21 March 2012 after my earlier round on the Greenock GC's 9 Hole Course.  Greenock Whinhill is owned and operated by Inverclyde Council and is home to the local Greenock Whinhill GC, established in 1911.  This is a hilly moorland course measuring 5504 Yards, Par 68, with no Par 5s lying high above the town on the old road across the moors to Largs.  Although the lowest point on the course is 550 feet and the highest is 625 feet, suggesting that the course is relatively flat, there are some challenging hills and slopes to contend with.  Throw in heavy peat-based soil and soggy underfoot conditions in some lower lying parts and this was quite a test.  Although temporary greens were in place, it was a Wednesday, so the Greenkeeper allowed players to use the normal greens if they wished.  I was advised by a local member that this allowed the greens to be rested over the Winter, while allowing players better playing conditions when the course was frost-free.  I've not seen that done in quite the same way before, but it seemed sensible to use the normal greens on what was a warm very early-Spring day.  The problem here was that there were no flags on the normal greens, so you either had to take your chances or walk forward and leave your putter in the hole, slowing down play.  This is a view over the course from the 18th fairway, across to the 1st green, giving an indication of the openness of the landscape and the moorland nature of the course.  I played Whinhill on a mild and almost windless day, but one of the locals assured me that it could be really windy and cold up there - and I believe him, having played on many other moorland courses by now!

Whinhill starts gently enough, with a downhill 370 Yard Par 4.  Signage was very poor so I had to scout around, find a medal tee and work out the direction of play from there.  But with 4 teeing grounds within a few yards of the 1st green, I really had to gamble that the 2nd was back up the hill towards the 1st tee, so some route markers would have helped.  This is the 4th, a 201 Yard Par 3, aptly named "Panorama" with what proved to be holes 5-8 in the background.  I'd been hoping that this would be the highest point on the course - not even close!  This hole plays shorter than it looks, given the steep slope but I'd found a small patch of Ground Under Repair 20 yards short of the green, but par was easy enough from there.  My next challenge was finding the 5th tee, over a small ravine.  The 5th is a formidable 407 Yard Par 4, uphill, blind and OOB all the way up the right side, with a plateau green on top of a steep up slope.  Anything short of the green just runs back to your feet.  There's also a small fast-running burn (a stream, for any non-Scottish readers) hidden amongst the folds of land en route to the green.  A triple-bogey 7 was disappointing, but at least my ball was pretty clean by the time I'd rescued it from the burn.  Deservedly the Stroke Index 1 hole.

More tee-hunting followed and another local lad helped me find the 6th.  At least I was able to follow him after being assured he would be playing a full round (in sequence, as I've been caught out before, following somebody playing only a few odd holes e.g. Ballochmyle).  The 6th was downwind (such as it was!) and at only 261 Yards Par 4, offered a good birdie opportunity, one of a few on the course.  I'd driven to the front of the green (well, the tee was a wee bit forward!) and a couple of putts gave me my only birdie at Whinhill.  The 7th is a 181 Yard Par 3 played to a plateau green over an old quarry.  The normal greens were in really good condition and surprisingly speedy, so it was no great surprise when I bogeyed this hole after missing the green from the tee.  The 8th is a short 298 Yard Par 4, steeply downhill, named "Twa Burns" i.e. 2 streams, telling me all I needed to know about the need for caution.  Sure enough, a burn ran across in front of the green, but I'd played conservatively and got my par easily enough.  This is the 9th green, looking back down the hole, with my putter still in the hole as a guide, with a local water reservoir in the middle ground and the Firth of Clyde in the far distance.  I'd reached the turn in 38, 5 over par, so not bad.

The 405 Yard Par 4 10th was played from a slightly forward tee but was still a formidable hole, with a wide and deep ravine splitting the fairway lengthwise and a steep climb up to the green and the highest point on the course.  I was happy enough to get a 5. The 11th is steeply downhill, but there's no relief yet as the 12th takes you back up again, almost as high as the 10th green, but the views really are worth the trip.  This is a view looking back down from the 12th green, with Helensburgh and Ben Lomond in the far background.  The 13th is back down the hill again, taking you on to the difficult 14th, a 447 yard Par 4.  Go for the left of the fairway to avoid a water hazard as this hole skirts along the side of the reservoir, then take a steep climb up to a green finishing in front of the clubhouse.  A 20 foot single putt secured an unlikely par, taking me to Whinhill's signature hole.

The 15th is a downhill 187 Yard Par 3 played almost blind to a plateau green over a deep gully, with the reservoir immediately behind the green.  It was a pity that there was no flag to aim at and a bit nerve-wracking that 3 guys in front had waived me through (you might see them waiting in the middle of this picture, ready to jump!)  I'd missed the green to the left and with the green a few feet above my head, one of the guys bravely stood directly behind the hole.  Now a delicate blind shot with a lob wedge can be tricky enough at the best of times, but add in 3 spectators, one of whom is being aimed at, and the potential for a duff was high.  However, my shot of the day finished a yard from the hole and an easy putt secured the par and a round of applause.  The guys lingered by the 15th for a while practising their short games so I had a clear run to the 18th.  The 16th is a short 297 Yard Par 4, slightly uphill, but the drive must be straight to avoid gorse, whins and water.  I played safe with my 3 Wood, but mis-judged my pitch to the green after my heroics at the previous hole.  A bogey was disappointing.  The 17th is a 275 Yard Par 4, with the green lying hidden behind a small hillock at the end of the fairway.  I'd only 40 yards or so left but mis-hit my second shot, leading to a bogey.  There's a kind of infinity edge to the back of the green, suggesting that there's a steep drop immediately behind it, but a great views, once again. 

The 18th at Whinhill is a strong 459 Yard Par 4, uninspiringly called "Home" like so many other final holes.  It's too much to hope for, but I almost wish they'd taken inspiration from the nearby Drumfocher Road, leading back down to Greenock.  I'd set my sat nav to go to the nearby Port Glasgow GC a couple of miles away.  The female voiceover on my system is very soft-spoken, under-stressing r's and mispronouncing the Scottish "ch" as "ck."  For anyone not ahead of me by now, my sat nav pronounced this road as "dumb focker" but maybe that's too cruel a name for such a good closing hole, unless, that is, you've had a really bad round.  I went round in 78, net 68, even net par for the second time that day, with 30 putts.  I'd started the day with the ambition of playing the 18 Hole Port Glasgow course after Whinhill and the Greeenock 9 Hole Course.  I wasn't really very tired, but I still had 100 miles to drive home and at first sight the Port Glasgow course looked to be even hillier than I'd expected.  I'll play it another time. 

I'd also play Whinhill again.  Some "cooncil" courses are pretty basic, but this was a really good test and great fun to play, despite my signage problems and the absence of flags on the normal greens.  Give it a try, but if you're tempted there over the Winter, make sure you go on a frost-free Wednesday.

Greenock GC - 9 Hole Course - Course no 487

I'd still to play 3 courses near each other on the South side of the Firth of Clyde and with the first signs of Spring in the air, I set out early on 21 March 2012.  My first course of the day was to be the 9 Hole Course at Greenock GC, a club which also has a good 18 hole course that I'd played in 2009.  In common with other courses nearby such as Paisley, Fereneze, Gourock, Port Glasgow and Skelmorlie, and across the Firth, the Greenock courses are a mixture of hilly heathland and moorland, with peat-based soils that can be pretty heavy underfoot at the best of times.  The 9 hole Course at Greenock measures 2160 Yards, Par 32 and is a really good short course, ideal for a quick few holes.  The first tee is just outside the clubhouse doors, with the main course starting a few hundred yards away, and finishing by the 9th tee of the shorter course.  I'd known that Greenock GC was hilly from my previous visit and the 1st Hole on the 9 Hole Course is probably the steepest hill of all.  This is only a 288 Yard Par 4, but there was no run uphill on the drive and I'd a full 7 iron blind up the remainder of the hill.  A bogey there was reasonable.  The Pro had given me directions to the 2nd tee, saying that it lay beside the 18th green on the main course but I had to wait for the guy behind me to catch me up to offer fresh advice  - turned out he was playing a quick 9 holes before going to work!

The 2nd was another short Par 4 at 307 Yards, played across some heavy rough to another uphill fairway.  An easy 4 there set up by a good drive.  This is the 3rd, an excellent 180 yard Par 3, slightly downhill and playing around 160 from a forward tee.  I hit a really good 6 iron to 6 feet, pin high but missed the birdie putt, so Gordon Simpson's money was safe for now (a friend from Glen GC who donates cash to our charity every time I get a birdie).  The 4th is a 348 yard uphill Par 4 and the Stroke Index 1 hole.  The fairway is quite narrow and with deadly whin bushes and trees to the right, a fade off the left of the fairway looked to be my best hope.  The fade almost didn't happen, so I was blocked out by a tree, costing me a bogey on that tricky hole.

This is the 5th, a 125 Yard steeply downhill Par 3, with the Firth of Clyde in the background.  The tee shot looked to be an easy wedge at most and a par there was pretty good since I'd actually missed the green, short.  The 6th is a really good hole, a 290 Yard Par 4, played slightly downhill, with a stream running across the fairway in front of the green.  The local guy I was playing with warned me against using the Driver as the stream is within driving range.  Good advice and an easy 3 wood set up a 9 iron shot to the front of the green and another easy par.

This is the view from the 6th tee, with Greenock and Port Glasgow far below in the distance.  The 7th is a 313 Yard Par 4, slight dog leg right, with the fairway sloping downhill from right to left.  I'd started my drive down the right side, thinking it would roll to the left, but this is March on a peat-based course, so a plugged lie, no run and a bad shot selection. I'd blocked myself out and had some high pine trees between me and the green.  Fool that I am I tried the miracle shot, only to hear the ball clatter into the trees, and a bogey there was a very lucky escape.

This is the 8th, a 91 Yard Par 3 played over a deep ravine.  Hit the green or hope you've played an old ball. My partner suggested it was better to be long, but as the 18th on the main course finishes nearby, a group of golfers had somewhat cheekily cut in after finishing their 18th and were playing from the 9th tee right in front of us.  Apart from the obvious breach in etiquette, these guys were well within range, adding to the difficulty of this short hole. I was pleased with the par, as I'd only just made it to the front of the green.

The last hole on the 9 Hole Course is a downhill 218 Yard Par 3, with the green hidden behind a small gorse-covered hillock and OOB close by.  I'd missed the green to the left off the tee and that cost me a closing bogey for a total of 37, net 32 (even net par) with 16 putts.  I really liked this little course.  The bigger course is pretty good too, but both courses are high and fully exposed to the prevailing west wind, which can blow pretty strong.  Worth a visit.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Crichton GC - Course no 486

This is a 9 Hole parkland course in Dumfries, measuring 2868 Yards, Par 35, from the Yellow tees.  I played here on 13 March 2012 after my games at Dalbeattie and Solway Links. This compact course is laid out on a pretty steep hillside.  The 1st hole, as shown here, is a 340 yard Par 4 that takes you up to the top of the course.  The rest of the holes run parallel to the slope and are relatively flat, with side-sloping fairways.  The 8th and 9th are flat at the bottom of the hillside.  Maybe this course is better on a bright Summer's day, but I didn't think it offered much to get excited about.

The best hole was probably the 7th, a 480 Yard Par 5 with a 2 tier fairway, aptly named "Over the Hill."  A good long drive is essential here.  I managed that but with little run on the heavy fairways, I was still a long way out and needed a 3 wood and a wedge to get home in regulation.  This is a view of the green from where my 3 wood finished. I missed the birdie putt from inside 10 feet, but a par there was still good.  I'd gone round in 41 net 35, even net par, with 15 putts, in little more than an hour.  One more course done, but I doubt  I'll ever want to play this course again.

Solway Links Golf Course - Course no 485

The sea is certainly visible, but this is a parkland course laid out on flat farming land on the road to the excellent Southerness GC, a few miles south of Dumfries.  When I played it on 13 March 2012, it was a 9 Hole Course of 2332 yards, Par 33.  Mungo, the genial owner, told me that sometimes there are 10,11 or even 18 holes, but for the time being he had sheep on the back 9, so it was definitely a 9 Hole Course for my "all courses challenge" purposes.  Solway Links is also home to the only Golfcross course in Scotland.  For those who've never heard of the sport, it's played with normal clubs to the same basic golf rules, with 2 major differences.  First, you use an oval shaped ball, a bit like a rugby or American Football ball.  Every shot is played from a special tee and instead of holes in the ground, you play to small rectangular nets suspended a few above the ground.  The shape of the ball allows you to play for slices and hooks, draws and fades, high or low shots and get backspin, depending on how you place the ball on the tee.  This is the ball!  Golfcross is played over the same course as the conventional golf layout, but the goals were down when I was there, so I didn't get the chance to try my hand at this unusual sport.

Mungo had cut the course a few days before, but the grass was already growing freely, so it would be wise to stick to the fairways.  The greens here are also small and quite fiery, so scoring would have been tricky, but for one other novel course feature.  Instead of the regulation-width holes, the Solway Links holes were all around 6 inches wide, making putting less of a challenge.  This is the 7th green, with some of the former back 9 holes and their current residents in the background.

This is the 9th green with the small clubhouse and my trusty 4x4 in the background.  The course was deserted when I played it, but I gathered from Mungo that it was quite busy during the Summer months and that Golfcross was popular, particularly with visiting parties to the nearby links course at Southerness - a gem of a course, by the way! Thanks to the generous width of the holes, I only had 11 putts in my 35 stroke round.  2 over par gross, 3 7 under net par.  Thanks also to Mungo for his background on the course and the game of Golfcross - a new one for me!

Dalbeattie GC - Course no 484

This is another good 9 Hole course to the South West of Dumfries but is more heathland in nature than some other courses in the area.  At 2733 yards, Par 34, it's a good test and is a very interesting layout, with some modest slopes to contend with.  I played here on 13 March 2012 after my exploits at Brighouse Bay and Castle Douglas the day before. This is the 1st, a slightly uphill 184 Yard Par 3.  I'd carved my tee shot way left of the stand of pine trees and had a tricky wedge over to the green, so an opening bogey was fair enough after that bad opener.  The 2nd is a 412 Yard Par 4 Stroke Index 1, played from an elevated tee with great views down the valley.  The breeze blowing across the course would have been refreshing had it not been muck spreading time on seemingly every local farm and I suspect that a farm upwind from the back of the 2nd green was the main culprit!  I'd found a greenside bunker with my second shot, so another bogey.  The 3rd is a gently uphill dog leg left 342 Yard Par 4.  OOB on the left doesn't really come into play unless you're really wayward and I managed an easy enough par.

The 4th is a 350 Yard Par 4 with the drive played blind over a hill.  The fairway turns 90 degrees to the right after around 250 yards, so bigger hitters would need to be really careful.  My drive was reasonably good, but another 10 yards would have been better, as I'd left myself this awkward wedge shot over trees to the green. I just missed the green to the right but a good pitch and single putt rescued the par.  The 5th is a 306 Yard Par 4 played blind from an elevated tee into a valley, with a steep climb up to the green.  this is another good hole and a chance to "open the shoulders" off the tee.  The second shot is longer than it looks but a 9 iron and a couple of putts was good enough.  The 6th is a short 285 Yard Par 4, running slightly uphill to a plateau green.  The greenkeeper and some local members had been working on the green and had just finished coring when I arrived on the tee.  The surface was still a bit bumpy so my 20 foot birdie putt was unlikely, but in it went, much to my surprise.

The 7th is a 314 Yard Par 4 running slightly downhill to a green that's half hidden from view by some folds in the land.  Another easy par there and I was still only 1 over par.  This is the 153 yard 8th, a flat Par 3 played between stands of birch trees.  This hole is quite narrow and is probably even more intimidating when the trees are leaf-covered.  I'd just missed the bunker on the right of the green but a good pitch and a short putt was enough to keep me at 1 over.

The last hole at Dalbeattie is a downhill 387 Yard Par 4 running past the clubhouse on your left and finishing alarmingly close to some houses at the top of the village. A bogey there and I was round in 36, 2 over par (3 under net par) with 13 putts.  A good round on a very good course, which I recommend you play if you ever get the chance. 

Castle Douglas GC - Course no 483

This is an interesting 9 Hole Parkland course beside the A75 road to Stranraer, a few miles west of Dumfries, measuring 2596 Yards, Par 35, from the Yellow tees.  Like so many other small courses in Scotland, Castle Douglas GC operates an Honesty Box system.  Put your green fees (£10) in an envelope,  sign the Visitors Book, put the envelope into the box and then play the course.  The car park was completely deserted when I arrived to play the course on 12 March 2012 and there was no-one either on the course or around the clubhouse, so I just paid the green fee (honest!) and played away from the Yellow 1st tee.  The 1st is a steeply uphill 100 yard Par 3.  There was no flag but I didn't think that was too odd, since it was still Winter and there was some course maintenance work going on.  I got my par OK and proceeded to play the 2nd, a downhill 253 yard Par 4.  It was only when I was passing the Clubhouse that I noticed a couple of yellow tee markers, suggesting that the 2nd was playing as a shortish Par 3.  I'd taken this photo of the golf club sign before paying my green fee, but had I actually read the Information Board next to the club sign, I'd have seen that the 1st Hole was actually closed for drainage work and that the course was temporarily reduced to 8 holes, with the 2nd played as a Par 3 from a temporary tee beside the clubhouse.  My sincere apologies to the club.  I should have read the notice before playing - and no doubt someone would have told me not play the 1st - had anyone been around, that is.  I must remember to read local club notices in future!

There wasn't much run on the fairways, so the course was playing long.  However, I didn't think that it was particularly heavy underfoot and certainly nowhere near as bad as at nearby Brighouse Bay.  Castle Douglas is a really good example of the 9 hole courses to be found in Scotland's small towns and villages and is well worth a visit.  There are a few blind holes, notably on the 8th, a hugely difficult 420 yard Par 4 and the Stroke Index 1 hole.  This hole starts by the roadside, opposite the excellent Summerhill B&B where I was staying overnight (with it's own indoor pool!).  Negotiate that hole without losing a shot and your doing very well, but for me, the most demanding tee shot was the 9th, a 313 yard Par 4.  This is the view from the tee. The top of the hill is around 250 yards out, but the slope is quite steep and long, so only a huge drive would stand any chance of clearing the top.  No doubt some local gorillas find this an easy hole, but I still had a blind 8 iron over the top.  I'd already climbed the same hill earlier in wrongly playing the 1st hole, so I just took my chances and trusted the direction pole. 

Luckily it was accurate and although I'd just missed the green to the right a good chip and a single putt saved the closing par.  This is the view down to the green from the top of the hill.  I'd gone round in 40, net 35, only 1 over net par, with 15 putts.  Not bad.  This course is well worth seeking out if you're in the area, but remember to read the Information Board, just in case!

Brighouse Bay Par 3 Course - Course no 482

One of the quirks of trying to play every golf course in Scotland is that it's an ever-changing target, since we're finding new courses every few weeks.  When I started this blog, we thought that there might be around 625 courses in total, since one guy had already found and played 611 courses with 9 or more holes.  Pair play to him for trying, but he'd not counted any of the small courses with only Par 3 holes, hence our larger and more complete estimate.  For us, it's bizarre to exclude the Par 3 courses, particularly since some are absolute gems e.g. Kaimes and the fact that some Par 3s on 9 or 18 hole courses are shorter and easier than some to be found on certain Par 3 courses.  We'd not known that there was also a 9 Hole Par 3 course at Brighouse Bay, so it was quite a surprise to see this sign beside the Brighouse Bay GC car park when I played there on 12 March 2012.  We now have 640 courses on our list of Scottish courses and I fully expect that we'll find another few by the time we're close to finishing our challenge. 

I couldn't find a scorecard for the Par 3 Course but I'm hoping that I'll be able to pick one up when I get back to play the full Brighouse Bay Championship Course sometime later this year.  In the meantime, this is my estimate of the hole distances, with the scores I managed to make -

Hole             Yardage            Score               Putts

1                       70                          4                 2
2                       70                          3                 1
3                       80                          3                 2
4                       85                          4                 2
5                     130                          4                 2
6                       70                          3                 1
7                       80                          3                 2
8                       90                          3                 2
9                       70                          3                 1

Total               745                         30               15

The holes are mostly pretty easy, requiring little more than a short pitch.  The 5th is a bit more tricky, as shown here.  This is played from an elevated tee avoiding a water hazard.  The 8th is the real tester, though, played semi-blind uphill to a small narrow green located next to some gorse bushes.  The Par 3 Course was quite wet when I played it, but I guess that it will be a popular course in the Summer months when the adjacent caravan park and holiday lodges are busier.  And no doubt this will be the first ever course some young holidaymakers  will  play, before graduating to some stiffer tests in the years ahead. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Brighouse Bay Championship Course - Course no 481

I played this course a few miles south west of Dumfries on 12 March 2012. As Brighouse Bay Championship is described in the club's website as a links course, I didn't think to check in advance that all of the holes would be open for play, so it was disappointing to hear on arrival that the top half of the course was closed to allow it to dry out after the  above average Winter rainfall and that only the bottom 9 holes were open for play.  Brighouse Bay is almost 130 miles from my house and not the kind of place you'd find by accident, so I'll need to go back  to play the full course.  I'd also been hoping to play the nearby Kirkcudbright course on 13 March, but it was busy, so that's another trip to set up sometime. 

The full Championship Course is 5701 yards, Par 70 but the course I played was 2204 yards, Par 32 and seemed to be holes 1 and 13-18 from the main course, with a couple of temporary winter greens used to make up a 9 hole Winter course.   It was easy to see why half of the course was closed, as the 1st and 13th fairways were still pretty saturated, and anything hit with loft would plug on landing.  Like my own course in North Berwick (Glen GC) this course is by the sea, but I don't consider it to be a true links course, as the soil is more parkland in nature, without the true sand-based soils to be found on genuine links courses.   The club had a separate 9-hole Winter scorecard, but there was no Winter course map and course signage was disappointing, so navigation was a potential problem.  Fortunately I was able to follow a couple of local members who kept me right by indicating where tees and greens were. This is the 2nd Winter Course hole (in reality the 13th on the full course) with the Starter's Hut in the background.

It's difficult to say much about the Winter layout itself, other than that the views of the coast and the sea beyond were pretty good, even on the grey and overcast day when I played here.  This is the 6th green (the 15th on the Championship Course layout) giving a flavour of the scenery. The top half of the course is a good couple of hundred feet or so higher than the section that was in play and I suspect that on a clear sunny Summer's day the views from up there would be quite spectacular, so I'm looking forward to a return visit sometime to play the full course.  In the meantime, I had to satisfy myself with some mediocre play over the Winter Course.  For the record, I had 37 strokes with 15 putts, equating to a net 32, or even net par.  However, that's still a pretty dismal score on a such a short course.

Best hole?  Probably the 8th, the 17th on the Championship layout.  This is an uphill 370 yard Par 4 and the Stroke Index 3 hole.  The fairway is quite narrow and a pond awaits anything seriously under hit from the tee.  The fairway narrows further towards the green, which is further away than it looks.  A second fairway pond lies hidden from view for your approach shot to the green, as shown here, so be warned. A good hole, but I wish I'd known the pond was there, as my almost new Titleist is still in there somewhere.  At least I'll know next time.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Bruntsfield Short Hole Golf Course (Winter Course) - Course no 480

The 36 hole Bruntsfield Short Hole Golf Course is set out on Bruntsfield Links, near the west end of The Meadows, a public park in Central Edinburgh a mile or so south of the city centre.  This is the World's oldest short hole golf course and home to the Bruntsfield Short Hole Golf Club.  The World's oldest golf clubhouse still stands there too and for more information on golf at this site and the history of golf in Scotland generally, see  Although I played the 36 hole course a few years ago, I simply forgot to list it in the list of courses I'd already played when I wrote my first posting on this blog, so I'll need to play the 36 hole course again sometime.  Anyway, although the 36 hole course is only open between April and October, the City of Edinburgh Council, which owns and operates it, provides a separate 9 hole Winter Course as advised in this notice on the BSHGC's Starter's Hut.

I played the Winter Course on 10 March 2012, on a warm and cloudy day. The holes are all around 70 yards long, making the course roughly 600 yards, Par 27, so I'd only taken my wedge and putter and 3 balls.  As can be seen from this course plan, the Winter Course is bisected by public footpaths (and if your ball goes over a footpath it's deemed to be out of bounds).  Although I was the only player on the course at the time the area was very busy, with walkers and joggers frequently passing within a few yards of almost every hole, so it was certainly a case of waiting my turn to play once everyone was out of range.  The course looks pretty easy, but the greens are tiny, no more than 20 feet or so across and although it's only March, the greens were lightning quick. I played 3 balls from each tee, taking the first as the "scoring ball" and was round in 26, with 8 pars and a birdie 2 at the 8th.  
This is a view of the 1st hole.  Both courses are also handy for my favourite Edinburgh shop, the excellent Lupe Pinto's (see so that's another reason to visit!