Monday, 26 March 2012

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.

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