Monday, 16 April 2012

Wigtownshire County GC - Course no 492

Polly and I had entered the Mixed Foursomes competition played on 14 April 2012 at Wigtownshire County GC, so we added another 4 courses (but more about them in separate Blog entries) to make it a 3-day trip.  Wigtownshire County is an 18 hole links course measuring 6104 Yards, Par 70 from the Men's Medal tees and 5414 Yards, Par 72 from the Ladies' Red tees.  This is a true links course built on sand-based soil by the shores of Luce Bay at the very South-West tip of Scotland.  The course is flat, easy-walking and very tight, with some holes overlapping to the extent that extreme care is required to keep your ball within the confines of the hole you're playing (nothing new there then, Alan!)   There's only one Par 5 and even that plays short, given the fast-running links fairways, and there's only two Par 4s over 400 yards.  Accuracy off the tees is vital as there are lots of tough bunkering and gorse bushes to avoid.  The weather was sunny and cold but otherwise pretty benign when we played "The County" but it's easy to imagine that this could be a really tough test in dry Summer conditions when the wind was really blowing, as it can across our links land.

We'd been quietly optimistic about our chances in this competition as we were both playing reasonably well and the course looked to be in superb condition (which it was).  However, our most recent putting had been on the slow and bumpy greens at Seafield and I at least did not come to terms with the smooth and fast-running "County" greens.  A total of 39 putts (I can't remember the last time we didn't manage at least one single putt green) and the odd miss-hit shot contributed to our downfall.  We finished on 95, net 79.5, so that was slightly disappointing. Still, at least we played with the pairing who finished second (and who might have won had they not gone a few inches out of bounds on this, the tricky 10th Hole).

We both loved the course.  There's not a weak hole at "The County" and the views out to sea to the Mull of Kintyre and the Isle of Man in England are stunning. This is the 4th green, with the Isle of Man clearly visible in the far distance.  This was probably my favourite hole, a 371 Yard Par 4, with the hole hugging the shoreline (OOB) all the way.  Anything right or long could be disastrous - and we still managed a double bogey without finding a bunker, gorse or the OOB!  Indeed, OOB really comes into play on 6 of the holes, so miss a fairway at your peril.

A few brief facts about "The County" -
  • originally a 9 hole course opened in 1894 a mere 4 weeks after the land was acquired, so the layout simply uses the land "as was"
  • extended to 18 holes in 1978 and impossible now to guess which were the new holes
  • annual membership costs £280 (£90 over October-March for Winter-only adult membership and £20 a year for under 14s!)
This is the view of the clubhouse from the 18th fairway.  There's a few yards between the back of the green and the start of the car park, but only a few and the 1st tee is also nearby.  We'd parked sensibly, well behind the clubhouse, but this is not the place to hit a wayward shot.  "The County" is a good 3.5 hour drive from our house but it's just off the A75 and within a few miles of the ferry to Northern Ireland, so we might get the chance to play it again en route to Ireland (where we regularly go for yet more golf).  I hope we play this course again, as it's a real treat for anyone who likes the challenge of links golf. 

Play it if you are ever in the area.  Thousands of golfing tourists travel each year to spend a fortune playing the justifyably World-famous courses at Turnberry and beyond, yet I imagine few Turnberry tourists would know that Wigtownshire County is only a hour or so down the road and offers just as true a links golf experience at a fraction of the cost.  That's a great pity, since the average-standard player would probably score better over this wee course and enjoy it just as much. By all means play the famous courses, but do some research to find local courses such as Wigtown County that you'll never have heard of and that are just a joy to play, where the welcome is just as warm and play can be quicker and just as enjoyable.

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