Tuesday, 17 April 2012

New Galloway GC - Course no 494

Craig and Stu had both played 5 (!)  new Scottish courses on 14 April 2012 before joining Polly and I to play the Cally Course on the 15th, so they drove home after Cally, hopefully for a well deserved rest.  I played at New Galloway GC after our Cally round.  Polly wasn't feeling too great with a cold so sat this one out.  New Galloway is a 9 hole course on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park in the far South West of Scotland.  Although well inland, the course has the bent and fescue grasses typical of our links courses and plays very much like a links course, the main difference being that New Galloway is extremely hilly, with the bottom half of the course laid out amongst woodland and the top half being mainly moorland in nature. 

The club's website offers an interesting perspective on golf course design, mentioning that the course architect George Baillie was originally from Musselburgh and was one of the major influences in the development of golf in Ireland.  He was a founder member of the club at Newcastle, County down which later became the Royal County Down Golf Club.  When Old Tom Morris was engaged to lay out the links there, he is reported to have said of Mr Baillie's work on the course: "I wonder why they send for me; this Mr Baillie kens mair aboot laying golf links than I dae."  New Galloway's history goes on to say that Mr Baillie's fee for designing the New Galloway course was £4 and that when it was built with only hand tools in 1902, the construction costs came to under £18 in total.  Accordingly, this is an entirely natural course and the design simply follows the flow of the land.  Gorse bushes add definition to the fairways and are hazards to be avoided and the greens are as slick as you'd ever wish for on links land.  This is a view from the 3rd tee, but could easily be mistaken for somehere on a links course.

I must confess that I found the course layout confusing.  New Galloway describes itself as a 9 hole course, but there are 10 greens and 10 teeing grounds.  I think the explanation is that the 1st plays as a 199 Yard Par 3 from the Yellow tees to the "Lower 1st Green" and as a 302 Yard Par 4 from the White tees to the "Upper 1st Green."  The 2 holes are certainly named the same "Quarry Knowe" and share the same fairway, but another interpretation would be that there are 10 separate holes available here, with 9 in play for any given round.  The mistake I made was to assume that the 1st was a Par 3 on the front 9 and a Par 4 if and when a back 9 was added to your round.  Accordingly, I played New Galloway as an 18 hole course measuring 4643 Yards, Par 67, playing the 1st from both the Medal and Yellow tees and the rest of the holes from the Yellow tees.  My confusion also stemmed from finding a 15 Hole Scorecard beside the club's Honesty Box, with Holes 3-8 played twice, the 2nd and 9th Holes played only once and the 1st Hole only once as a Par 4.  This unique layout minimises the climbing involved for anyone wanting to play more than 9 holes.  Confused? 

This is the 1st Hole from the Yellow tee, with both the Lower and Upper Greens shown.  Unfortunately, this photo does not show the steepness of the slope, but the views from up on top are spectacular and well worth the effort.  I scored a bogey 5 on both versions of the 1st Hole and from there put a couple of balls in play on each subsequent hole rather than actually walk round the whole course twice.  The 2nd/11th Hole is a short 252 Yard steeply uphill Par 4, played blind from the tee but easy enough if you take your time and admire the views.  The 3rd/12th is more tricky, as the photo above from the 3rd/12th tee might suggest.  The key is to avoid the gorse bushes and leave yourself a short wedge to the green played blind over a hillock, stopping short of the OOB immediately behind the green. 

The 4th/13th is a 117 Yard steeply downhill Par 3.  Just throw a pitch over the large gorse bush 70 or so yards from the tee and hope that gravity does the rest!  The 5th/14th is a 373 Yard Par 4 with a blind tee shot over a wall to a side sloping fairway and a second shot to a small plateau green.  The 6th/15th plays steeply downhill to a wide fairway and then uphill and completely blind over a gorse-covered hillock to a small green.  This hole is only 256 yards in total and if you feel lucky, go for this tiny gap in the gorse and let the ball run down onto the green.  I got lucky and got a par once out of my 2 attempts!

The 7th/16th is an almost blind steeply uphill but thankfully short Par 3.  You only see the very top of the flag from the tee. Take a full wedge/easy 9 iron at most and then stop to admire the outstanding views down Loch Ken and the surrounding Galloway Hills, as shown in this photo.  The 8th and 17th is a strong mainly uphill 348 yard Par 4 and the Stroke Index 1 and 2 holes, played from an elevated tee with a blind uphill second shot to a small sloping green.  I bogeyed it both times despite good drives.  The second shot is longer than you think, so allow an extra club (at least!)

The 9th/18th tee is worth the walk on its own. This is the panoramic view from the tee, steeply downhill. 337 Yards Par 4, but get your drive away and the ball just runs and runs and runs... I went through the back of the green both times with a sand iron and scored 2 bogeys, so be warned! This was a fun course to play, despite the climbs involved.  Now that I've studied my scorecard more closely, my Back 9 score of 40, net 35 with 16 putts, as played from the Yellow tees, is probably the score that should count if New Galloway had been played as a 9 Hole Course.  But for the record, I scored 80 in total from the hybrid 18 Hole Course that I mistakenly saw on the day, net 70, or 3 over the net par, with 33 putts.  And for completeness, my 15 hole score would have been 65, net 57.

I recommend you give this excellent wee course a try and admire the ingenious design and the outstanding quality of the fairways and greens.  I just hope you don't get as confused as I did.

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