Friday, 18 May 2012

Lochgilphead GC - Course no 500

I had the pleasure of playing here on 20 May 2012 on a hot and sunny day, the first leg on a short tour that would take Craig, Stu and I to Coll and Tiree, a couple of the more inaccessible and remote Scottish courses.

On paper, there's nothing remarkable about the Lochgilphead GC course.  An unlikely venue for my 500th course, though! At 2056 Yards, Par 32, it's amongst the shortest of Scotland's 9 hole courses and it's unlikely that you'd pass it en route to a more famous golfing venue.  What made Lochgilphead GC stand out for me was the warmth of the members and the efforts they made to ensure that my short visit was a memorable one.  At some of our larger and more illustrious courses, visitors are still warmly welcomed but there might be a queue to get on, or a slow round might become irksome.  I'd taken the precaution to check in advance whether the club had a competition on and whether I'd be able to turn up and play, as I was hoping to squeeze another game in at the Isle of Seil course later in the day.  There was indeed a medal competition on, but getting on wouldn't be a problem, particularly since I was playing for charity.  Small clubs like this face formidable financial challenges, so I'm extremely grateful for the concession of a complementary round and the excellent lunch and the opportunity to meet the Club Captain and Match Secretary during and after my round.  On some occasions, playing so many different courses can become routine, you play the course and move on to the next.  Not so here and I'll long treasure the memory of the outstanding welcome I received.  As I've said before in this bog, it's too tempting for visiting golfers to favour the bigger courses and to test themselves on championship circuits, without venturing off the beaten track to enjoy the many smaller (and often more playable) courses that Scotland has to offer.  I just wish that more of our golfing tourists (and Scottish golfers) would do some more exploring.  Lochgilphead is well worth a visit and the members will ensure that you're amongst new friends.

The course starts with a deceptively simple looking 297 Yard Par 4, with dry stone walls bordering a narrow fairway that slopes from right to left.  Don't be too ambitious though, as a stream in front of the green will catch the unwary.  The 2nd is a 360 yard Par 4 that takes you back towards the clubhouse.  If like me you slice your ball onto the 1st fairway, this hole plays a lot longer than it looks.  The 3rd is a 114 Yard Par 3 played steeply uphill to a small shelf of a green, as shown here.  The club had tried to change this hole recently to reduce the steepness of the slope, without success.  Space to the right of the existing hole and the 4th tee might allow the insertion of an alternative green, reducing the length of the hole and the severity of the slope and reserving the existing green for medal play.  However, that could also be pricey.  The 4th is an easily drivable 214 Yard Par 4, made tricky by a wickedly sloping 2-tier green.  Even if you drive the green (which I missed to the left) 2-putting is still a challenge.

As shown here, the 6th is probably the best hole on the course, a 382 Yard Par 4, played from an extremely elevated tee over gorse to a wide fairway that offers little run.  A stream cuts across in front of the green, so you either lay up short or take the risk of a high score.  I wimped out for once (I'm claiming good course management!) and played an easy 7 iron and a lob wedge to the green on my way to an easy bogey.  The 7th is a narrow 124 Yard Par 3 with trouble on both sides that played shorter than it looked.  Just hit the ball straight.  I'd only taken a half set of clubs, including my 9 and 7 irons.  The 9 might have been the wiser choice from the 7th tee as my attempted 7 iron punch was way too long, leaving me to scramble a par with some difficulty.  The 8th is another good hole, this time a flat 264 yard Par 4.  A small river splits the fairway in 3 and has to be avoided twice, so position and accuracy is key, rather than big-hitting.  The last hole at Lochgilphead is a testing 131 Yard Par 3 played over a swamp and more water to small green cut into the left side of the 1st fairway.  I missed the green and had an awkward stance at the side of the Ladies Tee on the 1st, and an audience of local members.  A bogey was OK in the circumstances.  I'd gone round in 36 with 16 putts, only 4 over par, so that was a good start to the Coll/Tiree tour.  I'd really enjoyed the course and I strongly recommend you give it a try.

 I've left the highlight of my round to the last.  The 5th is a very difficult 170 Yard Par 3, played slightly uphill to a small green cut into the side of the slope beside the 4th tee, as shown below.  Overhanging trees add to the difficulty but there was just enough room to land my ball to the right of the green and let it roll down.  An easy 20 degree Rescue club was the choice from my half set, and the guy on the 4th tee could testify to my drive finishing a yard away (see the photo below) on the Stroke Index 1 hole.  This local member was also witness  to my successful birdie putt - and another £1 towards our cause from Gordon Simpson's generous sponsorship!  The 5th is a really good hole, so if you're tempted to play this great little course, try to get inside a yard, sink the putt and let me know, using the comments box below!

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