Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Vaul GC - Course no 503

We'd played the Coll course on the afternoon of 21 May 2012 but our ferry to nearby Tiree didn't leave until 1730 hrs on the 22nd, so we'd the whole day to kill.  Craig and Stu borrowed some mountain bikes from the Coll Hotel and were off after breakfast touring the island.  Unfortunately, they took a wrong turning and were soon wading through a bog, bikes over their shoulders.  Neither of them had ridden for a few years so good on them for making the effort.  They'd soon also spotted an ideal location for a spectacular 18 hole links course down by Crossapol Bay and were wishing they'd taken a car and their clubs!  I settled for a more relaxing walk across the breadth of the island to explore some of the superb and deserted beaches.  We'd arranged to play 3 Vaul GC members rather than just play their course on our own and Stuart and Alan from the club kindly met us at the pier to take us across to the course.  The ferry was a bit late getting in and the course wasn't as close as we'd thought, so it was almost 2000 hrs by the time we all teed off in a 6-ball, with John, the Vaul Club Champion for the past 4 years joining us. 

The 9 hole Vaul course on Tiree is 2894 Yard Par 36 and as flat as you could wish for at the end of a tiring trip (particularly if you've spent 6 hours on a mountain bike the day before!).  The land is also used as sheep grazing, so all of the greens are surrounded protective fences and there are no bunkers.  The sheep keep the course pretty well cropped so there's no rough to speak of, aside from occasional clumps of high maram grass.  This is the 1st green - they're all square and small enough to be difficult to hold, even from close range.  The putting surfaces were fairly slow and a bit hairy, but it must be really difficult to maintain good greens in such a remote location and on a low budget.  Tiree is a flat island.  Go west and the next landfall is Canada.  On the plus side, rain clouds from the Atlantic tend to just keep going until they hit higher ground on the mainland, so Tiree has a really good climate and when we were there the midges were still pretty dormant.

I'd started with a couple of opening Pars but a poor 20 Degree Rescue (3 wood still at home) on the 494 Yard  Par 5 3rd led to a double bogey.  Bogeys on the next 3 holes were also disappointing.  The course is short and flat with no real rough but the greens are really tricky and the difference in putting between the 3 of us and the 3 Vaul members was quite startling.  The longest putt holed between Craig, Stu and I was probably about 4 feet, but these guys seemed to be rolling putts in from crazy distances with ease.  Local knowledge was clearly an advantage! I did at least par the last 3 holes, including a chip in from off the green at the last, an awkward 347 Yard Par 4.  As at most of the holes, you can be wayward off the 9th tee as long as you steer clear of particular hazards.  I'd found Position Z in heavy rough in a deep gully to the left of the 9th fairway, so a par from there was highly unlikely.  Local rules allow any shot that hits wires surrounding the greens to be played again at the player's discretion but my chip at the last just missed a strand, hit some sheep droppings and crept in the back door on its last roll.  I'd gone round in 41 with 13 putts, marginally under net par, but we'd have been well beaten had we played a serious match against our hosts!

We all thought that Vaul was a really good course with great views.  From the far end of the course we could see the islands of Barra, Canna, Rhum, Muck, Eigg, Coll and Mull and in the far distance, our hotel (the less I say about that the better, but if you ever want to play the excellent Vaul course, you might want to think twice before staying at the Scarinish Hotel).  We were a long way away from home but Stuart, John  and Alan were great hosts, so thanks again to them for making our game possible and so enjoyable.   This is a photo of the guys on the 9th, just as the sun was setting, and some other random photos of the course.

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