Monday, 25 June 2012

Sandyhills GC - Course no 510

I played here on 25 June 2012 after my round at nearby Calderbraes GC.  Sandyhills is an impressive 5944 Yard Par 70 parkland course on the east side of Glasgow.  The course looked to be in great condition and so it proved.  This is the 1st, a superb 496 Yard Par 5 played from an elevated tee, with (in my case at least) the 3rd shot having to clear a water hazard and find a large plateau green. I'd just missed the green on the left, leaving myself a difficult lob wedge over a bunker, but an opening bogey was reasonable enough.  I played pretty well on the front 9 apart from a couple of dodgy shots on the 2nd and 6th, the highlight being a solid birdie on the 8th, a 346 Yard Par 4.  The 8th plays from an elevated tee over a long dip in the fairway, then steeply downhill to the green.  Find the down slope beyond the dip, as I did, and it's a gentle wedge to let the ball roll down onto the green.  I'd only a 5 foot putt and played the hole very well.

I particularly liked the finishing holes at Sandyhills.  This is the view from the 16th Tee, a downhill 490 Yard Par 5.  The drive has to be threaded through a long line of trees and as at the 1st, a stream cuts across the fairway, forcing short hitters like me to lay up with their second shot.  I'd left myself around 160 yards to the flag and hit a great 27 Degree Rescue to within 10 feet, just missing the birdie putt.  This is a really good hole, but it would be easy enough to stray over onto the 8th or 18th fairways which run parallel to this long and narrow hole.

This is the 143 Yard 17th, easily the most interesting and best of the Par 3s.  I'd played my 27 Degree Rescue off the tee to around 15 feet, but missed the birdie opportunity.  The last hole is a really tricky 375 Yard Par 4.  Your second shot is steeply uphill, with only the top of the flag being visible.  If like me you leave your second short, you'll have a blind uphill pitch.  The green is slightly further back than you might expect and unless your a really low handicapper you'll probably be happy to match my closing bogey. 

I'd not really studied the scorecard before teeing off in my efforts to start in front of a 3-ball, but as the round progressed I couldn't help thinking that although the course was in superb condition throughout, the layout is a bit too unbalanced for my liking.  For example, the front 9 is over 350 yards longer than the back 9.  As might be expected, the 2nd is a Par 3 (following a Par 5), but although there are 4 Par 3s in total at Sandyhills, the next one doesn't appear until the 13th.  Ten Par 4 holes in succession is a few too many in my view and I wonder how many Sandyhills members can drive the steeply uphill Par 3 15th, a formidable 232 yards off the Medal Tee (I scrambled a 4 after failing to find the green off the Yellow Tee, a mere 227 yards steeply uphill). 

I scored a gross 83, net 72, 2 over net par, with 33 putts.  Not bad, considering I lost 4 shots on Holes 2 and 6.  The course was in superb condition throughout and the greens were amongst the best I've seen this year, anywhere.  Sandyhills is well worth playing, despite my reservations about the balance of the course layout.

Calderbraes GC - Course no 509

I played this 9 hole parkland course on 25 June 2012.  Calderbraes is pretty short at only 2593 Yards, Par 33 and is quite hilly, as I'll explain.  The course is located just off the junction between the M73 and M74 motorways to the east of Glasgow, but don't even think about playing here without a car sat nav - I doubt you'd find it amongst the many busy roads in the area. However, it's worth the try as I thought this was a great little course.  There's an honesty box, but the Greenkeeper had the scorecards and some wise advice about the course layout, which isn't the most easy to follow. 

The 1st is a steeply uphill 359 Yard Par 4, but watch out for stray balls from the 5th tee and the 6th, which cuts across the 1st.  I'd been resting a slight neck injury and hadn't hit a ball for nearly a week, a record in recent times!  I'd struggled to hit through the ball properly last week and the opening hole here is pretty daunting, so I was delighted to find the green in regulation after a good straight drive and a 27 Degree Rescue.  The 1st hole shares a long and narrow green with the 4th and is the highest point on the course.  An easy par at the 1st.  The 2nd is steeply downhill with a sharp dog leg left.  At only 325 Yards, Par 4, you won't need your driver off the tee, but you'll still need a longer drive than mine, which was a slightly mis-hit 20 Degree Rescue and which finished in Position Z, as this photo shows.  A bold wedge might have found the green, but I chickened out, preferring to keep my new ball for a while longer! Still, an easy enough bogey.

The 3rd is a tricky little Par 3, with the small green nestling in a hollow, as shown here, completely blind from the tee.  This hole is only 131 yards, but plays far shorter.  I'd gone with 9 iron and found an awkward hanging lie in the bunker to the right of the green.  I played the bunker shot OK, but my ball trickled off the green into light rough.  An over-bold shot from there might put me back into the bunker, so I was happy enough to scramble a bogey.  The uphill 4th is the Stroke Index 1 Hole and deservedly so.  This is a 434 Yard Par 4, aptly named "Narrows."  With OOB all the way up the left and trees up the right, accurate hitting is a must.  The green perches on top of a hill and your third shot will be blind unless you have hit 2 huge blows.  Another bogey there, but this is a really difficult hole.

The 5th is a short downhill 261 Yard Par 4.  I'd hit my Driver into light rough 20 yards short and right, into an area doubling as part of the 6th fairway (and well within range of anything mis-hit from the 1st tee!)  The course wasn't particularly busy but even so, I had to wait until the 2-ball in front and the 4-ball in front of them cleared the 6th tee.  The wait was worthwhile, since I had another easy par.  The 381 Yard Par 4 6th is another good hole.  The tee shot is played blind over a small hill, with OOB on both sides.  The fairway slopes down from right to left and then takes a dog leg left steeply downhill to a small green, as shown here. The best line is slightly right of the marker, but unless you've hit 260+, your second shot will be blind.  I'd guessed that the banking to the right of the green would throw the ball onto the green, so I played my 27 Degree Rescue in line with the small round-topped tree, finishing 4 feet away.  I sank the putt for my single birdie at Calderbraes (hopefully impressing the 4-ball watching from the 7th tee).

The 7th is a 228 Yard Par 3 played steeply downhill to a long narrow 2 tier green.  I'd guessed it might need my 3 Wood, but the flag was right at the front of the green on the lower tier and my drive finished right at the back on the upper tier, leaving me a 60+ foot putt.  Sadly, I 3-putted for bogey.  The 8th is a 150 Yard Par 3, played uphill and parallel to the 7th.  My 7 iron tee shot was short, leaving me with a blind 20 yard pitch over steep banking to a small green.  I scrambled a par after a good lob wedge and a 6 foot putt.  The 9th is a slightly uphill 324 Yard Par 4, dog leg right, with trees up the left side and OOB on the right.  I played for a fade off the tee, but didn't bring the ball back far enough (either that or I'd aimed too far left!)  Anyway, I ended up under a tree in an awkward hanging lie in heavy rough.  I could only hack the ball back into play, so a closing bogey was a pretty good result.  I'd gone round in 37 with 15 putts, so slightly under net par.

Calderbraes is quirky, requires straight hitting and is great fun to play.  The course was in great condition and I'd recommend you give it a try.  There are a number of 18 hole courses nearby (I went on to play at Sandyhills), so a quick round at Calderbraes followed by one of the other courses would be a good day's golf. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Dalmilling Golf Course - Course no 508

This is an excellent 18 Hole parkland course measuring 5331 Yards, Par 69, off the Yellow Tees, on the east side of Ayr that is clearly visible from the A77.  The Dalmilling course is owned and operated by South Ayrshire Council and was in outstanding condition when I played it on 20 June 2012 after my round at nearby Roodlea.  This course had been threatened with closure a few years ago but I really hope that threat has been removed, as this is a really good course and in my view is far better than some of the others operated by the Council e.g. Seafield and Maybole.  The greens were consistently excellent, smooth and even-paced (after all of the recent rain) and the fairways were simply immaculate.  Some "Cooncil" courses can be below average at best, but Dalmilling was excellent overall.  Maybe a bit more signage and/or a course map on the scorecard would help and some of the bunkers looked pretty tired, but these are relatively minor criticisms.

Dalmilling starts with a downhill 437 Yard Par 5 and it's a long way to find any rough, given the width of the fairway.  Nevertheless, I found light rough to the left but still had a great lie.  There is some serious hay in various places, but you'd need to be really offline to find it.  I'd an easy opening par after just mis-reading a short putt, but it was already obvious that was a good course!  Holes 2-8 are in a separate section of the course over a minor road and are mostly pretty flat.  My neck injury was still playing up and my swing tempo was literally hit or miss!  My favourite hole on the front 9, well second favourite to the 1st, was the 6th, a 115 Yard Par 3, as shown here. A stream runs to the front, right and back of the green and the green itself is cambered down to the stream, so anything over-bold risks a watery fate.  I'd played safe, hitting a wedge to the middle left of the green, leaving a 20 foot putt with around a foot of break, which I just missed.  Still, par there was good.  The 7th is the Stroke Index 1 hole, a 292 Yard Par 4 with the drive played semi-blind over a small hill.  I'd hit Driver off the tee, not knowing that the fairway took a sharp dog leg left (a course map would have really helped here) and found heavy rough.  I was only a short wedge away from the wide and shallow plateau green but I sha---- my pitch way right onto the 8th tee.  From there, an overhit pitch and run left me with a 40 foot putt from off the green.  Double bogey was looming but I managed a hugely unlikely putt thanks largely to the quality of the green to salvage an equally unlikely par.  Another easier par at the 262 Yard Par 4 9th meant I was out in 38, only 4 over.

The back 9 at Dalmilling is over 500 yards longer than the front 9, is considerably more undulating and if anything is even more open.  This is the 10th, a 329 yard Par 4.  A reasonable drive clears a small hill and leaves a steeply downhill pitch to a small raised green, with the A77's constant traffic in the background.  I'd just gone through the back of the green with an easy wedge, but got an easy enough par from there.  The 11th looks innocent enough, being a short 305 Yard Par 4, with the tee shot played over a small hill.  However, the fairway slopes from left to right on the other side of the hill towards a pond that isn't visible from the tee.  Luckily my ball had run into some ground under repair just short of the pond.  Again, a course map on the card would have helped, but I'll be aiming well left next time.  The 12th is a largely uphill 373 Yard Par 4 running parallel to the A77 road and is a really strong hole, but my favourite on the back 9 was the 17th.  This is a 446 Yard Par 4 played downhill off the tee and then slightly uphill to a green shelved into the slope.  I'd hooked my drive towards some bushes that cut across the corner of the dog leg on the left side of the fairway and had to hit a lob wedge over them to get a sight of the green.  I then missed the green on the left with my 20 degree rescue club, pitched close and escaped with a single putt bogey.  Good hole, though, especially if you can find the fairway off the tee, which is further right than you might think!

The final hole at Dalmilling is a 409 Yard Par 4.  The fairway slopes from right to left and unless you've hit a huge drive you'll only see the top of the flag for your uphill second shot to the green, which plays longer than it looks.  I bogeyed that hole for a gross 79, net 68, or 1 under net par, with 30 putts.   I'd hit a few really poor shots and had some lucky escapes, in an adventurous round that I'd thoroughly enjoyed.  Dalmilling is a really good course, which I'd strongly recommend. 

Ayr Golf Centre @ Roodlea - Course no 507

The Ayr Golf Centre @ Roodlea, consisting of a driving range, short course practice area and an 1882 Yard Par 329 hole parkland course is a couple of miles east of Ayr, off the A70 road.  The short course practice area had formerly been a 3 hole Par 3 course, so that's one less for us to play in our challenge of playing every course in Scotland.  I played the 9 hole course on 20 June 2012 after an intensive spell caddying at tournaments over the Renaissance Club and other local East Lothian courses.  I'd strained a neck muscle a couple of days previously - a heavy bag, pouring rain and strong winds didn't help, so maybe I should have given it more of a rest, since this minor injury was the probably the root cause of some pretty erratic play at Roodlea. 

The 261 Yard Par 4 1st hole plays steeply uphill, with bushes and trees to the right ready to swallow anything wayward.  This is the Stroke Index 1 hole.  I'd hit a good drive up the left side of the fairway, but mis-hit a short wedge right of the green.  A good recovery and single putt avoided an opening bogey.  The 2nd, a drivable 260 Yard Par 4, is steeply downhill and blind off the tee, to a small green, as shown here.  An easy par there.  The 3rd is back uphill again, with another blind tee shot (and no direction marker to help).  This hole is only 250 Yards but plays much longer, especially if, like me, you find dense rough after missing the fairway right (which is further left than you might guess).  The small plateau green is also difficult to hold, so a bogey was reasonable.

This is a view over the course and the driving range from the back of the 3rd green. The 4th is an easy looking and flat 115 Yard Par 3.  By this time my neck injury was really playing up and a topped 60 yard tee shot led to another bogey.  The 5th is a 147 yard steeply downhill Par 3.  A full blown sh--- off the tee and another bogey!  No surprise that the Par 4 6th is steeply uphill.  It's only 265 Yards but plays far longer, so be warned. I'd hit a good drive up the middle of the fairway, but another sh--- led to another dropped shot.  I really should have taken my pull  trolley or a half set of clubs!  The Par 4 7th is steeply downhill and at only 255 Yards is easily drivable.  I was through the back of the green with my 3 Wood but a good pitch and a short single putt led to my sole birdie.

The 8th is steeply downhill with OOB all the way down the left side only a few yards from your target line.  This is a 132 Yard Par 3 and should be simple enough, but the green simply follows the line of the steep slope.  It would have helped had the green been cut into the hill, as on the 2nd (see the photo above).  I'd hit an easy wedge, landing the ball well short, but even so my ball ran right over the green into heavy rough.  This is a poorly designed hole, so the best of luck if you ever play here.  This is a view from the 9th tee.  This is a 197 Yard Par 3, slightly downhill.  Easy enough if you're straight, but I'd pulled my 3 Wood tee shot slightly left of the green into some lush rough.  A closing bogey for a gross 37, 5 over par, with 14 putts.

I'd enjoyed the round at Roodlea despite some poor shots and all of the climbing.  The greens were in superb condition and the course had been very well-maintained.  OK,  so I don't like the 8th, but don't let that put you off giving this place a try.  At only £8 a round, it's good value.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Luffness New GC - Practice Course - Course no 506

This  5 hole Par 3 course measuring 635 Yards Par 15  supplements the excellent 18 hole links course at Luffness New GC, near Gullane in East Lothian.  I'd played the 18 hole course a few times many years ago and must have driven past this club hundreds of times, as it's only a few miles from my home, without realising that it also had a short game practice course tucked away to the right of the 1st and 2nd holes of the main course.  I only found this little course when walking the main course in preparation for caddying work during the US Kids' Golf Foundation European Championship, being played over Luffness New and some other local courses between 5-8 June 2012.  I'd caddied for Jim De Heij, the Dutch Boys Champion in a practice round on 4 June 2012, so we took the opportunity to play the practice course afterwards, with his father, Huub.

There's no scorecard as such, but this is how I scored

Hole 1  150 yards   4 strokes  2 putts

Hole 2  112 yards   2 strokes  0 putts

Hole 3  163 yards   4 strokes  2 putts

Hole 4  133 yards   3 strokes  2 putts

Hole 5   77 yards    4 strokes  2 putts
                                  17               8
So 17 strokes in total, 2 over par, with 8 putts.  I didn't keep Jim's score, but I think it was 13 - but certainly a lot better than mine! This little course would also be ideal for young children to learn on, so I hope it gets used!  This is a view from the 1st tee, with the ruined castle just outside Gullane in the background.