We'd looked in at Insch GC on our way back to the cottage from Turriff, to find the course was still open but with puddles of standing water clearly evident between the clubhouse and the 1st tee it didn't look hopeful for the next day, (11 July 2012) when I was due to play in the Insch Men's Seniors Open. It had also rained all night, but the forecast for the 11th was relatively dry, so against all the odds the Open went ahead. However, when one of my playing partners reported that the water had gone over his golf shoes on the practice ground and we were splashing our way from there to the 1st tee, the prospects for our round didn't look great. Indeed, one of the local members commented to me afterwards that the course would normally have been closed in such conditions and he thought that only the difficulties of rescheduling and the distances that some competitors had come to play had persuaded the Match Committee to go ahead. Preferred lies on the fairways were in operation and with casual water in abundance, lift clean and place was essential. This is the 5th fairway where conditions were particularly difficult and taking full relief was almost impossible.
Insch is an easy walking 18 hole parkland course and is also pretty short at 5350 Yards, Par 69 of the White Medal tees. With no run on the fairways and some alarmingly tight holes, accuracy off the tee was essential, not my strongest point that day. Insch is short, but there are 6 dog leg holes, some elevation changes, water hazards and OOB to contend with, so scoring here is not as easy as you might think. For example, the guy whose card I was marking (a 6 handicapper) was going great guns until this, the innocent looking 8th, a 175 Yard Par 3. Its name "Shevock Pond" says it all, as there's a lateral water hazard to the right of the fairway. Having shanked his tee shot into the pond, the guy dropped his ball within 2 club lengths, keeping the pond between him and the hole. Knowing the rules, I'd have dropped it on the far side, leaving a clear shot to the green and it was no great surprise when his next shot also went into the pond and he made quadruple bogey (ouch!) A run of solid pars and birdies meant the guy had got himself back into contention by the 16th, a tight looking 487 Yard Par 5 with OOB on the left and a water hazard on the right. His eventual 10 (with a good putt!) was another reminder that Insch cannot to be taken lightly.
There are some really good holes on this course, my favourites being the 11th and the 15th. The 11th is a steeply downhill 90 degree dog leg left 285 yard Par 4. the corner of the dog leg looks far closer than it actually is and a row of deep bunkers beyond the dog leg encourages you to be cautious in club selection. I'd opted for an easy 27 Degree Rescue off the tee, but this was too short, leaving me blocked out by a stand of mature silver birch trees (all OOB). A wedge over the trees looked good, but left me with a hanging lie above a plateau green that sloped away from me. A double bogey was disappointing as I'd not hit a bad shot. I'd just under-clubbed at the wrong time. This is the 15th, a narrow and flat 278 Yard Par 4. Your drive must find the fairway or you'll be blocked out by trees and your second needs to avoid water hazards to the right and in front of the green.
Insch closes with a couple of good Par 3s. The 17th is only 129 Yards and I should have made my birdie from under 6 feet, but sadly not. This is the 18th, a more formidable 162 Yards between stands of mature pine trees. Just hit the ball very, very straight and try not to 3 putt in front of the ghouls watching from the clubhouse windows to your left! I pinballed my way through the trees on the right for a closing 6, but at least I didn't 3 putt. I'd played Insch in almost unplayable conditions and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It hadn't rained, but I'd still got soaked from the knees down after ploughing through casual water and saturated high rough. I scored a poor 91, net 80, with 33 putts and well adrift of the leaderboard (24th place when I left!) Thankfully, no-one else had played really well and the competition standard scratch was +3, Reductions Only, so I'm still at 10.7.
Insch was great fun and I recommend it to you. I'm told that it's even better when it's dry and sunny and one day I hope to play here again in such conditions.