Saturday, 22 September 2012

Dullatur GC - Antonine Course - Course no 541

Dullatur GC lies on the outskirts of Cumbernauld a large former new town midway between Glasgow and Stirling, just off the M80 Motorway.  The club has two 18 hole parkland courses, the Antonine and the Carrickstone, as well as floodlit tennis courts and a bowling green adjacent to its modern and impressive clubhouse.  I played both courses on 21 September 2012, starting with the Antonine.  This is by far the newer of the courses, designed by Dave Thomas, the older Carrickstone being a James Braid course updated by Mr Thomas.   The Antonine is 5650 yards, Par 69 from the Yellow Tees.  I'd visited Dullatur GC some years ago after playing at the nearby Westerwood Course (a Seve design), so I knew in advance that both courses would be very hilly.  The Pro said that both courses were quite busy and that after heavy rain the day before, both were pretty heavy underfoot.  Progress might therefore be slow and he hoped I was fit enough for what he clearly thought would be a stiff physical challenge.  I was certainly fit enough but as I'd been caddying for most of the previous week at The Renaissance and Archerfield clubs near where I live in East Lothian, I was not at my freshest.  However, 21 September was a sunny and warm day so it seemed a bit wimpy to drive all the way to Cumbernauld just to play one course.
The Antonine Course runs between the clubhouse and the nearby village of Croy, parallel to the main railway line to Glasgow and a large disused quarry on a hilly site that has great views in almost all directions.  Indeed, one of the best holes on the Antonine, the 5th, is called "Arran View" an island around 60 miles away, with the island's largest mountain being clearly visible from the tee.  The 1st on the Antonine is a 406 Yard Par 4 and if memory serves is the only flat hole on the course.  From there, the course weaves its way over and around a series of steep hills.  The 1st fairway was waterlogged and finding a dryish spot to play my second shot from was difficult.  It was soon obvious that the whole course was pretty saturated and I was glad that I'd worn an old pair of golf shoes, given the squelchy conditions underfoot. 
This is the view from the 5th tee.  This is a 371 Yard Par 4, played steeply downhill with an uphill second shot to a small green cut into the hill.  The tee shot needs to be short of the bunkers (there's a hidden water hazard just beyond them) and the steeply uphill second shot plays a lot longer than it looks, so be warned.  By then I was waiting on almost every shot and making slow soggy progress.  It would clearly be a long day.  The guys in front gave up after only a few holes more and I was now playing behind a couple of junior Dullatur members.  These kids could clearly play, but what really impressed me was their friendliness and apologies for the generally slow play ahead of them, and their concern that as a visitor, I was enjoying their course, despite the underfoot conditions.  Well done lads, you did your club proud.
Best hole on the front 9 was probably the 7th Hole, a 158 Yard Par 3, as shown here.   This hole plays steeply downhill, with the large bunker ready to catch anything under hit.  The green is far longer than I'd thought and with the flag position at the very back right, I'd a really long uphill putt for birdie.  My 3-putt bogey was disappointing, but in mitigation, the greens were pretty slow after the recent heavy rain.  The weakest hole on the course was probably the 9th, a 422 Yard steeply uphill Par 4.  With absolutely no run in the muddy conditions and a very steep hill to contend with, I hit a good Driver, 3 Wood and still had a full wedge to the green.  The hole is called "Blin' Dunt" or "blind hit" as your second and possibly third shots will be totally blind.  This is the Stroke Index 1 hole, but I reckon I'd need a single putt if i was ever to par that hole.  For the record, I managed a double bogey 6 after struggling my way up the hill.
Best hole on the Antonine is definitely the 16th, a really good 513 Yard Par 5, as shown here.  The tee shot is played blind over a hill to a wide fairway.  However, the landing area for your downhill second shot is pretty narrow, with bushes on both sides.  I found the gap easily enough with a solid 3 Wood, but with no run on the soaking wet fairway, I still had an 8 iron to the green over a gully.  I just missed my birdie putt from 20 feet, but a good par and a really good hole.  The last hole on the Antonine is also pretty good if you survive the long walk up the hill from the 17th green. 
The 18th is a 386 Yard Par 4, played uphill and blind to a wide fairway.  I hit 3 Wood for my second and was still short (saturated ground again) but a good pitch and a single putt from under 2 feet was enough for par.  I'd scored a gross 82, net 71 or net 2 over par, with 32 putts, so that was pretty good in difficult ground conditions, with the course playing far longer than it looked.  I'd also gone round in just under 4 hours.  The large car park looked pretty busy and with a substantial number of players milling around the practice putting green and clubhouse area, it looked as though it could be a long day.  I'd been reassured by the Pro that I could jump onto either course if the first tee was clear, so rather than wait to take my chances after a break for lunch, I grabbed my sandwiches from the car and got straight onto the 1st tee of the Carrickstone Course.  36 holes without a break would test my fitness!
The Antonine is an interesting course that for the most part makes good use of its hills and slopes and also offers a good fitness workout.  I doubt I could ever like the 9th, but that apart, it's good fun and I'd recommend it.

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