Polly and I played this excellent 18 hole heathland course on 22 October 2012. The weather had been pretty poor generally since our trip to play Skibo and even our own course at the Glen GC had been closed for a few days recently due to flooding. We'd originally planned to play a couple of links course in Aberdeen, but it's a pretty long round trip to do 2 Aberdeen courses, so we opted for the Laird's and Queen's Courses at Inchmarlo, a holiday resort and golf centre in Banchory, a pretty little village in Royal Deeside, south west of Aberdeen. Both of the Inchmarlo courses had also been closed due to flooding recently and had only re-opened on the 21st and a frost on the 22nd had delayed the first tee times for a couple of hours. The Laird's Course is basically heathland in nature, measuring 5727 Yards, Par 70 from the Yellow tees. Some Inchmarlo GC members were an hour or so ahead of us on the course, but as most of the holes weave their way through forest (mainly pine and birch), it felt as though we had the course to ourselves. The Laird's course was actually a lot drier than we'd expected given the recent closure and the Summer tees and normal greens were still in operation.
The golfing facilities at Inchmarlo are excellent, including a driving range and the course signage is possibly the best I've seen on my travels around Scottish courses. Take this example from the 11th hole, complete with a detailed schematic of the hole and a map of the course, highlighting the hole in play (OK, stroke indexes aren't provided, but these are given on the scorecards). I just wish that every course could be as helpful. We also appreciated the halfway house, one of the best refreshment and toilet facilities we've encountered on our travels.
The Laird's Course starts with an easy looking 258 Yard Par 4, as shown here. However, the green is quite narrow and there's a pond to the left of the green waiting for anything slightly wayward. The greens had recently been hollow tyned and were slower and more bumpy than we're used to (as the Glen's greens are still in great condition!), so putting was quite tricky. I managed an opening par, but I'm still trying to work out what happened on the 2nd, an uphill Par 3. The Yellow tee markers were actually on what is normally the Red ladies' teeing ground and my laser range finder showed 152 to the flag. Since the hole is steeply uphill I went with my 27 Degree Rescue and my straight tee shot looked to be covering the flag all the way and we both thought it could be pretty close. It hadn't landed short, it wasn't on the green, in the hole or in the very light rough behind or to the sides of the green. My new ball had simply disappeared, Crows? I don't know, but a double bogey was not what my tee shot had deserved.
The Front 9 looked to be pretty short, with only one Par 4 over 399 Yards (i.e. 400!) and a 445 Yard Par 5, but the recent rain meant that there was no run on the fairways, so the course was playing a lot longer than it looked. We really liked the stretch from Holes 4-6 running parallel to each other with trees, water hazards and huge boulders to be avoided. This is the view from the tee at the 6th, a dog leg right 377 Yard Par 4. Just aim at the stand of pines in the middle of the photo and stop short of hitting any of the boulders. The 8th is another uphill Par 3, this time with a stream short of the green that shouldn't really come into play, other than in the mind! I'd under-clubbed with a 23 Degree Rescue and was still 10 yards short. I'd usually have chosen a pitch with my wedge but with the greens being so slow I opted for my 60 degree lob wedge, hit the ball sweetly and holed out for an unlikely birdie. A par at the excellent 299 Yard 9th meant I was out in 40.
The Back 9 is significantly longer and more difficult and I was glad I wasn't playing off the White tees on the 12th, a formidable 473 Yard uphill Par 4, with no run on the wet fairway. This hole is still hugely difficult at 443 Yards off the Yellow tee and fully deserves it's Stroke Index 1 ranking. I just wonder how many pars are scored in Inchmarlo GG competitions and whether this would play better as a Par 5. Holes 12-14 are all pretty tough and cost me bogey, bogey, double bogey after some indifferent play with my 3 Wood. This is Polly considering her options on the 13th, a 399 Yard Par 4 dominated by a huge beech tree to the front right of the green. Another very good hole.
We also liked the 16th, a tricky 292 Yard Par 4. The drive is blind over a small hill and needs to be long enough to give you a view of the green, steeply downhill over some small trees and boulders on the downslope in front of the green, as shown here. A large house is currently being built behind the 16th, hence the red container boxes. The Back 9 also involves a bit of climbing up gentle slopes, leading to the downhill 18th, a 384 Yard Par 4 played from an elevated tee with forest on either side. A bunker and stream look as though they're reachable from the tee, but I made a complete mess of my drive, ending up OOB to the right.
This is the great view from the 18th tee. I scored a disappointing treble bogey 7 after my OOB adventure for a total of 84, net 73, with 33 putts. A net 3 over score wasn't too bad, and I'd hope to beat that quite comfortably when I play here again. We'd thoroughly enjoyed the course and will definitely be back sometime. I strongly recommend you pay this lovely course a visit.