There was still a couple of hours' daylight left after my round at Portlethen on 5 November 2012 and I was hoping to play the 9 hole course at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre in homage to the great man after his heroics at the Ryder Cup. However, that course is low-lying beside the River Dee and looked to be absolutely sodden, so I tried the nearby Hazelhead 9 Hole Course in Aberdeen, as operated by a Dutch company on behalf of Aberdeen City Council. There are also two 18 Hole courses and a pitch and putt course at Hazelhead that I've yet to play, so this was my first visit to the Hazelhead complex.
My first challenge was to find the Pay Point/Starter's Box in what is clearly a huge public park. The effort was worthwhile, but as at Portlethen, temporary greens were in play. The Starter reckoned I'd get round easily enough in the remaining daylight and issued me with a scorecard that related to something called the Winter Course. The normal layout of the 9 Hole Course is 2770 Yards, Par 35. The normal tees were all in play but with temporary greens in operation, the course was playing to something like 2600 yards, Par 35. However, the Winter Course measures only 2084 Yards, Par 29 and was clearly not the course that was in play. I played the normal course with temporary greens in operation and as there was no sign of any shorter course that would match up with the Winter Course scorecard, I concluded that the Winter Course does not (currently anyway) exist.
The first clue I had that something was amiss was on the 1st tee. The scorecard suggested that this was a 207 Yard Par 3, yet the flag looked to be miles away. I hit a really good straight drive and a wedge after that but was still short of the green, so I reckon the 1st hole was nearer 340 Yards. The 2nd was supposedly a 184 Yard Par 3, which turned out to be something nearer 400 Yards Par 4, slightly uphill. This is the 4th, a 163 Yard Par 3 according to the Winter Course scorecard, downhill. The hole looked to be well over 200 Yards, but I took my 27 Degree Rescue anyway, as it would normally be enough for 163 Yards even with no run on the wet fairway. Sure enough, I was well short of the green! The 5th purported to be a 299 Yard Par 4, but needed Driver, 3 wood a 20 yard chip and single putt for par.
The tee marker on the 5th said the hole was 507 Yards Par 5, yet the card said 441 Yards Par 4. This is the view from the tee, using a zoom lens. This hole was definitely a lot longer than 441 yards! For the record, I went round in 36 strokes with 14 putts. Since I reckon I played (almost) the normal course with temporary greens, this was something like 1 over gross par or net 4 under. Decent scoring again, but as you might have gathered by now, I did not enjoy this course one little bit.
The 9 Hole course is intended to encourage beginners and with wide fairways and little rough or bunkering, it probably does that job satisfactorily. However, I do wonder whether a beginner would be encouraged by the baffling disparity between the scorecard and the course layout. There's a simple remedy. Don't issue players with a Winter Course card unless such a course is actually in play. It's not rocket science. If you're tempted to play this course (and there's nothing wrong with it as a golfing test for beginners), just remember to ask whether the yardages on the card are likely to be anywhere near correct.
It was close to sunset and the sun had already dipped well below the trees by the time I finished the course and the Starter had long since gone home. A pity, because I just wanted to ask whether I could have the right card. This is a view down the 1st in the gathering gloom en route back to my car, matching my mood!