Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Portlethen GC - Course no 552

Portlethen is a small town a few miles South of Aberdeen that has grown considerably in recent years, due mainly to the oil industry centred on Aberdeen.  Portlethen GC was founded in 1981 with the aim of adding to the social life of the golfing fraternity in what was then a village of some 1500 residents. A local landowner gifted 138 acres of land to the local community for the course. Title of the land was transferred to Kincardine & Deeside District Council who leased the land back to the Club and provided sufficient finance for construction of the course and clubhouse. The course was designed by Donald Steel, the world-renowned golf course architect, and was open for play in 1989. 

As the club's website says, "The course is maturing into one of the more popular parkland courses in the North East of Scotland having been blessed with natural features, the principal being the Findon burn which, lined with mature broadleaf trees, crosses five of the holes on the first nine influencing either tee or approach shots. The Par 5 485 Yard 4th hole poses a problem of choice of second shots as the burn crosses 90 yards short of the green, the wayward shot punished by ending up in the burn or in the trees. The inward 9 holes carry fewer hazards but the Findon burn continues to create problems at the 15th and 18th. Arguably the 15th is the 'signature hole' of the course. First, the tee shot has to be accurate to cope with the right to left dog leg and then the approach shot, from a downhill lie, has to carry the Findon burn which, moat like, guards the entrance to the green. The Par 507 Yard Par 5 18th is a challenging closing hole featuring a drystone dyke on the left running all the way from tee to green with the risk of out of bounds with every shot. The Findon burn, 100 Yards short of the green creates a further dilemma of second shot selection; to carry or not to carry. Senior golfers and visitors normally play the shorter Par 70 'Blue Tee' course. Course development has seen the planting of around 21,000 carefully selected trees, restoration of drystone dyke, construction of stone bridges, new tees at several holes and a pond at the short 5th."

I'd not played much golf since the trip to Inchmarlo and what I had played was pretty poor, including almost a last place at the Renaissance Caddies' Tournament.  The weather had again been very wet, particularly in the west of the country, so I headed up to the North-East in search of some decent courses and playable conditions.  Accordingly, I played Portlethen on 5 November 2012 on a mild dry day, hoping to find an improvement in form.  This course measures a formidable 6443 Yards Par 72 from the Yellow Tees. Winter greens and the Blue Tees were in operation, meaning that the course was playing to something like 5500 Yards, Par 70.  The course was still in fine condition despite being soggy underfoot in some places, meaning there was little run on the course generally.  Maybe it was just me hitting the ball unusually straight, but on first impressions the fairways were pretty easy to find.  I only missed 3 fairways in total, but more of that later.  Portlethen started with a straightforward Par 4 of around 350 Yards.  The temporary greens were all pretty small but were in far better condition, faster and truer running than some of the normal greens I've found on other courses at this time of year, so no complaints there.  Although the 1st was a gentle opener, the 2nd was a beast of a Par 5, with a blind tee shot and steeply uphill.  The Blue yardage was 477, but the hole played to nearer 500 yards and only a good single putt from around 20 feet saved the par.  The 3rd runs back down the hill and at 350 Yards is an easier hole.  However, the drive is blind and your second shot will be from a downhill lie.  I'd hit a good straight drive and a great wedge to 3 feet.  I missed the putt but 3 opening pars was encouraging.  I'd rediscovered some timing in my swing and not before time.  This is the view from the 4th Tee.  As the club's website suggests, good course management here is vital.  The teeshot is steeply downhill and I was tempted to try to fly the pond with my second, using my 3 wood.  However, 9 iron and wedge was more sensible and with my newly found improved tempo, another par was secured.
The 5th, as shown here, is a 122 Yard Par 3 played over a pond.  Another good swing with my 9 iron and a couple of putts and I'd parred the opening 5 holes.  The 6th is an innocent looking 337 Yard Par 4 requiring a good drive over the Findon Burn to leave an uphill shot to the green.  I'd only just cleared the burn on the left side of the fairway (requiring the longest carry to clear the water) but the second played a lot longer than it looked and I needed a decent single putt for my first dropped shot of the round.  At my level, a first dropped shot is usually followed by another (or worse!) so it was good to par the next couple of holes.

This is the 9th, a 348 Yard Par 4 off the Blue Tee but a really formidable 423 Yards off the White, hence its Stroke Index 1 status.  I'd missed the fairway to the right but had a great lie in the light rough.  There's only a narrow gap between mature trees but I'd blocked myself out.  An 8 iron over the trees might work, the lie was good and so was the shot.  I'd gone out in 1 over par and was loving the course.  The Back 9 lies over the busy road that splits the course into separate halves.  I was again glad I wasn't playing off the White Tees, as the 10th would have been a nasty 235 Yard Par 3, slightly uphill.  Thankfully it was a more manageable 175 Yards off the Blue Tee, requiring my 20 Degree Rescue to reach light rough to the right of the green, pin high.  Another par, followed by more on Holes 11-14.  I'd only dropped a single shot in 14 holes, for goodness' sake!
The club's website suggests the15th as Portlethen's signature hole.  The teeshot is blind so it's not obvious that the hole dog legs to the left.  I'd hooked my drive left into heavy rough and could only play a wedge over some trees to the right side of the fairway.  Another wedge form there and I was on my way to another bogey.  A good hole, although I preferred the 4th as a signature hole.  A good drive on the 16th set up another par.  The 17th off the Blue Tee is an uphill 156 Yard Par 3 playing to something like 135 yards to the temporary green and I manged a good par after missing the green with my 6 iron.  The 17th plays to 415 Yards off the White Tee, reinforcing my suspicion that Portlethen would be pretty demanding off the back tees.  Anyway, I was 2 over par standing on the 18th tee, with OOB all the way down the left of the fairway and 431 Yards (Par 4) to the green.  Not where you want to hit your second hooked drive to within a yard of the course boundary.  Double bogey followed, but I'd still gone round in 74, only 4 over par for a net 63 (net 7 under par) with 29 putts.  I really liked the Portlethen course and I'd like to play it again sometime.  It was disappointing to have to play to temporary greens, but I'd played really well and have fond memories of some really good shots.  Something to build on anyway!
I strongly recommend you give this course a try if you're in the Aberdeen area, a city that is already blessed with some great old links courses e.g Murcar and Royal Aberdeen.

No comments:

Post a Comment