Monday, 18 February 2013

Cathkin Braes GC - Course no 562

I finally got to play this excellent course on 18 February 2013.  The Cathkin Braes GC is a moorland course of 5919 Yards, Par 71 from the Yellow tees, in open moorland between Glasgow and East Kilbride.  I'd heard it was very hilly when talking to some members at the nearby Kirkhill GC a year or so ago, but I have to say it's nowhere near as hilly (or tiring) as that course, so I suspect someone was exaggerating just a tad.  Cathkin Braes is over 600 feet above sea level and although much of the course is tree lined, it's pretty exposed to the weather.  Luckily, I played it in warm sunshine with no wind, a rare combination at this time of year in Scotland.  When I say warm, I mean 8 degrees C, but maybe a sign that Spring is on its way at last.  There had been a frost overnight, so temporary greens were in play, reducing length of the course to something like 5400 Yards. Cathkin Braes is the home course of PGA Professional Scott Jamieson, a rising star on the European Tour.
The course starts with a tricky blind drive over heather and a small hill.  From my good opening drive it was only an easy to the green.  I missed the green left, but hit a side slope that carried my ball to within a foot of the hole, so an easy opening birdie.  The 2nd requires an accurate drive between trees to the right and bushes to the left, followed by a short uphill pitch.  An easy enough par.  This is a view of the 2nd green from the 3rd tee.  The 3rd hole is a downhill 303 Yard Par 4, playing to about 280 Yards.  The fairways were still pretty firm after the overnight frost, so a good drive, a 20 yard pitch and a single putt meant I was 2 under after 3 holes.  Heady stuff.  It couldn't last and sure enough I bogeyed the 4th, a tricky uphill 405 Yard Par 4 and the Stroke Index 1 hole.
This is the 5th, a 112 Yard Par 3 played over a lake.  The temporary green was to the right and behind the green, meaning it played to around 125 Yards.  I'd only taken a half set of clubs, so an easy 7 iron was the play.  My 7 usually goes 140 or so in decent conditions and I failed miserably to take 15 yards off the shot, hence my opening bogey.  Another good hole though.  The 6th is a short downhill Par 5 of only 458 Yards, with a long blind second shot to the green.  The fairway was still frozen solid, being sheltered from the low sun by a line of mature pine trees and I was through the back of the green in 2 - not normally where I'd expect to be on a Par 5.  Three more well-played holes and I'd reached the turn in a level par 37.
The back 9 is almost 200 yards shorter, but is a bit more tricky than the front 9, so be warned.  The 10th is an uphill right dog leg 361 Yard Par 4.  There's tons of room off the tee, so I'm not sure how I hit the big tree 120 yards out, to the left of the fairway.  Not the place to be and that mistake cost me a bogey.  The 11th is a good slightly uphill Par 3, but plays a lot longer than the 155 Yards on the card.  Next is an uphill 381 Yard Par 4 which again plays a lot longer than it looks and is deservedly the Stroke Index 2 hole.  I fluked a par with a long putt.  This is a view from the tee.  I also parred the next 3 holes to stay at 1 over par with 3 holes to go.

The club's website advises that the closing holes are difficult so at least I was forewarned.  The 16th is a stiff 205 Yard Par 3 with bushes and OOB down the right side.  The greenkeeping staff were doing some drainage work to the front right of the tee, well within my sh--king range, so it was no great surprise to see my fluffed tee shot go OOB.  I did well to limit the damage to a double bogey!  This is the view from the fairway on the 17th, a tricky dog leg right 395 Yard Par 4 .  The second shot is uphill and semi-blind, since it's almost impossible to spot the flag amongst the trees and bushes on the horizon.  Another long putt rescued an unlikely par - my ever faithful Ping Anser 4 was back in the bag!

The 18th is a 414 Yard Par 4 with a slightly downhill blind second shot to the green.  I was happy enough with a bogey after my worst drive of the day, barely 180 Yards and 30 yards offline into light rough.  I'd gone round in 75 gross, net 64, with only 29 putts.  That's a  net 7 under the par of 71, but given the reduced yardage due to the Winter greens, the par was probably nearer 69.  Even so, I'd played pretty well.  I really liked the course and I'd strongly recommend it.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Charleton GC - 9 Hole Course - Course no 561

I'd played the 18 Hole course at Charleton in September 2009 (see blog entry for course no 225) before playing at nearby Anstruther.  I saw then that there was also a 9 Hole Par 3 Course at Charleton and I finally got to play that short course on 8 February 2013 on a rare dry and sunny day. 

Most of the courses I've yet to play are a fair distance from my home in East Lothian and those in the west are probably still closed or almost waterlogged after a long period of rain, snow and generally lousy weather.  Some of the courses to the north are probably in the same state but I'll need to wait a while before playing the Lighthouse Keeper's Course on Fair Isle, the remotest course in Scotland.  Fair Isle is a tiny island mid-way between the Orkney and Shetland Islands and was in the news last week after being hit by a huge storm see coverage at which looks as though it's done some damage to the course as well as to the lighthouse and other parts of the island.  Click on the link at the top of this Fair Isle blog for coverage of the storm and on the "golf" link for background on the Lighthousekeeper's Course.  I think I'll wait until the Summer before making the trip and allow time to help as best I can. 
But back to the relative peace and calm of Charleton GC, on the way to St Andrews in the East Neuk of Fife.  The 9 hole course is a modest 934 Yards, Par 27 and like its big brother next door, is a parkland course built on sandy soil, helping it to drain well after what seems to have been almost daily rain over the past several weeks.  There's nothing very difficult looking about this little course and with holes ranging from 50 to 157 Yards it looked quite easy.  However, the greens were tiny and surprisingly fast, with severe slopes adding to the putting interest.  I'd reverted to my "winter" putter recently, a very early Ping Pal brass-headed model that's more stable in windy conditions and certainly better on slow winter greens than my otherwise ever-faithful Ping Anser 4.  Wrong choice for the greens on this course!  Anyway, a gross 29, net 23.5 with 15 putts was OK.  That's a net 3.5 strokes under par.  Here are some photos of the course, starting above with the 3rd green (sharing with the 5th), looking due south to the Firth of Forth.  On a clearer day, I'd have been able to see North Berwick and my home club in the far distance.
This is the 7th, with a slightly clearer view south.  Readers familiar with the area might be able to see North Berwick Law and Bass Rock in the far background.

Below is the 9th green, with the cosy Charleton GC clubhouse in the background. Notice the 10 foot putt, which I duly holed for my only birdie.  This is a good little course, either for a warm up before you play the excellent 18 hole course at Charleton, or a quiet place for beginners to practice without being disturbed.