Fereneze GC is a hilly moorland 18 hole course in Barrhead, a small town a few miles South West of Glasgow. The course measures 5676 Yards Par 71 off the Yellow Tees, but with temporary greens in play after a slight overnight frost, it was playing more like 5400 Yards, Par 68. I'd lived only a few miles away as a child, and on reflection, I'd have been able to see this course in the distance from my bedroom window. However, golf wasn't a realistic option for me back then, as I've previously explained, so it's taken me a very long time to play what back then was a local course. When I finally played Fereneze on 21 March 2013, the very friendly Pro very kindly let me have the courtesy of the course given our charitable objectives. Thanks again, Scott! It was clear that this course would be hilly and physically demanding so maybe it wouldn't be wise to test my troublesome right shoulder by carrying my full bag. Time would tell.
Fereneze starts with a steeply uphill 270 Yard Par 4. I'd hit a reasonable drive and it should be just a short pitch and a couple of putts at most. The temporary greens were pretty small with Winter holes around 6 inches wide to compensate for their occasionally uneven surfaces, so putting was pretty easy, once you'd found the greens, that is. The 2nd is normally a slightly uphill 140 Yard Par 3, but the temporary green located close to the 3rd tee was up a very steep hill, with little margin for error, as seen here. I was through the back of the green with my 27 Degree Rescue effort, so that cost me a bogey. The 3rd was also uphill, this time a 469 Yard Par 5 and the Stroke Index 1 hole. I managed a pretty comfortable par and thankfully the 4th was a flattish 157 Yard Par 3 that enabled me to get my breath back after a physically tough start. Another bogey there but that disappointment was tempered by the outstanding views across Glasgow in the distance and huge lungfuls of fresh (if bitterly cold!) air.
I'd not played much golf since my round at Cochrane Castle GC, from a combination of poor weather and a week long trip to Barcelona (daily average of 20 Degrees C!) so it was a pleasure to play at Fereneze, despite the cold conditions. The fairways here are pretty generous and the tight moorland turf meant there was some run on the fairways, a refreshing change from the wet conditions I've experienced in recent months. The 6th, a 484 Yard Par 5 is the longest hole and one of the best. The drive is blind, with the fairway turning to the right and slightly uphill. I'd hit Driver, 3 wood and a pitch and run with my 9 iron and had a 20 foot putt for birdie. The 6 inch wide hole looked bucket-wide and sure enough my first birdie was secured. A good hole. The 7th was a downhill Par 3 playing no more than a wedge, so another par was easy enough. The 468 Yard Par 5 8th is another really good hole downhill to start then steeply uphill. A stream running across the fairway adds to the difficulty. The Front 9 closes with an interesting 302 Yard Par 4, which I played into a strengthening Easterly wind. The tee shot is blind, with the second played to a small green. I was out in 38, only 3 over, playing well and the shoulder was holding up well.
The Back 9 is slightly longer but since most of the holes are downhill, it's an easier walk. This is a view of the 10th green, with the Glasgow skyline in the background. The highest point on the course is well over 500 feet and the course as a whole is very exposed to the elements and I shudder to think what it's like playing here in a real storm. Thankfully I got it on a reasonably good, if cold, day. I'd started the Back 9 with a bogey and 3 pars and was playing pretty well. The 14th was a slightly downhill Par 3, playing to little more than an easy wedge. I'd missed the green to the right and had left myself with an awkward 30 foot putt from the fairway with 4 foot of break. An "interesting" birdie, eased by the width of the Winter hole!
I thought the best hole on the Back 9 was the 15th, a downhill 456 Yard Par 4 with a blind drive and OOB to the right. This is a view of the Glasgow skyline from the 15th fairway. Note that the long roof in the distance beyond the middle tree to the left of this photo is the Main Stand at Ibrox Stadium, home of the still mighty Rangers FC! The 16th is a modest 281 Yard Par 4. I'd hit my best drive of the day and had only a short pitch to the green, which finished 5 feet away. Another birdie and a good score was in prospect if I could par the last couple of holes.
The 17th is a 307 Yard Par 4. Anything hit short for your second shot will find a deep ditch and stream in front of the green, so be warned, as you probably won't see this hazard after your drive. When I played it, the temporary green was short of this ditch, so a careful pitch led to an easy par. The final hole at Fereneze is steeply downhill with a blind tee shot. There's a lot of sky to aim at but the fairway is reasonably wide. I just picked a large building in the distance as my target and trusted my swing. this is a view from the 18th fairway. The 18th is 377 Yards, Par 4, but plays well short of that. Indeed, I'd only a short iron for my second having taken a free drop from the pathway that runs across the fairway to set up another easy par. I'd gone round in 73, net 62, some 9 shots under net par, helped by taking only 26 putts. With temporary greens in play and 6 inch wide Winter holes, Fereneze wasn't much of a challenge on the day. However, it was obvious that the course would be far more challenging when played to its full length. I'm not a great fan of hilly moorland courses at the best of times, but I really enjoyed the course and I'd recommend it. I'd played pretty well and the shoulder hadn't played up at all.
I'd played Fereneze a couple of days after the Spring Equinox so it was officially Spring. It was unseasonably cold on 21 March 2013, with a strong Easterly wind blowing in cold air from Eastern Europe. I mention this because the next day I'd got roped into playing in a pairs competition at Leven GC, an old Championship-standard links course on the Fife coast. The air temperature that day was a heady 1 Degree C, but with the windchill added in, it felt more like -10C at best. I'd taken the precaution of wearing 3 layers of thermal clothing plus my wet suit and 2 woolly hats but was still freezing cold all the way round. A near 5 hour round was pretty tiring in those conditions. I'd packed some energy bars, but they were quickly frozen solid. Leven is completely exposed to an Easterly wind and can be a stern test for handicap golfers at the best of times. I did well to break 100, without so much as a single par. I can't remember ever playing in colder conditions, so roll on the real Spring, please!