Monday, 4 March 2013

Cochrane Castle GC - Course no 563

Cochrane Castle is an 18 hole parkland/moorland course in the small town of Johnstone, a few miles west of Glasgow.  I played the course on 4 March 2013 on a cool dry and cloudy early Spring day.  The rains of recent months have finally relented and the sunny weather of the past 2 weeks has helped our parkland courses to dry out.  Accordingly, Cochrane Castle was in pretty good condition for this time of year.  I'd been expecting some temporary greens to be in operation, but the full course was open for play, with the normal greens being remarkably flat, if very slow paced.  Frosts are still a risk, so understandably, the greens hadn't been cut particularly close.  It's also quite normal to play off Winter mats at this time of year, so it was no surprise to see mats in operation.  What was really unusual was that apart from on the 14th where the Medal tee is being rebuilt, all of the mats were at the very back of the Medal tees, meaning that Cochrane Castle played to its full Medal tee length of 6194 Yards, Par 71.  This is a view of the clubhouse from the 1st tee.
The first thing I noticed about Cochrane Castle was that it was alarmingly hilly, so I was glad that I'd only put a half set of clubs in my bag.  The downside of this strategy was that I was sometimes caught between clubs for particular shots!  For example, the 1st is a 166 Yard steeply uphill Par 3, played to a small green cut into the side of the hill.  This hole is named after the redoubtable Barclay Howard, winner of the Silver Medal  awarded to the leading amateur in the 1997 Open Championship at Royal Troon.  Tragically, Barclay died of cancer shortly after that triumph.  This is a view from above the green looking back down to the tee.  Ideally, I'd have gone with my 23 Degree Rescue, but the hole played to something like 180 Yards so 3 Wood it had to be.  I'd not swung a club for a couple of weeks after a steroid injection in an injured shoulder and some physio work, so an easy swing and a couple of putts for an opening par was very reassuring.  No pain!
The 2nd was only 327 Yards, but from the very back of the Medal tee the fairway looked pretty narrow and the second shot was semi-blind uphill.  Another good drive and my 27 Degree Rescue just wide of the green set up another encouraging par.  At 455 Yards, the 3rd is the shortest of four Par 5s on the course.  Another straight drive set up a 3 Wood shot towards the green.  I'd not bought a stroke saver, so didn't know that a stream cut across the fairway at the bottom of a steep hill, around 90 yards out from the green.  This hazard isn't visible from the fairway so finding that with my second led to a disappointing double bogey 7.  The 4th is a tricky long Par 4, this time involving a blind second shot (a 3 Wood for me).  I missed the green short and left, so another bogey on the card.  The Par 5 5th is 493 Yards, but plays far longer as the last 150 yards or so are steeply uphill.  I'd gone too far left with my second and took another bogey.
The 6th is a 156 Yard steeply downhill Par 3, played to a small green well defended by bunkers.  I imagine this is a difficult enough hole for members, but for me as a first time visitor, it was very difficult indeed.  From the back of the Medal tee I could just about see the top of the flag, so there was a lot of sky to aim at.  I trusted my 27 Degree Rescue and finished pin high 20 feet left of the hole, for an easy par.  The 7th is a mere 330 Yards, but is steeply uphill.  I nailed a Driver and 3 Wood (!) to set up a good par.  The 8th runs parallel to the the 7th and is a great hole, at 554 Yards from the Medal tee, all steeply downhill.  Have a good look at the 8th fairway on your way up the 7th, since you won't see any of it from the 8th Medal tee.  Thankfully, there's tons of space, but this is one of the most daunting and exciting drives on the course.  I took driver for my second and an easy 7 iron for my third set up an easy par.  This is the 9th, a gently downhill 210 Yard Par 3.  A poor bogey there and I was out in 41, loving the course and just hoping that the Back 9 would be flatter!

The Back 9 is indeed an easier walk, with the uphill 10th providing the last real climb.  Holes 11-12 are pretty flat and relatively short Par 4s.  The remaining holes are on the other side of the car park beyond the clubhouse, but the signage is good so you won't get lost!  The slightly downhill 13th  is a 347 Yard Par 4 that's easy enough if you get your drive away and find the right side of the fairway.  The 14th is a slightly downhill Par 3 playing to around 150 Yards due to works to the Medal tee.  I scrambled another par after missing the green to the left.   Most of the fairways were pretty dry, but holes 13-18 are lower than the rest of the course so there was no run to speak of.  This meant that these holes played longer than I'd expected.  For example, the Par 5 16th was 483 yards playing more like 520 into a strengthening wind and I needed a good single putt from 10 feet to rescue the par.  This is the 17th, an uphill 162 Yard Par 3, playing more like 175.  My 27 Degree Rescue wouldn't reach, so it was the 3 Wood again.  You know that feeling when you've hit a really good shot that's going to be close?  I'd hit to within 6 feet right behind the hole, but I'd left myself a tricky downhill putt with a good 9 inches of break.  A birdie would have been nice, but an easy par was OK in the circumstances.
The last at Cochrane Castle (yet another closing hole unimaginatively named "Home") is a 400 Yard Par 4, as shown here.  I'd need a par to break 80 but it wasn't to be.  Another bogey and I'd gone round in 81, net 70 (1 under par net) with 29 putts, which I was really happy with after my recent shoulder problems and the fact that the course was playing to its longest.  Cochrane Castle is a good test from the back tees and I'd strongly recommend it.  It's quite a physical work out too, particularly on the Front 9.  A final piece of advice about Cochrane Castle GC - you'll probably need a sat nav to find it!

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