I played at Hoddom Castle on 23 April 2013 after my round at the nearby Pines Golf Centre in Dumfries. The original castle dates back to the 1560s (see www.hoddomcastle.co.uk/history/index.html for details), but the key point for my blogging purposes is that the castle grounds now contain an excellent 9 Hole golf course in addition to a large caravan park and related tourism facilities. This is a flat easy walking parkland course that has been cleverly laid out between the castle and the slowly meandering River Annan. Some other courses attached to caravan parks that I've played in the course of my travels around Scotland have been less than outstanding in terms of design and upkeep and offer little of a golfing challenge. This course is different, in that it was in superb condition and had a some really tricky holes. This course was great fun to play - just pay £13 at the reception desk for the caravan park located in the main castle building.
Whoever designed it clearly had a devilish sense of humour, bringing some seriously old estate trees into play and making the greens so small that only a really accurate shot will do. For example, this is the view from the 1st tee. This opening Par 4 is only 217 yards, but is dominated by an old oak tree and the small green is raised 3 feet above the fairway. I hit the tree and I opened with a bogey. The 2nd hole is a 258 Yard Par 4, slight dog leg left to right. Hit a reasonable drive and it's only a short pitch to a small fast running green sloping wickedly from front left to back right.
The 3rd is a 147 Yard Par 3 with a narrow long green, as shown here. I hit an easy 6 iron to 10 feet and holed the putt for my only birdie in the 27 holes I played that day. The plateau green looks pretty small from the tee - and you'll get a good view of it coming off the 2nd green. Being a low lying parkland course, the fairways were quite lush and slow, so there was little run. Accordingly, I was surprised to see that the 4th, all 237 Yards of it, was a Par 3, since I imagine that most players wouldn't be able to reach the green. I certainly fell a few yards short and took a bogey, despite a good pitch to 4 feet.
The 5th Hole is really tricky. It's only a 301 Yard Par 4, but the river runs all the way down the right of the hole and anything left, such as my tee shot, will be completely blocked out by more trees, as shown here. The river runs immediately behind and to the right of the green, so I chipped to the right of the trees, pitched to within 10 feet and holed out for a very dodgy par. More trees come into play on the 6th, a 283 Yard Par 4, with OOB all the way down the right and trees blocking the fairway on the left, such that a draw played over the OOB fence is the "easiest" shot. I was happy enough with a bogey on such a difficult hole.
Next comes an innocent looking 255 Yard Par 4. The fairway is wide and the drive is easy enough, but the 2-tier shallow green slopes severely and is set at an awkward angle, as shown here. It would be easy to 3-putt this green from no great distance, so I was happy enough with another par. The 8th is a 379 yard slightly uphill Par 4 that plays longer than it looks and I dropped a shot after missing the green with my 3 Wood(!) second. The closing hole is an easy 244 Yard Par 4 but you must steer well away from the big tree that blocks the right side of the fairway.
I went round in 37 gross, 3 over par, or 31.5 net, compared to the par of 34, with 16 putts. Hoddom Castle is a joy to play. I would have gone round again, but I'd a 90+ miles drive home.