I finally played this course on 9 April 2013. I say "finally" since Polly and I had entered the Hollandbush Mixed Foursomes Open in 2009. It's 70 miles from our house to the course so with no phone call to advise us not to travel, we were surprised to find on our arrival that the course had been closed for some days due to flooding. OK, maybe we should have phoned, but since we'd been monitoring the weather and hadn't seen any significant rainfall forecast for the local area, we didn't think to do so. Hollandbush was also closed due to flooding when I paid it a visit on 2 July 2012, but at least I got a game at nearby Broadlees. Hollandbush appeared to be playing hard to get.
The course is owned and operated by South Lanarkshire Council and is home to Hollandbush GC. Our local authorities are under all sorts of financial pressures these days, but to its credit, the Council is obviously doing its best to maintain this course on a difficult moorland site and clearly cannot be held responsible for the weather. The weather in Central Scotland has been unseasonably cold and dry for several weeks (apart from the odd heavy blizzard), so I took the precaution of phoning before setting out on my third attempt to play this somewhat elusive course. Hollandbush is an 18 hole moorland course just off the M74, around 20 miles South East of Glasgow. The course is a modest 5552 Yards Par 70 off the Yellow Tees. The full course was in play and the ground conditions were dry, but it had obviously suffered over the Winter and was not looking at its best. The greens were slow, bumpy and almost as brown as the fairways (I spent some time colour-enhancing the photos I took when playing the course). The greens had also been heavily scarified and sanded (for any readers who don't know, scarification is a linear aeration technique which removes organic thatch build up on the greens to get to the desired smooth playing surface. Thatch build up reduces water penetration and can also lock up nutrients in the soil as well as providing an ideal environment for weeds and disease). Given a reasonably good Summer, Hollandbush would look and play better and to be fair, I've probably played it a bit too early in the golf season. However, I do wonder how much optimal golf conditions the members get for their annual subscriptions.
The Front 9 is by 500 yards the longer of the 2 parts and is considerably more difficult. Indeed, the course starts with its longest hole, an awkward 479 Yard Par 5, as shown here, played downhill from the tee and steeply uphill to the green, with a couple of streams cutting across the fairway to add to the difficulty. I managed a par after a short pitch to within 4 feet. The Par 4 Stroke Index 1 Hole 4th is normally 339 Yards off the Yellow Tee, but when I played it, the Yellow Tee was located towards the front of the Medal Tee, extending the hole to around 430 Yards. I fluffed a short iron approach to the green and had a double bogey on my way to an outward 42. The most interesting hole on the Front 9 is probably the 5th, a 319 Yard Par 4. A stream cutting across the fairway adds pressure to the tee shot and your second will be completely blind up a steep hill.
However, I thought the back 9 was more interesting overall. I'm not a great fan of blind Par 3s, so I didn't think much of the 10th, an almost completely blind 189 Yard Par 3 (and I didn't like the 6th either, for the same reason). The 11th is a good 327 Yard Par 4 with a steeply side sloping fairway and in my case at least, a blind fairway shot to the narrow green. I secured an unlikely par after a poor hooked drive with a 10 foot single putt (my longest of the day!) The 12th is where the fun really starts at Hollandbush. This is a left dog leg 330 Yard Par 4 played from an elevated tee over or around some tall trees, as shown here, with a lateral water hazard coming into play for anyone tempted to take the direct route to the left of the biggest tree. The carry to that biggest tree is only 180 yards or so and the green itself is small, so a tricky hole if you don't hit a couple of good shots.
This is the 13th, a 160 Yard Par 3 played from an elevated tee. I'd come up just short of the left bunker, but a good lob wedge to within a foot set up an easy enough par. The 14th is a short 245 Yard Par 4. A down slope around 190 yards out from the tee will carry your ball almost to the green, bringing a couple of bunkers into play. I'd just missed the left side of the green and had a simple pitch to leave myself a 6 foot birdie putt. The greens were really tricky to putt on, so my slightly under hit putt just staggered into the hole on its last vapours.
By that time I'd caught up with a couple of guys who'd started 4 holes ahead of me and they kindly stood aside to let me play through on the 15th after they'd lost a ball from the tee. The Par 4 15th, as shown here, is only 268 Yards, but is by far the most difficult tee shot on the course, so not where you'd really choose to be waived through. The ideal line is just to the right of the small yellow/green fir tree in the centre of the photo, to leave a short pitch to the green. I hit my best drive and possibly my worst short pitch of the day, but a couple of putts and a "Thanks Guys" later and I was on my way to the 16th. This plays as a 350 Yard Par 4 from the Yellow Tee and a 490 Yard Par 5 from the Medal Tee, with a blind tee shot over a hill and the green set high at the top of another steep hill and a couple of streams to avoid. I was happy enough with a bogey as it could have been worse.
I'd gone round in 80, net 69,1 under par net, with 29 Putts. I'd enjoyed the Back 9 and played pretty well overall, but I doubt I'd want to play Hollandbush again. It's not a bad track overall, but check the weather and phone ahead if you fancy a game here.