Monday, 1 April 2013

Mount Ellen GC - Course no 565

I played this moderately hilly 18 hole parkland course on the Eastern outskirts of Glasgow on 1 April 2013.  Mount Ellen is a modest 5115 Yards Par 68 off the Yellow Tees.  Paul, one of the members at my own club (Glen GC) who lives close to Mount Ellen had (I suspect rather uncharitably) described it to me as "prone to flooding and still a bit of a bog at the best of times."  I played it after a reasonably dry and cold spell of weather, with some snow still lying in bunkers and in other hollows.  There were certainly some soft areas where the course had clearly been boggy during the Winter, but it was in pretty good condition, on a par with other courses that I've played this year in the West of Scotland, where rainfall is typically far higher than in the East of the country.
Mount Ellen has no Par 5s and only 3 Par 4s over 400 Yards, with 5 of the 14 Par 4s being well under 300 yards.  The longest  Yellow Tee Par 4s, numbers 1 and 16, are quite difficult and the steeply uphill 228 Yard Par 3 12th isn't reachable by most players, but generally, the course is short.  The 1st is a 407 Yard Par 4, gently downhill and normally also downwind.  A stiff and bitterly cold Easterly wind meant that the hole was playing longer than it looked, so an opening bogey was OK.  1 April was a public holiday, so I was playing behind a solid procession of 3 and 4 balls, waiting around in the cold wind to play every tee and fairway shot.  The course is also compact with little walking between greens and the next tees, so a 4 hour round was disappointingly slow, with the wind chill taking the effective temperature down to near 0 Degrees C.  I managed a comfortable first par on the 2nd, a good hole with OOB to the left and a water hazard to add to the difficulty.  The uphill 3rd, as shown here, is a ridiculously short 235 Yard Par 4. This hole is 273 Yards from the Medal tee, but is almost drivable from the Yellow Tee.  I'd not really warmed up yet and after getting even colder waiting for nearly 10 minutes on the tee I duffed my drive 150 yards or so and took another bogey.
The 4th, at only 273 Yards, is also almost drivable, but the flagstick was tucked away behind a bunker, so a par was the best I could do there.  The next 3 holes are also short Par 4s, requiring little more than a driver and short iron or wedge.  The 7th is a formidable 436 Yards from the Medal tee but is only 331 Yards from the Yellow Tee.  Nevertheless, this hole will get your attention, being the Stroke Index 1 hole, as the green is small and tricky to hold.  The fairway also slopes steeply from right to left, so you're unlikely to have an easy stance for your second shot.  The first of the 4 Par 3s is at the 8th (7 successive Par 4s is too long a run in my view!) and is a pretty easy 163 Yard hole.  The 9th is a tricky 257 Yard Par 4, steeply uphill to a green shared with the 12th.  Your approach shot might be semi-blind so take care, as you might not see anyone putting out on the 12th unless you've hit a really good drive.  I was out in 40, 5 over par.  The Back 9 at Mount Ellen starts with 3 successive Par 3s.  This is the 10th, a steeply downhill 144 Yarder.  The stream running behind and to the left of the green urges caution. There's a large fairway bunker 100 yards or so out from the tee.  Clear that and you'd expect your ball to run down onto the green, but the grass beyond the bunker is longer than you'd expect, meaning you've really got to fly the ball just short of or onto the green, bringing the stream more into play.  Clever course presentation!   Ideally, I'd have played an 8 iron, but I was only carrying a half set and my 9 iron tee shot didn't run all the way down to the green, costing me a bogey.
This is the 11th and by far the best of the Par 3s, at 139 Yards.  This also one of the flattest holes, made difficult by the stream which meanders its way in front of the tee and along the left side of the hole (note the lingering snow!)  I'd hit an easy 7 iron pin high just off the green.  I managed to hit a short pitch with my lob wedge to within a foot, so that was another easy par on the card.  The last of the Par 3s is as I've said 228 yards uphill.  I'd hit a good drive but was still 15 yards short, so that cost me a bogey.  Conversely, the 284 Yard Par 4 14th is just about drivable, even for me.  I'd aimed slightly too far right, leaving myself blocked out by some birch trees - left of centre is the better line - so had to settle for a par.  The 277 Yard Par 4 15th is also quite easy, but you need to score well on these short holes as the closing 3 holes are more testing. 
The 16th is a 408 Yard Par 4 requiring a very straight and long drive avoiding OOB on the left and a water hazard on the right.  I cleared the hazard by inches, didn't have much of a stance and could only move it forward 100 yards or so.  I still needed a 6 iron for my 3rd shot, but since this club was at home in the garage, my hard 7 ended up short, costing me a double bogey.  The 17th is probably the best hole at Mount Ellen, a downhill 350 Yard Par 4.  Split the fairway beyond the bunkers either side and it's an 8 or 9 iron over a stream to the green, as shown here. The wind was tugging my ball left and sure enough I ended up in the greenside bunker, en route to another bogey. 
The last hole is 389 Yards, uphill.  My 8 iron was also at home so I tried an easy punched 7, not realising there was a 2 foot wide water hazard in front of the green.  If only I could be that accurate all the time!  A closing bogey was slightly disappointing, but I'd gone round in 79 gross, net 68 or even net par, with 31 putts on greens that were far too slow and soft for my liking.  However, I still enjoyed the course, despite the funereal pace of play and the bitingly cold wind.  This is a course that's worth playing if you're in the area.  Not a great test, but a decent enough track if you get it in reasonably dry conditions.

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