Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Pines Golf Centre - Course no 570

The Pines Golf Centre consists primarily of an 18 Hole course and a driving range and is on the northern outskirts of Dumfries.  The course is a modest 5271 Yards, Par 68 and is a mixture of parkland and heathland, with water coming into play on several of the holes, either as streams or ponds.  However, when I played here on 23 April 2013 a number of the fairways also had casual water, making parts of the course a pretty soggy experience.  Given the recent mainly dry weather, I guess that lower lying this course must get really boggy over Winter months and when I played it, the course was clearly not at its best.  The course layout is reasonable enough, but I found the quality and quantity of signage disappointing.  For example, the absence of direction poles on particular blind holes made playing these holes frustrating.  Throw in some areas that are clearly ground under repair that are not marked as such e.g. old bunkers with either overgrown weeds/large stones.  When my ball landed on bare earth covering an old bunker on the 11th fairway, it would have been helpful to know that the workings would not take my 185 pounds weight, before I sank up to both ankles in sandy mud.  Equally, most of the hole signage on the tees is temporary following a rerouting of the course, but it's really not good when you play the Front 9 holes in proper sequence,  you find that 2 holes later you're invited to play another hole that is clearly labelled as the 9th (the stick on the temporary sign for the 11th had blown off). 
The Pines course starts with a couple of unremarkable Par 4s in a heathland section of the course, with the very soggy fairways loosely lined with birch and pine trees.  A stream running down the left side of the 3rd fairway will get your attention, as will the proximity of the adjacent driving range.  I'd hit a good long drive into a clearly empty part of the fairway, but by the time I got there, another 2 balls had arrived from the driving range.  The Par 4 4th is probably the trickiest hole on the Front 9.  The fairway looks pretty wide, but the hole is only 335 Yards and the fairway narrows at around 200 yards before dipping steeply downhill to the green, protected by a stream to the right.  A 3 Wood played short of the narrowing of the fairway will leave you with a blind second, so you either accept that or take your Driver for a very straight drive. If like me you've hooked your ball a bare 220 yards, you'll be left with a semi-blind shot over trees.  I rescued par with a decent putt.   I'd reached the turn in 39 in little over an hour and by then had written off the course as one that I'd be unlikely to revisit.
The 11th might be a good Par 5 if there was a direction marker to give visitors a clue about where the fairway might be.  The aforementioned old bunker on the 11th turned out to be a reasonable enough line, but a warning notice about the underlying mud would have helped my humour.  Equally, I really didn't think much of the safety aspects of playing the 14th.  This is a 338 Yard Par 4 with a blind tee shot over a steeply side sloping hill.  A long sliced drive will take your ball perilously close to anyone near the 11th tee.  A marker pole would at least give you a clue where to aim at.  I hit a reasonably good drive but was left with another blind shot of around 140 yards with the ball a good 6 inches below my feet to a small green protected by a muddy litter strewn pond that had clearly seen better days.  This is a view of the green from where I put my prudent 60 yard second shot, a wimpy layup.  I got my bogey and walked on.
Next was the 15th, a 307 Yard Par 4.  The drive is steeply uphill avoiding a couple of overgrown and abandoned bunkers that should either be marked as ground under repair, repaired or removed completely.  The fairway slopes very steeply downhill some 20 yards beyond those bunkers, as shown here, but you'll need to walk forward to check that there's no-one near the green before playing your second.  I didn't see a bell that those finishing the hole might use as an "all-clear" to those behind them.  The dog leg 16th is a good driving hole (as shown in the background of this photo) and the 17th is an enjoyable 307 Yard Par 4.
Last comes another heathland hole, the 149 Yard Par 3 18th, as shown here.  A scruffy looking pond comes into play to the left of the green and miss the  green at your peril.  I hit an easy 27 Degree Rescue to 20 feet but missed the putt.  I finished with a gross 78, net 67 or 1 under net par.  I'd taken 30 putts on greens that were easily the best aspect of the Pines course.  I also finished in 2 hours 20 minutes, without changing my mind about the course.  There are some really excellent courses in the Dumfries area, but I'm afraid that this isn't one of them.

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