Thursday, 11 April 2013

Torrance Park GC - Course no 568

I played this excellent 18 Hole course on 11 April 2013.  Torrance Park GC is a relatively new course that opened only 4 years ago on a former brownfield site in the industrial town of Motherwell, to the South East of Glasgow.  There's no clubhouse as yet, and though plans are in place for a £1.2 million+ development, the initial impressions are pretty underwhelming.  Accordingly,  it was pretty impressive to learn that the club already has over 400 members, particularly since there are a quite a few other existing clubs and Council courses in the area.  So what makes Torrance Park so special?  Quite simply, the quality of the course design and construction.  This place will never win any awards for scenic beauty and a number of electricity pylons straddling the course and views of surrounding commercial developments and empty brownfield marshland don't help, but as my round progressed, these minor distractions became irrelevant.  This is a Dave Thomas design and at 5916 Yards, Par 71 is a course that seems set mature into a really good test.  Most of the fairways are pretty generous and with full USGA specification greens and a number of concealed hazards to contend with, the course is great fun to play.  11 April 2013 was a dull, cold and drizzly kind of day and like others in the area, the course was still some weeks short of being at its best. after a seemingly endless Winter.  I played very well, but even allowing for that "halo" effect, I thought this was a really good course.  It's not overly difficult if you hit the ball straight and avoid trouble that lurks unseen on particular holes, but miss a drive or find one of the many water hazards and you'll be punished.
Torrance Park is built on moorland that produces tight lies and in dry conditions such I experienced some of it plays almost like a links course.  The 1st is a good example, a 323 Yard Par 4.  Drive past the bunker on the left and the fairway runs downhill.  A deep bunker protects the left of the green, but the bigger hitters will drive this opener.  The 3rd is an easy looking 341 Yard Par 4, but an elevated green and another cavernous bunker mean your approach shot needs to be precise.  The 4th is called "Getting Wet" for reasons that will become apparent if you don't clear a stream crossing the fairway around 190 yards out from the tee and avoid a large pond to the right, further up the hole.  The 5th is a largely uphill 476 Yard Par 5 that played longer than it looked, as did the 6th, a 370 yarder.  From there, the rest of the course (bar the 18th) is on the other side of a quiet road that splits the course.  The first 6 holes were all good in their own way, but for me, the section over the road was even better.

This is the 8th, a really awkward right dog leg 350 Yard Par 4. There's not much room to aim at off the tee unless you can carry the water hazard that cuts into the corner of the dog leg.  Get that right and there's a huge bunker right in front of the green.  I hit a good drive a bit too far left and had 152 Yards to clear that bunker.  I'd only taken a half set in the bag, so it was either a big 7 or a 23 Degree Rescue.  This hole is only Stroke Index 13, but a lay up 9 iron and lob wedge to the green looked to be the safer option.  Maybe I was missing something, apart from the 6 iron I'd have used, had it been in the bag!

If anything, the 9th is even more challenging and at 432 Yards mostly uphill is rightly the Stroke Index 1 hole.  I hit a great drive and a good 3 Wood just short of the green, which slopes mainly uphill front to back, as shown here.  From there I fluffed a poor pitch and run, leading to a disappointing bogey.  Still, I was out in 40, only 4 over par.  The Back 9 is over 400 yards shorter than the first half of the course, and begins with a really good Par 5.  The 10th is only 481 Yards, but plays a lot longer, with the green being set slightly above above the fairway and protected by more deep bunkering.  I hit a good Driver, 3 wood and a punched 7 iron to the back of the green.  Fortunately, the hole was only 12 feet away, but I still had a fast running downhill putt.  I'd better mention the greens at this stage - far smoother running and faster than I'd experienced in my recent travels.  They'd been top-dressed recently but were a welcome relief after the lumpy porridge or rutted concrete of recent weeks. My putt looked straight and scarily fast and went in somewhat reluctantly on its final roll after I'd deliberately hit the ball off the toe of my putter to deaden the stroke (try this sometime on a really fast downhill putt).  A good birdie and the score was ticking along nicely.  The downhill 154 Yard Par 3 12th will get your attention - yet another deep bunker!  The 13th looks straightforward enough.  Hit your drive and its a rescue club of some kind up the hill to the green.  However, there's another huge bunker in front of the right side of the green, so run your ball in from the slope on the left of the green and try not to 3 putt.
This is the view from the 14th tee, the Stroke Index 18 Hole.  This short Par 4 is only 308 Yards, but the drive is quite tricky, as you need to carry a stream about 200 yards out and avoid a fairway bunker to the left of the fairway.  Do that, and its only a short wedge to the green.  I managed a 4 easily enough after just missing my birdie putt, but the guy playing behind me lost a lot of ground and at least one ball.  The 15th is another short Par 4, this time with a blind tee shot over a hill.  Come up short, as I did, and its a blind shot to the green, a lot longer than you'd like! It's just as well I can putt!
This is the 16th, a nice little 124 Yard Par 3.  This hole looks easy enough, but the green is severely sloped from the back and you really don't want to hit your tee shot above the hole.  I'd a comfortable 15 footer from below the hole, which I left uncomfortably short!  A par there and I was 6 over with 2 holes to go.  The 17th is a really good Par 5.  It's only 462 Yards, so get your drive away and there appears to be acres of space for your slightly downhill second.  Even if you're still 100 yards short in 2, your third shot will look invitingly simple.  However, Mr Thomas has been up to his tricks again, so there's another bunker tucked below your view to the green, ready to swallow anything under hit towards the left of the green.  I know, because one the pair of guys  in front spent a good few strokes digging his way out.  I scrambled a par after an unconvincing 3 Wood second shot left me with a full 9 iron (luckily I'd put that club in the bag!) 
The 18th is an innocent looking 176 Yard Par 3.  Hit 160 and the ball will run down a slope to the green.  Go too far right and a slope would run the ball right to left onto the green. That was the strategy anyway.  Luckily the flag was on the right side of the green, because the deepest bunker on the entire course protects the left side of the green as shown here.  My tee shot had gone 10 feet past the flag, so I'd a good chance for a closing birdie.  Did I suggest earlier that I could putt?  Still, a gross 77 net 66 was a great score in the circumstances and as I'd taken 34 putts, it could have been slightly better.  I was delighted to finish net 5 under par.
Torrance Park wasn't at its best and probably needed a few weeks of warm sun and the odd downpour.  I won't have time to play the course again this year, but I'd like to go back in a few years' time, maybe when the clubhouse is built and the course is more mature.  Play this place on a  sunny Summer's day and enjoy!

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