Friday, 28 June 2013

Tarbert GC - Course no 593

Tarbert GC lies at the head of West Loch Tarbert at the North end of the Kintyre peninsula and is a short 9-Hole moorland course of only 2156 Yards Par 33.  I played the course on 26 June 2013 at the end of my 3 day trip to Arran and Kintyre.  I could have gone on to play another course on my way home but Tarbert was my 7th course in 3 days and I had caddying and playing commitments when I got back home, so 9 holes over Tarbert was enough.

Tarbert starts gently with a couple of 257 and 284 Yard Par 4s.  "The Hill" a 141 Yard uphill Par 3 that plays more like 170 is next, then this little course really shows its teeth.  The 4th is only 156 Yards long, but I'm not ashamed to say that I hit a full 3 Wood and came up short.  This view from the tee doesn't really show how steep this hole is, so just take my word for it.  I was happy enough with a bogey 4!

The 5th is called "Lone Tree" and at first I thought this referred to the big tree just to the left of the tee and that the green was the one that's clearly visible centre-left of this photo, as taken from the 5th tee.  However, the scorecard said that the 5th was the Stroke Index 1 Hole and was a 315 yard Par 4, suggesting that the tee shot had to carry beyond the bushes 200+ yards away.  I hit Driver and sure enough, the second shot has to avoid the lone tree in the middle of the fairway, as also shown below.  I managed a good par after finding the green in regulation.

The 6th also brings that lone tree into play and at 282 yards, this Par 4 should be a just a decent drive and an easy wedge at most, but a stream and a gully lie in front of the small green, so don't be short.

Next, the 311 Yard 7th takes you slightly up and across another hill and your second will be longer than you might think, to a tiny green.  I missed the green, my ball running 30 yards downhill, leaving me an awkward pitch uphill back to the green.  From there, the 8th goes steeply downhill.  This is a 128 Yard Par 3 but the tee shot is almost completely blind.  There are no bunkers or other trouble to contend with.  You just have to take the right club and swing easy.  A 9 iron was right for me, setting up an easy birdie.

The last hole is a flat looking 282 Yard Par 4 with OOB all the way down the right and rough/bushes down the left.  The fairway is far narrower than the others and you won't see that a stream cuts across the hole around 200 yards out from the tee and that the fairway dips at around 180 yards, meaning that anything landing just short of the stream may run into it.  Play well short or hit a good straight drive.  This is a view back up the hole from under the big oak tree at the back of the green.  The 9th and 5th are probably the best couple of holes at Tarbert. I scored 37 gross, 4 over par with 15 putts, but if I was going to Kintyre again, I'd probably give Tarbert a miss and press on to Carradale. 

Isle of Gigha GC - Course no 592

Gigha is a small island, 7 miles long by half a mile wide, lying a 20 minute ferry trip from the west side of the Kintyre peninsula.  The island had been in steady decline but a few years ago it was bought by the community, a trust company was formed to enable the community to manage and develop the island and after years of steady growth and hard work by all concerned it now has an expanding population of around 120 and is a great example of how community buy outs can succeed.  Golf had been introduced to the island in the late 1800s and continued there until around 1925.  A couple of islanders keen on golf created a course in 1986 and in 1988 the course moved to its present site at Drumeonbeg Farm.  Nowadays, this 9 Hole parkland course is 2121 Yards Par 33 from the Yellow Tees.  The fairways are very generously wide and on most holes you'd need to be seriously wayward to tangle with some punishing looking rough.  As with most of the small island courses in Scotland, the equipment available to greenkeepers here is pretty basic and hole signage, flagsticks and individual flags are all pretty weather-beaten.  However, it takes serious effort and dedication to maintain even a small golf course with little or no funding, so well done to all concerned for keeping this little course in such good condition.  

The course starts with an uphill 274 Yard Par 4.  The fairways were cut pretty long, so with little run you only get what you hit.  I was still a short chip away after a poor second shot with my wedge, so a bogey start to my third course of the day.  The 2nd as shown here is a steeply downhill 135 Yard Par 3.  Too bold and you're off the course.  Too short and you reload.  The greens didn't look great but putted surprisingly well, so no excuses on that account.  I was just tired and a bogey was all my poor tee  shot deserved.

The 3rd is a flat 318 Yard Par 4.  Anything reasonable off the tee leaves a short wedge to the small green and I'd an easy 4.  This is actually the Stroke Index 1/2 Hole using an 18 hole format, but for me, the 6th was a far harder proposition.  The 4th is narrower than other holes, so the tee shot deserves your full attention.  Get that right and a par should follow.  This short Par 4 runs parallel to the single track road that runs the length of Gigha so be prepared to wave back or stop for a blether when passing islanders see you playing.  The 5th is an uphill 112 Yard Par 3, but it plays more like 135, so be sure to take enough club.  I didn't and that error cost me a bogey.  The 6th is 323 Yards, but I didn't notice that the Yellow marker was beside the Medal marker i.e. the hole would play to 364 Yards.  I'd hit a good drive and was a short wedge away from a green that I assumed would be the 6th.  This proved to be the 8th, so if you ever play this course, note that the 6th green is further up the hill on the right!  I retraced my steps and gave myself a Mulligan from the middle of the 6th fairway and hit a 20 Degree Rescue to the real 6th green and secured a dodgy par with a couple of decent putts.  It's easy to make such Innocent mistakes when playing new courses!

The 7th is a short uphill 231 Yard Par 4.  Again, hit the wide fairway and a short pitch should set you up for an easy par.  You might have to wait until some ducks waddle off the green, as I did, but there's really no rush. When I played here on 25 June 2013 after my earlier rounds at Dunaverty and Machrihanish I was the only golfer on the course and you'd also probably have the place to yourself.  The 8th was probably my favourite hole on Gigha, a 297 Yard downhill Par 4, played blind from the tee. I'd hit my best drive of the round and had only a short wedge to the green for an easy par.  The last hole is more demanding.  This is a 140 Yard Par 3 played downhill. but your drive will be almost blind.  This is a view from in front of the tee, with the 1st fairway running up the hill to the right and the 3rd fairway in the left foreground.  I wasn't sure about the yardage as the green looked to be far more than 140 yards away.  I over-clubbed and finished on the wrong side of the narrow track that leads to the small car park and storage hut, hence my closing bogey.

I'd gone round in 39, or 6 over par, with 16 putts and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  If you're ever across that way, take the ferry over for a game round this little course and admire the hard work that has been done to maintain a short golf course on almost no budget.  Your score probably won't matter.  Just enjoy the experience and the views.

Machrihanish GC Pans Course - Course no 591

Machrihanish GC is well known for having what is reputedly the finest opening hole in the world. Quite who decides on the criteria for such a sweeping assessment and what qualifications and world-wide golfing knowledge did they really have?  Indeed, has anyone actually played enough courses around the world to form a reasonable opinion? There's little doubt that the tee shot could be extremely difficult depending on how far you think you can hit your opener, but as this photo from the 1st Medal Tee shows, it's still possible to play relatively safe by baling out to the right, turning this 436 Yard Par 4 into a Par 5 for shorter hitters.  For an opening hole to be classed as the best in the world, no less, I'd expect a bit more than something requiring a gamble on how far and straight you can hit your first shot of the round.  As opening hole views go, is there really nothing more inspiring world-wide?  Having now played most of the courses in Scotland I have my own views on the best Scottish opening holes and this one isn't in my top 3. Then again, what qualifies me to make such a comment?   I'm not a course architect or even a hugely proficient player and many others will have their own views, for their own reasons. Let's just say that Machrihanish has a famous championship links course enjoyed by golfers from all over the world and leave it at that.

A less well known feature of golf at Machrihanish GC is the Pans, its second course, a 9-Hole links course originally created to allow lady members to have an easier course of their own, rather than face the sometimes formidable challenges of the Championship Course itself.  These days,  the Machrihaish Pans Course is a 2319 Yard Par 34 links course that is far less demanding than the bigger course and offers all golfers an easier challenge, a practice facility or just a fun course.  I'd played the Championship Course some years before on a wet cold November afternoon, finishing in fading light before a long drive home, so I'd no time to play the Pans Course as well.  I finally got to play this little course on 25 June 2013 after my earlier round that day at the nearby Dunaverty GC.  

The 1st Tee on the Pans Course is a decent Par 4's distance from the Pro Shop and even further from the car park, so it was somewhat alarming to find that I'd left a zip undone on my golf bag and that all but one of my golf balls had presumably fallen out into my car boot.  The rough on the Pans Course isn't overly long or thick, but taking only one ball for a 9 hole round wasn't a very clever start.  The 1st is a simple enough 180 Yard Par 3.  The Pans' greenside bunkering is pretty light, but finding one from the tee led to an opening bogey.  The 2nd, as shown here, is a 270 Yard Par 4, easy enough if you hit a reasonable drive.  The 3rd is a more demanding 185 Yard Par 3, slightly uphill to a left to right sloping green, played over a stream and ideally, avoiding heavy rough front right of the green.  

Generally, all of the holes are short with wide fairways and light bunkering.  The 118 Yard Par 3 7th, as shown here, looks pretty tight from the tee and I couldn't see the bottom of the flag from there, but there was actually a reasonable amount of room.   I should have done better with a 10 foot birdie putt, but that's golf.

The closing hole, a 341 Yard Par 4, is the Stroke Index 1 Hole and has OOB all along the right side of the fairway.  However, it's easy enough if you hit a straight drive.  I was round in 37 gross, 3 over par, with 16 putts.  The Pans Course would be a good warm up before tackling the Championship Course or for a fun round/general practice, but I doubt I'd bother to play it again, even for fun.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Dunaverty GC - Course no 590

This is an 18 Hole links course in the village of Southend, which as the name suggests is at the bottom of the Kintyre peninsula.  Miss it and you'll likely drown in the North Channel between Scotland and Northern Ireland.  I played here on 25 June 2013 after my rounds the previous day at Corrie, Lochranza and Carradale, so I wasn't at my freshest golf-wise.  Indeed, I was pretty tired and I'd 36 holes to play that day.  So, I was pretty pleased to see that Dunaverty was a mere 4577 Yards, Par 66 off the Yellow Tees.  However, it was a warm and very humid day and as the round went on I realised that parts of Dunaverty were far more hilly than I'd expected.  Dunaverty looks pretty short, but when you're tired before you start, it's long enough.  Chances are by the time you get this far on a Scottish golfing trip you'll have squeezed quite a few rounds in, so don't go thinking that because the course is well under 5000 Yards it's going to be easy.  Dunaverty is a super little course, but it's far from easy.  

The first 4 holes and the 18th lie on the right side of a river that splits the course into 2 sections. These 5 holes are all pretty short and relatively easy, the main features being electrified fences to keep the cattle off the greens.  Take care when crossing and use the sections covered by rubber tubing, or risk a nasty shock.  This is a view of the 4th green, completely hidden from view by a sand dune when you play that 162 Yard Par 3.  The greens at Dunaverty are among the very best I've seen anywhere this year.  A few bare patches still be treated after winter damage but otherwise almost perfect, fast and true running.

The second part of the course, and from 5 to 13 in particular, is generally a lot tighter, with an ample supply of gorse, heather, steep hills, blind shots, sloping lies, narrow fairways and unpredictable bounces to content with.  Holes 14-17 are more open but still more challenging in their own ways than the earlier sections.  For example, this is the view from the 5th Tee.  It's only an 80 or so yard carry over  the river and this steeply uphill hole is only 248 Yards overall, but with OOB to the right the wide fairway doesn't look so easily hit.  I was delighted to get a par after a good drive and a short pitch to the green.

This is the view from the 8th Tee.  You might, like me, want to walk forward to have a look at the fairway, as you certainly don't see any of it from the tee.  This is the Stroke Index 2 hole and at 372 Yards is slightly uphill with a late dog leg to the left towards the end of the fairway.  My bogey was decent enough in the circumstances.  From there, the 9th and 10th take you steeply uphill again.  The 9th is only 248 Yards, but it plays far longer.  Hit your ball past the marker pole and it'll run the rest of the way steeply downhill to the green.   Fail to hit it past the marker and you'll have a completely blind shot.  The Par 3 10th is only 120 Yards, but is the steepest of the many climbs, so be sure to take enough club.  Leave your bag by the tee and take your wedge, putter and driver.  By the time you've finished the 10th you'll probably be ready for something downhill and sure enough, the 11th is just that.  However, the tee is a another short climb above the 10th green.  As shown here, the 11th is a West-facing 252 Yard Par 4, with a huge drop to the fairway.  I played it on a flat calm day, but this must be a really tough shot in the kind of gales that can blow and usually from the West!

I finished 30 yards short of the green with my 3 Wood and fiddled my way to a tired bogey.  The rest of the course looked fairly flat, but no, the Par 4 272 Yard 12th went up yet another hill, this time leaving you with a totally blind second shot.  Negotiate that, and along comes the Stroke Index 1 Hole, a steeply downhill 446 Yard Par 5, named chillingly "The Cemetery".  Says it all, really. The fairway is as wide as you'd ever wish to find, but then it funnels in severely, leaving you a blind second shot played between thick lines of gorse, whins and heavy rough.  I trundled my way down the left side of the fairway, dodging bullets all the way, with blind second and third shots which to my great surprise found the green, leaving me with a rare birdie putt from 10 or so feet.  I missed, but a par there was pretty good.  Don't even think about taking your bag from the 13th to the 14th, a 192 Yard Par 3.  The long flight of steps upwards should tell you all you need to know, as should its name, "Rest and be Thankful."

The 14th is actually a pretty straightforward flattish hole, but it's all carry and anything under-hit will finish in a gully, leaving you an awkward shot to the green.  Holes 15-17 are also wider and more inviting, the 17th having a river directly in front of the green, as shown by this photo taken from the 18th tee.  The 17th is a 385 Yard Par 4 and I'd hit a good drive, but with a reasonable score to nurse, I laid up and hit a wedge to 20 feet for a "chicken" bogey.  Either that, or I know my limitations.  The last hole at Dunaverty is an unremarkable flat 303 Yard Par 4.  A pity in a way, since this challenging little course deserves a stronger finishing hole, rather than just Driver to a very wide fairway (and if you miss that the rough is short and thin), a wedge and a couple of putts in front of the clubhouse windows.  I'd narrow the fairway, feed the rough and add some deeper bunkering as there's not much room to add significant length.

I enjoyed playing Dunaverty and scored pretty well, going round in a gross 75 (net 64, or 2 under net par), with 31 Putts.  I strongly recommend you add this to a trip to play the 2 championship courses at Machrihanish and the excellent Carradale course.  

Carradale GC - Course no 589

After playing at Lochranza GC on 24 June 2013 I took the short ferry crossing to Claonaig on the east side of the Kintyre peninsula to play another 5 courses there, starting at Carradale GC, halfway down the east side of the peninsula.  Carradale is an outstanding 9 Hole links course, measuring a very short 1999 Yards, Par 32 from the Yellow Tees and was an absolute joy to play.  You're probably playing the wrong sport if you don't enjoy this course, simple as that.  It's not the most demanding layout you'll find, but the condition of the course was just great and the warm sunny weather helped too.  I don't know when I'll be back that direction, but I'd certainly hope to play the course again sometime.

Carradale starts with a steeply uphill 144 Yard semi-blind Par 3.  You'll see only the very top of the flag from the tee, so take 2 clubs more than you'd normally need.  I went with an easy 27 Degree Rescue and came up just short of the green. From there, a couple of putts secured an easy opening par.  This is the 1st green looking North East up the Kilbrannan Sound and over to the west side of Arran.  Hopefully, this photo highlights the outstanding quality of the greens here - fast, true running and smooth and a tribute to the skills of whoever looks after this little course.

From there, the 2nd is played downhill and at 310 Yards, this Par 4 is the longest hole on the course. The fairway is generously wide, but for me at least, the second shot was quite tricky, as also shown below.  Anything short risks getting caught in thick rough and the plateau green is small and difficult to hold.  My pitch to the green was barely a yard short of ideal but ran off into thick rough, costing me a bogey.

The 3rd, a 228 Yard Par 3, is all about the drive, with rough on a both sides and the hole is slightly uphill and blind.  Unsurprisingly, this is the Stroke Index 1 Hole. I hit a straight drive, just short of the green, but my long 80+ foot putt was slightly downhill overall and rolled off the back of the green.  Another bogey.  I just stood  for a while on the 4th admiring the view, there being no-one else on the whole course.

The 4th is a 251 Yard Par 4.  The fairway is again pretty wide, but the second shot is steeply uphill to a small green cut into the hill, as shown below.  I tried to use the slope at the back of the green to let the ball come back down, but over-hit my wedge very slightly, leaving me an almost impossible shot downhill to a green that sloped away from me as also shown below.  I tried a 60 Degree lob wedge to kill the ball into the slope well to the right of the green, but even then my ball ran clean off the green down towards the fairway.  A good chip and a single putt saved the par.

Next, the 5th is a 256 Yard Par 4 played from an elevated tee to another small green cut into the side of an old sand dune, as shown above my bag on the photo immediately above.  This time I used the backstop to better effect and had an easy par.

The 6th is a 249 Yard Par 4 that almost cost me my score.  I'd hit a good looking drive but a 90 Degree left bounce took my first shot into heavy rough on the left of the hole.  I played a provisional on much the same line and again, my ball ran into the heavy stuff.  I found the first one, but had an awful lie and could only hack it out a few yards.  The provisional was lost -  a new ball! This hole is called Pudding Bowl after the shape of the green and its surrounding collar of rough but after a dodgy bogey and some bad bounces, I was coming up with a less innocent alternative!

The 7th is a difficult 167 Yard Par 3, slightly downhill over some gorse bushes.  You won't see much of the green or the flag, but as the photos below suggest, there's more room than appears to be the case from the tee, so I had an easy enough par.

The 8th is a steeply uphill 128 Yard Par 3 that plays 2 clubs longer than you might expect.  Another easy par, despite just missing the green.  If needs be, linger for a while to get your breath back and enjoy the view.

It had been a long day, starting with a 0500 hrs alarm call.  I'd only played 3 short 9 Hole courses, but I'd been caddying a lot before the trip and the day was rapidly catching up with me, so a nice easy final hole would have been ideal.  Unfortunately, Carradale's last hole has OOB all the way up the left of the fairway and although the hole is only 266 Yards, the tee shot is quite demanding.  I somehow managed to hit my best drive of the day to within 20 or so yards from the green, so an easy flick, a couple of putts and a closing par was a satisfying finish to this excellent little course.  The Carradale Hotel where I was staying overnight is just to the left of the clubhouse in the photo below so I didn't have far to go for a refreshing hot bath and a beer.  Gross 35 was 3 over par, so pretty good.  However, my 13 putts were due more to just missing greens in regulation than great putting, to be honest.  I sorely tempted to go round again, but with 4 more courses to go over the next couple of days and some caddying work at Renaissance later in the week, I settled for the bath and some beers, in that order!

Carradale was great fun to play and I strongly recommend you give it a try.  The famous championship courses at Machrihanish GC and Machrihanish Dunes GC further down the Kintyre peninsula attract thousands of visiting golfers every year, but I just wish that more would take the short detour to play the Carradale course.  It's well worth the trip and great value for money.  However, if you find a Titliest with a Glen GC logo to the left of the 6th, please take better care of it than I did.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Lochranza GC - Course no 588

I played this 2332 Yard Par 34 9 Hole parkland course on 24 June 2013 after my round at nearby Corrie GC, so I've now played all 7 of the courses on the Isle of Arran.  Unlike Corrie, the Lochranza course is almost completely flat, with the course running either side of a small river that flows through it.  The fairways are generously wide so if you hit it relatively straight off the tee the course is there for the taking.  However, water comes into play on some holes, particularly 1, 7 and 9, so you'll need to plot your way around pretty carefully.  You'll also want to avoid disturbing the large herd of deer that roam the course.  I'd noticed the large print request on the scorecard "please be aware of deer roaming the course" and thought this pretty unusual, since deer are usually more commonly found higher up our hills during the Summer.  Indeed, deer are usually pretty wary of us humans and would normally spot us well before we got anywhere near them and move off.  At Lochranza GC, the deer appeared to have little concern, as these photos suggest - no zooms used!

But enough of them, this is golf blog after all.  The 1st hole is a slight dog leg left 341 Yard Par 4, with the river cutting across the fairway around 160 yards out from the tee.  The river is also bordered by mature trees, so whilst it's easy enough to clear the river, doing so just brings the trees into play, risking a double bogey or worse.  The more sensible play is to drive towards and short of the white marker in front of the river, opening up an iron to the green.  I got the first bit right before hooking an 8 iron into rough short and left of the green, costing me an opening bogey.  The 2nd is a 267 Yard Par 4 and should be an easy hole - must be if I parred it!  The Par 3 3rd is more tricky at 190 Yards, as shown here.  The wind was blowing straight from green to tee and with OOB right behind the green, clubbing was difficult.  I opted for a 3 Wood and just missed the green to the left.  With the stag shown above only a few feet behind me, I thinned a pitch into rough on the other side of the green.  The lie was good, though, but I wasn't expecting to chip in for birdie.

The 4th is only 94 Yards but with water in front and behind the small green, this is a tricky little Par 3.  I got the par OK after just missing the green with my easy pitch with a wedge.  Holes 5 and 6 were both short Par 4s, playing almost straight downwind.  The 5th is a 90 Degree dog leg right, so you won't need a long drive off the tee.  A long iron/wedge combination should be enough.  Water comes into play on the 6th, so don't be tempted to get the driver out unless you're a long hitter and hit it very straight - trees also come into play if you're over-ambitious. I thought the 7th was easily the trickiest hole at Lochranza, despite being only the 9th and 10th most difficult on the 18-hole Stroke Index.  This is a 233 Yard Par 4, with the river running across the hole around 180 yards from the tee and water again coming into play immediately in front and to the right of the small green.  Trees bordering the river add to the difficulty, as shown here.  I laid up with my 27 Degree Rescue club and played an easy 9 iron second, which missed the green to the right and got wet (and lost), costing me a double bogey 6.  The 8th was a 247 Yard Par 4, slightly uphill towards the green. but easy enough if you get your drive away.

The right dog leg 373 Yard Par 4 9th is more formidable and was Stroke Index 1 and 2 on the scorecard.  The river cuts across the hole, but try not to hook (as I did) as this leaves a long and awkward shot into the small green.  I was happy enough to take a bogey after clipping a tree with my second shot.  39 gross, net 33.5 was just under net par and 13 putts was also pretty good.  Lochranza is a fun course to play and I'd recommend it - you'll also enjoy seeing the deer close up.

Corrie GC - Course no 587

There are 7 courses on the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde.  I'd played 5 of them some years ago on a short golfing holiday with Polly, long before I decided to play every course in Scotland.  I also had some courses to play on the Kintyre Peninsula so with good weather forecast, I set off to play 7 courses over 24-26 June 2013, starting with Corrie, a very short 9 Hole moorland course on the east side of  Arran, at only 1915 yards, Par 31.  What Corrie lacked in length it made up for in spectacular scenery and really good greens.  The course starts quietly enough with the easiest hole on the course, a tree-lined 127 Yard Par 3.  A simple par for me after a decent 8 iron from the tee.

Next, a 134 Yard Par 3 that plays a lot longer than it looks, with the "Arran Alps" in the background.  The green is tucked behind the mound to the right of the lone tree in the middle of the first photo below.  The hole is also slightly uphill, so I took a my 27 Degree Rescue, hit the tree, came up short and took a bogey.   As befits such a small course, the greens were pretty small, as this photo of the 2nd green clearly shows.

The 3rd hole is an uphill 219 Yard Par 4 which also plays longer than you'd expect.  There's a carry of 160 or so Yards to the fairway over heavy rough, as shown here and left off the tee is dead.  I hit a good drive just short of the green, chipped close and holed an easy short putt for a birdie.  The 4th is a steeply downhill 130 Yard Par 3, but with the green being so small, you need an accurate shot or risk losing your ball in bushes around the green.  The 97 Yard Par 3 5th is blind and steeply uphill, so take at least 2 extra clubs and be very straight.  I took one club extra, was slightly wayward, still had a blind second shot and took a double bogey, so not very impressive there.

The 238 Yard Par 4 6th is again steeply uphill but there's also a steep side slope to the right to contend with and OOB to the left and the green is probably the smallest on the course.  A par there is actually a very good score as it's easy to miss the green in regulation.  This is the highest point on the course, giving a great view over the Firth of Clyde and the Ayrshire coast in the far distance.  Have a look for the 7th green to your left as you play the 3rd as you might struggle to locate it from the 7th Tee.  The Par 4 7th is actually only 302 Yards, as shown here, but the small green looks miles away from the tee and be careful not to play if anyone is on the 3rd fairway at the time.  The hole is steeply downhill and the green is driveable, even with a 3 Wood, but to do so you need to carry that fairway and get your ball over the patch of rough in front of the 7th Green and the 3rd Tee.  My 3 Wood tee shot finished on a steep down slope in that rough, but a 40 yard reverse swing with my wedge made the green (face away from the intended line of play and turn your club round the other way, gripping only with your right hand, take a good swing and try not to hit your ankle).  I don't routinely practice that shot, it's just that my erratic play sometimes leaves me with that as my best option!  A par from there was pretty good.

The 8th is another short Par 3, but I took a bogey after finding a bunker off the tee.  The last hole at Corrie is a 225 Yard Par 4.  Water comes into play twice and the hole narrows considerably the further you hit off the tee.  Luckily, I hit a dead straight drive just right of the green but I hit a poor chip and run and had to settle for an easy par rather than the birdie I was hoping for.  Still, I was round in a gross 34, only 3 over par, with 14 putts.  But even that isn't much of a score.  Hit the ball any real distance, keep it straight and avoid 3 putting and you should score really well.   I had another couple of courses to play that day or I would have gone round again to enjoy the views once more and try to beat my 34.

Regular readers of this blog will recall my deep aversion to midgies and other biting insects to be found on Scotland's west coast and elsewhere during the Summer months.  Visiting Corrie I was actually stung during the 20 yard walk from my car to the small clubhouse to pay the green fee, so be warned!  But don't let that put you off paying this little course a visit.  It's really good fun to play and you'll be round in about an hour!


Thursday, 20 June 2013

Wee Links Covesea Pitch and Putt Course - Course no 586

This is a very poor 9 Hole parkland pitch and putt course on the main road between Lossiemouth and Hopeman on the Moray Coast, attached to a driving range, with a café operating on site as a separate business.  The green fee is £3 for adults payable in an Honesty Box inside this rather unglamorous hut.  Why it needs 2 doors escapes me, as there's only one space within, but I'm afraid that that's probably the most interesting aspect of this rather dismal place (apart from why it still exists).  There are no scorecards and hole distances are shown on only 7 of the hole markers.  Accordingly, I'm guessing that the course measures 675 Yards, Par 27. 
Unsurprisingly, the course was deserted when I played it on 19 June 2013 after my round at the excellent Covesea Links Course almost next door.  The fairways were just weed strewn paths between worn out tees and coarsely cut slow and very bumpy greens, barely 15 feet across.  If I managed to find a green off the tee (4 out of 9 attempts), single putting was almost impossible.  It was actually easier to score pars by just missing the greens and chipping close and hoping to single putt from a couple of feet.  I went round in 29 strokes with 13 putts in little over half an hour.
I'll definitely not bother to play here again.  Once was enough.  Serious golfers trying to play every course in Scotland would need to pay a visit but I suspect that few locals would waste their time (and £3) when there are so many really excellent courses nearby.  Maybe this place serves a casual tourist market, attracted by the excellent café on site, but I'm not sure a round over here would attract many to the sport we all know and love.  Certainly a contender for a worst course list if I ever wanted to depress myself.
Here are a couple of on-course photos.  First, the 103 Yard 3rd Hole, with the large military air base in the background.  Second, the last hole, a 93 yarder, complete with  abnormal ground conditions i.e. molehills.

Covesea Links Course - Course no 585

This is a great little 9 Hole links course on the road between Lossiemouth and Hopeman on the Moray coast.  According to its website, the course only opened in 2012, but when I played it on 19 June 2013, it looked as though it had been there for many years.  I've played links golf along the Moray Coast for at least 25 years and Covesea Links is a great addition to the string of long-established courses such as Hopeman, Old and New Moray, Garmouth and Kingston, Spey Bay, Buckpool, Strathlene, Cullen and Duff House Royal and nearby inland courses such as Forres and Elgin. 

Indeed, parts of Covesea  reminded me of Cullen, which I'd previously thought was a unique layout, with several holes played  over, around or between huge rocky outcrops, or up and sometimes down steep cliff slopes.  I now know better.  Covesea is Cullen in miniature, with a sprinkling of Hopeman and Old Moray gorse.  This is a pay as you play course designed primarily to give golfers a flavour of links golf, from raw beginners to seasoned experts.  In this, Covesea succeeds admirably, though I suspect that high handicappers would need considerable patience and a large supply of golf balls to negotiate some of the weird and wonderful holes here.  The course was bone dry when I played it, adding to the difficulty but this was pure links golf at its best.  I'd really not known what to expect, as the Covesea course lies behind sand dunes in a small sea cove at the bottom of an ancient cliff face, at the end of its own single track access road.  I missed the turning first time round and arrived shortly before 0900 hrs, justas the course was opening.  I had the course entirely to myself throughout the round on a warm, sunny and windless day.  Just perfect for golf really.  I took lots of photos too, so here's what lies in store if you ever get this far on your own exploration of Scottish golf courses.

This is a very short links course at only 2026 Yards, Par 31 but it's still a serious test, so be warned.  The 1st is a flattish 197 Yard Par 3, but with the fairways baked a golden brown and clearly fast-running, I really wasn't sure what club to take.  A gentle nudge with a 3 Wood looked OK, but with the dreaded gorse on both sides, accuracy would be required.  As the bottom photo shows, I finished pin high around 20 feet from the hole.  I missed the birdie putt, but par was good.  The 2 photos below show the view from the tee and the green itself.

The 2nd is a 304 yard Par 4 with a narrow fairway lined with more gorse.  Don't even think about taking a Driver, as bumps and hollows in the fairway might deflect your ball towards the gorse, particularly on the right.  This is the somewhat intimidating view from the 2nd tee, with the green lying immediately in front of the clubhouse (a licenced café) so unless you can guarantee to hit 270 yards or so arrow straight and get the right bounces, your best strategy will be to lay up. I played 3 Wood again, found the fairway and had only a gentle 9 iron to the green.  However, there was a large bunker right in front of the hole and sure enough, I found it.  That error cost me a double bogey.

The 3rd is a 311 Yard Par 4.  I'd hit my drive dead straight but some typically links course bounces carried to the very left of the fairway, leaving a very awkward second shot to the 2-tiered green, as shown below.  A good sand iron approach and a couple of good putts and another par safely secured. 

The Par 4 4th is the Stroke Index 1 Hole and at 403 Yards is also Covesea's longest hole.  There's really not much fairway on view from the tee, but I'd had a look across when playing the previous hole, so I knew it was wider than it looked.  Just aim at the small solitary gorse bush to the left of centre on this photo and trust your swing. Get that right and it's still a decent strike to the green, lying at the bottom of the ancient cliff.  As you approach the green, you'll see a flag at the top of the cliff.  That's one of the better views of the 92 Yard 5th Hole, almost completely blind from the tee.  I under-clubbed my second shot on the 4th, so a bogey scored on a tricky hole.

I'm not a great fan of blind Par 3s in general, but Covesea is just a fun place for links golf, not to be taken too seriously.  In a sense, the 5th is just a shortcut to the magnificent 6th, so why not go the whole way and make it totally silly?  The photo above shows the restricted view from the tee.  Standing there, I'd expected the architect to design a generously wide flat green with maybe the odd bunker.  Not so.  Below is a side view of the severest 3-tier sloping plateau green I've seen in a long time.  This green is at most 20 feet wide and the only realistic place for pin positions is barely 20 x 20.  My tee shot had finished a couple of feet short of the green, but from there I was pretty much eye level to the hole.  If there's ever a great bogey on a 92 Yard Par 3, I took it - and gladly. 

From there,  the course looked increasingly like Cullen.  This is a video from the 6th tee, from the 5th green all the way round to the 8th Hole.  My golfing buddies in The Humpties will know Cullen as well as I do, and may also wonder at the similarities!

This is a view of the 6th Hole itself, a 238 Yard Par 3.  The drop is well over 100 Feet, with the small green nestling in a hollow in the middle of the photo.  I hit a 3 Wood pin high right of the green into light rough, costing me a bogey, but what a great hole.  This one must be a really tough test in a wind, though!  I'd noticed a marker pole on top of the rocky outcrop to the right of the photo below, reminding me of Cullen again.

The 7th at Covesea draws inspiration from a few of the Cullen holes, in that it requires a leap of faith.  The green really does lie behind the marker pole, as shown here!  This is a 131 Yard Par 3.  I hit an 8 iron but either that wasn't enough, or I'd fallen victim to another severely sloping multi-tiered green, as shown in the bottom photo below.

I managed a bogey but I guess many others would have accepted that gratefully, having failed to clear the rocks and gorse etc. from the tee!  Notice the path behind the 7th green.  that takes you steeply up to the 8th Tee.  This is the video view from there.  Sorry about the picture quality.  I really must upgrade my camera sometime. Note the rocky outcrop on the 7th again and the narrow gap to be tackled on the 8th!

The 8th is actually pretty easy if you can get your drive away fairly straight.  As the photo below suggests, it's around 150 yards to carry the gap. This short Par 4 hole is only 241 Yards and from the elevated tee is easily driveable.  Even I managed that, chipped to inches from just off the green and scored the easiest birdie I've had in a long time (some of my buddies might say the only.....!)

And so to the last hole, a 109 Yard Par 3 played from the base of an ancient cliff to a small inverted saucer of a green, protected by gorse on the right.  The green also slopes steeply from the right, adding to the complexity of the tee shot. My wedge came up just short but a good chip to a foot secured a closing par for a total of 36 strokes, with 16 putts.

I'd just beaten par after deducting 50% of my handicap and gone round with a newish ball without missing a fairway.  OK, a few bad bounces or under-clubbing cost me shots, but that's what links golf is all about.  I'm well-used to giving clients accurate yardages and clubbing advice in my regular job as a caddy, but on links courses such as this you really have to feel the distances and make your best guess on the bounces that shots will take and how the course and weather conditions will influence play. I'd played Covesea in benign weather when it was bone dry.  One day I'd like to return and play it in the kind of stormy weather that can play havoc with the best of swings.  I'd certainly not beat 36! 

This is just a great little course, so play it if you ever get the chance.  At £10 a round or £15 for as many rounds as you like over a day, it's a real bargain.  You might lose the odd ball, but I suspect you won't really mind.  It's that kind of place, so just enjoy it for the challenge and entertainment that it offers.