Thursday, 20 June 2013

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.

1 comment:

  1. Played today. Great fun and brilliant views. Very testing for such a short course