Friday, 28 June 2013

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.

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