Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Knab Golf Course - Course no 580

Craig, Stu and I had played the 4 Shetland Isles courses (Whalsay GC, the 2 alternating layouts at Asta GC and the Lerwick GC) on a previous visit, so we thought we'd "done" that part of the country.  It was only when I read internet references in late 2012 to a free golf course in Lerwick that I realised we'd missed one.  This potentially costly error was particularly embarrassing as I must have visited the Shetland Isles around 25 times during a 10-year period in my career from 2000-2010 and stayed a few times in a hotel a mere half-mile from a headland called The Knab.  In my defence, I'd sometimes visited Shetland during the Winter, when daylight is pretty limited (not recommended!), but it was still tricky to contact Craig and Stu to confess that we'd all need to make another trip to the far North. To compound matters further, we'd also discovered that the Lighthouse Keeper's Course on Fair Isle had re-opened.  The only way to get to Fair Isle is via Shetland, so it was obvious that we'd need to combine a visit there with playing The Knab.

 Anyway, The Knab is a 9-Hole Par 3 Course operated by the Shetland Islands Council on an exposed cliff-top site with spectacular sea views, on the outskirts of Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Isles and easily its main settlement.  This proved to be an excellent little course, full of interest and variety ("and hills", said Stu).  The greens were pretty long and shaggy looking, which was a pity, but we supposed that in such an exposed northerly site it would be difficult for the Council to spend significant sums on course maintenance.  However, we adopted our usual temporary rules for such extreme greens "a Mulligan second attempt at the first putt on any green and a maximum  score of 2 putts on any green."  In reality, it might have been possible to 4 or 5 putt from the kind of distance where 1 or 2 putts at most would have been expected on more pristine greens.

We'd taken the bus from Sumburgh Airport up to Lerwick, complete with our clubs and overnight bags.  If you're ever tempted to follow in our footsteps to play the Fair Isle course and the Knab, just remember the golden rule of packing as little as possible.  You'll be reminded of the importance of this rule when you're climbing the long hill up to The Knab and again when you're lugging your bags around the course itself - there being nowhere to 100% safely leave your overnight bag when playing the Knab.

I'd found an ancient set of clubs in my garage and was intending to take these across to Fair Isle to donate them so that more travellers to that tiny island could get a casual game when not bird watching etc., but more of that in the next blog entry.  I'd almost forgotten why I'd abandoned those old clubs many years ago, but one swing was enough.  I'd really not liked the shafts, but hopefully they'll serve others better than they've served me in the past. 

The Knab is not your typical 9 Hole Par 3 Course.  Each hole is quite tricky, with tiny greens that you miss at your peril on such a hilly site, with side slopes ready to throw your odd miss-hit shots into rough.  The holes range from 72 to 140 Yards and even with our temporary rules in place, a par was still a very good score.  I'd started with a double bogey, the 1st being the longest hole on the course.  I'd normally play a 7 or 8 for 140 Yards, but coming up well short with that old 6 iron?  Come on!  Some rapid adjustment of clubbing and our temporary rules led to 4 successive pars, but I under-clubbed some more, and finished with a gross 32, with 13 putts (as adjusted by our temporary rules).  We'd enjoyed this little course, despite its limitations.  With more maintenance effort (and costs!) this could be a really good course in T shirt weather.  Then again, you wouldn't expect go to Shetland for a suntan, so it was a real pleasure to play around The Knab in warm sunshine.

Here a few random photos from our round, starting with Craig and Stu; the view from the 3rd tee; Craig and Stu en route to the final green; and me in action on the 7th, a steeply downhill 109 Yard hole.  Happy days indeed!


  1. Anyplace nearby to rent clubs?

    1. if memory serves, clubs can be hired from the Starter's hut. We had our own, though.