Monday, 15 July 2013

Kingarrock Golf Course - Course no 599

This is a 9-Hole Parkland course within the Hill of Tarvit country estate near Cupar in Fife just off the road to St Andrews.  In 1904 Frederick Sharp and his family came over the River Tay from Dundee to live closer to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews  (10 miles away from Kingarrock). They built and maintained their own course in front of their mansion house, which proved to be popular with local amateur and professional golfers of their day, all of which would have used wooded-shafted clubs. The tragic death in 1937 of one of the Sharp family and the start of the Second World War resulted in the course being ploughed up and used for farming, but in 2002 the Anderson family decided to re-instate the old family course.  It was formally re-opened in 2008 as a course where only clubs made with wooden shafts (mainly hickory) are allowed, using balls, tees and rules that reflect how golf in Scotland was played in the early 20th century.   The golf course at Hill of Tarvit is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and visiting golfers can play it using original hickory clubs, an old canvas/leather golf bag and reproduction balls and tees that represent what players in the early 20th century would have used.  

Visitors to Kingarrock can also follow the old golf rules, including stymies, which were eliminated from the Rules of Golf in 1952.  For those who don't know what a stymie was, in match play if an opponent's ball was on the green in the way of your ball and more than 6 inches away from your ball, it was left where it lay.  You could either slice or draw your putt around that ball or chip it over.  If your ball struck the opponent's ball, your opponent could choose to play their ball from its new position or its previous position.  If your ball had knocked your opponent's ball into the hole, your opponent was considered to have holed out.  The Kingarrock scorecard is 6 inches long to ease usage of this rule.

I'd never played with hickory clubs before my game with my friend Douglas over the Leith Links course on 6 July 2013, courtesy of the Leith Rules Golf Society, so were both delighted to be invited to join the Society's golf outing to Kingarrock on 13 July 2013.  All golfers visiting Kingarrock are treated to traditional pre-golf hospitality and an informal and entertaining talk about the history of the course, the Sharp family and hickory-style golf in general and receive some tips about how to use hickory clubs.  There's also normally an hour's gap between tee times to allow visitors to take that step back in time before actually playing (which also ensures there's no rush on the course itself).  I'm no expert, but the key points are apparently to slow your swing speed down and use more hands and wrists in shot-making.  Douglas and I each had a
Spoon, Driving Iron, Mid-Mashie, Mashie Niblick and a Putter and the great pleasure of playing with Richard and Chester, 2 stalwarts of the Leith Rules Golf Society, who put us at our ease and offered us lots of helpful advice (it was a very friendly competition!) and fascinating information on the development of early clubs and the rules themselves.  This is me with Chester (seated) and Richard striking a suitably relaxed pose by the bell behind the 3rd green.

The Kingarrock Course also reflects how golf was played all those years ago. Nowadays we're all used to playing courses where fertilisers, weedkillers and the like and a wide range of machinery are used to produce manicured playing surfaces.  No chemicals are used at Kingarrock, meaning that wild flowers, butterflies, bees and other insects can proliferate and machinery used by the greenkeeper is kept to the basic minimum.  OK, the greens may not look as manicured as some golfers may be used to, but for us, the odd unpredictable bounce on bone hard and fast surfaces just added to the interest of playing with such antique equipment.

Kingarrock is short, at only 2022 Yards, but with hickory clubs and old balls, it plays far longer than you'd expect.  We all chose to use 1898 balls rather than the 1924 balls.  To explain, Mr Coburn Haskell patented the rubber wound ball in 1898 that would replace the "gutty" ball then in use.  The 1898 ball travels 25% less distance than a modern ball when used with a hickory club.  Ball technology made a further quantum step forward in 1924 and the 1924 ball travels 15% less than the modern ball when hit with a hickory club.  Indeed, the par of the Kingarrock Course is 37 for the 1898 ball and 33 when using the 1924 ball.

The 1st hole is a slightly uphill 289 Yard Par 5. Swing slow and use your hands and wrists and your opening Spoon might get 150 yards. My Driving Iron and Mashie Niblick got me almost onto the green, but I wasn't sure how hard to hit my off-green putt and an opening 7 was not quite what I'd hoped for.  The 2nd is a 166 Yard Par 3, but even my well struck Spoon (3 Wood) was still short, so a 4 was the best I could manage.  This is Douglas, manfully tackling his second shot from rough on the uphill and blind 3rd Hole, a short 201 Yard Par 4.  I managed an unlikely par after a good single putt.  Next is the shortest hole on the course, a 97 Yard Par 3, as shown below, with the mansion house in the background.  This hole looks easy enough, but bear in mind that you're playing a really soft ball that if dropped from shoulder height bounces around 6 inches and there are no spin-creating grooves on your Mashie Niblick (a 7 iron), only some shallow perforations.  I swung easy, mindful of Bobby Jones' maxim "Wait for it" which features as playing advice on the scorecard and was green-high but right.  No 60 degree lob wedge available, so you need to improvise and think carefully how best to manufacture a score.  I played a decent enough pitch and run, but the green was bone hard and fast, so a 4 was pretty good in the circumstances.

A 368 Yard Par 5 5th Hole is next and is the longest hole at Kingarrock, as well as the Stroke Index 1. It's easy to play the game without knowing much about where it began, how the rules emerged and how course and equipment design have developed into pseudo-science but did you know that the birth of the Stroke Index can be traced to a meeting (called at the instigation of the Scottish Golf Union) of the Council of National Unions at York on 14 February 1924?  Neither did I! You also don't need to know that William Lowell, a New Jersey dentist, patented the wooden golf tee in 1924 (I wonder how much that has made his descendants over the years).  This is the kind of obscure golfing fact that emerges from a round at Kingarrock!  I managed my second par of the round on the 5th, despite landing in a bunker (a genuine hazard).  The 6th is a slightly downhill 313 Yard Par 5.  A watery ditch "the cundy" needs to be avoided here and this hazard also features prominently on the 7th, a 101 Yard Par 3.

The 8th is an awkward left dog leg with a semi-blind uphill second shot.  Don't even think about cutting the corner of the dog leg unless you are supremely confident in your ability to avoid high rough and/or trees.  The green also has a wicked slope from back to front so try to leave your approach below the hole.  This is the last hole, a 208 Yard Par 4 played from an elevated tee towards the small building to the right of this photo (which acts as the clubhouse).  I'd hit a good Spoon and Mid-Mashie to 20 feet and no-one was more surprised than me to see my single putt find the bottom of the cup for a closing birdie.  I'd gone round in 43, net 37.5 with 15 putts and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Douglas also had a great time without troubling the leaderboard, so we're both very grateful to the Leith Rules Golf Society and to David Anderson and all others at Kingarrock for such a memorable day's golfing.  Thanks too to Chester and Richard for their encouragement and friendly support during our round - these guys really knew how to get the best out of the antique equipment we all played with.

I'd strongly recommend you give hickory golf Kingarrock a try.  It really is great fun and offers a unique insight into how golf was played all those years ago.  For more information, follow this link to   

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Rothesay GC - Course no 598

This is an 18 Hole parkland course lying above the town of Rothesay on the island of Bute, measuring a short 5062 Yards, Par 69 off the Yellow Tees.  I played here on 9 July 2013 after my round at Bute GC.  When I retired in 2010 the then Chairman of ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne said he'd caddy for me when I played here and Peter lives within a few hundred yards of the course.  Unfortunately, he'd cracked some ribs so couldn't carry the bag, but I was really pleased that he could walk around with me, as this is a seriously hilly and physically demanding course, never mind walking with several cracked ribs.  This is Peter beside the 12th green, with the island of Arran in the background. Regular readers will recognise my golf bag, still going strong after literally hundreds of rounds.  My latest golf shoes are doing less well!

Rothesay GC starts with a short Par 4 of 285 Yards, steeply uphill.  Unless you've hit a monster drive, you'll still be far enough away to miss the small green with your second, just as I did.  An opening bogey wasn't ideal, but no great harm was done as I parred the next couple of holes easily enough before remedying a bogey on the 4th with an easy birdie on the 5th.  One over after 5 wasn't bad. The 4th is an awkward uphill 178 Yard Par 3 that plays a lot longer than it looks.  In contrast, the Par 4 5th, as shown opposite, plays more like a longish Par 3 at only 235 Yards, steeply downhill.  You also get your first view of the 6th and 7th from the 5th Tee, steeply uphill.  The 6th is the Stroke Index 1 hole and at 515 Yards is quite a climb, so I was glad I'd taken only a half set of clubs! I was still a yard short of the green in 5 shots, but a single putt from there limited the damage.  The 7th is again severely uphill, but a good drive, 9 iron and a chip to under a yard rescued a par.  

The 8th, as shown here, is a 171 Yard Par 3, steeply downhill, with the Ayrshire cost in the background.  I was through the back with an easy 7 iron, but a good little hole.  Thanks again to the young lads in front for letting me play through.  The short Par 4 9th is actually flat and a welcome relief before another climb up the 10th.  This a very short Par 4 at only 244 Yards and anything left off the tee is likely to be lost.  I scrambled a poor bogey.  The 11th is another really good hole, this time downhill and at only 134 Yards is the shortest and easiest on the course - if you don't hit too much club, almost lose the ball in the rough, then hit a sh--- during a lamentable double bogey.

The 12th is uphill again, this time with a blind drive.  I hit Driver, 7 iron for an easy par, almost chipping in from just off the green for an unlikely birdie.  Another par though and I also parred holes 13-17.  This is a view down the 16th, a 510 Yard Par 5, with Arran in the background again.  This hole looks easy enough as most of it is downhill, but the green is quite small and I did well to get within 20 feet.  I missed the birdie putt, but never up never in, as they say.  Peter had to get home after that hole, as his house was just over the (yet another) hill but it was great to see him again, and I hoped his ribs got better soon.  The 17th is a pretty flat 333 Yard Par 4 that looked easy enough from the Tee.  However, I'd not been looking at the names of the holes on the way round.  Had I done so here, I might have noticed that since the 17th was called "The Burn" water might be involved somewhere.  Sure enough, a stream crosses the fairway and I only just cleared it after a weak drive.  My 9 iron second also missed the green but a good pitch to under a yard saved par.

The last hole at Rothesay GC is a steeply downhill 215 Yard Par 3, as shown here.  A cooling breeze had started, blowing directly up the hole, but my Driver was definitely the wrong club, as my ball finished 20 Yards through the green en route to the practice putting green.  That error cost me a closing bogey 4, but 76 gross was decent enough for a net 65, 4 under net par, with 29 putts.  29 Degrees C was also the temperature that afternoon, subsequently rising to 30 during the drive home, according to the outside temperature gauge in my car.  Rothesay is a really good course, despite the hills.  I strongly recommend you give it a try.

Bute GC - Course no 597

I played this little 9 Hole course on 9 July 2013, the day after my rounds over the Kyles of Bute and Port Bannatyne courses.  The previous day had been the hottest in Scotland all year and 9 July was forecast to be even hotter, so I'd been hoping an early start and a quick round before tackling Rothesay GC later in the day.   Bute GC is to be found near the village of Kingarth on the south west side of Isle of Bute and is an almost flat 2593 Yards Par 34 links course, with great sea views over to the mountains on the nearby island of Arran.  A few holes are lined with gorse bushes, but the fairways are pretty wide.  However, the rough is pretty tough and with so many wild flowers around  it was sometimes really difficult to find  wayward balls.  For example, this is the 1st Hole, a 317 Yard Par 4, played slightly downhill, with Arran in the background.  It looked as though the rough was pretty wispy and that I could drive straight for the green, cutting across the dog leg.  Eh, that'll be a no.  I was rewarded with an almost 5 minute hunt for my newish ball and a short pitch to the green out of heavy tangly rough, hence my bogey.  

Next, the 2nd was a 328 Yard Par 4.  Avoid 2 sets of ditches running across the fairway and your second will need to clear a wall, with rocks, the beach and the sea immediately behind the green.  I hit a reasonably good drive but just found the rough and could only hack it out short of the wall, leaving myself a 50 Yard pitch.  Another bogey, but this is probably the best hole on the course.  The 3rd  is an innocent looking 149 Yard  Par 3, played to a small green with a lateral water hazard i.e. the sea to your right.  I'd noticed that this hole is called "The Trap" and that one of the 3 golfers in front was fishing his ball out of a stream that runs in front of the green.  I assume that the trap is that this stream isn't visible from the tee.  I'd hit a 7 iron tee shot slightly right, which bounced off a rock into rough short of the stream.  With the hole cut only a few feet onto the green right behind a tussock of heavy rough, I was happy enough with another bogey, and even more pleased that the golfers in front let me play through, since I was hoping for a quick round.  Thanks again, guys.

The course cuts away from the shore after the 3rd, with gorse bushes coming more into play if any shots are seriously wayward (and the guy who teed off immediately behind me was still on the 5th when I finished my round!) 

I particularly liked the 8th, a 285 Yard Par 4.  The fairway is wide and flat, but then ends in a small wall of sand dune, leaving a short blind pitch for the second shot. Your reward on this hole is a final look over to the sea and Arran in the distance.  The last hole at Bute GC is a 265 Yard Par 4 with OOB over a wall right behind the green.  Easy enough unless your drive is seriously wayward. However, I finished the Bute course in a somewhat disappointing 41, or 7 over par, with 16 putts.  I suspect I was just playing too quickly.  There are 3 courses on Bute and whilst I prefer Port Bannatyne and Rothesay, this is the only links course on the island and is well worth a visit.

Port Bannatyne GC - Course no 596

On my travels around Scotland so far I've played individual golf courses with between 3 and 36 holes but Port Bannatyne has the distinction of being Scotland's only 13 Hole golf course.  Why?  I guess there's enough land and the members want to play 18 hole rounds, so they play the first 12 holes, then play the first 5 again, finishing with a hole that is then the 18th.  Port Bannatyne GC is one of the featured courses in Gary Sutherland's excellent book, "Golf on the Rocks" a journey around 18 of Scotland's island courses, a book that's on a par with Tom Coyne's "A Course Called Ireland" both of which capture the essence of our own daft experiences in trying to play every course in Scotland.  I'd read Gary's book when it came out a couple of years ago, but I'd been wanting to play Port Bannatyne long before then, as I'd heard it was a good test, with great scenery as well as a unique layout, with 13 greens and 18 holes.  Regular readers of this blog will by now have guessed correctly that Craig, Stu and I regard Port Bannatyne as being an 18 Hole Course.  However, rather than play it as "12 + 5 + 1" the way the members do, I opted to play 2 balls on each of the first 5 holes to save on time and energy. Gary describes Port Bannatyne as "vertigolf" and there are certainly some tough climbs, such as on the 4th and the 7th.  Indeed, when a hole such as the 7th is named "Rest and be Thankful" I suspect it's always wise to approach it with caution and respect.

I played at Port Bannatyne on 8 July 2013 after my earlier round at Kyles of Bute GC.  It was still a hot day and the empty car park sat in a little hollow bereft of any breeze.  I was already sweating freely by the time I got to the 1st tee and one look left told me all I had to know about the physical test that lay ahead.  Nothing but steep hills, with flags barely fluttering, the course stretching seemingly endlessly upwards. This parkland come moorland course starts gently enough with a 256 Yard Par 4, played East to West with a challenging side slope, from left to right.  A stream runs across the width of the fairway (a feature of most of the early holes) just where a modestly hit drive might end up, to add to the difficulty.  I cleared the stream OK and had an easy opening par.  From there, it was short climb to the 2nd, another Par 4 that runs parallel to the hill, this time West to East.  The 3rd is a right dog leg 316 Yard Par 4 running in the opposite direction.  You'll need a good drive to see the green and your second shot will be slightly downhill.  This is a side view of the 3rd green, looking down to the clubhouse and in the background, the Cowal peninsula.

From there, the 4th runs steeply uphill and although it's only 177 Yards, I needed my Driver off the tee en route to a satisfying par.  The Par 4 5th and 6th Holes run parallel to the hill again, with awkward side slopes to contend with for your second shots.  I birdied the 302 Yard 5th after pitching to under a yard after a good drive.  I'd played 2 balls on each of the 5 opening holes in order to complete Holes 1-5 and 13-17, but as I passed the 18th Tee en route to the 6th it dawned on me that although Hole 12 finished at almost the lowest part of the course, I would then face a very steep climb back up to the 18th Tee.  I'm sorry if this sounds complicated.  The point I'm really making is that despite being very short, at only 4563 Yards, Par 68, Port Bannatyne is a physically demanding layout, even if you play 2 balls on each of the first 5 holes (I was the only golfer on the course most of the time).  

The aforementioned 7th is a 267 Yard Par 4, steeply uphill, with OOB to the right.  Your second shot will probably be blind and with high rough to the left of the green, long is safer.  I was happy enough with a dodgy bogey after flirting with the heavy rough.  The club had built some shelters on the course to mark its Centenary in 2012 and being the only golfer on the course at the time, I had the luxury of a 10 minute break at the shelter by the 8th Tee, the topmost part of the course, as shown here.  

The 8th is a super little hole, 277 Yard slightly down and across hill and a real chance to open your shoulders and go for glory.  A long and very straight drive between the trees on both sides of the end of fairway will easily reach the green. Even I was only a few yards short so an easy par there.  This is a view from the 9th tee down to the clubhouse with Loch Striven in the distance.  

If you ever play here, please try to remember not to turn right after playing the 9th!  If you do, you might be tempted to walk downhill to an adjacent tee, but this is actually the 11th.  The 10th Tee is slightly uphill and left of the 9th green.  The 10th is only 121 Yards, but on a swelteringly hot and humid day that unnecessary climb from the 11th to the 10th Tee was the last thing I needed. My litre bottle of water had long since gone!  The 11th is called "The Blin Yin" or the blind one for non-Scots readers and is a good 269 Yard Par 4 with a blind drive, played parallel to the hill.  I managed to miss a birdie putt from 4 feet, but an easy enough hole, I thought.  

From there, it's a short uphill stroll to the 12th, a 229 Yard steeply downhill Par 4, as shown below.  Aim between the bunker to the left of the fairway and the green itself and with luck your ball will roll down the hill.  I found the rough to the left of the fairway, but at least I had this good view of the clubhouse and the sea beyond.

I was within a short downhill stroll to the car and more water, but since our challenge involves playing every hole on every course we can find, it was instead a 200 Yard walk steeply uphill to the 18th Tee.  I left my bag by the side of the 18th green, taking my 27 Degree Rescue for the tee shot on this 198 Yard Par 3 closing hole.  There's another shelter by the side of the 18th Tee, so I'd another opportunity to savour the view.  

I bogeyed that last hole, but I was round in 74 gross, net 63, a massive (for me) 5 under net par, with 34 putts.  This is a super little course, well worth playing if you ever get the chance.  Whether you'd get to play it in such temperatures and humidity is open to question, but I'm sure you would enjoy the course and the views, no matter what the conditions were like.  I'd had a great day's golfing and I'd booked to stay overnight in a room above a shore-side pub in nearby Rothesay.   I needed that first pint.  The others I'd put down to self-indulgence, but when you play golf to my standard, 5 under is always worth celebrating.

Kyles of Bute GC - Course no 595

I had a few days away from caddying prior to a very busy period around The Open Championship week so I thought I'd take a couple of days to play 4 new courses in Argyll and Bute, starting with the Kyles of Bute and Port Bannatyne courses on 8 July 2013.  I knew in advance that these 4 courses were each pretty hilly but I have to admit the weather took me by surprise. Summer temperatures in Scotland occasionally get into the 20 Degrees C but it was already 26 Degrees C when I teed off at the short Kyles of Bute GC course and was even higher when I played the Port Bannatyne GC course later that day.  I don't mind heat when I'm relaxing over a beer and a book (in that order) but 26 was not what I'm used to. Maybe some readers of this blog in hotter countries will scoff at such a comment, but hey, we Scots are not used to reliable sunshine never mind hot days.  Anyway, the Kyles of Bute course is a very short 9 hole moorland course, measuring 2199 Yards, Par 33 off the Yellow Tees located high above the villages of Kames and Tighnabruaich in rural Argyll.  

The first few holes are not particularly memorable, but from the 6th onwards the views over the Kyles of Bute (a narrow stretch of water between Bute and the mainland), the islands of Bute and Arran, Loch Fyne  and the Kintyre Peninsula are pretty impressive and well worth the effort of playing this hilly course.  The 1st is a gentle 110 Yard Par 3 and the only reasonably flat hole on the course.  An easy 9 iron and a couple of putts for an easy opener.  The 2nd is a bit more challenging, being a 333 Yard Par 4.  Your tee shot is blind, played over a small hill of gorse and heather.  This looks like a shot into the unknown, but anything over 150 Yards and remotely straight will find either the 2nd or 3rd fairways or in my case, the narrow band of very light rough between them.  From there, it's a short iron steeply downhill to a small green protected by a stream that runs in front of it.  I'd taken only a half set of clubs in anticipation of the many hills to be faced on this trip and after a mediocre drive I needed an 8 iron (left behind in the garage at home) as my 9 iron second shot finished just short of the stream.  A bogey.  Next is a 197 Yard Par 4, improbably steeply uphill.  The course was still pretty soft underfoot in places despite the recent dry sunny weather and I needed my Driver off the tee.  Par was easy enough but the heat and humidity were becoming clearly evident and I was glad I'd packed some old spare gloves.  The 4th is another steeply uphill hole, this time a 329 Yard Par 4.  Your second shot mustn't be short as the last 20 Yards of the hole is extremely steep.  My 7 iron approach landed a couple of yards short and finished around 40 Yards short, so be warned.  That cost me another bogey.  Above is a view of the 4th green, looking back down to the 3rd and 2nd greens.

The 5th is a steeply downhill 210 Yard Par 3.  I'd missed the green with a 3 Wood tee shot, so another bogey.  Disappointing, but I was immediately cheered by a call from Polly saying we'd won £80 for finishing second in the Glen GC's Mixed Foursomes Open, as played on 7 July 2013.  A good round, well and truly capped by Andy Murray's incredible tennis performance later in the day!  This is the view from the 6th Tee.  The fairway is far wider than it looks but there's a stream running across the fairway around 220 Yards out that comes into play on this, the 402 Yard Par 4 Stroke Index 1 Hole.  I cleared the stream OK and had an uphill shot of around 150 Yards.  The choice lay between my 7 iron and my 27 Degree Rescue, (my 6 iron being in the garage).  I opted for the Rescue but this was too long and ended up in a bad lie in the rough above and beyond the green.  A bogey from there was actually pretty good.

This is the steeply down and across hill 7th, a 234 Yard Par 4, as seen from the Tee.  I really liked this hole.  This was an opportunity to really go for it with my 3 Wood, over the bush to the right of this photo.  However, not before stopping to admire the 360 Degree views, as also below.

My tee shot went slightly further right than I'd planned and was caught in light rough 20 Yards short of the green, but the par was easy enough from there.  This a side view of the green, with Tighnabruaich and the Kyles of Bute in the background.

As I'd expected, the 8th hole was steeply uphill, this time a 206 Yard Par 3, but another bogey after I just missed the green with my tee shot. The 9th Tee offers another 360 Degree panoramic view, as shown below.  The 9th is a 178 Yard downhill Par 3.  Easy enough if you play here on a relatively calm day, such as when I visited the course, but this small tee sits high on a little rocky outcrop and is hugely exposed to the elements, so I suspect the 9th is really tricky in the kind of winds that can blow here.

I went round in 37 gross or 4 over par, with 16 putts.  Not bad.  This course is well worth playing,  if only for the outstanding views on the last few holes.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Leith Links Golf Course - Course no 594

Leith Links is now a public park in Central Edinburgh but it also has a prominent role in the history of golf in that in 1744 The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (now based at Muirfield in East Lothian) set out the earliest recorded rules of golf for the world's first organised golf competition, as held over the Leith Links that year.  Nowadays, the Leith Rules Golf Society exists to increase the recognition of Leith Links as the home of the earliest recorded rules of golf and one of the game's prominent early locations.  Each year the Edinburgh Council, which currently owns and operates the Links as a public park, allows the Society to play golf for a few days in July each year on a 5 hole course laid out over part of the ground that formed the original 5 hole course that was used from 1744.  

I played in the Society's annual Hickory Open with my buddy Douglas on 6 July 2013, using old hickory clubs and old-style 1.62 inch diameter golf balls.  The format is foursomes stroke play, with handicaps based on our national handicaps.  We had a combined handicap of 6 and we'd play the course twice, meaning we'd each tee off once on each of the 5 Holes. The course measures a modest 933 Yards, Par 18, with holes ranging from 125 to 310 Yards.  However, such yardages are pretty meaningless, given the ancient equipment we were using.  Scoring was made even more difficult by the rock hard condition of the course, after a spell of warm dry weather.    Neither of us had ever swung a hickory-shafted club before, far less some that were owned by Society members that were clearly quite valuable.  Douglas and I decided to share a small-headed wooden club that looked equivalent to a 5 wood, a Niblick that equated to a mid-iron, a Mashie that had around 60 degrees of loft and a putter.  Although we had entered a serious competition, it was immediately obvious that we were unlikely to threaten the leader board.  This is me about to tee off on the 1st, a 190 Yard Par 4, with my small ball perched precariously on a mound of sand (none of our modern tees were allowed).  I made a decent swing and connected well but I'd swung too hard and my ball veered away to the right, so we took an opening double bogey.  Putting on the small greens was simply a lottery as the rock hard surfaces had been cut severely short and were lightning fast and scarily bumpy.

Our first round total was a very average 28, including a triple bogey on the long 310 Yard Par 4 3rd.  No-one was apparently reaching the green in even 3 shots, despite there being some pretty handy players in the field, so we just had to wonder about the outstanding skills of players using hickory shafted clubs in days long gone by.  It's really difficult to describe how alien these old clubs felt.  Normally we'd expect to reach a 310 Yard hole easily in 2 shots, but even well struck balls were finishing short and in my case way right of where I'd been aiming.

This is the 4th, a tricky 125 Yard Par 3, with OOB around 20 feet behind the green (all of which were no more than around 25 feet wide).  We chose our Niblick for the tee shots on this hole and were well short each time.  However, we did score a genuine par on the 4th in our second round - and a gross 24 in total.  We'd played our 10 holes in 52 shots, net 46, (with 20 putts) to finish pretty low down the score board.  However, we'd both really enjoyed the experience and novelty of playing with such antique equipment.  Douglas and I are also planning an early visit to Kingarrock, a hickory-only golf course near Cupar in Fife, so hopefully we'll have a better idea how to use such old clubs following our 10 holes on Leith Links.

See for more information on the Society's aims and activities.