Polly and I had planned to play the Hawkshill Course at Newmachar GC, followed by the shorter course at Torphins GC on Sunday 28 July 2013, but torrential rain and localised flooding meant that all local courses were closed. However, 29 July dawned bright and sunny so were back on track, our plan being to play the championship-standard Haughton Course followed by the 9 hole Blairs Course at Deeside GC, on the outskirts of Aberdeen.
The Haughton Course measures 5933 Yards Par 70 from the Yellow Tees and is very flat, apart from the steeply downhill 1st hole and the even more steep climb up to the clubhouse from the 18th green, but more of that later. This is a parkland course dating back to 1903, with the earlier layout being designed by the famous golf architect, James Braid. However, the layout has been very substantially changed in recent years, with only 4 of Braid's original holes remaining virtually unchanged. Water comes into play on several holes and the rough was just high enough to be of serious concern, with thousands of trees helping to narrow and define the fairways.
The course starts with an outstanding 154 Yard Par 3, as shown here. The course had clearly absorbed tons of water during Sunday's deluge and for a low-lying course immediately adjacent to a major river, was surprisingly firm underfoot. However, all that water had to go somewhere and as the heat of the day developed, it became incredibly humid. Scotland and high humidity might seem an unlikely combination but the conditions really did become pretty testing. The course was very busy behind us and 3 guys kindly let us play through on the 3rd hole, but we were subsequently playing more quickly than we would have liked in order to maintain our position on the course. Maybe we should have let others play through. Maybe everyone was suffering in the sauna-like conditions, but neither of us particularly enjoyed our game in the stifling heat. We'd also forgotten our sun screen cream - a bad mistake.
The course itself was in great condition. with several really well-designed and difficult holes. For example, the 4th is a 392 Yard Par 4 with a wide stream cutting at an angle across the fairway, requiring a carry of 200-230 yards off the tee, depending on your ambition. There was very little run on the fairways after Sunday's rain, so this little hole presented a stiff challenge. The best hole on the front 9 is probably the 9th itself, a right dog leg 302 Yard Par 4, with a large pond in front of the green, as shown here. For bigger hitters, going for the green might be an irresistible challenge. For me, a 3 Wood and wedge was the safer option. However, the fairway slopes towards the pond and having played what looked like a safe drive, I was surprised to find my tee shot had finished within feet of the pond on a severe downslope. I managed to avoid the water with my second shot, only to find the greenside bunker.
A bogey there was disappointing but I redeemed myself with a birdie at the awkward 10th, a 390 Yard Par 4 where water features twice. I'd gone out in a very poor 12 over par, so that was encouraging. This is the 14th, one of the surviving Braid holes. It's a 140 Yard Par 3 which is all carry, avoiding a steep upslope to the green and a deep bunker. We were both close with realistic birdie chances from 10 and 12 feet, but we both missed. Still, at least we looked like golfers on this one hole and I'd like to think that the guy walking past us from the 1st green to the 2nd tee was impressed! We were both struggling with our games and we'd long since run out of drinking water.
The 18th at Haughton is probably the signature hole and at 440 Yards is a great Par 4 to finish any course. the drive needs to be long and straight to avoid trees and set up a realistic chance of clearing the large pond in front of the green (and the clubhouse windows). I'd hit a good drive but didn't fancy losing my ball in the pond. Instead, I laid up short of the middle bunker to the right of the photos below and hit a really good wedge to 4 feet. I missed the par putt from there, but at least I'd not embarrassed myself in front of the members watching from the clubhouse windows. Only one more challenge left, the climb back up to the clubhouse, which I guarantee will get your attention.
I'd scored a poor 87 overall, net 76 (6 over net par) with 33 putts. I'd also scraped a win in the Stableford match with Polly to take the score to 4-1 in this year's holiday trophy. We'd both played pretty poorly, though, but this is a seriously good course, well worth a visit, so maybe we'll get another opportunity to better our performance in that particular round.