As regular readers of this blog will know, our challenge to play every course in Scotland also means that we need to play every hole that a course offers. Where a course offers alternative tees for even one hole, we also play such alternative holes, effectively turning a 9 hole course with 10 or more tees into an 18 hole course. In such circumstances, we also play 2 balls at the same time rather than go round a course twice in order to play one or more alternative holes. This might sound complicated, but when energy, time and in some cases daylight is limited, it's a good way of ensuring that we play every possible course configuration in order to ensure that by the time we finish our challenge, we've played every hole on every course.
During the planning of the Aberdeenshire trip I noticed that the Torphins GC website describes its course as follows "Our 9 hole course is a good test of golf but enjoyable par 64 with stunning views of the Deeside scenery around Torphins from the highest tees. A unique course with 13 different tees playing to 10 different greens." The website goes to say that "It is officially a 9 hole course but to increase your enjoyment there are now 13 different tees playing to 10 different greens. You have to play it yourself to make the most of the course." I was having some difficulty working out how a course with 10 greens and 13 tees could possibly still be "officially a 9 hole course" so I was really looking forward to playing here. The planned round on 28 July 2013 was aborted due to flooding and torrential rain, but there was an opportunity on the afternoon of 31 July 2013. Polly took one look at this hilly little course and opted out, preferring her latest book, leaving me to wrestle with the conundrum of whether Torphins is a genuine 9, 10, 13 or 18 hole course.
The first clues lie in the scorecard, which lists a Front 9 measuring 2186 Yards and a Back 9 of 2186 Yards, from the Yellow Tees, making a 4452 Yard Par 64 course. Four of the Front 9 holes measure differently on the Back 9, yet there are only 9 hole names. For example, the 3rd hole shares the same tee with the 12th, but as the sign below indicates, there are 2 completely separate greens (these holes measuring 289 and 330 Yards respectively).
Holes 4 and 13 are played to the same green from completely different tees, giving holes of 208 and 237 Yards. Holes 5 and 14 are played to the same green from almost adjacent tees, producing holes of 106 and 115 Yards. Lastly, Holes 7 and 16 are played to the same green from tees only a yard apart, producing holes of 305 and 306 Yards. A good map on the back of the scorecard helped, but with no one else on the course to ask directions from, course navigation was far from straightforward. There was no flag on the 12th green and it was only after I'd completed my round that I read a notice saying that the 12th was temporarily out of play (for some unspecified reason) so my apologies to the club for playing that hole during my round. The Torphins scorecard clearly lists 18 holes played to 10 different greens from 13 different tees and when I played the course, I found 18 different tee markers, numbered 1-18. So, under the challenge rules that Craig, Stu and I have set ourselves, Torphins becomes an 18 hole golf course.
Leaving all of that confusion aside, the course is actually good fun to play and was in really good condition. The 1st/10th is an uphill 207 Yard Par 3, rising ever more steeply as you approach the green. I missed the green both times (2 balls in play to save time and energy) with my 3 Wood, so bogeys for Holes 1 and 10. The 2nd/11th is a steeply downhill 230 Yard Par 4 and a first chance to really enjoy the surrounding landscape. The course really is set in great countryside and with no-one else on the course apart from a mother and son practicing around what I later found to be the 8th/17th green, I had the course to myself.
The 3rd/12th tee is where the fun/confusion starts, as suggested by the sign shown above. The single fairway splits in a Y shape and both the 3rd and 12th holes are steeply uphill. Maybe its as well the course was otherwise quiet, since it took me a while to find the 4th and 13th tees and confirm that I was indeed playing to the correct single green. Holes 5 and 14 and the remaining holes were easier to find. Having said that, Holes 6 and 15 were genuinely tricky to play and fully deserved their Stroke Index 1 and 2 ratings. The tee shots are steeply uphill and need to carry over a small dyke, before the hole turns 90 degrees left for a steeply downhill and blind second shot to a small green. Both holes are 370 Yards Par 4 and I needed a couple of decent Drivers to get past the marker pole, leaving short irons to the green.
I thought the best holes at Torphins were 9 and 18, played from an elevated tee, steeply downhill. These holes are only 276 Yards from the Yellow Tee, but a more meaty 359 Yards from the Medal Tee higher up the hill. Avoid the OOB to the left of the fairway and these holes are quite easy, given the width of the single fairway and the length of the hole, but the scenery is great and you know your tackling your final descent.
Torphins was a really fun course to play once I'd overcome my initial confusion about the layout. I was glad the course was quiet, enabling me to play a couple of balls concurrently. Had it been busier, I would have had to go round it twice. I recommend you give it a try, either as a 9 or an 18 hole course (or a 10 or 13?).