Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm trying to play every course in Scotland with 2 of my buddies, Craig Watson and Stu Fleming. Craig gets married in a few days time and we'd planned a small stag do during which the 3 of us would play some of the courses in the far south west of the country. Craig's job is keeping him very busy so that plan fell through. I'd still 4 courses to play down there, including one that Stu found recently, so I decided to go down there on my own, between caddying jobs and other commitments. We'll no doubt have other trips in due course. So, I set off on 23 September 2013 to play the courses at Lagganmore near Portpatrick, Portpatrick Hotel, Burrowhead and Castle Kennedy.
According to its publicity, "only 2 miles from Portpatrick and 6 miles from Stranraer, Lagganmore Hotel and its 18 hole golf course enjoys a superb elevated position overlooking Dunskey Castle and the North Channel - on a clear day the coast of Ireland and the Mountains of Mourne can be seen across the water." From previous visits to Portpatrick to play at the excellent Dunskey GC courses I've seen the Northern Ireland coastline but 23 September 2013 was a dull misty day, with moderate visibility and I could just about see the water from parts of the Lagganmore course in between banks of drizzly mist. The course was wet underfoot after overnight rain but conditions were pretty reasonable for the time of year, so I was surprised to find when I arrived that no-one was playing the course. There was one other car in the car park, but the hotel was similarly devoid of customers (and yes, it really is that colour!). The owner hadn't opened the place for lunches and told me that they might soon be closing for the coming Winter. I've no idea whether this business makes money, but on a reasonable day for late-season golf the place was alarmingly quiet. The greens were still wet from the light rain that had fallen and it was clear from the absence of footprints that no-one else had played the course that morning. There were still no other visitors by thew time I left in mid-afternoon, so it looked as though my £10 green fee would be pretty meagre takings for the day.
As I'd suspected, the reference in the hotel's publicity to an "elevated position" was code for "hilly." The course is moorland in nature and at 5376 Yards, Par 69 from the Yellow Tees, is moderate in length. The fairways are generously wide and with little in the way of serious rough, the course looked easy enough. However, the greens are quite small and were surprisingly speedy and with several blind shots coming in to play on the Front 9, I had to pick my around very carefully, particularly on the 7th, the Stroke Index 1 hole. This is a largely uphill 494 Yard Par 5, playing to its full length after the overnight rain. A marker pole in the far distance is well out of range but a decent drive gives you sight of a second marker pole, indicating the top of the modest climb on this hole. From there, the fairway slopes steeply downhill towards a small and very shallow green set at an angle to the fairway. I suggest you have a careful look at this green and its frontage when you've finished playing the adjacent 5th hole, noting the stream immediately in front of the green. Chances are you won't see this stream before playing your 3rd shot on the 7th, (assuming you've reached the second marker pole in 2!)
Some might think that any Par 5 should be reachable in 2 for the biggest hitters, but despite being relatively short, this is a genuine Par 5. It would be a very brave soul who would go for the green in 2, since their second would be completely blind to an alarmingly small target. The green also slopes from left to right and towards the stream, so even a short 3rd shot needs to be accurate. For the record, I was on in 4 and managed a bogey after just missing an unlikely par from the back left of the green.
Water also comes into play on the 9th, a 128 Yard Par 3. From the tee, as shown here, you don't see the stream that cuts in front of the green, but you can certainly guess it's presence from the small bridge that's visible to the right of the green. Long and left is OK, but I went short and right, costing me a bogey and a newish Titleist Velocity ball. I'd reached the turn in 41, 6 over par. The Front 9 had been moderately hilly and open. The Back 9 is almost 400 yards shorter. I was glad I'd not opted to play off the White Medal Tees, as the Back 9 starts with a 608 Yard uphill Par 5 (thankfully a more manageable 513 yards off the Yellow Tee). The 10th is still a long hole and the fairway was soft and boggy, possibly explained by the fact that it lies at the bottom of a steep hill (where much of the Back 9 is located). At this point I should have studied the course map a bit more closely. I was using my larger Sun Mountain bag and a pull trolley rather than the lighter stand bag and it was a fair climb to the 11th Tee. Tip - leave your bag at the back of the 10th.
The 12th tee will get your attention, as will the view, steeply uphill. At 63, I guess I'm allowed the odd senior moment. I've been playing golf now for over 45 years, but I honestly can't remember walking 20 or so yards towards the fairway without first having hit my drive. By way of limited explanation, there was a direction sign steering golfers clear of a muddy area just beyond the tee, and I'd simply followed it, as you do. Lagganmore felt a long way from anywhere, with no other golfers around, but at least I'd not been spotted. But this is an old fool who can still play a bit, since I subsequently threaded a good drive through the narrow gap and had an easy par on this steeply uphill 251 Yard Par 4.
From there, the course turns left for the 13th, a 324 Yard Par 4 that plays far longer than it looks, going downhill then up. By this time I was looking for the top of the course (still a long way off at the 16th!) as the novelty of going up and down hills pulling a trolley over some occasionally boggy ground was wearing pretty thin. I'd dropped shots on the 10th and 15th, but otherwise I'd a reasonable score going. The 16th purports to be a 158 Yard Par 3. One of the "joys" of caddying is working for guys who'll say "it's 158 so I'll play my 160 yard club, thank you" failing to take account of the terrain. Here, you'd be well advised take up to a 3 Wood and hit it as far as you can up the steep hill hoping to find the small green and avoid 3-putting. I managed that OK and was 8 over. It's a short walk to the 17th Tee, but you might want to have a look around before playing, as I guess the views would be pretty spectacular on a clear day. I could still see a lot of the surrounding countryside, but had almost no view the 17th itself, a steeply downhill (at last!) 368 Yard Par 4. Pretty much all you notice is OOB to the left and a sea of gorse. Logic suggested that a decently wide fairway might lie beyond the gorse to the right of the photo above. Go for the middle turbine in the wind farm on top of the most distant hill, right of centre on this photo, to leave yourself a short iron pitch to the green, avoiding the pond to the right. I'd hit a good drive and a 9 iron second to set up another easy par on a hole that could be tougher. Personally, I'd have put the green a bit closer to the pond, as it only comes into play you're seriously offline.
The last is a simple 257 Yard Par 4 finishing in front of the hotel. That colour again. I'd gone round in 77, net 66, or 3 under net par, with 27 putts. Lagganmore has some good holes and was in pretty good condition when I played it. I don't know whether it gets played much by local golfers, who have some really excellent courses to choose from, such as Dunskey, Stranraer and Wigtownshire. However, it's certainly worth playing if you're in the area (and great value at a very modest £10 a round).