Friday, 25 October 2013

Auchmill GC - Course no 624

Most of the courses that I still have to play are located a considerable distance from home. British Summer Time ends officially on 27 October 2013 and the weather is becoming increasingly autumnal so it looks as though I won't be playing many new courses before next Spring.  I've a few day trips planned to play new courses in the coming weeks before Winter gets going, and I'm just back from a 2 day trip to Aberdeen when I managed to get 4 new courses done - probably my last overnight trip this year.  I'd set out very early on Tuesday 23 October 2013 with the idea of playing the Auchmill and Craibstone courses that day, before tackling the 2 courses at Balnagask on the 24th.  The weather forecast looked promising, but it's a 3 hour+ drive and shortly after I started, so did the heavy rain.  Thankfully the downpour stopped just as I arrived at Auchmill GC, an undulating parkland course on the west side of Aberdeen.  However, the damage had been done.  The course was soaking underfoot and would no doubt be playing long.  I'd arrived just before a group of hardy locals and was first out that day, just after 1000 hrs. A quick round was called for if I was to minimise the risks of a soaking and have enough time to fit in a round at nearby Craibstone.

The current 18 Hole Auchmill golf course is formally owned  by Aberdeen City Council and measures 5724 Yards Par 70 off the Yellow Tees.  Auchmill was first opened in 1975 as a 9 hole parkland course and quickly proved popular with local golfers. Indeed, the Council extended Auchmill to 18 holes in 1989, such was the pressure on the course.   There was no clubhouse, but thanks to the commitment and dedication of local players the Auchmill GC was established in 1992 and now has over 400 members and its own clubhouse overlooking the 18 green, as shown here.  In recent years the future of the course was threatened by pressures on the Council's budget, but in 2009 the Council agreed to rent the course to Auchmill GC, with its members taking over the management and operation of the course.  The future now looks secure and I really applaud the commitment and determination of the club's members to keep "their" course open.  

The course is well laid out and is quite hilly in places, such as here, on the 3rd hole, a 334 Yard Par 4.  The tee shot is blind, but  I'd hit a good drive leaving me a short pitch steeply downhill to a small sloping green.  An easy par there and at the short 172 Yard 4th and I was only 1 over after the first 4 holes.  The 5th is a really tricky 332 Yard Par 4.  Your tee shot will be blind and steeply uphill and the hole dog legs slightly to the left  I'd hit what I thought was a good drive but needed to draw my second out of light rough, since the green was tucked away out of sight.  I'm not very good at drawing a ball at the best of times so a scrambled bogey 5 was actually quite good in the circumstances.  The next couple of holes are short Par 5s at 476 and 472 yards respectively.  The 6th is the Stroke Index 2 hole but I had easy pars at both holes.  A weak drive on the 8th cost me a bogey, but I recovered well to go out in 38 after an easy par on this, the 156 Yard Par 3 9th.  This hole is steeply downhill and looks out over Aberdeen Airport in the distance, directly in line with the main runway.

The 10th is a 319 Yard dog leg left Par 4, as shown here.  I decided that I'd try to draw my drive around the corner of the dog leg, which probably explains why this photo is taken from the extreme right side of the fairway, within feet of trees that are OOB.  An easy 8 iron and a couple of putts saved the par but Driver on this hole is not recommended unless you know you can draw the shot.  The 11th was, for me, the most difficult hole on the course. This is a 480 Yard Par 5.  A water hazard was out of range from the tee, but just when I needed something straight, I hit an unwanted draw into the trees to the left of the fairway, en route to a double-bogey. 

Not good, but a good drive and even better wedge to the 337 Yard Par 4 12th, as shown here, gave me my only birdie of the round. Next came the steeply uphill 13th, all 322 Yards of it, dog leg right.  From the absence of footprints on the wet greens I was first out that day and hadn't seen another soul on the course, until I met a local senior citizen out walking his dog.  To those readers who've not had the pleasure, the local accent in Aberdeen and more widely the Doric dialect can be tricky. I understood the opening "foozyedaein?" easily enough (how are you?) but of the rest, I think I was being advised that the rest of the course beyond the 14th was relatively flat.  The finishing holes are indeed easier on the legs after some of the earlier elevations.  The 14th is actually the Stroke Index 1 hole but I'm not sure why.  At 392 Yards downhill, this Par 4 is little more than a drive and mid-iron, with a wide fairway.  A bunker comes into play if you under-club the second shot, as I did, but this hole looked to be significantly easier than my nemesis, the 11th.  It is definitely far easier than the formidable 451 Yard Par 4 18th.  This slightly uphill dog leg left hole is a really strong finishing hole and I was happy enough to be 30 yards short in 2, with an easy chip and run to the hole.  A poor chip still left me 30 feet short on a wet green, so a bogey from there was not too bad in the circumstances.  I'd gone round in 76, net 65 with 30 putts, net 5 under par. I'd gone round in just under 2 hours.  Indeed, the 4 ball who teed off just behind me looked pretty surprised to see me play from the 18th Tee, just as they were approaching the 9th!

Auchmill is a pretty good course, well worth playing if you're in the area and at £10 a round is great value for money.  I'd played it in heavy underfoot conditions and was glad to be wearing waterproof shoes and it's very probably an even better course in dry sunny conditions. 

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