Thankfully, the 6th offered some respite. This 189 Yard Par 3 is actually slightly downhill and was definitely downwind. The calm of the morning had been replaced by a stiffening breeze that would make the Back 9 "interesting." The short walk from the 6th green to the 7th Tee goes past the clubhouse and the car park, but the 7th is downhill and officially the easiest hole on the course, so with the sun poking out from behind the rainclouds again, it was wet suit off and time for another par. The 8th is another fairly simple hole, this time an uphill 296 Yard Par 4, but I'd found a greenside bunker and that cost me a bogey. Holes 9-17 lie beyond trees behind the 8th and are more heathland in nature, suggesting that they were a later addition to a previous 9 hole layout. I don't know if that's the case, but this part of the course has a slightly different feel to the holes nearer the clubhouse and as I was to discover, there were some fearsome challenges ahead. This is the 9th, a 371 Yard Par 4 with a large pond and deep bunkering protecting the green. I'd hit a good drive but the strong wind meant that I still needed a 3 Wood for my second shot. I cleared the pond OK, but only just and a bogey meant I was out in 41.
The 10th is a good looking 128 Yard Par 3, playing far longer in the increasing wind. I'd just missed the green and took a bogey. The 11th is called "Gruesome Glen" and is the quirkiest hole I've played for some time. For starters, this is an uphill 355 Yard Par 4 played into the low sun (out again!). The fairway (all of 9 paces wide!) lies in a hollow between gorse on the right and rough on the left. Find the fairway and your blind second shot will be severely uphill to a long and very narrow plateau green. Miss the fairway to the left (as I did, by a mere yard) and chances are you'll have a hanging lie with the ball well below your feet. My second shot from there was uphill, blind, into the low sun and a heavy wind. I opted for a 3 Wood, just missed the green chipped on to 4 feet and holed the putt for an outstanding par. This is, unsurprisingly, the Stroke Index 1 hole. This rather poor photo gives only a weak flavour of this challenging hole.
Having survived, the 11th, it was a long walk to the 12th, mainly uphill, it seemed. I've had to adjust the colours on the photo below, also taken almost directly into the sun. The 12th is only 148 Yards, but played to around 190, slightly uphill and directly into the wind. The pin was tucked away back right of the green, behind a 4 foot high mound. I'd only just cleared the path leading up to the green with my tee shot, bringing this little mound into play, so my bogey was actually quite good!
I'd reached the top of the course, but stood on the 13th Tee I was faced with yet another hugely challenging hole. This time the tee shot should be played downhill to a flat area almost surrounded by gorse, trees and heavy rough, leaving a blind second shot steeply uphill towards the green. This is not a hole for the faint-hearted, as this view from the tee suggests. I decided to try to play it as a Par 5, with a Driver and a couple of mid-irons. The hole is only 377 Yards, but I'd missed the fairway left, so I hit a 9 iron into position for a blind uphill shot to the green. That strategy came unstuck in one of the bunkers to the right of the green (invisible from where I'd played!) my third shot. I took a 7 which could have been far worse, given the scope for trouble on this hole. It wasn't my favourite hole and having played it I'm still not sure whether it's necessary to have such severe bunkers to protect a blind hole.
The rest of the holes at Craibstone are easier by comparison, or perhaps more accurately, holes where seriously high scores are pretty unlikely unless you do something really silly. Even so, I dropped another 3 shots on the last 5 holes for a round of 83, net 72 with 30 putts. This is a view of the 18th fairway and the remnants of a heavy shower that just missed the course late in my round. Craibstone is a seriously impressive set up. I'd love to play it again sometime and would strongly recommend it if you get the chance. If you're tempted, just don't take Holes 11-13 too seriously. Par all three and you will have my undying respect!