Thursday, 1 May 2014

Newmachar GC - Swailend Course - Course no 637

Polly and I had played the excellent Hawksill Course at Newmachar GC last year and we'd also been due to play Swailend, the club's other course, on that trip.  However, rain had literally stopped play back then and after a night of heavy rain, my chances of playing Swailend on 30 April 2014 didn't seem to be good.  I'd expected both of these courses to be closed, but to my great surprise, both were open.  Not only that, there was a seniors' medal on Hawkshill, meaning that Swailend would not be busy.  That assessment by the Pro turned out to be a masterful understatement, since I only saw any other golfers when I was on the 15th green - and they were on the 4th! 30 April 2014 was one of those days when the rain was little more than smirr. Looked pretty dreich, but just enough to warrant a wet suit and rain hat and more of an irritation than anything else.  The absence of footprints on the wet fairways and greens told me I was the first on the course that day, so for the most part, I only had the greenkeeping staff for company. 

Hawksill is well known as one of the very best inland courses in North East Scotland and is one of my favourites in that area.  However, I find sometimes that when a club has 2 courses, one is a definite second best to the other, either in terms of design, interest or even general upkeep. Not so at Newmachar, because Swailend (a local hamlet) is an absolute gem of a course, more parkland in nature than the predominently heathland holes on the Hawkshill Course. On a lesser course I might have become irritated by inconsistencies of green speeds. The Greenkeeping staff were going round cutting all of the greens and in so doing removing all of the dew and rain droplets that were slowing putts down.  The result was that some greens were far slower than the others that had been cut and swept clear of dew and rain droplets.  This was just another test to be faced and it was actually good fun to work out how each of the greens would play.  I'd played 3 demanding 18 hole courses in the past couple of days and my back was sore and stiff, thanks to the over-soft hotel bed I'd had for the past couple of nights, so I'd no great hopes of a good score over Swailend.

The course itself is 6018 Yards, Par 72 and was in outstanding condition with great definition to the fairways and perfectly smooth-running greens.  The layout is also great and I just loved the whole experience from start to finish.  Polly decided that she'd sit this one out as she had lots of games coming up and didn't want to get soaked.  The weather forecast wasn't good, but I've played in a lot worse and the expected heavy rain didn't really start until we were well on our way home.

Swailend starts with a 289 Yard Par 4 played across the side of a small hill.  An easy enough start, but the 2nd is far more demanding.  This is a difficult 396 Yard Par 4 played largely uphill. Look to the left and there's an even steeper hill to come, which thankfully turned out to be the downhill section of the 3rd, a 494 Yard Par 5 with a blind second shot. I'd started par, bogey, bogey and had seen enough to guess that this would be a really tough test.  This is a view from the 4th tee, a hole that really reinforced that thought.  This little hole is only 286 Yards, but the chances are your drive will not clear the crest of the steep hill that faces you, so you'll have blind second.  Take a walk up and try to remember where the bunkers are before you try to find the green in regulation!

Next, Swailend tests you with its first Par 3. Give way to any players on the 17th tee to your left - unlike the 4-ball I came across later in my round, 2 of whom took Driver and came up well short on this, the 5th Hole, a mere 157 Yard Par 3. The 5th green is longer than it looks off the tee and slopes upwards away from you, so be careful with club selection on this little hole.  Driver was clearly not enough for some!  I managed a decent par with a good (very) long putt and a tap in.  The 6th is a curious hole, a 340 Yard Par 4 that dog legs left.  Anything half decent off the tee leaves you a shot over a fairway bunker to a really low-lying green that tucks itself away in a corner of the course close to a minor road.

Next, a good strong Par 3 played to a plateau green.  It's only 142 Yards but get your club selection wrong and this hole will bite your legs off.  This is the 8th, a flat 497 Yard Par 5 with a twist.  It looks simple enough from the tee and the fairway, but there's a large pond to the left front of the green and an even larger one that start front right of the green and goes all the way round the back of the green.  Chances are you won't see the second pond until you've played your second or even third shot, so be warned. Find the green in 3 and this hole should be easy. I duffed a short pitch and ended up with a bogey.

The Front 9 closes with a short Par 4 that I really should have birdied.  I'd only a lob wedge to the flag, came up a foot short of perfect, rolled down into a greenside bunker and took 3 from there for a poor bogey.  Out in 42, still having  a great time and eager for the Back 9.

This starts with a really good par named after Paul Lawrie and continues with an excellent dog leg left Par 5.  Delusions of adequacy set in on the 12th, a 140 Yard Par 3.  This hole is semi-blind, with the green tucked behind some mounding and bunkering and only the top half of the flag visible from the tee.  I'd hit a really good tee shot which went straight for the flag and appeared to roll gently down the hill toards the flag.  Sure enough, right behind the flag but 10 feet away and for once I didn't guess the speed of the green even remotely right.  A good par, but my first hole in one is still out there somewhere, waiting to be played. Keep the faith, Alan, keep the faith.

One of the guys we'd met on Hazlehead No 1 the previous day had told me that Swailend gets tough on the Back 9 from 13 onwards - he was right, by the way. I played the 13th into the only short squall of rain (smirr is just mist really, short of drizzle).  We Scots only have one word for snow, but lots of words for rain, some of which aren't quotable here, since they are usually prefaced by an expleteive and followed by the word "again!"  Anyway, I'd hit a good drive and an even better 23 Degree Rescue to set up an easy 4.  Next, the Stroke Index 1 Hole, a largely uphill Par 5 of 498 Yards, the longest hole on the course.  I scrambled a good par here, sadly followed by double bogey on the downhill 15th, a 418 Yard par played into a strengthening 1- club breeze.  The 16th is a 322 Yard steeply uphill Par 4.  Hit a good drive and then negotiate your way past a set of bunkers that protect a green that hides behind the slope of the hill.  Make your par for a half.  I would have birdied the hole had I read the green correctly but that would have been a bit cheeky, since this for me is one of the most difficult holes on the course.

For me, the most difficult was the 17th, a 404 Yard downhill Par 4 that I played directly into the headwind that had by then developed.  My bogey was actually very good, since this is a fiercesome hole.  The last should be easy.  This is a 343 Yard Par 4 dog leg right with a fairway that's probably 100+ Yards wide.  Unfortunately, I managed to miss it entirely after an awful hooked tee shot, leaving myself with a full 3 Wood.  A bogey was all I deserved gibing me a score of 85 in total, net 74 only 2 over the net par, with 32 putts.  Given the damp conditions, the lack of run on the wet fairways and my tiredness in general, this was a good score on a great course.  Swailend might take second place to Hawkshill, but this is an excellent course well worth playing.  I've already promised to take Polly back there sometime, as I know she'd love the course.

No comments:

Post a Comment