During the dark winter months just gone by I'd thought that sometime this year I might manage to complete the challenge of playing all of the 658 courses in Scotland that Craig, Stu and I had identified. We've been adding newly discovered courses to our list as the challenge has progressed, but after so much effort to play courses and search out new additions, I'd genuinely thought we'd found all that there was to find. It was therefore very surprising to get an e-mail from Graeme (another Scotsman with ambitions to play every course) with news that we were missing a substantial number of courses. Douglas and I subsequently met Graeme and over a few beers it became clear that he was absolutely right, we'd missed a total of 30 courses, mainly of the pitch and putt and junior golf course varieties. Graeme's research was clearly extensive and reliable, so here we now are, aiming at 688 courses in total. Who knows, we might even need to add a few more, since although some well-established Scottish courses have closed in recent years and others are on the danger list, we know about a few potential new developments that might eventually be built. Unfortunately, some of Graeme's suggestions are in remote locations that I might not have time to get to this year, so I suspect that I might not finish playing all 688 courses until next year.
Glenholm is one of Graeme's suggestions and is a pitch and putt course near the village of Broughton in the Scottish Borders operated by the Glenholm Wildlife Trust. The Trust's website describes the course as "a small community golf course or pitch and putt...shared with the farm's sheep who do a great job in keeping the rough down....it is not maintained professionally but through the hard work of volunteers it still provides an enjoyable challenge. The course has 6 greens and 9 tees which in combination produce 2 routes of 9 holes around the course. The yellow tees (or front 9) are the easier. The white tees represent a more challenging back 9." The Trust's website also shows an 18 hole scorecard with a 1416 Yard, Par 61 layout. The holes range from 55 to 111 Yards, with 7 of the holes ranging from 81 to 111 Yards being classed as Par 4s.
Using Google Maps and the ML12 6JF post code, the course looked pretty decent so I set out in good spirits early on 23 June 2014 to play this latest addition to our must-play list of courses.
Sadly, this course didn't live up to expectations. The farm's sheep had clearly been munching away elsewhere. The rough was well over a foot high, the alarmingly narrow fairways would be classed as medium cut rough on most other courses and grass on the small greens was around 2 inches long. The Trust's website provides an excellent map of the course and although I'm well used to plotting may way around new course layouts without getting totally lost, this was one course that defeated my navigational skills. The afore-mentioned yellow and white tees were all missing (as was one of the 6 flagsticks I'd expected to see) and as far as I could tell, the layout of fairways on the ground didn't match the website map of the course. Factor in the almost dead flat nature of the ground and the scope for confusion was almost unlimited. This is a view of the 1st and 10th holes, or is it the 5th? I really don't know for sure.
Here are some other views of various holes that correspond to the website course layout. All very pretty but where are the fairways?
This photo opposite is almost definitely the 3rd and 12th, as viewed from beside the green for the 2nd, 7th, 11th and 15th holes. The absence of tee markers or anything that looked like a teeing ground made it impossible to follow the course precisely. Accordingly, I wondered whether Glenholm should really be classified as a golf course. Regular readers will know that our definition of a golf course is ground intended for organised golfing purposes with fixed tees and greens, regardless of the number of holes. I've decided to give Glenholm the benefit of the doubt since the Trust's website is so positive in its description of the course. However, this course is clearly at some risk of being lost entirely if maintenance is not stepped up. Balls even a few inches offline are likely to be lost and I just didn't get the website's reference to "an enjoyable challenge." Others might feel that Glenholm is only a very roughly maintained field with a few flagsticks planted at random for no obvious purpose.
Given my navigational difficulties, it's difficult to be certain about my score. I might have taken a wrong turning, but I did my best to follow the website map and played 18 holes, using 9 teeing areas and 6 greens, one of which didn't have a flagstick. I lost 3 very old balls after being only inches offline in each case and decided that I'd adopt the rather unusual tactic of dropping a ball in the nearest playable position, without penalty, given the totally unreasonable condition of the course. For example, when playing the 1st I was about a foot left of the green after my tee shot and lost the ball in knee high rough. I dropped another ball into shorter (but still heavy) rough under a yard away to the side and after a hefty (and lucky) swipe with a wedge got my second ball to within 5 feet of the hole. Putting from there was "tricky" since the hole itself was under 3 inches wide such was the overgrown nature of the putting surface. I therefore decided to concede putts to myself shorter than 3 feet. On that basis, I went round in a notional 67 gross, net 56, with 35 putts. I actually chipped in for an Eagle 2 on the 99 Yard Par 4 6th hole, but this wasn't one of my more enjoyable golfing experiences.
I don't want to be over-critical of the volunteers who have in the past looked after this little course, but for whatever reasons, Glenholm is currently barely playable, even for casual practice with old balls. Hopefully the sheep will return and maintenance will also improve. If not, this course will be lost. Simple as that.