Thursday, 18 September 2014

Heads of Ayr Golf Course - Course no 659

This is a 9 hole Par 3 course within the grounds of the Craig Tara holiday park in Ayr.  UK-based readers of a certain age who remember the former Butlin's holiday camps may wish to note that Craig Tara now operate the former Butlin's at Ayr.  I'm told that this little Par 3 course has been part of the facilities at this holiday camp for generations.  I tried to play the course earlier in the year during a dry spell of spring weather, only to find that the course was still closed after the winter and that it was still partially flooded, so clearly, it's only open for part of the year.  That was a wasted journey, but when I turned up on 17 September 2014 it was a warm sunny day so I was confident that I might finally get to play the course. The car park was deserted and the only signs of life were a couple of greenkeepers.  A sign on a closed down building nearby directed me to another part of the site (which is huge!) for the payment of green fees and appeared to assume that any potential golfers would know where to find the building in question.  When I eventually found where to pay my £9, the guy on the counter had no clue where to find a scorecard (one of the main ways we have of verifying that we've actually played all of the courses).  His first reaction was to suggest I'd get one down at the building beside the course car park.  That'll be the closed building with the sign directing you vaguely to the distant part of the site that I was stood in at the time! Hardly a welcoming first impression and I was glad that the greenkeepers were still around, since finding the 1st Tee was a challenge in itself.

Was it all worth the effort?  Yes, since this is a decent quality Par 3 course, well-maintained and laid out.  It's just a shame that it's tucked away in a remote corner of the park and access isn't obvious or easy. The course is parkland in nature and is laid out in 2 separate sections amongst trees and shrubbery at the west side of the park, close to the sea shore. At 1226 Yards, Par 27, it's not very demanding, but the greens are very small and although generally in very good condition, were on the slow side. That worked to my advantage, since any tee shot that missed the green left a simple chip that I knew wouldn't run too far, even if slightly wayward. The course starts with an uphill 80 Yard hole and an easy par. Next, there's a slightly more tricky 128 Yard Par 3 that's quite narrow, set amongst trees. The 3rd, as shown here, is only 105 Yards but there's not much room if you miss the green.  The course appeared to be getting trickier as it went on.

The 4th is a 132 Yard Par 3 with trees behind the green and a slight slope in front that killed my 9 iron tee shot stone dead.  I needed an 8, but I'd only taken a few clubs and that one was still at home in the garage. This is the 5th, a downhill 100 Yard hole.  I found the green with a very easy wedge and just missed the 20 foot birdie putt.  The 6th is a 158 Yard Par 3 played over a stream to a small plateau green.  I missed the green pin high left, fluffed a chip out of light rough and took a bogey, but this is a pretty difficult hole, and a timely reminder that I could drop shots on any course if I got too casual. 

Next, the Stroke Index 1, a 210 Yard  Par 3 with a narrowing fairway and tiny green, as shown here.  I needed a full 3 Wood to get to the front of the green for another easy par. The 8th is a 160 Yard hole. The scorecard gives different yardages for some holes between the Front and Back 9's but confusingly, there was definitely only one set of tees set out. It's only a Par 3 course intended for casual and family play, but it would have been nice if the course as laid out bore more resemblance to the scorecard!  That annoyance was even more apparent at the 9th, an uphill 155 Yard hole that was little more than 90 (take my word for it, I don't hit 155 Yards with a half-swung wedge!)  

I went round in 29 shots, 2 over par, with 13 putts, but I doubt whether I'd go back to try to beat that score.  The Heads of Ayr course is enjoyable and well worth the £9 green fee, but it needs better signage and a decent scorecard.  With a bit more effort, the holiday camp management could do a lot more with the course.  I was the only golfer playing the course on a bright and sunny morning, when the camp was otherwise pretty busy with late-season tourists.  It's worth seeking out for an undemanding stroll but if you want a more significant challenge, there are many other and far better courses in the area.  

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