Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Auchendean Lodge Pitch and Putt Course - Course no 661

We'd had Auchendean Lodge on our list of courses for a couple of years thanks to Graeme, who'd somehow found it on the internet, together with a whole bundle of other obscure courses we'd not known about.  We'd just not got round to contacting Auchendean's owners and it was only when I was reading the Scotsman's property supplement on 9 April 2015 about a large country house and former hotel being up for sale (and more of that later) that I realised it was the same place.  A couple of e-mails and a phone call later and Ian and Eric had very kindly agreed to let me play their little course, normally only accessible to friends and hotel guests.

14 April 2015 looked pretty unpromising weather-wise and heading up the A9 to Aviemore before turning off to reach Auchendean, just south of Grantown on Spey, the rain was enough to dampen my spirits, despite this being my first new course in 2015.  I needn't have worried, as the rain finally stopped just as I approached the Lodge.  Ian and Eric were busy in the garden so I was delighted that they took a break and generously provided morning coffee and biscuits, much needed after my almost 4 hour drive.  Ian had a sore back but was keen to join me on the course, keeping me right on how to tackle what he modestly described as a "tricky" course.  Auchendean apparently has its own micro-climate, being sheltered between mountain ranges. It's also a lovely part of the world, with fine views across Strathspey and the Cairngorms, Abernethy Forest, the River Spey and the Cromdale Hills.  Ian and Eric had operated Auchendean as a hotel but with that business now closed, their next stop is a move to New Zealand.  I've never been there, but they'll be hard pushed to find a setting as grand as that at Auchendean.

The course is certainly "tricky" having been designed by Ian and laid out in 1989, meandering through their 1.5 acre garden.  An artist friend and had kindly designed their unique scorecard but the course had never been fully measured, so the guys were keen to see my laser range finder in operation.  The 1st hole is all of 31 Yards, as shown below. "All" you need to do is thread your ball between the witch hazel and birch trees, avoid a little stream in front of the green and stop short of the bush behind the green.  The course was still awaiting its first cut of the year, so the greens were a bit hairy.  This was actually helpful, as Ian and I found it difficult enough to  find and hold the small greens with our tee shots.

This is the 4th and the longest hole, at 48 Yards, with Eric on his way down to the green to capture the moment on camera. The trick here is to hit along the line of the OOB and hope you get a lucky first bounce. My luck was in, but Ian's wasn't and the gate to the adjacent forest came in handy. The photo below is Ian trying his luck at  the 7th, a 28 Yard long downhill hole that looked fiendishly fast, even this early in the Spring. The ideal line here is the tall green tree in the background, landing your ball just beyond the bush in the middle of the picture. We both found  that bush, hence my 6! 

This is the 8th, all 34 Yards of it.  The line here is over the stump, playing for the 6 foot gap between the birch trees, on the line of the chimney in the background.  Easy really, but I'd obviously used all of my remaining luck on that hole, as my tee shot at the 27 Yard 9th, as shown below was at least 10 yards too long, ending up on a path that was OOB. A closing double bogey 5 was disappointing, but my round here wasn't about the score (a gross 36, or 9 over par, with 15 putts by the way). It was about enjoying this little course and the generous hospitality of a couple of really great guys who went out of their way for a stranger. That's one of the things I love most about golf. It brings people together that wouldn't otherwise meet and my travels around the country have been enriched by meeting the likes of Ian and Eric.  I hope they really enjoy their retirement years in New Zealand and find a good golf course nearby or perhaps build their own Auchendean South Course.

It will of course be for the new owners to decide, but it would be a shame if whoever buys Auchendean Lodge decides against keeping Ian and Eric's little course.  The guys used to invite friends around for an annual Mid Summer's Night golf match - now that's my kind of house party!   

For more details of the sale see -  
Offers over £600,000 for the course also gets you a great house in an amazing country setting! 

Thanks again guys, it was my pleasure meeting you both and playing your little course.  

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