Saturday, 9 June 2018

West Linton GC

This is an excellent 18 hole moorland course south of Edinburgh in the Scottish Borders and is another of the 200+ courses that I'd already played when I started writing this blog. I played it again on 8 June 2018 as part of my current work for a golf magazine, to identify and rank Scotland's Top 100 courses.

I hesitate to use the old "Hidden Gem" cliche, but this is a course that's well worth seeking out.  If you get it on the kind of windless, warm and sunny day that I had, you'll be in for a treat.  But take your A game too.  West Linton starts quietly, with a short Par 4 of only 277 Yards, but the 1st green, like so many here, is quite small and well defended by bunkers, so take care.  I didn't have time for a warm up, so my hooked drive into the trees to the left of the fairway wasn't the best of starts.  Time to manage a bogey and that done, the next was the shortest of the 5 Par 3s.  An easy looking hole but I found one of the bunkers, so another bogey.

This is the view from the 3rd tee. The 3rd is a modest 334 Yard Par 4, with the green partially hidden behind mounding to either side of the fairway.  What you won't see is that the left of the green is raised above some fearsome rough so miss the green at your peril. I'd an easy par but I knew from past experience of playing here that West Linton was about to show it's teeth.  The 4th is a 509 Yard Par 5 and the green slopes steeply down to rough and bunkers on its left side.  The pin was on the left so muggins here tries to get cute with his 3rd shot, only to hook it into deep rough.  A bogey was actually not too bad from there!

The 5th is a huge 465 Yard Par 4.  Moorland courses can be quite damp at times, but the fairways were pretty dry, given our recent lack of rain.  Even so, a good Driver and 3 Wood meant  I was still well short of the green.  Another bogey, I'm afraid.  The 6th was an easy enough short Par 4 and next came what I thought was one of the best holes on the course.  The 7th is only 319 Yards, but your second shot will be steeply uphill, as shown here. Factor in the pin position I faced at the front of the green, 6 yards on, just beyond the start of a slope that, if you find it, might take your ball back down the hill.  I hit a really good drive and had a short pitch to the green, for an easy 4, but this is a seriously interesting hole.

Next, the formidable 8th, a 436 Yard Par 4 and the Stroke Index 1 hole.  Your drive will be blind over a hill.  Don't get suckered into playing too far to the right of the marker pole, since rough awaits there - as I found to my cost.  A dodgy double bogey was the best I could do, but I at least I parred the 147 Yard 9th, to go out in 41.  

The Back 9 starts with an easy looking 324 Yard Par 4, played slightly downhill.  However, the green is small (again) and I could only manage a bogey.  The 11th is another long Par 4, at 459 Yards, but if you struggle on that, the 12th is a downhill 191 Yard Par 3 that plays a lot shorter than it looks.  I missed my birdie putt, but got my revenge on the 13th, a 283 Yard Par 4.  The line off the tee is the small copse of trees to the right of the fairway, which slopes from right to left.  I really liked the variety of pin positions on the course, from easy to really testing.  The pin here was tucked away on the back right side of the green, with an evil looking pot bunker dead in line.  I could play safe or hit a Mickelson-type lob wedge.  Golf Truism No 1 is that most great shots go unwitnessed, while bad shots are often visible by crowds.  Suffice to say that my birdie was a tap in. Go me!

14 and 15 were, by comparison, poorly played. The 15th is another of West Linton's long Par 4s, at a formidable 453 Yards from the yellow tee.  I guess I could play that hole quite a few times before getting a par! Anyway, on to the 16th, a really good Par 4 at "only" 429 Yards.  The tee shot is blind over a hill that straddles the fairway, leaving a long second shot to a plateau green, as shown here.  You also won't see the dip at the front of the green when playing your second.  You might get lucky with the pin position, but when I played it on 8 June, the pin was right at the front of the green.  Bump and run was the logical shot but after my great lob wedge on the 13th, I tried again. Remarkably, I managed to get that 3rd shot to within 3 feet, even with the 4ball in front of me watching from the adjacent 17th tee!  Sadly, my par putt missed, but hey, who's this Mickelson guy anyway?

The 2 closing holes at West Linton are unusual, both being Par 3s.  This is the 17th, a 189 Yarder played over a water hazard. Distance perception is difficult too, since the hole is slightly uphill.  I managed an easy Par 3, so I'd got as far as the 18th tee in 76 blows. Not too bad, considering my difficulties with some of the longer Par 4s.  The 18th, as shown below, is a really tough closing hole, at 222 Yards, slightly uphill, with OOB to the right and the car park behind (not really as close to the green as you might think).  I'd been watching a couple of 4balls play this hole, with nobody getting close to the green in regulation. Not encouraging but I managed to hit a really good Driver (!) to within a foot of the front of the green.  However, I'd failed to notice that the green sloped uphill from front to middle, so a 3 putt from there was a weak end to a pretty reasonable round.  80 shots, with 33 putts wasn't too shabby, given that I'd a really bad cold and wasn't feeling too great. 

West Linton is a really good course, well worth a visit!  There's a good variety of holes here, and great views of the surrounding farmland and hills. Every aspect of your game will be tested and be accurate in your approach shots to the greens if you can!