What a lovely setting, and it was a flat calm sunny morning as we arrived at 09.00hrs for our 10.08 and 10.16 start times. After booking in we had our usual coffee and filled rolls of bacon and egg, served quickly, and with a smile. The Irvine Golf Club established 1887, is a fine example of the links land of Scotland, over which the game of golf was born and still today the true links experience is unparalleled the world over. Regularly used by the R&A as a Final Open Qualifying Course the club co-hosted the Amateur Championship with Royal Troon in 2003, and the British Seniors’ Open with Turnberry in 2007. The Ladies Home Internationals were also successfully hosted at the Irvine Golf Club in 2009 and in 2011 it hosted the Scottsh Seniors Championship. It truly is one of Scotland’s hidden gems, offering a traditional links challenge, which owes much of its present day character to the course design of the great James Braid. One of Scotland’s most celebrated course designers, James Braid created a legacy of distinctive courses, characterised by their great variety and interesting use of nature’s assets. Set in a seaside location the neighbouring Gulf Stream ensures visitors and members year round golf. Irvine, I felt, also has a Victorian feel to it as the photographs of the Entrance Hall and Smoke Room shows. Now it was my turn to take on the challenges ahead and leave, as it turned out, with a treasured memory. With one of my two playing partners failing to appear it was my pleasure to be introduced to Norman MacLeod from Clydebank & District who would accompany me on this never to be forgotten round. My first drive of the day found the left hand rough from where I could only not knock it forward. A good pitch however, and I had my first par on the score card. A good drive at the 2nd left me a four iron into this 446 yard par four which finished twelve feet from the hole. The birdie putt was missed but I now had two pars on my card. Another par at the 3rd was followed by birdies at the 4th and 5th holes where I pitched to within two feet on both occasions. My drive at the 6th hole was fortunately right of the marker as my intended draw would have finished in thick gorse. Instead, I finished near the bottom of a severe slope to the right from where I could see the 7th green, and decided that it would be wise to hit an iron from the 7th Tee. Meanwhile I was lucky not to have found a bad lie and I was able to hit a five iron, which just ran just through the 6th Green.
A poor pitch however left me a good fifteen feet from the hole to save par, and I was pleased to see the ball take the anticipated break and fall into the hole. A well struck three iron at the 7th left me a 120 yards to the green, which was a good twenty feet above the level of the fairway. Not knowing what lay through the back of the green I hit a pitching wedge which left me a very long putt. (This was one of those holes where it would have been beneficial to have walked up and taken a look.) Two putts however were all that I required and I made my way to the 160 yard par three 8th tee. A well struck seven iron saw me finish just off the back edge, but with the flag at the back of the green it was a comfortable two putt par. Another good drive at the 442 yard par four 9th left me with an eight iron approach. Unfortunately though, I hit it heavy and failed to get down in two from one of the right hand bunkers. My first bogey of the round, and now here I was on the 10th tee thinking about my score, as I looked ahead at the bunkers and gorse lining the fairway. But my nerve held and my tee shot found the centre of the fairway, leaving me with a pitching wedge to the green. Another two putts and I was heading for the 464 yard par four where after two strokes I found the left hand bunker. Following a sand iron to about eight feet past the hole I narrowly missed my par putt and recorded my second bogey of the round. However, following four pars I holed a ten footer for a birdie two at the 157 yard par three 16th. A solid par at the 17th was followed by another fine drive which finished between the bunkers guarding the 18th green. A simple pitch and two putts gave me an inward level par half of 35 for my first sub par round this season. My net 63 saw me lower my handicap to 5 since August 2012, and collect a One Hundred Pound SGU Voucher as a reward. Following a well earned lunch my nephew, with a lighter bag (he says he lost only five balls) and I returned to Stirling/Larbert.