My annual meeting with my friend from Dunkeld, Dave MacDougall, in what is a very social competition which we won in 2009. Despite our competitors becoming younger every year we both feel that there is another win still within our reach.
A near brand new clubhouse was our first sighting after driving through the impressive entrance, as you can see. It was yet another fine day for golf but unfortunately we were too early for our usual rolls, and had to make do with coffee out of a machine. This may have been okay, but the plastic milk portions were obviously out of date and made the coffee undrinkable. However, being an almost new clubhouse the facilities were as you would expect. My playing partners today were William Mair (Bothwell Castle) and Ricki Spinelli (Bishopbriggs). Well my day did not improve, after missing out on my cup of coffee and hot roll, my bad luck continued with three straight bogeys from absolutely nowhere. I did manage three pars before running up a double bogey six at the 9th. Pars at the 10th and 11th were followed by a bogey five, a double bogey six, another bogey and another two double bogey’s at the 15th and 16th. Then saving complete embarrassment I managed to finish with a par and a birdie four at the 18th. Fortunately, the catering was available after our round and my nephew and I both enjoyed a nice lunch. Would I go back? yes I would, and so should you. To arrange a round (£40) or day ticket (£52) Monday to Friday, contact our General Manager, Jim Callaghan on 01698 801971 or at email@example.com and he will be happy to arrange your booking. For golf bookings of up to 8 players please contact the professional, Alan McCloskey on 01698 801969.
Hamilton Golf Club was founded in 1892 and was first located on a site near the now demolished Hamilton Palace, former home of the Dukes of Hamilton. In 1925 the club moved to its present site and the new course layout was developed by the famous course designer, James Braid. A feature of the original layout is the number of bunkers which were included, all of which still come into play for the average golfer today. Billy and I arrived our usual hour early and enjoyed a coffee and Bacon Roll each before setting off in yet another calm and sunny morning. My playing partners today were John Semple (Haggs Castle) and Alex Gray (Bothwell Castle), and their company was a pleasure. Unfortunately, I was still on a high from yesterday and did not play as well as I should have. Having reached the turn in six over par there was little chance of making the buffer zone off my new five handicap. But I didn’t give up and managed a respectable one over par 37 on the inward half, for a net score of 75 which only missed the buffer zone by two strokes. With the course in very good condition and the surface of the greens smooth and quick, I was unable to lay the blame for my score on the quality of the course. However after a nice lunch and a pint, I am ready for the next challenge.
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.
August already, the season it feels is just rushing past, and with only another dozen opens to compete in, this could be one of the few opportunities to lower my handicap back to six. My playing partners today are Glenbervie member, Jim King, and Balbirnie member Ian Winn (who is also secretary at Leven Thistle golf club). This is Ian with his wife Hazel, unfortunately my camera batteries died and I was unable to take a photo of myself with Jim and Ian. Anyway, we were soon under way and my solid par at the 1st hole was followed by a good drive at the par five 2nd. What I then thought was a good strike from a hanging lie unfortunately managed somehow to find the right hand bunker short of the green. An excellent shot from the bunker produced enough spin for it to run back off the front of the green, from where I made a bogey six. A par at the 3rd got me back on track but a derailment waited at the par three 4th where I managed a double bogey five after three putting. (Ah well, there is always Irvine on Wednesday.) Fours at the next five holes however made my front nine score of 39 more respectful, but still four over par. Needing to produce some good golf over the inward half I started back, bogey, par, bogey, Ouch!! At the par three 13th, lucky for some, I sneaked in a twenty footer for a birdie two, then I went on to produce a par four at the 14th after a great up and down. A solid drive at the par five 15th, followed by a well struck five wood and I was putting for an eagle, but was happy with the resulting birdie. A straight forward par at the 16th was followed by another great par at the 17th after I found a bunker off the tee and another with my approach shot. The icing however was removed from my round after a three putt at the 18th, for a bogey five, and a one over par inward half of 37. However it was not until around two o’clock on Wednesday that I received confirmation that my net 69, one stroke under the Visitors CSS of 70, reduced my handicap to SIX, or rather 6.4 exactly.
Having won the Senior Open here in 2012, I was very much looking forward to playing at Ratho Park once again, and I wasn’t disappointed. Scoring a three under par 32 on the outward nine, for a stableford score of 25 points. My inward half was not quite as good as I started back with three par figures before a bogey at the short 13th was followed by another at the long 14th. Two further pars at the 15th and 16th was followed by my only three putt of the round after hitting my birdie attempt a good eight feet past the hole. However, a solid par to finish gave me an inward score of 18 points which when added to my outward 25 points gave me a total of 43 points to win a bottle of Champagne and a voucher for a Fourball at Ratho Park Golf Club between now and October 2013. An excellent result.
After watching the Open Championship for the past four days we are looking forward to our first visit to Brechin Golf Club. Always early, we had our usual coffee to accompany our bacon and egg rolls, followed by our warming up session which usually meant another mug of coffee. Our playing partner today, is member Archie Milne who finished with a very respectful net score of 69, two better than myself, but I still made the buffer zone, so no increase like nephew Bill. A tricky downhill blind hole to start, easy bogey five. Two pars followed before my decision to go for the green at the long par four 4th, following a good drive, did not go well. My only worry was a small tree directly in my line which I felt sure I could bend it round, and I did, but unfortunately an even smaller tree deflected my ball straight left and a nasty six was the result. A further four par figures were then recorded on my card before another encounter with a tree produced a lost ball and another six on my card. My inward half was better as I recorded a two over par 38 with two fives and seven fours on my card. Happy to make the buffer zone I was a bit disappointed that I did not get that elusive .2 reduction to take my handicap back to six. Archie was good fun and Billy and myself both enjoyed the experience, along with a nice meal, before heading back to Stirling.
I must admit that my first thought of the golf course on our arrival was that it looked really nice, a real links look to it and I just wanted to get out there and play. However, the customary rolls and coffees were first on the agenda, served by a smiling member of the staff. The clubhouse itself, although small in comparison to others, was clean and inviting with the usual facilities. Our meal following our round was tasty and piping hot at a very reasonable cost. Our playing partner for the day was member, David Vicary. Soon, we were on the tee and off up the first hole where I was pleased with my par, but nephew Billy walked of with a birdie three. The course looked “easy” but it was flat calm and will be a much harder test when the wind blows. Even after I made five bogeys in a row from the 4th I was still excited by what to expect and truly believed that I would make the buffer zone with ease. However, with two holes remaining and level fours for the back nine I looked likely to reduce my handicap by at least point four. But it was not to be as I hit what was not a bad drive down the right hand side of the 17th only for the usual draw not to appear and my ball taking a hard bounce into the right hand rough. Luckily, or unluckily, I found it and after hacking my way back onto the fairway I walked off the 17th green with a seven. (A nett double bogey) A two putt par at the 18th saw me miss the buffer zone by one stroke, what a frustrating game this is. But what a great course, I would play here more often it was not for the one hundred and fifty mile round trip. Well worth a visit, or two, a real links test and at £35 for a day ticket you will love it. Please give this a try you really will enjoy the experience. On line booking is available, so no excuses, do it now. Opposite is a Bond of Friendship presented to Arbroath Artisan Golf Club on the occasion of Carnoustie Golf Club’s 150th Anniversary.
On arrival at Whitekirk we were greeted with very strong winds which did little to cool the hot temperature. The course, like many others, was dry and firm, making scoring difficult. I did however begin with five straight pars before a nasty bounce at the par three 6th cost me a double bogey five. Then a blind tee shot at the 9th saw me lose my ball after a straight drive ran out of fairway as the hole actually dog legged left over the hill. At the 9th a wicked bounce saw me finish in an unplayable lie and I made another double bogey. At the 12th, despite both my playing partner and myself having seen my ball bouncing up the fairway, were unable to find it and zero points were once again recorded on my card. At the 15th, chances of a buffer zone finish were dashed as my second shot to the par five ran through the green into thick rough and only one point recorded. At the 18th some pride was restored as I holed a long birdie putt, appreciated by the small crowd watching from the garden terrace. Nephew Billy faired little better. The staff were friendly and the facilities excellent, and with plans under way to extend the complex, which only opened in 1995, it is worth a visit. Our meal was good value and served by a cheery waitress. At the entrance to the clubhouse and Pro Shop there is an unusual, but well stocked gold fish pond as you can see. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 01620 870300 for further information.
My first visit to Strathaven for some years ago left me with fond memories, so was looking forward to playing the course once again. When my nephew and I arrived it was wet and windy. The rain however was mostly a heavy drizzle at worst, but did not let up for most of the round. My round began with five straight pars before I dropped strokes at the 6th, 8th and 9th for an outward 38. With the wind picking up and the rain heavier I struggled on the inward half with only four pars and five bogeys for a 41 and a net score of 73 which equalled the visitors CSS.