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Posts from the ‘Courses’ Category

Comrie

I have just returned from the annual pilgrimage to Traigh for their Open on 27th July.  It is a long way to go for a strokeplay competition and then come to grief at the second, so I was delighted that the club agreed to run a parallel Stableford competition.  I supplied the ‘silverware’ and the inaugural Golf in the Wild  competition was won by local player, Peter Fleming.  My middle-order performance of net 72 and 33 points at least had the merit of not being a ‘no return’.  It is always a delight to play at Traigh and this year was no exception, despite the drizzle and threatening clouds.  Eigg, Muck and Rum remained out of sight for much of the day.

The weather at Killin on the way up was glorious by comparison and it was good to be back playing this splendid course, the original inspiration for Golf in the Wild.  That was Friday, the Traigh Open was on the Saturday, so it was inevitable that we should find somewhere to play on Sunday’s return leg.  With time running short, we pitched up at Comrie Golf Club for nine holes and what a splendid nine holes they were.  This small course announces itself like no other I know.  The New England style clubhouse squats among tall trees and the finely presented 9th green – it is picture-perfect.  I had called in once before but, busy competition tees prevented me from turning out and it was this sight of the clubhouse and its surroundings which made me want to return.  Would the course disappoint after the excellent first impressions – it did not.

The clubhouse.

The clubhouse.

The course is approached by a single track off the A85, adjacent to the village cricket ground with a suitably aged pavilion – the cricket club was founded in 1908, seven years after the golf club. On the day we arrived. a fair was in full swing with children bouncing on ‘Sammy the Snake’ while a Tannoy system was in full flow, broadcasting indecipherable announcements to the assembled masses. It would provide the soundtrack to our round.

The first, Betty’s Knowe, is a middle-distance, blind par 4 at 320 yards off the yellows, from a tee adjacent to the clubhouse.  The second shot is also potentially blind into a tight green protected by trees on the left at the lowest level of the course.  From here, the fairways tack their path diagonally up the slope towards Laggan Wood, the high point of the course being 160 feet above the first green.  The easiest hole, Cauldron, the second, is a par 4 and while relatively short at 238 yards, the front bunkers are likely to catch the unwary.  Quarry, the third and a par 3 would be straightforward but for the mountainous rough in front of the tee.  Clear this and the elevated green runs straight and true.  The fourth, The Pines, would be a no-nonsense 355 yard par 4, were it not for the aforementioned pines which stand too close and to the right of the tee box – negotiate these and it is an uphill drive to another elevated green.  I managed a two-putt from off the back of the green so they must be of excellent quality.  From the front of the green, there is an excellent view back to the clubhouse, a visual confirmation of just how far you have already climbed.

The clubhouse from the 4th green.

The clubhouse from the 4th green.

Above the 4th green is the tee for the par 3 5th, Happy Valley. An uphill drive into another elevated green protected by bunkers left and right, the degree of happiness to be derived from this hole being dependent on missing the sand traps. Another wonderful vista opens out once the 2-putt successfully finds the dark recesses of the hole. My golfing buddies were mightily impressed to see Lord Melville’s Monument on the distant tree covered horizon. Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville was the first Secretary of State for War and became the last person impeached for misappropriation of public money while in office. The monument is unique in its commemoration of a convicted felon – many a 21st century banker will take heart:

Melville's Monument in the distance from the 5th green

Melville’s Monument in the distance from the 5th green

The appropriately named 6th, Monument, takes you, in three drives if you are good – two if exceptional, to the top corner of the course. A par 5 with a tight approach, anything right is blocked about by trees although one of our party proved it possible with a high pitch and two putt for a solid par.  The seventh, Pulpit, is one fine drive to a sloping fairway, 120 feet below – left there is rough and trees but right, if you are long enough, is the relative safety of the 8th fairway.  My natural tendency to ‘fade’ the ball found me on said fairway in the company of four ladies from North Berwick – my pin high shot to the 7th green, leaving a birdie putt from five feet would have impressed, had they bothered to look.  My inevitable two-putt was less impressive.  Two par fours, Johnnie’s Corner and Coney Hill complete a thoroughly enjoyable round.  The test of a good course is ‘can I remember all the holes‘ and on this course the answer is a definite ‘yes‘ – every drive, every putt, every moment taken to admire the view leaves an enduring impression.  I will be back.

The 9th green and the view from the clubhouse

The 9th green and the view from the clubhouse

Bon voyage …

… to Roger and Cate!  I have met a number of people determined to complete the Golf in the Wild Tour over a period of time and several journeys but this fine couple intend doing the lot in one trip.  Their first project/holiday since retiring, the journey started in fine conditions under the bluest of skies – it is always like that at Allendale 🙂  The journey to Durness is scheduled to take three weeks with various detours and the possibility of returning in time for the Golf in the Wild Open on 12th June.  Having seen Roger in action (playing off 11), he would be a serious contender!  Many thanks to Neil, Ian, Malcolm and Mike C for making them feel so welcome – Allendale at its best.

001-Roger-and-Cate-GITW-Version

Alnmouth Village Golf Course

The course, squeezed between Alnmouth’s main thoroughfare and the beach is a fine place to play the game and  claims  to be the oldest 9-hole links in England.    Established in 1869, it was designed by the famous Scottish golfer Mungo Park, winner of the 1874 Open Championship at Musselburgh.  The first five holes follow the shoreline before climbing up to the dogleg 6th – it is here, the course runs parallel with the Foxton’s par 5 16th, close enough to say hello to fellow golfers.  The proximity of the courses is more than an accident of geography. The story is told on the Foxton’s website:

In 1905 the course (Alnmouth Village) was extended to 18 holes to obviate a certain amount of undesirable overlapping which occurred on the nine hole course. The extension completed under the direction of Willie Park went northward towards Foxton with the distances between holes on the new course constructed very considerably and requiring sterling golf. The opening ceremony of the new course was performed by the Duke of Northumberland and was followed by a challenge match between the international champions Harry Vardon and J H Taylor.

In the late 1920’s the Duke of Northumberland was approached and consented to lease a further piece of land in order to make a new 18 hole course. A survey of the land was made by Mr HS Colt the famous golf architect and his report was published in the Newcastle Journal on the 4th July 1929. The land surrounded Foxton Hall, one of the historic residences of the Percy family, which was to be used as the clubhouse. The adoption of the Foxton Hall scheme was reported on the 10th December 1929 with the new club to come into being on the 1st January 1930. The new course where we are today, was opened on the 9 May 1931, but sadly the 8th Duke of Northumberland died suddenly in August and was therefore not present to witness his vision.

In 1936 Alnmouth Village Golf Club was formed and took over the running of the old links. Since that time the clubs have maintained their historical links and still play a number of special combined competitions.

From a magnificent high-level tee, with a view that encompasses the full length of Alnmouth Bay, Coquet Island and beyond, the 7th returns the golfer to the sea-bound links, a descent of some 50+ feet.  The ball stays air-bound for an eternity as it eventually plunges earthwards adjacent to the third green bunkers or beyond – an immensely satisfying drive!

A nine-hole course with such a fine location and history, it seems inconceivable that it will not find its way into the pages of Golf in the Wild, Going Home.  It is just a matter of a small diversion as the reader is led back to Allendale.

The view near the 4th tee

The view near the 4th tee

Approaching the 5th

Approaching the 5th

Brave walkers!

Brave walkers!

You don’t need a weatherman …

… to know which way the wind blows – Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan, recorded on January 14, 1965.
According to english.stackexchange.com, the lyric was the inspiration for the name of the American radical left group the Weathermen, a breakaway from the Students for a Democratic Society. In a 2007 study of legal opinions and briefs that found Bob Dylan was quoted by judges and lawyer more than any other songwriter, “you don’t need a weatherman…” was distinguished as the line most often cited.

I mention this apropos of nothing other than I was at Traigh for their Open over the weekend and, as always, from the high points on the course, you don’t need a weatherman, you can see the weather coming for miles and there was plenty of it.

... 2018 - heavy weather - sunshine and monsoons

The view from the 3rd tee

... 2018 - heavy weather - sunshine and monsoons

The Clubhouse – the umbrella accurately indicates that the sun was only a passing fancy.

... 2018 - heavy weather - sunshine and monsoons

Threatening weather

... 2018 - heavy weather - sunshine and monsoons

Not immediately apparent, but I am drenched

... 2018 - heavy weather - sunshine and monsoons

The view from the 2nd tee

 

... to the 2nd tee - Traigh Open 2018 - the essence of Golf in the Wild

Looking back to the 2nd tee – Traigh Open 2018 – the essence of Golf in the Wild

While I am going off at tangents, I will make this not particularly original observation – to fully appreciate any music you must hear it in the context of its own time. This track and everything else on Bringing It All Back Home was a shining beacon of originality which inevitably fades with time and the production of more than 50 years worth of subsequent music.  Nevertheless, I can still remember the excitement felt by that introverted 14 year-old as this album first emerged from the single speaker of the family Dansette.  All the words are still in my head.

The journey continues – Chapter 7 …

… to Traigh. The yearly pilgrimage to Arisaig is nearly upon us – the Traigh Open, 28th July 2018. One of the most spectacular golf courses in the UK – the absolute epitome of Golf in the Wild.

The journey continues – Chapter 6 …

… to Tobermory

Overdoing it (after LIFE by Dorothy Parker)

Oh golf’s one long round of pure pleasure and fun –
A feast of profound satisfaction.
I bet twenty quid I could outdrive my son,
Now I’m spending a fortnight in traction.

From Summoned by Balls – Christopher Matthew

The journey continues – Chapter 5 …

… to Inveraray.

I’ve got a smelly Labrador.  I call him Old Plum Duff.
He can’t keep up for toffee, but he’s brilliant in the rough.
While others slash through thorns and gorse and curse their wayward shots,
He finds my ball in seconds in the most unlikely spots.

Amateur – 3rd verse – Christopher Matthew, Summoned by Balls

The journey continues – Chapter 3 …

… to Bishopshire and Strathtay

Kümmel and old wives

I have drunk kümmel in the members’ lounge at Muirfield – there I have said it – not exactly Golf in the Wild but a rare and fine experience nonetheless.  The full story is told here – Fairway and Tarmac.  This extract explains the significance of the liquer:

Lunch is taken in the lounge, jacket and tie being mandatory. I have brought a tie from the funerals drawer for the occasion – I am a guest and I must honour club traditions, no matter that such attire is at complete odds with my late hippy demeanour. A generous tray of sandwiches is accompanied by a gunner (ginger beer, ginger ale, dash of lime and a measure of angostura bitters), followed by coffee and the traditional Muirfield and Prestwick liqueur – kümmel, a sweet, colourless drink flavoured with caraway seed, cumin, and fennel. First impressions are mixed but I warm to it as the glass empties. I am unsure of the effect it may have on the back nine.

Here’s the thing – I played out of my skin that day which helped influence my opinion of Muirfield as a rare and wonderful place.  I cannot argue with the members’ claim that it is the finest golf course in the world.  Perhaps the kümmel had a part to play – according to Herbert Warren Wind, the American sports writer, writing in 1972, “kümmel has long been a favourite of English golfers, because there is an old wives tale to the effect that it is the best antidote in the world for shaky putting” – Golf Quarterly Issue 4, Winter 2011.  The reference to the English should probably be Scottish or maybe the Scots don’t suffer from “shaky putting”.

I will be recommending we stock a bottle at Allendale Golf Club.

Muirfield's 18th green

Muirfield’s 18th green

 

The journey continues – Chapter 2 …

… to Selkirk and Innerleithen: