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Posts tagged ‘Blair Atholl’

The Route Home

The route for the first book determined itself.  The 9-hole courses on the Scottish northwest coast are limited so, it was a simple task of joining the dots from Lochcarron, northwards to Durness.  Returning south, beyond Perth, has been an altogether different proposition, there were simply so many choices.  In the end, it came down to expediency – I have been lingering in the north for too long and I need to get home.  There are fine 9-hole courses in the Scottish Borders I have played for years so, it seemed logical to return via familiar roads.  I then realised there was a direct connection between my final destinations and roads didn’t enter into it – the Lauder Light Railway, North British Railway, the Border Counties Railway and the Hexham & Allendale Branch Line.  I simply needed to board an imaginary train and I would be home, where ‘home’ is the old Allendale course at Thornley Gate.

Reproduced with the kind permission of John Alsop

Reproduced with the kind permission of John Alsop

Golf in the Wild – Going Home will visit the following courses, with many a diversion along the way:  Reay, Wick/Reiss Links, Lybster, Bonar Bridge, Portmahomack, Castlecraig (closed), Fortrose & Rosemarkie, Covesea, Cullen, Rothes, Blair Atholl, Lauder, Melrose, Newcastleton and Allendale (Thornley Gate).

The eagle-eyed will spot a few 18-hole courses among this selection.  In the case of the far north, this is simply because there are no 9-hole courses to play – and anyway, Reay and Reiss Links are suitably wild and simply superb.

The old course at Thornley Gate was only a half mile walk from the station, a good deal closer than the centre of Allendale after which the station was named (Catton would be more appropriate).  This was a problem repeated along many stretches of these old lines – stations sited too far from the communities they served.  When bus services were introduced, rail passenger numbers inevitably went into steep decline.

Blair Atholl

Laid out between the railway line and the River Garry, Blair Atholl has all the ingredients of a Golf in the Wild course – surrounded by high hills, 9-holes, an honesty box and, on the day I played, empty but for one other distant golfer. The course was effectively my own.

It is mostly flat – the elevated first tee is the high point of the course. The adjacent combined 3rd and 9th green are on the same level as the first tee, as is the clubhouse. The elevated fourth tee also plays down to what I would guess is their signature hole – a short par 3 with the castellated railway bridge behind the green.

Well maintained, tidy fairways and some very tricky undulating greens, it is a credit to the greens staff.  My favourite hole was the stroke index 1, 7th – to the uninitiated it looks tight from the tee with hints of water hazards in the distance – a pond to the left and a stream in front of the green.  It turned out they are too distant to be an issue for the average golfer.  My unnecessary lay-up resulted in a double bogey.  By contrast the 8th looks straightforward until you approach the green and realise there is an over-sized pond about thirty yards out.  My best drive of the day came about six inches short of the hazard – after a long hot summer, completely dry.

The course finishes with a testing but very enjoyable par 5 to the elevated green adjacent to the 1st tee and clubhouse – a green shared with the third.

All in all, a very enjoyable experience which is almost certain to appear in Golf in the Wild II.

... tee box, Blair Atholl.

The fourth tee box.

... Blair Atholl.

The clubhouse

... the view from the elevated first tee, Blair Atholl.

The elevated first tee

... short par 3, Blair Atholl, with the castellated railway bridge over the River Garry in the background.

The short fourth