81. St Andrews Old Course. 30 Jul 2018

The Home of Golf – thanks especially to The Champion Golfer of 1995, Mr John Daly! WOW!

Round £180.   Par 72.  Value (out of 5) – 5

A few weeks before playing at The Old Course, I received a surprise call from Richard Rooney of D C Thomson, the Scottish Media conglomerate;  “Congratulations, Moly, you’ve won our St Andrews Memory competition run by The Courier newspaper.  The prize includes joining the D C Thomson 4 ball in the Rolex sponsored “Patrons Day” on the Monday following the Senior Open”.  WOW!

The Auld Toon of St Andrews provides the backdrop to Moly playing at the 16th from just in front of the “Principals Nose” bunker.

I’d actually forgotten I had entered a competition some weeks earlier, but no matter, there I was standing on the Championship 1st tee at 8am on Monday 30th July 2018,  only about 40 yards from where Miguel Angel Jimenez was crowned the Senior Open Champion a little over 12 hours previous. WOW!

The Courier report of the Competition which won Moly his Old Course round. Thanks John!

Assisted by local caddie, John, from Kingsbarns, and along with Keve Hodgson, fellow winner, and our 2 D C Thomson hosts, conveniently both called Richard, we played The Old Course in beautiful links conditions (a fair westerly breeze), using the Sunday pin positions.  WOW!

I shot a stroke-play 87, including 8 pars, with the same ball. WOW!

Including par 4s at the 1st and 18th, from the championship tees, the 18th where I played a 150 yard 6 iron into the breeze to only 15 feet, with Caddy John announcing as my ball launched  “its all over it!” and received a round of applause from the 30 or so spectators milling around.  Putter in hand, the walk to the green was “golfing heaven”.  WOW!

A typically huge and undulating double green – the 2nd and 16th (Keve putting up the green)

If you are reading this blog, you probably don’t need me to tell you much, if anything, about The Old Course, as it’s embedded in the very essence of golf.   So many great players have made so many comments, I’ll just quote my favourite:

“This is the origin of the game. This is golf in its purest form and it’s still played that way on a course seemingly untouched by time. Every time I play here, it reminds me this is still a game.” – Arnold Palmer.

6th tee – a typically bind tee shot, where a Caddy becomes invaluable

 

I’ll therefore use this blog to discuss the concept of value, the prime measure I make of Scottish golf courses, which takes on an added mystery when applied to the Old Course at St Andrews.  It’s by no means the most difficult course in the world, or anywhere near the most expensive; albeit at £180 its not cheap.  However, it’s arguably the most accessible great sporting location in the world – anyone is free to walk its hallowed turf on Sundays when the course is closed to play.  By all accounts, turn up on Christmas day and play for free (without the flags though!).

Lining up a putt for bogie at 17, with the iconic backdrop. Oh for the day to go on and on….

In deciding how to assess its value, I came up with this conundrum.  Ask any golfer the world over this question:  “Regardless of price, you can play golf once only in your lifetime at either The Old Course or Course X (name any course) – which would you choose to play?”.  Other than perhaps Augusta, The Old Course would likely come out top every time.  Therefore, for me, this defines the top price one should pay for a round of golf anywhere.  Any course costing more than £180 can’t be worth it, by definition, if you would actually rather play the Old Course anyway instead, regardless of price.

Of course, its only my opinion!

The beautiful par 4 7th hole, short at only 359 yards (white), but a true SI 4 hole.

So, play it once in your lifetime.  Hire a caddy if you can afford to.  Walk the hallowed turf and pray that you hit some nice shots.  Hope for a nice day, but also hope that the wind gets up sufficiently to understand its defence.  Hope for some “Sunday pins” to wrestle with a pro’s dilemma.   Hope you (maybe) find one or two of the almost mythical bunkers that dot the course.   Hope…..for so many things!

Four very happy golfers – for the record the DC Thompson Richards won the match play game 2 up,

I only found one bunker, Hill, on the par 3 11th …..thank goodness:)   I made a miraculous bogie, which was somehow symmetrical, as it was John Daly’s miraculous bunker shot from “Road” bunker, that won me the round of golf!  WOW!

Facts:

Course Type: Links

Par 72 (yellow:  2 par 5s, 14 par 4s,  2 par 3s)

Distance: 6387 yards

Moly’s Gross score: 87

Moly’s Hope; a well played round of 87 at The Old Course, St Andrews.

Posted in 18 holes, 5 star, 5 star, Before 1850, Course Architech, Course Owned By, Course Quality, Course Type, Holes, Links, Local Authority, over £100, Overall Value, Price, Region, The Kingdom of Fife, Unknown, When Course Established | Comments Off on 81. St Andrews Old Course. 30 Jul 2018

80. Torphins. 25 June 2018.

Incredible value at this gem of a 9 hole course       

Round £10.   Par 32.  Value (out of 5) – 5

Torphins Golf Club is situated in Royal Deeside, in the village of the same name, 23 miles west of Aberdeen and 7 miles north-west of Banchory.   This 9 hole golf course was founded in 1891 and the club established in 1896.  I couldn’t find any record of the course designer or the course’s history, which is a real pity, as this really is a “Hidden Gem”, that oft-used but, so often, disappointingly flattering term.

My drive at the 9th at Torphins heading to the left of the fairway (but in play)

Torphins is an undulating parkland course with far reaching views of the countryside and it is worth going out of your way to play.  It actually has 10 greens, with the 3rd and 12th holes sharing the same teeing ground and fairway, but the 2 greens are separated by a copse of trees.

The lovely 3rd and 12th fairway from the common teeing ground at Torphins.

It is a great little golf course, with plenty of variation, and some really tricky holes.  There are 4 blind tee shots, one being the par 4 6th (SI 1), a tough dog leg left hole, which I should have taken driver from the tee, as the apex to the dog leg is further than in looks as it is quite uphill.

The greens were pretty small but in really excellent condition as were the fairways and tees.

Fran chipping at the short par 3 5th at Torphins. A bit of respite before the challenging 6th hole

Value:  whether as a member or as a visitor, Torphins represents incredible golfing value.  The 9 hole quoted rate was only £10, but my wife Fran and I payed only £7.50 each through the club website.  A Monday to Friday annual membership, allowing 9 holes per day, is only £90, with Junior memberships starting at £20.  This is 5 star value golf.

The 2nd, a short par 4, at Torphins – my birdie hole on the day.

An interesting fact – Macbeth was killed on 15 August 1057 only 3 miles from Torpins.  “What’s done cannot be undone”, sayeth Macbeth – that’s how I felt on the 7th after my 10, having lost 2 balls!  I still shot 17 point for the 9 holes.

Really enjoyable, highly recommended.

Facts:

Course Type: Parkland

Par 32 (white; 5 par 4s,  4 par 3s)

Distance: 2338 yards

Moly’s Gross score44

Torphins scorecard – 44 for 17 points (with a 7 and 10!)

Posted in 1851 - 1900, 4 star, 5 star, 9 holes, Aberdeen City and Shire, Course Architech, Course Owned By, Course Quality, Course Type, Holes, Members, Overall Value, Parkland, Price, Region, under £20, Unknown, When Course Established | Comments Off on 80. Torphins. 25 June 2018.

79. Fortrose & Rosemarkie. 24 June 2018.

Possibly the best located Scottish golf course, with evidence that James Braid’s bunkering came pretty cheap!      

Round £55.   Par 69.  Value (out of 5) – 4.5

“The Black Isle?”  Well, it’s not an isle and it’s not particularly black!  But it is a 10 mile wide by 20 mile long peninsular just north of Inverness, which also has a further very small peninsular on it’s southern Moray Firth coastline which is the heavenly location of Fortrose & Rosemarkie golf course.

The 9th green looking back to the tee with the Moray and Beauly Firths in the background.

Scots sometimes refer (tongue in cheek) to being “from God’s own country”.  If that were the case, it might just be that God chose the Fortrose & Rosemarkie peninsular for his (or her!) own personal golf course.  I played the course on a wonderfully warm and sunny late midsummer evening for a twilight fee of only £30, shot 39 (4 over) on the back 9, including 2 birdies, and seriously thought that maybe I should just stop played with that golfing memory etched on my brain.  It really can’t get much better…can it?

The Black Isle has recently become a popular destination with the creation of the North Coast 500  but has long been a destination to play some of the cream of Scottish Links, with Royal Dornoch, Nairn and Tain all close by, plus the recent addition of Castle Stuart. Fortrose & Rosemarkie has actually been attracting golfing visitors in high numbers since the expansion of the railways in the late 19th century and golf in the course location is traceable back to 1702.  Established in 1793, is the Club is the 15th oldest in the world, of which they are very proud.

The 11th tee, which is one of several arguably bland holes around the turn at Fortrose and Rosemarkie.

The course is quite short, at only 5893 yards from white tees and 5594 yards from yellow tees which I used.   It is essentially 2 horseshoe loops with the outer loop played clockwise with sea (only in play at a few holes) on your left , then an inner smaller loop played in opposite direction.  The difficulty will be dominated by the weather, but the bunkering and greens are tricky and provide protection when the wind is down.    Originally a 9 hole layout, it was extended to 18 in 1924 and in both 1932 and 1934 James Braid was engaged to advise on layout and bunkering – his 1934 fee was £12.10/  which ended in the course in its current layout.   That is only about  £1000 in current value!

The 17th at Fortrose & Rosemarkie; play left to ensure reaching to the plateau fairway.

There are some majestic holes, most notably the long par 4 4th, played towards the lighthouse at Chanonry Point, which protects the small channel through the Moray Firth towards Inverness, which is a popular viewpoint to see the many dolphins which inhabit the area.  I have spoken to people who have played the course many times and never parred the 4th.

Mission Impossible – the long par 4 4th hole at Fortrose and Rosemarkie, with Lighthouse and Fort George in view.

The 13th is also a great example of visible links architecture and Braid’s bunkers.  A hole with many options from the tee box.

The 13th – a magnificent short par 4.

The course was in all round excellent condition when I played and the club are happy for visitors to use any of the tee boxes.    In the benign conditions I shot gross 84 (net 2 under), including 4 double bogies – inevitably one of these was at the 4th!.

This is a must play course, with a twilight fee at only £30 being especially great value.

Facts:

Course Type: Links

Par 69 (yellow; 15 par 4s,  3 par 3s)

Distance: 5594 yards

Moly’s Gross score84

Moly’s scorecard – 84 with only 39 on the back 9.

Posted in 18 holes, 4 star, 4.5 star, Before 1850, Course Architech, Course Owned By, Course Quality, Course Type, Holes, James Braid, Links, Members, Overall Value, Price, Region, The Highlands, £40 - £59 | Comments Off on 79. Fortrose & Rosemarkie. 24 June 2018.

78. Craggan. 22 June 2018.

Little more than a good “pitch and putt” with a few decent holes thrown in   

Round £15.   Par 27.  Value (out of 5) – 2

Craggan 9 hole golf course serves a great purpose as a nicely maintained facility in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park, affording golf to complete beginners and holiday golfers.    In addition, as part of a commercial outdoors activity centre, with very many other activities on offer, it makes for a great day out for groups and families, where golf is only part of the plan for some or all.

The short 1st hole at Craggan, with typical surrounds on the “pitch n putt” holes

Having said all that, other than the 5th, 6th and 9th, the holes could be found on decent “pitch n putt” courses.   It’s true that it is difficult to play to your handicap for better golfers, but that is due mainly to some very small greens.

The nice 6th hole at Craggan – one of 3 good holes.

It does have very nice views to the surrounding Cromdale Hills and the Cairngorms, but the nearby River Spey is only momentarily in view (from the 4th green) and never really in play.

Several of the holes are not much more than 100 yards, but the 3 holes aforementioned are noteworthy.  The 6th (162 yards) and 9th (132 yards) being the most visually attractive and both with water in play in the form of small ponds (part of the fishing on offer).  The overall length is only 1269 yards.

The 9th – the best hole on Craggan in Moly’s opinion.

I didn’t strike the ball very well, and ended up with a 37, albeit I did enjoy the little course.   It was well maintained when I played, although the tees were sometimes non-distinct.

Price?  There is a bit of a premium for the National Park location, but this is not great value at £15 for 9 holes.  You need only to compare with other more established golf courses to see the over-pricing (e.g. Torphins is a great comparison).  I think no more than £10 for 9 holes is a more reasonable price.

Facts:

Course Type: Parkland

Par 27 (9 par 3s)

Distance: 1269 yards

Moly’s Gross score37

Moly’s scorecard at Craggan 9 hole par 3 course – 37

Posted in 2 star, 2 star, 9 holes, Commercial, Course Architech, Course Owned By, Course Quality, Course Type, Holes, Overall Value, Parkland, Price, Region, The Highlands, Unknown, When Course Established, £20 - £39 | Comments Off on 78. Craggan. 22 June 2018.