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.

77. Dufftown. 21 June 2018.

Combine two of Scotland’s great pastimes – golf and hill walking – at this great value course   

Round £20.   Par 68.  Value (out of 5) – 5

Dufftown has a variety of claims among UK golf courses;  highest hole (9th), biggest drop from tee to green (10th) and highest climb from clubhouse to top of course.  You probably get the picture.  If you are looking to play an occasional bit of holiday golf with young kids, treat them to a buggy to avoid the inevitable “I’m tired” conversations after 9 holes.  Thankfully, buggies are available for hire at this course!

Moly at the 6th tee at Dufftown on a beautiful mid-summer evening.

Dufftown is well worth a visit for a variety of  reasons.  It’s the “whisky capital of the world” and home to William Grant & Sons distillers, producer of the biggest global selling single malt whisky, The Glenfiddich.  There are still traces of the early Picts and Christian communities dotted around Dufftown, so historians are also well served.   The pure local water made it a good location for illegal whisky and there are numerous villainous stories related to that.

Dufftown’s short 7th hole – “Fittie Burn”

The golf course also has some villainous holes ready to capture and destroy your round.  Although short at only 5343 yards (white), 4751 (yellow) and (4900) red, there is great variety here.  There are many severely uphill or downhill holes and the stroke indexes don’t necessarily follow the normal “length = difficulty” rule.   There are several blind tee  shots and the greens are often on plateaus with dangerous surrounds.  All in all, its going to be difficult to avoid a calamitous hole over the round.

The 10th, the signature hole, is a great example.  Although the landing area is large, the view from the tee is intimidating, then the second shot needs to be played into a ever narrowing channel, to a long and thin green, with OOB all along the right of the left to right sloping fairway.  Record a par 4 and be delighted, record a 5 and be happy to move on.  I took a great triple bogie 7, having lost my drive (2 shot penalty), going through the back to a lateral hazards with my approach (1 penalty), then having a good chip and single putt!

The intimidating 10th at Dufftown – reputed the biggest drop in height on any course in the UK 

The course has one of the shortest holes in Scotland, the 7th (“Fittie Burn”), at around 100 yards, played over a deep gully.  As it was a nice day and we were pretty much alone, I spent 5 minutes looking for balls in the ravine, and found about a dozen – my hay fever took a battering though!

11th tee at Dufftown

The course was in wonderful condition and the greens true and even, albeit they had “lost” the 12th green, which was, according to the local green keeper, due to severe frost damage over the winter.  I had a good day shooting 83 including a birdie 3 at the downhill 9th.

What a wonderful treat to play this golf course on a beautiful mid-summer evening during the warmest June on record in Scotland.  If heaven does exist, and you have to pay green fees up there from a limited budget, then there is a strong argument that says Dufftown is where you would play

Facts:

Course Type: Heathland

Par 66 (12 par 4s, 2 par 3s)

Distance (yellow): 4751

Moly’s Gross score83

Moly’s Dufftown card – 83 for 36 points.

Posted in 18 holes, 1851 - 1900, 4 star, 5 star, Course Architech, Course Owned By, Course Quality, Course Type, Heathland, Holes, Members, Overall Value, Price, Region, The Highlands, Unknown, When Course Established, £20 - £39 | Comments Off on 77. Dufftown. 21 June 2018.