This post is going back a few days as we‚??ve been busy lads entertaining our mate Ed Bayley who has been spending the last 10 days with us.¬†¬† I‚??m pleased to report that Ed is currently on the train back to his haunt in Oxford, where he is recovering from his puregolf2010 stint with ‚??four days on the couch playing playstation‚??.¬†¬†
Last Friday we dragged Ed kicking and screaming out to the St Andrews Castle Course.¬† Arranged by Gents and courtesy of the Links Trust this day was our swansong of golf in the golf-mecca that is the St Andrews region. ¬†And the weather gods again did not disappoint. Here is the four-ball and we're loud mouthing it.¬†
The Castle Course sits high on the cliffs overlooking the ocean and the views are nothing short of spectacular.¬†¬† It kind of reminded me of Castle Stuart although here the views swept across the St Andrews township and the Firth of Forth and across to East Lothian.¬†
Before the fun and games began out on the course we were given our goodie bags filled with Castle Course tees, markers, pitch repairers and crucially a detailed course guide. ¬†Golf balls are belted out on the range whilst the array of starters politely suggest you should have a few putts on the practice putting green so you can brace yourself for the fun ahead.¬† Probably the only thing I got from this brief warm up was that, no matter how hard I tried it was going to be difficult to hit a left to right shot shape playing back towards the township with the wind whipping in from the ocean on the right.¬†
Unlike the other courses in the Links Trust portfolio, the Castle course is a modern design and has received mixed reactions throughout the year from folk we‚??ve come across. ¬†The main reason for this is the greens that are at best entertaining and at worst like a sick and twisted mini golf course.¬† I‚??m not the best of putters on a good day so the triple breaking putts out here were as mouth watering as 8 day old haggis.¬† At least we had the local knowledge of Gents who gave us an idea of where to hit the ball into the greens ‚?? using the slopes to our favour so we could (at times) actually get it quite close to the pins. ¬†¬†¬†Despite these ‚??tricked up‚?? greens (to use an ‚??ocker Aussie phrase) I thought the course was an awesome test of golf.
Firstly, it was a test off the tee ‚?? many of the landing areas appeared tiny but were actually generous, provided you hit the right club off the tee!!¬† If you carelessly bomb driver all day you‚??ll probably end up in at least one or two patches of rough that are found in the middle of the fairways. Not to mention the fairway bunkers.¬† Check out one such cheeky spot of rough below.
Secondly there were great contours throughout the course.¬† And it didn‚??t feel like they‚??d move 875 million tonnes of soil in the creation of the course.¬† Holes like the 6th ‚?? seen below play significantly downhill to the ocean meaning you could bunt it out of the rough and end up quite close to the green.¬† Or if you‚??re Gents you can bomb it most of the way to the green 430 yards away from the tee!!
Thirdly, the routing of the course is like Castle Stuart as it maximises the panoramic views below.¬† Holes 6 through 9 play sensationally along the cliff tops and made me go wow.¬† The par three 8th is very exposed ‚?? you can‚??t just stand up on this tee and hit a smooth iron ‚?? a bunt or punch under the wind is always going to be the play!¬† On the 9th tee we heard a kiwi twang from across the tee block and were introduced to a greenkeeper mate of Gents‚?? called Joe.¬† Top man.¬† Got a good gig as well and soon heading off to keep Royal Melbourne in decent nick.¬† The back nine plays up higher on the hill where the views extend to the St Andrews Bay courses along the coast (which we‚??re not playing‚?¶. not on this trip anyway!).¬†¬† Then the final two holes are again along the coast with the signature par three 17th across a huge ravine to the gravelly beach below and then (another) par five closing hole around the cliffs to the right.¬†
And fourthly, the greens for all their sins were rolling nicely and more than a few of the complexes were great and a good fair test.¬† For example the severe false fronts on the 2nd (below) 6th¬†and 16th holes with a relatively flat green beyond (it‚??s all relative here..)¬†¬† And what I did like was that they gave you a chance if you knew where to go.¬† According to Gents it‚??s a course which gets better and better the more you play it and his guidance helped immeasurably ‚?? for example when we used the bowl on the 11th hole or had we followed his advice to play left of the par five 5th hole and let the ball roll back to the pin in the centre of the green.
[the 11th hole with a bowl green]
We were engrossed in another four-ball match ‚?? as are the ways for us competitive kiwi lads.¬† Jamie and Ed were paired up against Gents and I and after some considerable horse trading on the first tee (and over a pint the night before) the shots were dished out and the match ended up a closely fought affair.¬† It was a shame that at times we all lost interest and concentration as the round took no fewer than 5 hours 15 minutes to complete which is simply far too long.¬† Aside from losing out on revenue from fewer people being about to get around per day, having a very slow pace of play is not a great reputation to have. I should say that the opposite can be said about The Old Course where we breezed around in four hours even whilst every man and his dog soaks in the atmosphere, takes photos left right and centre and has to work out where exactly to go!¬† This is probably due to the excellent caddy program at The Old, and whilst there were caddies marching down the fairways alongside their players (it is rather intimidating when you see 8 guys striding down the fairway at you) they were a bit prickly when Gents hit a drive about 330 yards on the 12th which got close to them & was subsequently trodden on and embedded into the soil.
The round slowed when we got to 17 because of the stunning views.¬†
No-one is too phased at this point ‚?? it‚??s like the 15th & 16th at Cypress Point where camera‚??s are almost compulsory and facebook posts and photographs are being flicked up to tell the world about the grand cliff tops that we find ourselves on.¬† Down the last the match was still in the balance but finally I strung a couple of shots together and should have knocked in my 5 footer for eagle ‚?? but for a small issue called LOFT.
[the closing hole a par five with a double green adjoining the 9th]
We made a speedy exit as JP was due at a wedding rehearsal but we thanked the friendly crowd, jumped in the tank and were off to Burntisland.
Thanks again to the Links Trust for having us, for Gents and Jamie having us to stay with them and Ed for making the trip up to see us. Oh, by the way mate ‚?? get a haircut.¬†
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