Don’t Look Back in Anger
No one is quite sure when the course was first used but it has gone through 3 iterations since I played it in the 1950s. The course then had no official car park, just a rough road to some waste ground at the side of the first green. Very few cars. Virtually all the members walked from the town as I did all the years I played there.
New clubhouse put up in the early sixties and the course switched round so the old 8th became the new first. Great long par three. That hole was taken away when the new first and second holes came in (the old first green becoming the second). That is the layout we are playing today. With one change Archie points out. A buggy path. A buggy track at Carluke!! As in character as ringing the last at Muirfield with gigantic spittoons.
No 1 – Whorley Burn. Sharp dog leg left to a green well below the level of the tee. Used to be easy. Bomb a driver over the corner. Not 40 years later with that route blocked by mature trees. Archie wants to play from the reds. It’s very wet with no carry so he feels better from a more forward position. I hit a really good ball up the right hand side. Position A. But misjudge the approach. Hit an 8. Right over the pin. Club and a half too much. Just stay on. Three putts at the first is traditional and I am a great believer in tradition!!
No2 – Stey Brae. Straight uphill par 4. But into the heavy rain and I tug it left into deep dank rough. Get a reasonable 7 iron on it but can’t quite get to the green. Good chip to 6 ft. Miss!
No 3 – Tintoc Tap. Very short par4. Always a hole I fancied I could birdie and again I keep the tradition going. Long drive just in the semi. The green has been raised and tightened on both sides but I am only hitting a SW. Sweet. Stops 3 ft away and I hole it. Yes.
No 4 – Mauldslie. This used to be an easy par / birdie / eagle. In summer drivable with my 1 iron as the green sat at the bottom of the hill about 240 from the tee. First hole I had an eagle on. Now extended by 120 yds. I hit it well but Archie thinks I might have caught the end left hand bunker. What end left hand bunker?!! I’ve missed it (by two feet) but can’t see the point of a bunker at that spot in basically the left centre of the fairway. Great view down to the green. Go with 6 iron and again hit it well but long. Manage to avoid 3 putting on this occasion though.
No 5 – Quarry Hole. The start of the best section of the course. This is a classic par 3. Against the wind to a raised green with a bunker short left. I tell Archie I am going to slide a 5 wood left to right. ‘Impressive’ he says in his laconic way but I actually manage it. Well it moves about 1 foot! But I regard that as a cut in the circumstances. Nearly hole it for the birdie but it just slides past.
No 6 – Wellriggs. Great long uphill par 4. A hole I used to struggle with in my teens. But not today. Best drive yet soars over the hill and up the left hand side. Towards another new bunker. What is up with the greens committee? That is like the 4th. A mad place to stick a bunker. Why would you want to catch a well hit 240 yd drive on an uphill hole? – a bunker that is only 10 yds from the centre of the fairway and miles from the left rough. Committee must be suffering from random bunker disorder. I’m just short. Hit great 5 iron which also gets a good kick on its way to the raised green. Bit like the craters on the moon. When I played it as a kid and walked up, there would occasionally be a couple of cars sitting on their own off to the right. Like the horsemen gathering on the hill at the start of High Noon. That’s what I thought!! Short by 1 ft but the pin was well forward so I had 9 ft for my birdie. Slid by again.
No 7 – Popinjay. In most peoples opinion the best hole on the course. Certainly the best view. Down the Clydeside and across to Larkhall and Strathaven. Can see Louden Hill outside Darvel on a clear day. Hit another stoater straight down the centre. No bunker in sight this time! Clearly an oversight by the bunker committee! Perfectly framed shot to the green, on a lower plane and encircled by huge mature chestnut trees. Beautiful. As good as any parkland course I have played. Go with rescue but at the last minute think I have too much and try to take some off it. Mistake. Pull it behind the last left side tree. Have a score decision now. There is a narrow arc I can try and play through towards the back left of the green and let the ball come off the slight bank back towards the hole. But it’s a 10% shot. Could hit the tree or go over the back and be struggling for a 5. I want to keep a six off my card at my old course so a go safe to the right and leave a 30 ft straight putt. Tell myself and Archie it was the sensible shot. It was but the next wasn’t. 8 ft short with the first putt!! Very little as annoying as playing safe and still getting a double. I spend the time, bare down on myself and somehow sink it.
No 8 – Ha’craig. A great par 3. We play it from the reds 150 yds. Ideal distance for a 7 iron sailing over the trees to a tight green at the front (actually plenty room at the back). My 7 doesn’t soar. In fact it barely leaves the ground. It sets off like a turf hugging Exocet towards the nearest tree. If it hits it it would be thrown back to the second fairway. But it misses!! Then runs into the thick rough before the green which slows it up nicely, cushions it to the front right, only two ft off. Better to be lucky! I must take advantage. I don’t. Terrible chip. Worst of the round. Leave 25 ft and am lucky to get down in 2 for a 4.
No 9 – Lang Whang. The weakest hole in this stretch, especially from the reds. I hit another good drive and am setting up for a rescue to the green when Archie points out the burn, 20 yds short. Right on my landing area. Quick reappraisal. I hit 6 iron for position. Not this position. I pull it towards the left hand bunker. One I can see and I agree it is a well thought out spot. I get lucky again. It climbs over it onto the grass on the top and although it is an awkward stance the lie is good, allowing me to hit a SW to 8 ft. Putt is always low.
Out in 38 – 18 putts
No 10 – Posties Path. Great hole especially from the back medal tee with a tight drive to a right to left sloping fairway then up to an even more severely banked green. Pin usually on the right hand side, as it is today, protected by a large bunker. Archie wants to play from the forward tee and I join him. We are talking about my younger kids, Eleanor and William, and I don’t want to break the conversation. Hit a monster up the right, which is beyond the fairway bunker 100 yds short of the green. Good SW but it kicks left, to be expected and I two putt.
No 11 – Glenburn. My favourite hole. The best on the course and as good a short par 3 as any in the UK. Worth playing the course just for this hole. A view down into a deep gulley – a drop of 150 feet over trees rough and abundant flora to a green necklaced by bunkers with Jocks burn running round the back of the landing area. This is the signature hole and wouldn’t be out of place at Loch Lomond. The first hole on which I had a hole in one. 8 iron which hit 10 ft short, checked and rolled sweetly into the cup. I play from the same tee but go with wedge. I am not longer but the clubs and balls now are and I go well past to the back of the green. A head shaking 3 putts!!
No 12 – Hill o’ Hope. The most perplexing / dangerous hole on the course. Only 228 yds from the yellow tee but the green is about 100 ft above the tee. With modern technology it is drivable for me if I hit a good one but I am trying to protect a reasonable score. I used to try and drive this as a kid. A sort of rite of passage. Managed it once or twice but more often ran up big numbers in the attempt. So today a7 iron for position and a PW which is right at it!! Too long I see when I eventually scale the summit. 6 feet off. Behind. On the side of the next tee and looking down a cliff face. But for once I hit a good approach putt. Hit isn’t correct. I wave my putter at the ball and it sets off on its own almost. 5 ft left and I hole it. Yes. Past the potential card wrecking hole by playing sensibly.
No 13 – Fairaway. The old first hole where the small wooden clubhouse stood in the fifties. Short. Only 300 yds with a small valley in front of the tee. 40 yd carry but the number of members who drove into it in those days was extraordinary. Pressure of being watched by the others waiting at the clubhouse I guess. I tell Archie this is probably the weakest hole on the course before hitting a 3 wood for position. My hubris is punished immediately. 3 wood is too much club if you are going to draw it slightly and I end up under the large mature tree on the final part of the left side of the fairway. No shot. I try and hit a low 7 iron punch but it kicks away down to the rough pin high. Good lob wedge to 10 ft from a bad lie but can’t hole it.
No 14 – Lawhill. A nice, slightly quirky hole with a view up to the road which learns to Law village ( an important part of my childhood ) Long plateau from the tee then a dip then up to a green on the same level as the first part of the fairway with a ribbon of fairway in front, almost like a garden path. From the front tee I hit it over the first plane, down into the dip on the left. Only a PW left which I hit very well and think is dead. No. This green is less affected by the heavy rain. It has run on. Two putt par.
No 15 – Whiteshaw. A longish dog leg left par 5 with the main interest whether to take the green on in two if the tee shot is long enough. The hole runs downhill for the last 80 yds which helps but is guarded by a bunker which straddles the fairway 30 yds out. I try too hard from the tee. Pull my drive into the trees and rough. Worse. I am restricted by a small sapling. I look for a stake but can’t see one!! Try too much for the second time and my 7 iron bumbles down into the Indian file of older trees which marks out the hole and delineates it from the next. Now little choice so I punch a 4 iron out right. 120 from the pin and looking at a six or worse. I focus and hit the shot of the round, a 9 iron to 6 ft. Take great care and hole it. Yes. Should be able to keep a six of my card now.
No 16 – Dodgers Last. Shortish par three on which I was never able to decide what to hit. Out of bounds on the right and the long green is eaten into by bunkers on the left. I play safe. Set up on the right hand side of the tee and go with a 6 iron. More than enough and I finish at the back. The pin is at the front and the 20 yd putt swings a lot from the right. I want to be long if anything with my putt and am. 4 ft past but up hill and easier putt back which I make.
No 17 – Coltness. A straightforward slightly uphill par 4 to a green with a bottleneck front end which opens out to a surprisingly large area. Again OB on the right so I aim well away and hit a corker. Only PW left. Play the sensible shot again. The pin is at the front, on the narrowest section and tight to the left hand bunker. I aim 10 ft right and hit it to the inch. Good controlled shot. Putt breaks massively and I don’t give it enough but easy par in the end.
No 18 – Scoular Ha’. A short dog leg right par 4. A carry I would take on in the past but only when I wasn’t protecting a score. Otherwise 1-2 iron short of the narrow road which crosses the hole about 210 yds out. Wind has freshened so I go with 3 wood to play safe but had forgotten how much the fairway runs left so I bounce into the semi. Good lie. Playing in to a large, welcoming green, the windows of the clubhouse bar looking down on it. (Windows I tested more than a few times with thinned 9 irons) I go with an 8 out of the rough and as the ball is slightly above my feet I aim right of the green. Hit it too well. Don’t get the draw I envisaged so end up pin high 3 yds off. Hit a really crisp chip with the 8 again but it skips 7 ft on. Uphill. Straight. Easy! If you hit it! On line. 3 inches shy!! How can I do that on the last green!
Conditions were poor. Heavy rain at the start but improved. Course played long. (That is relative as Carluke is not a long course). Length 5700 Mixture of tees. Par probably 70 though. I shot 76
Greens in regulation 11/18 - 55% reasonable
Fairways 8/14 - 57% reasonable
Putts 35 too many – giving shots away
1 birdie 10 pars 7 bogies. No doubles. No sixes again