I awake feeling a bit jaded after the night at Passorn. Perhaps a beer or glass of wine too many. Amanda and I were out with Alex Williams and his wife Debbie. Alex is one of my hosts today and on the basis of his weather forecast last night we agreed to play in shorts. Perhaps a tad optimistic in the cold light of day as I shiver my way into the car. It is the sort of morning for which Edinburgh has the worldwide patent. Grey with hints of fog, and no noticeable warmth!!
But it lightens a bit as I pick my way out of town onto the bypass and A1 and it is brighter as I drive onto the Archerfield estate which was put together as a package about 12 years ago by Kevin Doyle, a local entrepreneur. And still here after the recession which is testimony to the model being robust.
My first time at Archerfield but so many memories driving past Muirfield which is the next course up. I enter the Ponderosa – there are no signposts to the clubhouse. (Strange. Is this some sort of homage to Muirfield?) I drive along the side of the Renaissance, an even more exclusive course, looking for it and eventually spot practice facilities. I have arrived.
My other host is Yuill Irvine who works with Alex at Melville Independent PLC – a large IFA business based in Edinburgh. My guest, making up the financial triumvirate, is Graeme Buchanan, ex head of BOS private banking in Edinburgh who has just moved to a similar role in Wetherbys.
Looks like a fun filled fiscal frolic lies ahead!!
It does. I have only met Yuill twice before (on a flight to Faro and in Tiger Lily) but he and Alex are welcoming and good fun. I have known Graeme for years but never played golf with him before. Discussed playing many times as I have with Alex but not actually consummated. Really looking forward to the Melville v the Rest of the World contest and seeing how the others play.
The clubhouse is huge – country club style. Spacious with a very good line in bacon rolls and tea. Suitably refreshed we wander out onto the Fidra course without a warm up. A blunder. Our second mistake is to agree to play from the blues not whites. I was a solid no on this but was outvoted by the far too optimistic ayes!! Heavy dew on the fairways which will restrict the run and lengthen the course even more.
This is a tough golf course as the first illustrates. The other three hit good drives. Alex (11) hits a huge ball and Graeme (6) and Yuill (9) are not far behind. I am the short ball and in trees on the right. Trees are the key feature or the front nine. Tall mature but with no undergrowth so balls are easy to find if not to extricate. I need to hit a low cut short of the green, not a shot I fancy at this stage but I manage it – Yuill goes off left, Alex fluffs and Graeme sticks just short of the putting surface. I have spent a lot of time on my wedge play and it pays off as I hit a lovely half lob which checks and settles 3 feet left pin high. I am then party to a display of how not to putt on large, firm fast greens and after an eon and many attempts the hole is conceded as I have two for it from there. This becomes a pattern.
Graeme is the steadiest player by far. Looks like a 6 and plays to it. Don’t think he misses a fairway in the first nine. Yuill has a nice long swing and when it functions hits it the best of us. Unfortunately it only seems to function on every second shot which on a tight course like this is not quite often enough. Alex had golfing schizophrenia. Looks like low single figures from the tee – putts worse than I have been recently and that is saying something. I am ‘varied’ but reasonably steady ‘varied’ and Graeme and I build up a 5 hole advantage by the turn. The course impresses me. Clever use of trees makes the fairways seem narrower than they actually are. The par five second is a good example of this as is the long dog leg seventh which Alex wins with a lovely four. Brings them back to 3 down but they both 3 putt the eighth (Alex’s disease is contagious it seems) and I play the 9th sensibly for a par 4 to take us to the turn in a comfortable lead.
The stop at the half way house is compulsory (a practice other courses should adopt) and the mini haggis pie are devine. And the sun makes a timid appearance. Couldn’t be better. 5 up. Pies. Sun, or what passes for it in Scotland in September.
Alex assumes the captaincy on the second nine on an election manifesto of not doing worse than Yuill!! He doesn’t but Graeme is rock solid and we protect our lead before going 6 up with 7 to go. A dog license looms but they get a fighting half on the 12th. So only dormie 6. I get a nice par three on the next to finish it. This is the closest the course gets to the seashore. Just short of the beach at Yellowcraigs. (Yellowcraigs is one of Amanda’s favourite beaches and she has tried to take me there on a couple of occasions without, it has to be said, any noticeable success. And yet I have found it from a golf course!) The beach isn’t visible but there is a lovely view across to the Firda lighthouse from the back of the green.
As winners we can relax. The golf gets a bit better as a result and I play a hole really well (for once). Hit a long drive down 16 and a seven iron to 8 ft. Get the birdie. But even better golf to come. 17 is a long par 3 guarded by deep bunkers with the pin at the back and tight to the left hand side. Graeme and I go left and then Alex hits the shot of the round. Towering 4 iron with a tiny bit of fade which holds it just past the pin. Holes it for the 2. Class.
And amazing considering how he has putted up to now. !! Last is a fun par 5 unless you stick your second in a fairway trap as I did but hit my best shot, 8 iron out just short (then 3 putt for a six!!) Great game on a lovely course with good companions. As we walk off there is one final incredible shot. Yuill lines up a practice ball which has overshot the range and looks to fire it back to the nearest pin. Which he does with a total thin which takes of like an exocet, hits the stick and drops dead! Masterclass from a complete shotmaker. Sums up the game we all love.
Match play again so hard to compile stats – had 3 no return where i picked up. Assume 6 over for those I was 12 over gross. On my new handicap!!