The drive from London to the North Lakes takes much longer than I imagined and dinner , as a consequence, is two bags of crisps and a packet of nuts (with a few pints!)
We are staying at the Bridge in Buttermere – a cross between a pub and a hotel. Friendly, great value with bed, breakfast and a 3 course, good quality, evening meal for under £90. Buttermere is a lovely spot if not the most accessible part of the Lake District. Three ways in:-
A -Whinlatter pass – scary
B- Newlands valley – very scary
C-Honister pass – extremely scary
Especially in the dark to someone who is afraid of heights! We crawl over Whinlatter, braking all the way.
A great 2 days walking and eating. The yomp from Glenridding to Howtown the highlight – fantastic views across Ullswater Lake from the South side on the 3 hour journey. (For anyone contemplating this I would recommend a more sensible approach than ours. Take the steamer from Glenridding first and walk back to there. Don’t walk from Glenridding to Howtown and be dependent on catching the last ferry back. That can result in a pleasant stroll, with a stop for a picturesque picnic, turning into fell running to traverse the last, most undulating miles, to be at the pier on time. Watching the boat sailing serenely along the side of the lake whilst not feeling too serene!!)
Then the final part of the break. The drive to Silloth on Solway to play a course I have always wanted to visit – a top 50 course in every chart or compendium of great UK courses.
But one of the most inaccessible courses on the mainland. Not as remote as Machrihanish (post 12 June – Specially designed by the Almighty for playing golf) but up there with Huntstanton and Brancaster. An hours drive from Buttermere along fairly deserted (desolate) costal routes. As Amanda put it ‘it’s not the back of beyond – it’s beyond the back of beyond!!’
Worth it. One of the most enjoyable courses I have ever played. A must visit for all golfers. Like Bernard Darwin on his first visit in 1925 – ‘I never more violently fell in love with a course on first sight’ (apart from North Berwick).
The rain eased as we got there and located the clubhouse next to the docks. I had booked a time between the four balls so although no opportunity to eat when we got there at 12.10. A few minutes to hit some balls in the net (never been in a net where the view to the right was of an industrial dock – weird – so idiosyncratic) before stepping onto the first tee at exactly 12.25. Great view down the narrow humped back first fairway to a hidden green. My caddie urging me on. Amanda given a second chance after her introductory 3 holes at Duddingston (post 23 June – right down the bloody middle).
And I hit it perfectly. Worth the visit just for that. 240 straight. I floated off the tee. This is going to be one of my all-time favourite rounds. I can tell.
I am right. I don’t play perfectly but I do play well enough to appreciate just how great a treat this course is for the amateur golfer. Views across the Solway Firth to the Galloway hills and back the other way to the lakes. A panorama that gets even better as the sun tiptoes out an hour or so into the round. Fantastic holes and some fantastic shots. The second to the plateau green on the third. A full rescue to 18 inches – miss it! Drive (blind as so many shots are) down the next from the high tee which I follow with a sand wedge dead for my only birdie. Brilliant par 3 6th hole. Long – downhill to a sloping green. As is the ninth – one of three signature holes picked out by the course planner. Right on the sea / beach. Only 110 yds from the yellows. Small green heavily bunkered and huge drop of to the right. Never thought I would say this but a more scenic / dramatic version of the Postage Stamp at Troon. Not quite as difficult perhaps and I punch an 8 iron against the breeze to 7 feet but miss the putt.
The next is billed as drivable par four with blind carry over the high corner of gorse and general boondai. I am driving well so take it on. Send Amanda up to the corner to spot the ball – the return of the fore caddy!! – and crunch one on the perfect line. Only 20 yds short. 8 iron chip which looks in all the way for an eagle but lips out and spirals to 18 inches. I hole all putts now. Have to be honest but not this one Drag it past And throw my putter into the gorse. Sensible choice. Only choice really. Amanda is astounded. Never seen me lose it on a golf course. Laughs. Which is dangerous but correct in the circumstances and jolts me back to reality.
I hammer my next drive, launch a 4 iron on and get a good par at the long, difficult 11th. As I mark my card I notice, for the first time, that the second nine is 400 yds longer than the first which as a result of amateur double bogey from 100 yds on the 5th I played in 43. Need to concentrate to score reasonably. Hit great rescue at the long par 3 twelfth which I think is dead with the pin at the back right. But it plops over and gathers momentum into scruffy patch of rough and I can’t up and down. One over. But I par the next two holes – both par 5s and hit my best drive and second to 10 ft at the 15th. Can’t hole it but solid 4. Then the uphill par three 16th. Great hole. I try to cut a five iron on. Get the cut ok but not the exact distance so drop off into a deep nasty bunker. Almost shank out, bad chip on and a 5 from nowhere. Sh… !! Chance to get one back at the shortish par 5 17th and after drive and 3 wood played as the course saver suggested I have 50 yds to an open green pin back left. Wedge just over but only 15 ft away – easy 3 putt!! Sh..!!
Determined to finish well and hit drive on the last on what I think is the perfect line but it finds the rough on the left and although only a foot in I can’t get into it properly. Play short of the left hand approach bunker. 40 yds to the pin. Being watched from the clubhouse as well as Amanda. Reject my lob wedge. Let me down at the last. Go to the shot I practiced most as a kid. 8 iron chip and run, which it does to 2 ft. And I hole it. Perfect finish to, if not to a perfect round, then to a perfect course. In love with it and my infatuation is deepened by a historic plate of scampi and chips (huge and homemade) in the clubhouse sitting in the far corner with a stunning view across the opening and closing holes in the bright sunlight. What a course. What a day.
A longer analysis of the course will be posted in the course ranking section but
Greens in regulation 7/18 =39% poorish
Fairways 11/14=78% great but greens missed from that shows how hard some of the approaches were
Putts 35 too many again
Birdies 1 pars 7 bogies 7 double bogies 3 Par is 72 my score 84 – 12 over