If the route to Silloth was long and circuitous then the one to Quinta matched it!
The first diversion was an ankle injury that appeared from nowhere but left me hirpling and wondering how it had happened. Must have been the effect of the last stages of the long, fast walk in the lakes, compounded by the round at Silloth. (Whatever caused it, I had to pass up the chance of playing the Kings at Gleneagles and adding that to my list of trophy courses.) Amanda and I were also hoping to go to Chicago to help celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Jim and Sue Forsyth as well as Jim’s 65th birthday. Meeting up with two other friends there – Ali Muir and his girlfriend Valentine (A brief pause in Provence post). But again couldn’t get that sorted so we ended going away for a few days to Portugal. In the process flying on the emptiest Ryanair plane I have ever seen. Only 30 people on the aircraft. Strange even if it was the last leg of that days M shaped routing.
Not fully sure about my ankle and whether I would be fit to play but it ‘turned ‘out well on all counts. Great weather – especially at the end of October – friends who also managed out for a long weekend – and the new, restyled North course at Quinta do Lago. Of those the North was the least impressive!! Billed as a €7m spend on a total restructure of the existing course – but somewhat less than that!!
I had a new golfing companion on my round. Simon Fisher (stage name Warwick) who was over at his apartment in Vale de Lobo with his wife Rebecca. (The story of how we met, realised that he and Amanda had been at Guildhall at the same time, and became involved in his business is another post). The other participants in the weekend were Amanda’s oldest friends Carolyn and Peter Hopkins (Peter is not a golfer so wasn’t involved). So great weather, friends, food and inevitably drink, but was the golf as great?
It could have been! I hit the ball well on the practice area which is now badged as the Paul McGinley golf academy. I can’t really understand the desire to brand facilities like that. I guess Paul will spend as much time at the course as Colin Montgomerie does at his school at Turnberry!! On a par with the number of appearances Lord Lucan made at the Old Bailey.
So – the first tee on the reconstituted North course at the Paul McGinley golf academy, chatting to the starter who tells me he thinks the course is if anything now easier than it was before!! First impressions – I agree. The opening hole on the North was always tight down the left hand side of the dog leg with trees and rough blocking out any approach to the green. Now really opened up and thinned out. Makes the tee shot feel easier psychologically which is half the battle. I hit a great drive. Long down the centre with a little draw to perfect spot and only a pitching wedge left which I push slightly. Pin high right, 2 yds off the green. Hole the putt!! That never happens. Green-keepers applaud and I bow humbly.
Second now features a pond on the right hand side which I am not sure enhances a good par 3 anyway but I go over the green and can’t get up and down.
The long par 5 next seems exactly the same and after a fantastic rescue from 200 yds for my third (found the left side bunker from the tee) I have a 5 footer for the 4 which I miss easily, as I do with an even shorter putt at the next for the birdie three. At the shortish dog leg left 5th I again tan a drive, push my wedge and hole from off the green – 40 ft – for a birdie!!! What a strange game. Should have 4 birdies in the first 5 holes but – I haven’t.
Mess up the next two but par the short 8th and hit two great shots to 7 feet at the ninth. Miss again. What could be out in three under is actually 1 over.
The back nine is best left mainly undescribed, three putts on 10and 11 setting up a very poor group of holes. I did discover where the claim to have spent €7m on the course comes from. Around 100 new houses have materialised along the side of the 11 and 12 holes running all the way up to the square at Quinta. Bit of poetic license counting the infrastructure spent on that as relating to the course!! A critique on the course will be included in the course ranking section but a few thoughts.
The North was always the quirkier of the two Quinta courses. A bit of that has been lost. The approach to the 10th and 18th greens were particularly good in my view. But both have been ‘flattened’ and made more straightforward. And the biggest concern is the damage to the greens caused by players not repairing pitch marks. OK the greens are still soft but!! All of them look like they have been sand blasted by balls. Bare patches everywhere. I appreciate that courses have to generate traffic which means the standards which used to apply when I first played here 15 years ago – production of a handicap certificate – have been abandoned. But the consequence of letting non golfers on is not just longer rounds, but greens so poor looking that better golfers will potentially boycott the whole experience. Rant over!!
Greens in regulation 8/18 = 44% poorish
Fairways 12/14 = 85% great
Putts 36 = again too many
Birdies 2 Pars 6 Bogies 7 D Bogies 3
Gross 83 Par 72