PW's society trip to Carnoustie

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PW's society trip to Carnoustie

Our annual lads trip to Scotland for a long weekend of golf - six rounds in four days with far too much beer.

The drive to Carnoustie from the Blackpool area was straight forward, lasting four and a half hours including a stop for a late breakfast at Abington services. Our hotel rooms were not ready at 12:30 so we drank on the terrace of the Carnoustie Golf Hotel overlooking the first tee and 18th green of the Championship course. The beer was a bit pricey, but we all understand we are paying a bit extra for the Location - and it is worth it.

Changing room in the hotel was free to residents, and we were out on the Burnside course at 2:30. For those unfamiliar with Carnoustie, there are three courses and the Burnside is the No2. The weather was sunny with quite a strong south westerly breeze, which was straight into the face on the opening holes.

It was a poor start for PW, with a topped 3h tee shot followed by another topped 3 wood. Perhaps a few swings in the net would have been better preparation than two bottles of Peroni. 

Settled in to my game by the third and hit a proper 3h into the wind on the 175yd par 3, over the deep front bunker, pitching on the front of the green and finishing at the back; then followed up with two putts for par. Another par at the 5th, where a burn snakes around three sides of the green. Lose a ball in the rough on the 6th, but good drives on the 7th and 8th set up two more pars. 

The 9th is a par 3 with the green set on top of a mound, with the ground falling away on all sides. One playing partner had a Hamlet moment in a bunker, while the other two played a succession of chips and putts up the bank from the right, with the ball stopping at the top, teetering and then running back down to their feet - four times for one player, before he picked up.

A par at the 10th for me, followed by another lost ball on 11, and a blob on 12 after getting one one of those horrible pot bunker lies where I could only get one foot in the sand and played with my left knee on the grass.

The shot of the day for me was the tee shot on the 228yd par 3 14th - a 3 wood finishing pin high at the back of the green, leading to par. Another lost ball on 15, bogey on 16, and then a beautiful drive on 17 - straight down the middle - two bounces into the Barry Burn at 272 yards from the tee. Drop on the bank and smash a 3h 200yds just through the back of the green and manage to salvage a point. Par the last to finish with 28 points and the feeling that if I had been able to find my ball in the rough a few times (rather than just my playing partners'), it could have been a lot more. Leading scores were  34, 33, 32 and they have been cut 3, 2 and 1 shot respectively, so although I am in 7th place out of 12, there are good prospects for an improvement tomorrow.

We will be taking on the Buddon Links in the morning and the Championship course in rain and 20mph wind in the afternoon.

Evening was spent in the Ganges, a decent curry washed down with lashings of Cobra and Pernoni. Afterwards we retired to the 19th Hole, a bar that was open till midnight, for games of Killer Pool, more Peroni, and a jukebox with plenty of classic tunes from our youth.

Haha, at that rate I'd never make it through day two! 

 (Not ill just green with envy)

Day 2 dawns, and there are people teeing off at 6:30am. My room has a view over the 1st tee and 18th green. After a fine breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, I am out to the tee at 8:50, wearing Royal and Awesome trousers which get a few double takes and much mickey taking.  The Buddon Links has been re-modeled since our last visit, with the old opening par 3 turned into a short game practice area, so the first hole is now a long par 4.  The greens are tricky: small, many are heavily contoured and raised, and they are faster than those on the Burnside. The round is accompanied by an impressive fusilade of shots from the neighbouring firing range, that will shortly be hosting some of the shooting events for the Commonwealth Games. I am not on form, struggling to keep it straight from the tee, but manage to par the 3rd with a 3 and the 9th with a 4. This was achieved after a huge blocked drive that cleared the pond to the right and finished on the 8th fairway. After a merry exchange with the elderly Scottish fourball behind over the brightness of my 'breeks'. (I thought only Robbie Burns used language like that)  I hit a blind 8 iron back over the pond and a large mound of gorse to finish on the fringe, chipped and holed a swirling 15 footer for a memorable par to bring up 13 points for the front 9 holes. Added 13 more for the back nine, including a birdie at 13 and a par at 15 (both par 3 holes). My disappointment over my play is confirmed by the rest of the group scoring: I am 10th for this round and get an extra shot.  My apologies to everyone on the Buddon course that morning who teed off after 9:30. Yes, we had to wait on every tee as well, and 4.5 hours was a ridiculous time for a round on a 5921 par 68 course - but it was the fourball two ahead of us that were holding everyone up - not the guy in the luminous trousers who was hitting it all over the course - honest.

Not much time for lunch, just a pint and a sandwich and then it was time for the main event, the Championship Course. Got a decent 3 wood away straight down the middle on the first, but sadly that was one of the few decent shots on the front nine. I kept blocking tee shots out to the right rough and losing the ball.   

Day 3: Breakfast in the hotel dining room: One of our party drops a slice of toast, leans out of his chair to retrieve it, traps the tablecloth between his knee and the chair leg, falls out of the chair to the floor followed by the tablecloth and the crockery.  Fifteen minutes inland from Arbroath is Letham Grange. While ownership of the land and buildings has been the subject of much legal action over the past five years, the members have continued to maintain the course and operate the club. It is not in such good condition as its heyday, but it was good enough for us and good value.  My original playing partner is a tri-athlete and, like me, had disdained a buggy. We were going to not only walk the courses, but carry our bags! But he fell ill the week before, and his replacement was equally certain he wanted a buggy. After yesterday around Carnoustie in the drizzle, I eagerly joined him. It was a wise move. Morning: Old Course: I had remembered that there were many steep climbs to elevated tees , but I had forgotten the sheer distance between some of the greens and the next tee. Although many of the holes are long, the fairways tend to be angled or dog-legged and a well placed or shaped shot with a fairway wood or hybrid will often yield better results than a driver. There is a magnificent sequence of holes from 7 to 13. A laser range finder is really useful around here as you need to know the distance to various trees and bunkers. The 8th a par 3 over a lake, with a set up similar to the 16th at Augusta. The 10th a par 4 from an elevated tee down a narrowing fairway towards a lake. My playing partners took mid-irons and left themselves on the wide part of the fairway, with a huge carry over the lake for the second shot. I hit a hybrid 200 yds much nearer the lake, a seven iron to 15ft from the pin and made par. Finished with 26 points after blocking a few drives into the trees in the later stages. Afternoon: The Glens course: This was easier, much more open, and flatter. I played really well from tee to green, making a number of pars and finishing with 39 points, the best score of the whole group over all six rounds.  The greens on both courses were better than last year, not as pristine as the links greens, or my home course, but reasonable. 

Carnoustie is without doubt the hardest course I've ever played anywhere in the world.

. I've just changed my mind over playing this next year. Shut up shut up shut up LALALA LA.....