I played the Charleton and Anstruther courses on 22 September 2009 in bright but very windy conditions. Charleton was surprisingly good fun as I’d not been expecting anything special. The course was in great condition, with fast greens made all the more tricky by a gale force wind that made club selection an absolute lottery. What made it even more remarkable was that I played to my handicap, despite the weather. I was also amused to be asked on arrival whether I qualified for the senior citizen’s discount. Come on, I’m 59 for sure, but not quite eligible for the free bus pass yet! It was also refreshing to be waived through by 3 separate groups, since if there’s one thing in golf that I really dislike, it’s getting stuck behind a group of players who completely ignore you. I know that the Rules of Golf say that a single player has no status and that by implication has no right to expect to be waived through, but I’m sure I’m not alone in becoming frustrated on occasions.
For example, when I visited Drumpellier GC recently, a fine golf course by the way, I found myself playing behind a couple of guys. Not bad players, but painfully slow. They were then joined by a third player on the 3rd tee and by a fourth on the 10th, by which time I’m really being held up on every shot. I was also playing reasonably well, and had it occurred to those in front it would have been obvious that I would have played through quickly and not held them up. But no, it seemed as though every effort was made to ignore my presence. By the time I got to the first par 3 on the back 9, two of them had lost balls, but still I was not called through. At that point my lack of status on the course should in my view have been set aside, since as any golfer should know, the Rules also state that those searching for a ball should not delay those behind them. I finally finished that round and whilst I liked the course and loved the 18th, I’m afraid that Drumpellier will not be on my list to visit again any time soon.
Even worse, when Polly (my wife) and I played Troon Portland earlier in the year, we were held up from the very first hole by four foreign visitors with caddies . After some 3 hours, we walked through at the 10th and to be fair one of them apologised that as visitors, they did not know how to play our links courses and were finding it difficult to make progress. Fair enough guys and the apology was accepted, but etiquette is as important as ability and an awareness of the pile up of players in your wake should have rung some alarm bells! We also found it odd that one of the caddies commented that he could not advise his player that his party was holding up play and should let people play through, a comment that did not accord with the Caddie Master when we met him by chance at the end of our round. We were delighted to be invited to have a courtesy round when next we were in the area – a really generous and helpful offer that confirmed our view that the set up at Troon was absolutely first class, befitting its status as an outstanding golfing venue.
But back to Charleton. I’d recommend that course to anyone who wants to play a really good inland course in great condition. Not long, not overly difficult, but some really good holes. The 17th was my favourite. A short par 4, with the green set above a ditch immediately in front of it. I carry a Cleveland 60 degree lob wedge, often for no apparent reason since it requires a really committed shot to get anything out of it, and on the 17th I had a 30 yard shot to the flag for my second. I hit one of those rare things (for me at least), a perfectly hit shot landing precisely where I’d aimed, taking into account the slope of the green and the strong wind - and into the hole it went on its last roll. The group in front had just left the green but didn’t see it go in for an Eagle. Still, that shot restored my belief that if you give a monkey a paintbrush and enough time….
is a short 9 hole links course that was particularly enjoyable in the gale force Westerly that day. Anstruther’s main claim to fame is that its 5th hole is regarded as the most difficult par 3 in the UK and rightly, in my humble opinion.
About 240 yards from an elevated tee requiring a slight fade to steer the ball between the sea and a cliff made it a test that I failed miserably, with the wind dead against. I ended up with a lucky 8 with my third ball. This is undoubtedly a hugely difficult hole, but is it a good hole and fair test? In my opinion, no. I doubt whether many Anstruther members will relish the prospect of that hole appearing twice in their medal rounds or that any course should have a hole that is simply unplayable to par for the huge majority of golfers likely to play it. Let’s have Par 3 holes that can be played with good shots and a couple of putts if needs be, not ones that simply wreck cards and would be better as Par 4s. I’d play Anstruther
again though, if only to try for a 7 next time!