I played at Torvean in Inverness on 19 March 2010. Torvean is a municipal course, operated by the Highland Council and is 5421 yards, par 69, off the yellow tees. A couple of winter greens and tees were in operation so although the course was shorter in yardage it was pretty tricky, due to the howling gale that was blowing. This is a view of the third green, with the second tee and a boat on the adjacent Caledonian Canal in the background, showing the effect of the wind on the flag.
There are a good few courses in Scotland that are split by a road, such as the Merchants of Edinburgh, or Uphall, but I can't think of any other that, like Torvean, is split into 3 sections by 2 major roads. The first 8 holes are on the south side of the main road to Fort William, holes 9-15 are to the north of that road and the last 3 holes are to the west of a major road intersection. Some of the holes in the first 8 are pretty good, and I particularly liked the 2nd, a 346 yard par 4 set hard against the Canal, with a very narrow approach to the green, with the Canal and one side and woods on the other. Such was the strength of the wind that after a driver and a solid 3 wood I was still 20 yards short of the green. On the short 255 yard par 4 4th hole, even more exposed, I hit a driver and 9 iron and somehow managed to hole the putt. The greens had recently been hollow tined and were very slow and bumpy and even a well hit putt was affected by the wind, so my 30 foot single putt from just off the green was really unexpected. Level 4s after 4 holes was pretty good. However, a monster 560 yard par 5 was next, straight into the gale. Thankfully, a temporary green was in play that shortened the hole by 150 yards or so, and I escaped with a bogey. I thought the best hole on the course was the 8th, a 272 yard par 4 with a lake to the left and various large trees that really made accuracy off the tee essential. Throw in a 40 mile an hour tail wind and the hole became hugely difficult. I lost the first ball, which hit a tree and could have gone absolutely anywhere. The second ball was stymied behind a huge tree guarding the green and I was lucky to take double bogey. Another bogey on the 9th meant I was out in 6 over par, not too shabby, given the conditions.
I didn't think that holes 9-15 were particularly memorable, as they were largely flat and featureless, set amidst a major road, playing fields, housing and a caravan site. Given the wind conditions, damage limitation was the order of the day, keeping the ball low into the wind and under as much control as I could manage. I'd been fearing more of the same on the last 3 holes, but I thought that they were some of the best holes on the course. The 16th was Stroke Index 1 and deservedly so. At 412 yards off the yellow tees, it did not look hugely formidable, but it was 471 yards of the medal tee, which was almost where the winter tee was positioned. The wind meant my drive did not clear a large hill, so I had a blind second shot of around 300 yards, with a lake on the left and a major road on the right. I laid up as best I could but this is the position for my 3rd shot, still 140 yards out. With the wind whipping across the fairway towards the road, I waited for a gap in the traffic and somehow scrambled a 5 iron onto the green and 2-putted for a good bogey. Yes, there is such a thing, at my level anyway.
I also liked this, the 17th a short par 3 played over a lake. My drive finished a couple of inches away from falling into a greenside bunker, with the hole lying within 6 feet on the other side of that bunker. I e-mailed Craig and Stu "a what happened next question" with the options of -
A -I hole the lob wedge pitch and get a birdie;
B -I thin the ball into the bunker;
C -I thin the ball into a hidden bunker on the other side of the green;
D -I pitch to within a few feet but miss the putt when my clubs and the trolley blow into the bunker during my back swing.
My game is such that any of these is possible but rather uncharitably, Polly opted for B. The right answer is of course D and another bogey on the card. The last hole involves a blind tee shot and a second to an elevated shelf green cut into a hill, with the main road to Fort William alarmingly close behind, awaiting anything over-hit or caught by the wind. I managed a bogey 5 to go round in 80, only 1 over net par, a pretty amazing score, given the circumstances.