Oatridge is owned by the Oatridge Agricultural College, is located within the college's estate near Ecclesmachan in West Lothian and is home to the Binny Golf Club. Oatridge is a 9 hole course of 2770 yards off the yellow tees, though there were 18 separate white tees for medal rounds only. The College's website mentions that Oatridge has been described as the best 9 hole course in Scotland. Craig and Stu had already played the course and I agree with their view that Oatridge is one of the best 9 holes courses we've played. Indeed, I suspect that by the time my own journey around Scotland is complete, Oatridge would still be one of my favourite 9 holers, alongside the likes of Scarista on Harris.
I played at Oatridge on 24 May 2010, the day before a Seniors' Open competition. A power of work had been done to present the course at its best. The tees, fairways and greens were in immaculate condition and with a stiff wind blowing and the greens fast and tricky, all seemed set for a good round. The 1st hole is a downhill par 5 played to a slightly elevated green. Being a parkland course, I thought that a high pitch to the green would be better than the low pitch and run shots that I'm more used to playing at The Glen. However, my wedge made only the briefest visit to the green before bouncing off into the high rough to the left of the green. I lost that ball and ended up with a triple bogey 8. This is the 2nd, a good 151 yard par 3. My 6 iron tee shot finished in a ridiculous and almost unplayable lie in the left bunker. Another triple bogey followed. The 3rd is a drivable 229 yard par 4, but the 3rd is named "Water Hole" and the course guide recommended a lay up. An easy swing with my 7 wood and I had a short chip over a stream. However, the greens were remarkably quick and firm, so my sand iron shot bounded through the green, costing me a bogey. This is the 3rd green, looking back to the tee and the greenkeeper, still hard at work! The 4th is a 272 yard par 4 with a flat elevated green. I persevered with the high approach pitch, but again it bounced through for another bogey. The 5th is a great driving hole, a 277 yard right dog leg around some high trees. I finished 30 yards or so short and (you'll have guessed by now) another pitch went through the green. This time, the ball stopped just short of a lateral water hazard and I was able to get a short pitch and run almost stone dead for an easy 4 and my first par.
The 6th requires a good drive to catch a down slope on the fairway to leave an easy pitch to the uphill green. Another easy par followed, but by now the wind had really strengthened and some dark clouds were gathering over the course. My wet suit and umbrella were in the car, so it was time to speed up! The 7th is Stroke Index 1, a long uphill 416 yard dog leg par 4. The course guide warned of the need to avoid some large oaks guarding the right side of the fairway and a burn crossing the fairway. I flirted with the biggest tree before settling for yet another bogey. The 8th is a 219 yard par 3, played directly into the wind. At last I had the perfect opportunity for a low pitch and run from 20 or so yards, a 9 iron played off the back foot, hands forward and almost holed. A tap-in par, but the score card was still looking pretty ugly overall. This is the view from the 9th tee. The course guide alerted me to the big chestnut tree to the right of the fairway and predictably, I almost managed to get it between my ball and the green. The guide also said "aim up the left side from where the ball will gather onto the green" missing "the deep bunker to the right of the green to be avoided at all costs." However, the guide had made no mention of the shallow left side bunker that stopped my ball from "gathering onto the green." Yet another bogey followed, accompanied by the start of the heavy rain that I hoped would make the greens a bit more receptive for the coming Open competition.
I'd staggered around Oatridge in a disappointing 45 but really enjoyed the course nevertheless. I'd recommend Oatridge and the Binny Golf Club to anyone looking for a quick game on a well-kept and well-designed course. Oatridge is not easy and as I found out, you need to take great care around the small and mostly elevated greens. Best hole? - probably the 5th, with the 3rd not far behind, but don't take my word for it, go and play (and enjoy!) Oatridge yourself.