Polly and I played this excellent 18 hole parkland course on 31 January 2011 on a cloudy and blustery day with strong winds and occasional light rain. We'd been planning to play somewhere in Glasgow, but opted for here as this seemed the better bet weather-wise. The club's website comments that Strathaven is arguably the best parkland course in the west of Scotland and although I've yet to play some of the other likely candidates, it is easy to see why such a claim is made. Although some Winter tees and a few Winter Greens were in play, the damp fairways, heavy greens and tough weather conditions meant that the course was playing pretty close to its normal 6070 yards Par 70 off the Yellow tees.
We teed off later than we'd planned and left ourselves a bit tight for daylight, so we were trying to play relatively quickly to ensure we could get round. Accordingly, the first few holes were over in a blur. I parred the 1st, a 357 yard par 4, inside 5 minutes and the 2nd, a 193 yard par 3, was equally quick. With the wind from behind, I took a 5 iron from the tee and found the front of the green, leaving a 30 foot uphill putt with a 2 foot left to right break. I missed the planned line on the low side, so was amazed when the ball broke back to the left in the last few feet for my first birdie of the round. Some more modest play over the next 2 holes left me 3 over par and with the wind strengthening even more, some improvement was needed. We'd caught up with a steady stream of 3 balls by the 7th tee, adding to our worries about the remaining daylight. The 7th is an interesting dog leg right 377 yard Par 4. The view from the tee is shown above. There's a lot more room to the left than I'd thought and I'd left myself a semi-blind 150 yard second shot, over a hill. I could see the top of the flag OK, but not the 3 guys in front, or where the next tee might be. This is my ball at the front of the 7th green after my second shot so my apologies to them again for playing just a wee bit too quickly! A good hole, though. I thought the best hole on the front 9 was the 8th, a slightly downhill 495 yard par 5 (surprisingly, the Stroke Index 18 hole). Once again, I'd not thought to buy a course guide, so we didn't know about the lateral water hazard to the left of the fairway or the water hazard in front of the green. I'd hit a really good drive and was planning to go for the green with my 3 wood. However, the traffic ahead had slowed down and by the time we were ready to play I was ready to swing really hard at the ball - anyone who's seen me play knows what's coming, an over fast swing and a duck-hook left, into the lateral water hazard. That cost me a bogey, and the 216 yard Par 3 9th hole, played into a blustery cold wind didn't look too inviting. However, I hit a good driver to 20 feet, just off the left of the green, narrowly avoiding a bunker, the putt looked (and was!) straight, so that was my second birdie. I'd reached the turn in 4 over par. It turned out that the guys in front were only playing 9 holes, so we had a clear course in front of us for the rest of the round. We'd been hoping to avoid the rain, but just as reached the 10th tee, down came a steady drizzle, just enough to get you wet and add to the clothing layers. The 10th is a slightly uphill 477 yard par 5. Playing too quickly (again), I duffed a couple of pitch shots and double bogeyed the hole. The 11th at Strathaven is the Stroke Index 1 hole, a slightly downhill 409 yard par 4 with trees on both sides. I hit what I thought was good drive but the wind caught it and it ended up deep in the pine trees on the left of the fairway. Another double bogey followed here, so that was 8 over after 11 holes. I needed to steady things quickly.
The 12th is a good 330 yard par 4, with a water hazard to catch any really long drives (didn't bother me!) and a steeply uphill second shot with an 8 iron for the likes of me. With 4 layers on including the wet suit (and some spare post-Christmas pounds not helping the swing) I underhit my second, for another bogey. The 13th, a slightly downhill 318 yar par 4, was played directly into the wind and rain, but at least I parred the hole. The 14th was the opposite of the 13th, a 288 yard Par 4 played slightly uphill with the wind behind. I only had a short lob wedge to the flag and managed a comfortable 3rd birdie, but that was the end of my luck for this round. The 15th played to around 150 yards into the wind, but my well-struck 4 iron found a bunker in front of the green. I wasn't sure if the bunker was ground under repair or not, since it had not been raked recently and was half-full of leaves. I had an awful lie in a deep footprint and took a double bogey, so I was now 10 over par, with 3 to play.
The 16th was my favourite hole on the course, a 432 yard downhill Par 4 played directly into the wind to a small green, as shown here. The rain stopped and I played the hole well, with my short wedge 3rd shot finishing within 3 feet of the hole. However, I missed the short putt, so went to 11 over. I should have birdied the 17th, but missed an easy-looking 10 foot putt. The 18th was playing short of its 396 yard length due to some course maintenance work, so I had a 12 foot putt for a closing birdie, as shown below. I didn't hit it quite hard enough through the slight break and missed it left of the hole. Still, I'd gone round in 81, net 71, in testing conditions and only 1 over the net par. My short game was not bad, since I'd only 26 putts, but this was a missed opportunity to keep my recent good scoring run going. Strathaven is a seriously good course which I'd strongly recommend you play if you're in the area. I'd certainly hope to play it again sometime.