Craig, Stu and I had been hoping to keep playing through the Winter after our excellent round at Renaissance, but the record snow and freezing temperatures in Scotland since late November have prevented us from getting any new courses in. I've managed a few bounce games over my own course (Glen GC) as it's usually snow-free being right by the sea, but as I write, very few other Scottish courses are open for play. Indeed, it looks as though some may be closed for a few more weeks yet, either through snow, frost or flooding damage. After some Internet searching and phone calls I finally found that some of the coastal courses in Ayrshire were open, so my first new course in 2011 was the Troon Fullerton course on 12 January. Fullerton is a municipal course laid out inside the Troon Lochgreen Course (see my course no 245) and beside the Troon Darley course, which I've yet to play. Like its neighbours, Fullerton is a links course, but at only 4682 yards par 66, it's pretty easy. I liked Lochgreen, but I'm afraid that Fullerton is dull by comparison, with a succession of short, flat and largely featureless holes. It's not much of a test, but would certainly be a useful introduction to links golf for new golfers or a good walk for those of far more advanced years, for whom Ayrshire's many more demanding links courses was too much of a challenge. Despite Fullerton being my first new course in umpteen weeks, it was a pretty underwhelming experience.
The course starts brightly enough, with Hole 1 being the Stroke Index 1 hole, a 428 yard par 4. I'd not warmed up much, so I dropped a shot there after a fluffed lob wedge. After that, the course meanders around within the layout of the Lochgreen course, with a series of short par 4's and average par 3's. The 12th and 15th holes are pretty decent, but those apart, I suspect that the course will not stick in my memory for long. The 12th, as shown here, is a 177 yard par 3 with a devilish valley of sin in front of the plateau green. The pin was back left, so my strategy was to run a 5 iron in from the right - if only I was that good! I underhit the shot and had a very awkward pitch up a 4 foot rise, hard enough to get up, soft enough to hold the green. I was happy enough with a bogey in the circumstances. The 15th is a driveable 265 yard par 4 with a really tricky downslope to the green, as shown. I missed the green to the right, but had an easy par. The greens were small, but bunkering was modest (until the 18th!) and even playing poorly, scoring was pretty easy. I was out in 37, 4 over par, with 16 putts, but nothing very spectacular. My back 9 was better, since the course was so short that even a mishit drive would be within a pitch of the green. For example, the 14th is a 265 yard par 4. I'd hooked my drive way left, beyond some nasty heather, leaving a 30 yard lob wedge to the pin. Another sclaff and I was 50 feet away, having missed the green completely. My putt from there hit the middle of the middle of the hole for a very unlikely birdie, with another coming on the 16th, a 306 yard par 4. A good drive and a sand iron to 10 feet gave me the opportunity, so at least that was decent golf.
It's long walk to the 17th tee, so looking at my card, I realised that I was now only 3 over par, with 2 shortish par 3's to come. Could I break 70? I parred the 17th after missing the green and holing a 20 foot putt, so an unlikely net 59 was still on the cards. The last hole is a 166 yard par 3, hard against the main road that borders that part of the course, with deep pot bunkers left and right of probably the largest green on the course. "Playing safe" with my trusty 7 wood, I found the left side bunker, but missed the 15 foot putt for the par. I'd played the back 9 in 33 with a couple of birdies and taken only 12 putts for a gross 70, net 60 (6 under net par). Not bad, but there will be many stiffer tests to come in 2011 and I suspect that -6 will take some beating. I'll certainly be trying.
As for Fullerton itself? It's a decent enough track for beginners etc but I'll not be rushing back.