Polly and I played in Bonnyton GC's Mixed Foursomes Open on 31 July 2011. We weren't last by any means, but as will emerge below, a few errors cost us dearly. Bonnyton is South West of Glasgow and like the nearby Eastwood and East Renfrewshire courses is heathland in nature. Indeed, Bonnyton is probably my favourite out of the 3 courses, a high compliment as the others are themselves very good, but I thought the design, layout and condition of Bonnyton was outstanding, as befitting its world famous designer, the renowned Dr Alister MacKenzie (also responsible for the likes of Augusta National, Cypress Point, and Royal Melbourne). A tour of all of the MacKenzie courses would be a seriously interesting challenge! I digress further but Bonnyton has at least 2 other claims to fame, namely that President Bill Clinton is an Honorary Member and Sir Stanley Matthews married the then Club Master's daughter and had his wedding reception in the Bonnyton clubhouse.
Bonnyton is a modest 6231 yards off the White tees and 5253 yards of the Ladies' Red tees, Par 72. As we were playing in a Mixed 4's competition, I guess the course we played was around 5750 yards. This is the opening hole, a 331 yard Par 4. Like most of the holes, there was ample room on the fairway, but the plateau green was small and well-protected, requiring an accurate second shot. We'd only just missed the green in regulation and after a decent chip by yours truly, we'd a 10 foot downhill putt for par. We eventually settled for a double bogey after learning the hard way that the greens were very fast, tricky to read and anything above the hole was not the right place to be.
Some revenge was taken by my 40 foot par putt on the 2nd, but that was the best it got. Indeed, although these were some of the best greens we'd seen this year, the severe slopes and clever pin positions contributed to our inglorious total of 38 putts, including 6 three-putts. This is the two-tiered 3rd green at Bonnyton. The hole was only 297 yards, Par 4 and I'd hit a good straight drive. Polly had found the right front of the green in regulation, leaving me a 50 foot putt, breaking about 3 feet from the right, with a 4 foot step to the top tier. Just hit it hard enough to get up and soft enough not to run through, but that was another 3-putt. We did at least have a well deserved birdie on the long downhill 5th, a 533 yard Par 5, after one of the best 9 irons I've hit all year. Polly hit a similarly impressive approach to the shorter Par 5 6th to within a yard, but muggins here missed the putt for what would have been 2 consecutive birdies.
The 7th at Bonnyton is a classic risk and reward 402 yard Par 4. The main difficulty here is a stream running across the fairway, some 20 yards short of the green. Polly had laid up and I'd hit a sand iron third to within 6 feet (but above the hole, with a foot of break from the left). We'd bogeyed that one, but our genial playing partners had taken considerably more! The Stroke Index 1 8th Hole was next, an uphill 295 yarder from the Red tee. Our second shot had finished 10 yards short of and a remarkably similar distance below the green, leaving Polly with a hugely difficult approach putt. We were happy enough with another bogey but with the short 9th to come, we still had a chance to get to the turn in a reasonable score.
This is the 9th, a short 157 yard Par 3. There's a hidden gully and a stream short of the green and a steep upslope means the tee shot has to carry at least 150 yards. But the green is narrow and slopes steeply from back to front, so I'd gambled that a softly hit 7 wood might be right. Wrong again, Alan, as the ball rolled to light rough at the back of the green, leaving Polly a hugely tricky 30 foot downhill chip. A poor double bogey there meant we were out in 44 (8 over par), but with 15 as our team handicap, we were still handily placed for a reasonable score.
The back 9 at Bonnyton was equally impressive, with a succession of excellent holes. We were only 10 over after 12 and we were still playing pretty well despite out putting difficulties but disaster struck at the 13th, a simple-looking 330 yard Par 4, Stroke Index 18, on paper, the easiest hole on the course. I'd hit a good long drive, leaving Polly only a short pitch to the green. She'd only just missed the green to the right, but I'd a small hillock to negotiate and the green was running away from me. I was a yard short with my lob wedge, but Polly only moved the ball a foot with her next and after further footering about we'd taken 6 from within a few feet of the green, for a hideous quadruple bogey. That dampened our spirits a bit but if we could rally over the last few holes....
There are 4 Par 3s at Bonnyton, seemingly increasingly tricky. We managed a 4 at the 14th, the last of the Par 3s, but 1 under 5s over 4 short holes is still pretty poor. The 16th is a formidable 477 yard uphill Par 5, with water hazards right and left of the fairway. However, we we're playing off the Red tee on that hole, so it was only 381 yards (but still a Par 5 from the Red tee) so we were hoping to avoid a bogey. I guess we succeeded pretty easily, since after I'd carved a fairway wood into one of the lateral water hazards and we'd dropped under penalty into heavy rough, we struggled to our second inglorious 8 of the round. This is a view of the 18th green and the clubhouse. We'd bogeyed the last couple of holes for a total of 94, net 79, or 7 over the net par. Even so, we were still in the main pack of scores and if only we'd avoided some of the 3-putts and the brace of 8s, we might have gone home with significantly more than just good memories of an excellent course.
We'd really enjoyed the Bonnyton course and the company of local members Eric and his wife Yvonne and we'll be trying even harder in next year's competition, as this is a course we'd definitely want to play again. I recommend you also try to play here, as it's a really good course, well worth a visit.