Polly's former employers had laid on an excellent golf day and dinner on 22 August 2011 at Murrayshall Hotel near Perth to mark her recent retirement and had very kindly invited me to join in the celebrations. This 4-star hotel has two 18 hole golf courses, Murrayshall and the newer Lyndoch. Both are parkland in nature and we'd both played them before. However, we'd only played the older Murrayshall course in a foursomes format, so this was an opportunity for me to see how I'd fare on my own off the gents tees. The Lyndoch course is extremely hilly and not a favourite for that reason, but although I'd remembered that the Murrayshall course also had some hills, it was something of an unwelcome surprise to find that it was far more hilly and physically demanding than I'd expected. Perhaps it was just that the course was playing long after recent rain, or that I was playing a hilly course after either playing, marshalling at the Scottish Ladies Open at Archerfield or caddying every day for the past couple of weeks. Whatever the cause, I really struggled to get round the Murrayshall course and needed that beer afterwards.
The course measures 5868 yards, Par 71 off the yellow tees, but was playing really long, with little run on the fairways and with my low energy level, all of the seemingly many holes played uphill were nothing short of a slog. My gross 92 was disappointing and I did little to contribute to my team's total Stableford score, so it was not surprising that David, Stuart and I lost out to Polly's team.
Polly and I had sponsored this, the 4th hole, a tricky 135 yard slightly downhill Par 3, played over a large pond. I was nearest the pin in my group after an easy 8 iron to 20 feet, but Polly won the bragging rights after hitting her ball to nearest the pin overall. She was somewhat embarrassed to win the sponsor's prize, so it was agreed that we'd carry that prize over to a charity golf day that Craig, Stu and I were organising (with Polly's help again) to be played at Monksford House on 28 August (which subsequently raised over £800 for the Cancer Research UK charity).
I also liked, this, the 10th, an awkward 283 yard Par 4. Play a driver here at your peril. I'd done that, but the fairway falls away to the right and I finished blocked out by the big tree on the right. I'd really no shot as the plateau green is fronted by a large pond, but if I could aim at the bushes to the left and produce a sharp slice, I might just make the green. Now I can usually slice to order, but my heroic effort quickly drowned in the pond, leaving me scrambling for a double bogey. Another word of warning. The dogleg on the 12th cannot be carried by an easily swung 7 wood. I'd tried that, but there's a hidden gully (and the recent rain had turned it into a swamp, hence the need for my white trousers to be washed on our return to sunny East Lothian!)
This is Polly hitting her ball close on the 18th, watched by her playing partners, Roddy and Ramsay. She's already organising another match over our own course at The Glen GC (see www.glengolfclub.co.uk). It has fewer hills and almost no trees, fast running fairways and greens and fewer water hazards, so is more to my liking. Murrayshall is a good test and there are great views from both of the hotel's courses, but there are just too many trees and hills for my personal taste.