I had a few days away from caddying prior to a very busy period around The Open Championship week so I thought I'd take a couple of days to play 4 new courses in Argyll and Bute, starting with the Kyles of Bute and Port Bannatyne courses on 8 July 2013. I knew in advance that these 4 courses were each pretty hilly but I have to admit the weather took me by surprise. Summer temperatures in Scotland occasionally get into the 20 Degrees C but it was already 26 Degrees C when I teed off at the short Kyles of Bute GC course and was even higher when I played the Port Bannatyne GC course later that day. I don't mind heat when I'm relaxing over a beer and a book (in that order) but 26 was not what I'm used to. Maybe some readers of this blog in hotter countries will scoff at such a comment, but hey, we Scots are not used to reliable sunshine never mind hot days. Anyway, the Kyles of Bute course is a very short 9 hole moorland course, measuring 2199 Yards, Par 33 off the Yellow Tees located high above the villages of Kames and Tighnabruaich in rural Argyll.
The first few holes are not particularly memorable, but from the 6th onwards the views over the Kyles of Bute (a narrow stretch of water between Bute and the mainland), the islands of Bute and Arran, Loch Fyne and the Kintyre Peninsula are pretty impressive and well worth the effort of playing this hilly course. The 1st is a gentle 110 Yard Par 3 and the only reasonably flat hole on the course. An easy 9 iron and a couple of putts for an easy opener. The 2nd is a bit more challenging, being a 333 Yard Par 4. Your tee shot is blind, played over a small hill of gorse and heather. This looks like a shot into the unknown, but anything over 150 Yards and remotely straight will find either the 2nd or 3rd fairways or in my case, the narrow band of very light rough between them. From there, it's a short iron steeply downhill to a small green protected by a stream that runs in front of it. I'd taken only a half set of clubs in anticipation of the many hills to be faced on this trip and after a mediocre drive I needed an 8 iron (left behind in the garage at home) as my 9 iron second shot finished just short of the stream. A bogey. Next is a 197 Yard Par 4, improbably steeply uphill. The course was still pretty soft underfoot in places despite the recent dry sunny weather and I needed my Driver off the tee. Par was easy enough but the heat and humidity were becoming clearly evident and I was glad I'd packed some old spare gloves. The 4th is another steeply uphill hole, this time a 329 Yard Par 4. Your second shot mustn't be short as the last 20 Yards of the hole is extremely steep. My 7 iron approach landed a couple of yards short and finished around 40 Yards short, so be warned. That cost me another bogey. Above is a view of the 4th green, looking back down to the 3rd and 2nd greens.
The 5th is a steeply downhill 210 Yard Par 3. I'd missed the green with a 3 Wood tee shot, so another bogey. Disappointing, but I was immediately cheered by a call from Polly saying we'd won £80 for finishing second in the Glen GC's Mixed Foursomes Open, as played on 7 July 2013. A good round, well and truly capped by Andy Murray's incredible tennis performance later in the day! This is the view from the 6th Tee. The fairway is far wider than it looks but there's a stream running across the fairway around 220 Yards out that comes into play on this, the 402 Yard Par 4 Stroke Index 1 Hole. I cleared the stream OK and had an uphill shot of around 150 Yards. The choice lay between my 7 iron and my 27 Degree Rescue, (my 6 iron being in the garage). I opted for the Rescue but this was too long and ended up in a bad lie in the rough above and beyond the green. A bogey from there was actually pretty good.
This is the steeply down and across hill 7th, a 234 Yard Par 4, as seen from the Tee. I really liked this hole. This was an opportunity to really go for it with my 3 Wood, over the bush to the right of this photo. However, not before stopping to admire the 360 Degree views, as also below.
My tee shot went slightly further right than I'd planned and was caught in light rough 20 Yards short of the green, but the par was easy enough from there. This a side view of the green, with Tighnabruaich and the Kyles of Bute in the background.
As I'd expected, the 8th hole was steeply uphill, this time a 206 Yard Par 3, but another bogey after I just missed the green with my tee shot. The 9th Tee offers another 360 Degree panoramic view, as shown below. The 9th is a 178 Yard downhill Par 3. Easy enough if you play here on a relatively calm day, such as when I visited the course, but this small tee sits high on a little rocky outcrop and is hugely exposed to the elements, so I suspect the 9th is really tricky in the kind of winds that can blow here.
I went round in 37 gross or 4 over par, with 16 putts. Not bad. This course is well worth playing, if only for the outstanding views on the last few holes.