This is the gloriously unsettling view up the first at Lochcarron. Is there a more worrying opener anywhere in the land. How do the locals cope after too many whisky chasers the night before.
To the left is the unprotected A896 which heads north to Gairloch via Shieldaig, Torridon and Kinlochewe; admittedly single track for large sections and hardly the M6, it is nevertheless alarmingly close at approximately 18 yards to the left of the tee and a few feet from the edge of the fairway. A few paces to the right is the soft marshy edge of the loch. At its widest point beyond the church, the fairway is just 21.7 yards from out of bounds to water hazard (courtesy of Google Earth).
The first par 3, Jimmy’s Seat, is 210 yards from tee to green but 126 yards out a burn cuts across the fairway so you need to drive a minimum of 150 straight yards just to be sure of clearing the water. And there is more; the burn arrives under the road parallel with the green and meanders along its bush lined left edge before looping round into the loch. Finally, the green is elevated so coming up short is not an option for a shot in regulation. Going for the green is out of the question, my limited armoury simply doesn’t include the required golf shot.
I stood on the tee utterly perplexed. This felt more like target practice, archery at a distance far greater than the gents’ competition maximum of 90 metres. Short of the green, seemingly beyond the burn to the right, there is an inviting light patch of turf so I lined up in that direction, determined to play the ‘sensible’ shot. I came up too short on the edge of the pebbled burn, punched the ball onto dry land, chipped again to the green and two putted for five. A hacker’s double bogey, ending the hole with the same ball I had started with felt like a minor triumph. The thing that baffles me is that this is stroke index 9 whereas the par 3 stroke index 1 played across the road (beware high sided vehicles) seems child’s play by comparison.
Don’t be put off by the description of the first, it is a wonderful setting for golf and on the July evening I played, completely bereft of the dreaded midge. The first three holes hug the shoreline, the fourth Stroke Index 1 plays across the A road whilst the rest circumnavigate the old church.
This seems an odd setting for a course established in 1908 and even today it has its repercussions, the course closing when a funeral is being conducted in the graveyard, not the occasion for a wild slice into the head bent bible-black mourners. Similarly, competitions are played on Saturdays to avoid expletives echoing across green and shore to enhance the sermon; this may not be true. Playing golf on Sunday in parts of Scotland is still considered a sinful pastime but this doctrine is fundamentally flawed, assuming that golf is somehow a pleasurable activity rather than a parallel and complementary religion. We suffer for our sins at pulpit and pin.
At just 1782 yards (nine holes) and only three par 4s it might not appeal to everyone but they would be missing something unusual and interesting; just keep an eye out for the traffic.