The golf club at Kirkcudbright celebrated its centenary in 1993 so golfers in this part of Dumfries & Galloway have been enjoying the royal and ancient game here for well over a century. The club’s original 9-hole course was extended to a full 18-hole layout in the late 1970s when additional land was acquired for development and a new clubhouse followed a decade later.
Laid out on rather hilly terrain overlooking the Dee estuary, the course measures a modest 5,717 yards from the back markers with only two par fives on the card – one on each nine – and five par threes. The modern day layout still embraces old-fashioned design traits such as crossing fairways on the 2nd and 15th and wickedly undulating greens, epitomised by the seriously contoured 16th.
Club stalwart Edward Shamash was the man who led an enthusiastic team of members when the course was doubled in size more than thirty-five years ago and they did a fabulous job on a shoestring budget to redesign the old holes and install a new set of fairways across some challenging terrain.Holes 5 and 7 are formidable par fours on the outward nine and “Pond,” the wonderful downhill par three 9th, ends the outward half in fine style. On the inward half, back-to-back par threes at the 15th and 16th transition golfers away from the upper reaches of the course back down to clubhouse level, where the final two holes are played out.
How good is it after fronting up at a second (or even third) tier course with zero expectation of what you’re going to find, to then walk off the 18th green three and a half hours later in raptures, having just played an unheralded, totally unpretentious golfing gem?
Well that’s what I experienced the other day at Kirkcudbright, a wonderful wee track that really deserves wider recognition, starting with a position in the regional rankings – and I write that having now played all ten of the courses that currently occupy places in the Dumfries & Galloway chart.
I was astonished to discover Kirkcudbright had been expanded to an 18-hole layout in-house by the members and not by a professional architect, such was the quality of the build and the way the new holes seamlessly linked in with the old ones.
And, as my playing partner remarked during our round, it was hard to remember when we last played a course which had used the natural features of the land so well when routing holes across very undulating terrain.
The only dysfunctional hole was the very bland par three 6th (which is sandwiched between two wonderful, demanding par fours) but I’m more than prepared to see the odd weak hole on a card if all the others are above average.
There’s so much to enjoy here: the original opening three holes rising up the side of the hill away from the clubhouse, the new roller coaster fairways from the 4th to the 9th, the raised two-tiered green on the 10th, the split fairway and crescent-shaped bunker in front of the green on the par five 12th and the completely wacky old-fashioned putting surface on the downhill 16th.
It’s evident that a lot of loving care and attention has gone into constructing this layout and it was a real privilege to see that for myself. Down to earth, indeed back to basics golf in a scenic setting is really as good as it gets and I recommend a round here for anybody who’d like have their faith in the game renewed.