Bridge of Weir is an affluent commuter village of around 5,000 residents located 17 miles to the west of Glasgow city centre. Many years ago – when the village supported no fewer than three leather tanneries – there were five golf courses in the local area.
These days, only two courses remain – Ranfurly Castle and Old Ranfurly – and they are both very fine, 18-hole, moorland layouts, situated close to each other on the south west side of the village with commanding views of the Clyde Valley to the north.
Old Ranfurly measures a shade over 6,000 yards, with a par of 70. Two of the three par fives on the card are played on the front nine – the 504-yard 4th hole, called “Harelaw” and the 500-yard 6th hole, named “Carselaverock” – which goes some way to explaining why the outward half is more than 500 yards longer than the back nine.
Many members consider the best of the five par three holes to be the 172-yard, redesigned 5th hole, titled “The Covert” where the tree-framed green is well bunkered with a burn on the right to punish shots pushed in that direction.
The 199-yard, par three 16th is a contender for the best hole on the inward half as it has all the potential, late in the round, to ruin a good score. This hole is a real tough cookie as it is played blind and uphill from the tee.
It was all going so well at Ranfurly, up until the last four holes, that is. I’d really enjoyed my round on a course where the 440-yard 1st is a beast of a starter into the prevailing wind, the heavily-bunkered downhill par three 5th is a really fabulous short hole and the 14th, with its green perched on top of a crag, is a terrific par four.
Sure, there had been several blind drives along the way and the turf underfoot was more lush parkland than springy moorland but it was a real pleasure to play a course that was measuring up to Ranfurly Castle, its near neighbour, very well indeed. Until the 15th, that is…
Why did the club, when it obviously acquired land in times gone past for holes 4 to 13, not find space to fit in at least another hole on this parcel, allowing the ground close to the clubhouse to be used more sensibly?
As it stands now, the 15th is routed to a blind, sunken green, the 16th plays 199 yards -- blind and uphill -- to a green stuck on top of an escarpment, the 17th (a fine short par four in its own right, mind you) crosses the 1st fairway at almost a right angle before a wee par three is squeezed in at the end -- such a disappointing end to the round.
Now I love quirk (Shiskine, Cruden Bay and Machrie and all favourites) but the ending for me here was just too wacky for comfort. A real shame as the first fourteen holes at Old Ranfurly are laid out on such good, solid golfing ground.