Dumfries and Galloway is often called “Scotland in miniature” and it’s a beautiful, quiet and unspoilt area. At the end of the Solway Firth lies Powfoot Golf Club and it's one of the region’s best but least well-known courses.
Powfoot Golf Club was founded in 1903 and Sandy Herd laid out the course, which was modified by James Braid in 1923. The majority of the layout weaves its way beside the Solway Firth and across undulating links land with the last four holes taking on a more park-like appearance. Swathes of whin provide a brilliance of seasonal colour and far-flung views across the Firth to the mountains of the Lakes complete the spectacle.
Measuring a mere 6,255 yards from the back tees, Powfoot is not a championship layout, but with five holes measuring more than 400 yards and only one par five from the yellow tees, Powfoot will test golfers of all levels. Braid has cleverly routed the holes such that the task at hand is clear on this compact layout. You’ll also require your full repertoire of shots to score well, especially when the prevailing westerly winds whip across the course.
There are some capital holes, especially the long par four 3rd, called “Shore” which unsurprisingly hugs the shoreline. The 9th is also a challenging par four which requires a long carry from the tee and your approach shot must then clear a bomb crater which is situated some 100 yards from the tricky, undulating putting surface.
If you are planning a trip to this delightful part of Scotland, you’ll no doubt have Southerness high on your “must-play” itinerary, but don’t overlook Powfoot; it’s one of Scotland’s real gems.
It was a real treat to return to Powfoot nearly three years after my last visit. There was not a breath of wind as we set out on our round but by the fourth hole it had started to blow quite stiffly from the Solway. The sun tried hard to break through the cloud and mist of an early Spring morning but the opposite shoreline of the Firth on the English side was only ever barely visible which was a real pity as the panorama is normally worth viewing.
The fairway rough was far from penal so early in the season but any advantage gained there was lost with the bumpy conditions of greens which were still fast, if not exactly true. The main feature that was far more prominent than I remembered from before was the height and depth of the yellow gorse – it really dominates the landscape on all the holes up to the 14th – though the severity of bunkers with steep front faces were another course hazard that I’d also forgotten about (to my cost on several occasions)!
There's a great run of holes from the third through to the eighth with my favourite being the well protected short par three 7th hole, entitled "Sand Hole" – aptly named as there must be seven or eight bunkers surrounding the putting surface.
Holes 10 through 14 is another fine sequence of holes which dip in and out of the gorse with doglegs, blind drives and elevated greens before the last four holes return you to the clubhouse. Once again, the feeling of fun, holiday golf dominates at Powfoot and you leave with a really nice feeling, regardless of performance.
I played in the Powfoot Open in June 2003 on a lovely day for playing golf. The clubhouse had a real 'holiday golf venue' feel to the place and was a very informal and friendly place. Talking to a few Open participants after my round, they return every year as they love the place and the people at Powfoot.
One word of warning, it took me ages to get to the clubhouse once I came off the main drag as the signposting was quite misleading (directing me to the Powfoot Golf Hotel as I remember, rather than Powfoot Golf Club).
The holes may not all be true links in terrain but the greens certainly are links quality – fast and firm. I never felt I was playing anything other than links golf; perhaps the huge amounts of gorse at many holes gives you a clue as to what type of course it really is!
Not quite in the same class as nearby Southerness maybe, but still a wee hidden gem nonetheless.