Calcot Park Golf Club

I have been lucky enough to be a member of Calcot Park since May 2014 and have thoroughly enjoyed it. While it is not the longest course, the greens are really challenging – both in terms of speed and undulation. Putting yourself above some hole locations will mean it is impossible to stop the ball close and holing it is your only chance. After 12 months I am still learning the greens. People who have been members for 25 years joke they are still learning them. Well I hope they are joking anyway! The general rule I have heard a number of times is putts break towards the A4 (the main road you pull off into the course).

The wind direction at Calcot Park dictates which holes play hard. The 1st and 18th are both really long par 4’s which run in opposite directions. If you are lucky you get the wind behind you when teeing off, and the direction switches while you are playing round and you have it behind on the 18th as well. If you are unlucky you are hitting into the wind both times!

1st Hole

A really tough hole to start with. Long, and a very tricky tee shot. Out of bounds down the left, although this isn’t really an issue unless you hit a really big hook. The bigger issue is the ditch that runs down the right of the fairway that seems to drag balls into it. The line I take is at the right edge of the second bunker. If you manage to reach the bunker, it will likely take out hitting the green in two, but it is far better to be in there than in the ditch.

1st hole from the tee
1st hole from the tee

Usually I am hitting a 3 wood or hybrid into the green if the hole is playing into the wind, or a long iron if the wind is behind and I nailed my drive. Bail out area is definitely short of the green. Any shot into the bunkers or passed the green is a tricky up and down. If the flag is at the front, you do not want to go past it.

1st hole green
1st hole approach shot

2nd Hole

The second hole is a short par 4 from the front left tee’s. If the white tee is playing from the back right position the tee shot is further, and you have a tree to go around or over. When playing from the left you only need to hit a 7 or 6 iron to be left with a 100 yard wedge in.

2nd hole tee shot
2nd hole tee shot

The green has a big tier running across it giving it 2 distinct levels. If you get on the higher back level and the flag is at the front you will often be struggling to keep the ball on the green.

2nd hole green
2nd hole green and view back down fairway

If you are feeling brave you can get a 3 wood or driver close to the green, but I have found I have more scored better on this hole hitting a full wedge into the green rather than a shorter pitch shot.

3rd Hole

One of the feature holes on the course. The hole requires a good drive away to make the second shot easier. The fairway slopes left to right so anything on the left side will feed down. There is also more room on the right than you think past the trees.

3rd hole tee shot
3rd hole tee shot

There is a ditch that runs across the hole about 20 yards short of the green – so if you have hit a bad drive it is advisable to lay up short of this. Flags on the left of the green are easier than the far right.

bridge to the 3rd green
bridge to the 3rd green

If you end up over the green or above the flag the chip or putt is really tricky and when the greens are running quick – impossible to stop close to the pin.

4th Hole

4th hole tee
4th hole tee

The first of the par 3’s on the course. It plays longer due to being up high. The only place to miss this green and have a relatively easy chip is short. Left, right or long leaves you with a really tricky shot. The green is probably the easiest so far in the round with it generally sloping back to front, and left to right.

5th Hole

A big grass bunker in the middle of the fairway gets your attention on this hole. The ideal line is right over the tree, but go too far right or too much fade and you will find the ditch. There is room on the left side of the grass bunker although you are toying with the trees over there. It will also leave a longer shot into the green, although you might have a better line in depending on where the flag is.

5th hole tee
5th hole tee

Two large bunkers to the right and one to the left protect the green, although this leaves a small runway to feed the ball through if you are having to hit a long iron or fairway wood in. The green again has 2 levels so it helps to be on the right one, and if you are putting down the level you will have trouble stopping the ball close to the hole.

6th Hole

Good chance for a birdie on this hole. It isn’t a very long par 5, although out of bounds all along the left side will get your attention. A recent addition to this hole has been the stream running across the front of the green about 30 yards before. If you are going for the green in two, aiming right is the shortest path over the stream. As your shot goes left, the carry gets dramatically longer.

6th hole green
Stream you need to clear if you take on the 2nd shot!

My usual play is to lay up with an 8 or 9 iron, leaving myself about 100 yards into the green. This usually sets up a good birdie opportunity.

7th Hole

The 7th is the feature hole at Calcot Park. A challenging par 3 over water to a raised green. The hole usually plays at least 1 club extra, and it is often tricky to pick the overall wind direction as the tree’s make it swirl around the tee box.

7th hole tee shot over the pond
7th hole tee shot over the pond

If you use a GPS watch, make sure to check the yardages against the course markers as I have found my watch to be 10 yards out.

3 deep bunkers guard the green, and once on the green it slopes back to front. Wherever the pin is, middle of the green is the shot. Anything too short can roll off the front of the green, and as you are hitting up to a higher level any shots to the back can easily roll off the back.

7th green
7th green looking back over the pond

8th Hole

The 8th hole at Calcot Park is peculiar as you are often hitting your first and second shots without a view of the flag.

The tee shot is up a rise to a post. Out of bounds is all down the left hand side, and while there is plenty of space out to the right if you do cream a drive but slightly push it you can run out of grass and be in the trees. A lot of the better players seem to hit 3 wood or long iron off the tee.

The second shot is most likely over the brow of the same rise. You will need to walk forward a bit to get a view of the green and pin position. The green is lower than where you hit your second shot from, and quite long front to back. When hitting a long iron or fairway wood, the best way I have found of playing this approach shot is hitting a shot left and 20 yards short of the green and using the downslope to bounce and roll down onto the green. If I hit a long club in and the ball pitches on the green it will roll through the back.

The green slopes left to right, although it can often deceive you and think you are putting uphill when it’s downhill. Trust your balance and how the weight rests on your feet, and remember the rule about the A4.

9th Hole

There are 2 bunkers on the left side of the fairway that you can’t see off the tee. Aim at the black and white post on the fairway and you can’t go wrong.

The second shot is often from a tricky stance so check your alignment before hitting the shot. The green on the 9th doesn’t have any huge undulations so it is often tricky to pick which way it breaks. If you are putting back to front you need to be careful you don’t over hit it and end up 30 yards down the fairway!

10th Hole

The 10th hole is a fun, short par 4. A good drive with the wind behind can reach the green and give an eagle opportunity. But if you want to play it safe you can hit anything off the tee and the steep downslope will carry the ball to the bottom of the fairway where you can hit a full wedge onto the green.

The green slopes steeply back to front, although the green levels off at the top so when putting to a white flag you can often over hit putts thinking it is all steeply uphill.

11th Hole

Although this is stroke index 2 – I think the 11th hole is harder than the 8th. It is long, especially off the white tee’s into the wind, and the second shot in is difficult too. The two fairway bunkers are in play for me off the yellow tee’s (although with a good drive I can clear them), but they are only in reach for longer hitters off the white tees.

There are 2 bunkers protecting either side of the green. The green goes around the back of the right bunker, and if the pin is placed behind this bunker, it is a suckers pin! Go for the middle of the green and be happy!

12th Hole

The 2nd and last par 5 on the course, and another good chance for birdie. The drive needs to be relatively straight as their are bunkers left and right, and ditches running further wider of either side.

The fairway gets really narrow as it approaches the green with trees either side, so the risk/reward ratio leans towards hitting your second shot to leave you with 150-140 yards into the green. The green is 2 tiered, and apart from the tier not too tricky. This green always seems to stay quite soft as it is sheltered by trees so bear in mind your shots in will often stop quite quickly and not roll out.

13th Hole

If you are playing from the back white tee’s you are hitting 200 yards, often into the wind!

The main set of tee’s are a lot more reasonable usually meaning about 160 yards to the middle of the green. Out of bounds is left, so a lot of people hit big pushes towards the 17th tee. This leaves a treacherous pitch though down to a green that slopes right to left.

A good line to most pin positions is over the right bunker. The green falls right to left so any shots over this bunker feed down to the middle of the green.

14th Hole

The 14th hole requires a confident tee shot. The fairway and rough at the landing area kicks the ball right, and with the tee pointing you down the right side of the fairway the ideal shot is a draw or at the very least straight shot. If you do have problems with slices you would be better off hitting a club you can hit straight such as a 6 iron.

If you have hit a sensible shot off the tee, another sensible shot is to lay up in front of the 3 large bunkers in front of the green. This leaves a relatively easy pitch up the green, and the pitch shot is easier to make sure you get an uphill putt!

The green on the 14th is treacherous! Sloping from back to front, anything above the flag is going to leave you a downhill putt you must hole or potentially be off the green!

15th Hole

The 15th hole has a relatively easy tee shot with quite a lot of space to spray the ball about. Out of bounds is down the left though so don’t try to cut too much of the dog leg left corner.

It is very hard to stop the ball on the 15th green. There is a tier running across the middle so it is usually a red or white flag. With a red flag you are at risk of coming back off the front of the green. If the flag is at the back and you pitch the ball on the back level there is a good chance you will end up off the back of the green. This green always seems to be a bit faster then others on the course so be careful when putting.

16th Hole

Another tee shot that gives you choices, you can hit anything from a driver to 4/5 iron – with a straight shot meaning you will reach the bottom of a steep slope.

You need to be very lucky to get a flat stance for your second shot. You are hitting uphill to the green which again has a bit of a false front. Don’t hit too long through as anything landing on the back 3rd of the green will probably roll through the back. Middle of the green is the best position given the tricky stance you are likely to have and the uphill nature of the shot.

17th Hole

The last par 3, and a good one. Hitting over a small valley to a green slightly below the tee. Although only about 165 yards I seem to have trouble hitting this green. There is a flag position back right behind a bunker that only gives you a small target to land it, and anything short to a front pin will roll off the green.

18th Hole

The 18th hole is one of the hardest finishing holes I have ever played. Not only is it long, but even if you hit a good fairway wood or long iron into the green it often doesn’t hold. A lot of work has been done recently to raise the mens teeing area, and lower the front tees so you can see the entire length of the hole from all teeing areas. A good drive will get you over the road and leave an iron in. Most people are short of the road and hitting woods or hybrids. Two large bunkers either side of the green mean a small runway to get your ball through if you are going to run it up to the green.

The green itself is a tough one to read. Generally back to front, and left to right, any par on this hole feels like a birdie, and a bogie isn’t a terrible score!

Summary

The course at Calcot Park Golf Club offers a tough test for any golfers. Even if you are hitting the ball well, your putting still needs to be in top form to walk away with a good score. I wish the 1st and 18th were lengthened a bit and made par 5’s – but that is probably because I’m not the longest hitter in the world! If you get a chance to play here – take it up. Make sure you try the putting green first to check how fast they have the greens running!

Stableford

Stableford is a common competition format played at most golf clubs. Instead of counting all the stokes you take as you do in stroke/medal competitions – you are assigned points based on how many shots you take on each hole relative to nett par.

So after taking your nett score on a hole you are awarded points

net albatros – 5 points
net eagle – 4 points
net birdie – 3 points
net par – 2 points
net bogey – 1 point

If you get worse than a net bogie you score 0 points on that hole. This is also often called a blob!

The overall stableford score is calculated by adding up all the points scored across all holes. If you play to your handicap you should score 36 points.

Higher handicappers often prefer to play stableford as having one or two bad holes still gives you the chance of coming in with a good score. It should also speed up a round as players should pick up their balls once they cannot score better than a net bogey as they are out of the points on that hole.

Tactics for Stableford

I would suggest your strategy when starting each hole from the tee should be the same as when playing medal. The goal is to play conservatively, use the shots your handicap gives you, and walk off each hole with a net birdie or par. The only time to play more aggressively is if you need to get up and down, or have a single putt left for a point.

Often people will find themselves in trouble during a stableford round and try to play a wonder shot – mess up – and walk off with a blob. It would be much more sensible to chip out or play for position, and make a point on the hole. It is a lot easier to make up that point on the next hole by getting a net birdie than it is trying to catch up two points across the round.

Bushnell Neo XS GPS Watch Review

The Bushnell Neo XS is the latest GPS watch for golfers from Bushnell. More well known for their laser distance finders, Bushnell have recently started adding GPS devices to their catalogue. Coming in at around £150 GPS watches are more suitable for the price conscious golfer who doesn’t want to spend £250 or more on a range finder, or who doesn’t want to pay for a monthly membership for course information as the deal goes with Skycaddie.

Accuracy

Bushnell use www.igolf.com maps and GPS information. iGolf map out their courses using satellite imagery such as those displayed on Google Maps. This does throw into question the accuracy of the device. I have tested the device on my home course and there is only one tee where it is out by 10 yards. I try and remember to check it whenever I am walking past a fairway marker or standing on the tee to see if the two match up. So far I have been happy enough with the Bushnell not to go back to the laser range finder or Skycaddie.

Battery Life

The marketing material from Bushnell claims the Neo XS has 12 hours of battery life – enough for 3 rounds of golf. I have found that after 2 rounds, the battery level indicator is down to just a single bar so I wouldn’t be comfortable trying to do a third round with it.

Good Points

Happy with the accuracy

Considering there is no monthly membership or having to go through the hassle of downloading new courses, the accuracy is a good enough compromise. Having the front, middle and back of a green allows you to plan which club to hit from the tee on par 4’s, and plan layups on par 5’s.

Very simple to use and nice size.

The screen is really clear and easy to read. The watch is not bulky, so it does not feel like it will impede your golf swing at all.

Features you would expect

The Neo XS has the all the basic features you would expect. You can measure the distance of your shots with ‘ball marking’. The watch also tracks how far you have walked during your round of golf, and how long it has taken so far. I’m not sure how useful these last 2 features are – I guess the stats may give you an interesting conversation point in the bar!

Time sets itself

No fiddling around with the watch to set the time. It sets the time based on the GPS information it receives from satellites. This is also good if you are a traveling golfer as it will automatically set the time for the time zone you are in.

Can register to get GPS updates

You can register your watch at https://bushnell.igolf.com/ to get updates to course information.

Bad Points

Hazard information hit and miss

The Bushnell Neo XS stores four pieces of hole information each hole. Most holes I play have more than 4 separate things to call out (bunkers, end of fairways, other hazards etc). It isn’t clear in the instructions whether the hazard information is to the hazard, or to carry the hazard.

With this information being limited to 4 call outs I hardly every switch to this view. This is where you really miss a handheld GPS unit that has the view of the hole with a moveable distance point.

Watch cannot be used while charging

My motocaddy 3 comes with a handy usb port which can be used to plug your GPS device in while you are playing if it is low on battery. Unfortunately when you plug the Bushnell Neo XS into charge it switches to the battery indicator view until it is unplugged. It would be nice if you could charge and use the GPS functionality at the same time for those instances when you have forgotten to charge your watch.

No wall charger provided

A USB to watch cable is provided, but no wall socket. Bushnell must want you to always charge your watch through plugging it into your computer.

Thankfully being a geek I have lots of wall adapters – but if I didn’t I would find this quite annoying.

Scoring and Statistics

The Neo XS does not have any scoring or statistics recording ability. Nothing else to say on the matter! If you want your GPS device to be able to store this information you are going to need to spend a bit more money on it.

Strap mark

Us golfers should be use to tan lines anyway – but I haven’t worn a normal watch for many years so was surprised to be seen a strap tan line again! Not a big issue – but certainly something you do not get from a GPS device sitting on your trolley or attached to your bag.

Summary

With the Bushnell Neo XS being one of the cheaper GPS watches out there – it really is good value if all you want is front, middle and back yardages for the green. This is more than enough for most golfers. With my golfing reduced a bit these days due to a family increasing in size it is good enough for me.

For the golfer who wants more information about yardages, and the ability to record their round stats on a device, you will probably want to look at a handheld device, and consider something with a annual membership to ensure the courses are fully mapped and accurate.

Roman Road at Celtic Manor

It was the second day of our Celtic Manor Resort golf trip and today we were playing Roman Road. The course takes its name from a Roman Road that crossed the whole of Britain from East to West and crosses through the golf course. This course held the Welsh Open between 2005 – 2007 and so we were expecting a tougher challenge than The Montgomerie.

It is certainly not as hilly as The Montgomerie, and it is also a lot more open – so if you are spraying your driver around you are more likely to find your ball on another fairway than be lost in the rough or trees.

The total length is 5,986 yards which is only about 200 yards more, but I think it plays longer because of the openness and lack of shelter from the wind. There are 3 par 5’s – but these are actually quite short, which means there are more par 4’s that require a fairway wood or long iron into.

1st Hole

The first hole is a tough long hole to start with at 423 yards. Large bunkers down the left leave a narrow section of fairway to hit driver to. The 18th fairway runs alongside the right of this hole so right is definitely the bail out area. 2 big bunkers protect the green which is a tough back to front sloping green.

1st hole tee shot2nd Hole

Ouch – forgot to take any pictures of the second hole. A short par 5 measuring 468 yards although we were playing it into the breeze. Driver, 3 wood and gap wedge got me to the middle of the green. Had a good chance for birdie, but ended up walking off with a 2 putt par. Another open tee shot with other holes either side.

3rd Hole

Not a long par 4, in at 381 yards, and playing down breeze as it runs opposite the par 5 2nd. Out of bounds is down the left, but right is the bail out side again. So far this course has been very kind to the slicers :-)

3rd hole tee shot

The green is uphill so needs a club extra. I came up just short of the green and although I hit a good chip, still 2 putted for a bogie.

3rd hole approach to green4th Hole

The 4th hole is a tough par 4. If you miss left you have a tough pitch up, if you miss right you have a tough pitch down and over a few mounds. It was playing quite long for us as well into the breeze at 180 yards.

The green is tough, with a little plateau at the top right where the flag was. Missing my tee shot left, I pitched up and 2 putted. Even if you find the green with your tee shot if the flag is top right and you aren’t on that level it is a tricky 2 putt!

4th hole tee shot5th Hole

The 5th hole is a lovely par 5 that can be played many different ways. It has a big dogleg right, and then goes steep down hill to the green. 3 wood off the tee seemed the sensible approach not knowing the hole standing on the tee, but you could also hit driver over the bunker on the right to shorten the hole. Anything right side of the fairway with your driver though will likely run out of fairway and might find the hedge.

5th hole tee shot

 

I think you would be brave to go for the green with the second shot as it is heavily guarded by trees and bushes that would mean a lost ball. I played a mid iron down, and another mid iron to the green. Don’t do too far left with your lay up shot as there is a big tree that could block you out of your shot to the green.

5th hole second shot

5th hole green6th Hole

As you walk down the fifth hole it is worth looking across to the sixth green to see where the flag is! There is a massive tier across the green so you need to know if the pin is at the front or back. Your second shot is so much uphill it is difficult to judge the pin position when playing the hole (as I found out!). Off the yellow tees the bunkers are right in the landing area – so a 3 wood off the tee put my in perfect position. A good wedge onto the green, but into the tier so rolling back off the green, left a tricky 2 putt.

6th hole tee shot6th hole approach shot

The picture below shows the big tier on the 6th green!6th hole green7th Hole

I had another disappointing day on the par3’s today! The 7th is only 129 yards downhill but I managed to push my 9 iron right off the tee. The green is a really interesting bowl shape! These types of greens are funny as it’s difficult to tell if you are putting uphill, downhill or sometimes both. Although only 129 yards it had a stroke index of 13 – so others obviously find it a challenging short par 3 as well.

7th hole green8th Hole

Long par 4, 428 yards. The next hole is only 22 yards longer and is a par 5. The tee short is blind over a crescent. I hit a great drive, and hybrid and only got to the front fringe of the green. The bunkers either side of the green certainly focus the mind as you have a small runway between them to land your ball if you want to run it up to the green.

8th hole approach

8th hole green

9th Hole

The big news about the 9th hole is I made birdie. Funny though, this was probably my worse drive of the two days. I hit a big push/slice right and thought I was in trouble, but the openness of the connecting holes and the steep slope back to the fairway bought it back down. Right is definitely the bail out side off the tee. A 3 wood and wedge and I was on the green with a 4 foot put for birdie.

9th hole tee shot9th view back from green

 

There is a great view from the 9th green of Caerleon and the surrounding hills.9th green with view of Newport

10th Hole

There’s no halfway house unfortunately on Roman Road, although the walk from the 9th to the 10th takes you close to the pro shop so you can dive in for a drink and bar of chocolate.

The 10th hole is a drivers paradise. Bunkers on the right, but a good straight drive down will get you within 30-40 yards of the green as there is a severe downslope to the green after the bunkers. Long hitters might even be able to drive it. A big ridge in the green means if you are on the wrong level it is a tricky 2 putt.

10th hole tee shot

10th approach shot

11th Hole

The 11th hole is probably the most enclosed hole on the Roman Road. It’s a very pretty tree lined par 3. The trees make the wind swirl through the runway of trees which makes club selection tricky as it plays a bit up hill too. At 186 yards you need to be hitting a long iron or may be a hybrid. The do seem to like their tiered greens at Celtic Manor. This hole has another big tier that makes life difficult if you are on the opposite level to the flag.

11th hole tee shot

12th Hole

Very tough par 4! Don’t be fooled by it only being 353 yards off the yellows. All uphill, very tight driving hole, and into the teeth of the wind when we played it. The hole doglegs left at the bunkers – which look quite intimidating off the tee! I hit a big push with my driver off here that should have been in a world of trouble – but was rescued by the 10th fairway running alongside the right of hole.

The second shot was on a steep upslope into the wind. I only had 150 yards, but with the slope adding degrees of loft onto the club and the strong headwind – I hit creamed a 4 iron and it only made the front of the green!

I felt this was one of the toughest holes on the course – I’d love to play it again!
12th hole tee shot

 

View from behind the green on the 12th.12th hole behind the green

13th Hole

The tough holes keep coming. The 13th has a big dog leg right. Your second shot will be over a wooded ravine which means your tee shot needs to be the left side of the fairway. The second shot is quite scary – I was hitting a 6 iron off a downhill lie into a very narrow green. The bail out for the second shot it to the right – and it is not a bad spot to chip onto the green from.

12th hole tee shot

13th approach to green

14th Hole

The 14th hole is the penultimate par 3. The road between the hotel and clubhouse runs along side it – but good luck in getting cars to stop and wait for you to hit your shots! The bunkers guarding the green are quite deep – but they are the only trouble on the hole.

14th hole tee shot and green

15th Hole

Difficult to get a good photo of this hole as we were playing back into bright clouds. The tee shot on this hole is a good one. The more left you aim and cut off the dogleg the further over the bunkers you have to carry. The ideal shot is a nice draw around them.

The flag for us on this hole was on the left quarter of the green. I hit my wedge to the middle of the green and had a putt over a little rise and then down hill all the way past the hole to the edge of the green. I had 5 attempts at the putt as we had a bit of spare time and couldn’t get the ball to stop within 8 feet! If the flag is left, try to get your ball to land just left of it!
15th green

16th Hole

 

One of the few holes with water. The closer to the water you hit your tee shot, the shorter your second shot over the water will be to the green. It’s a really beautiful hole, but with your drive sliced right like mine was – a total horror.

I should have laid up with my second shot and hoped to get up and down, but decided to hit my hybrid from a crap lie and into the wind. I guess it found the water as we didn’t see it again!

Gutted to make double bogie on this hole…the only one of the 2 days.16th hole tee shot

 

Side view of the 16th green. My ball is somewhere in that water.
16th green viewed from side17th Hole

A lovely little par 3. I did actually play this par 3 well and should have birdie it – but missed the short putt you can see below.

A stream runs across the front of the green, and there’s a pond to the right. You need to hit the green on this one as there is no much else all around it but water bunkers and mounds.

17th hole tee shot and green

17th ball on green18th Hole

The 18th hole is a good par 4 to finish. The bunkers on the fairway are in play, although the ones on the left are closer and easier to carry so I bashed my drive over them. A 6 iron, and 2 putts from below the hole in front of the club house meant I finished up with a satisfactory par.

18th hole tee shot back to clubhouse

18th hole tee shot back to clubhouse

Summary

Although more open, I preferred Roman Road to The Montgomerie – and I think that was due to it playing a bit longer. I was hitting a lot of different clubs into the greens on Roman Road, whereas too many holes seemed to be driver – wedge on The Monty.

Both courses were great to play though, and I would have no complaints if playing either again. The whole 2 days golf, with hotel and B&B for £99 was great value and something we will definitely be looking to do again.

 

The Montgomerie at Celtic Manor

I had the pleasure of playing The Montgomerie as part of a 2 day Golf Breaks package in July 2015. This was the first of 2 courses we played on a midweek golfing trip – the other was Roman Road.

The Montgomerie is the shortest course on the Celtic Manor resort. Part of this course use to be a 9 hole par 3 course before Colin Montgomerie was bought in to redesign it. Coming in at 5787 yards off the yellows, if you are able to hit your drives straight you are often left with a short iron into the greens. Although it is a short course in terms of yardage – it’s a bloody good walk with quite a lot of the greens up and down hill.

1st Hole

1st hole teeThe first hole is quite short. I hit a 4 iron off the tee. There is quite a good slope down to the green so as long as your ball lands on the fairway an iron off the tee is enough to leave you a short iron in.

If you do hit a driver off the tee the right side is definitely safer as the 9th fairway runs alongside this one. Hooking one left leaves you with a chance of going out of bounds, although it needs to be a pretty bad snap hook to be at risk!

1st hole approach shot1st hole green2nd Hole

2nd hole tee shotThe second hole is the first par 3. The Montgomerie has 5 par 3’s – and I only managed to hit the green on one of them! This par 3 is 178 yards and slightly up hill so plays a little longer. The tee shot isn’t too tricky, but the green certainly is. The pin was on the front tier for us. When it is at the back I can imagine the tee shot is very daunting.

2nd hole green

3rd Hole

3rd tee shotWhat a hole the 3rd is. A tight par five that drops down to a spectacular view of the 2010 course. I hit one of my best drives on this hole, even though it is one of the tougher driving holes. It is funny how tough driving holes seem to focus your mind and you hit the best tee shots. After a good drive I hit a 5 iron and pitching wedge into the green. The 2nd and 3rd shots are off such steep downhill lies you do not need much club.

2nd shot on 3rd hole Andrew and Adam playing 3rd-7 2010 course view over the left of the green 3rd-94th Hole

The 4th hole is a very pretty par 3. You hit over a valley, to a tree framed green that is well guarded by bunkers. The green slopes very steeply from back to front so even a shot into the middle of the green leaves a tricky putt. I missed the green to the right on this one. There’s quite a lot of room short and right, and although you are on quite an upslope, the shot over the bunkers wasn’t too tough. The tricky green meant I missed my putt – although I was quite happy to walk off with a bogie :-)

4th hole tee shot

5th Hole

5th tee shotAnother tree lined tee shot and ravine to go over. Off the yellows this hole was only playing 334 yards and as the wind wasn’t hurting I hit a 3 wood off the tee. As the trees on the left are tight, and the space on the right runs out the further you go this seems a sensible shot considering the length. The green is elevated, but probably one of the flatter greens on the course. Hit an extra club and go for the middle and you should have a relatively straight forward putt.

5th approach shot 5th green

6th Hole

6th hole, and another par 3. This is the last par 3 for a little while! Although only 151 yards, at this point we were getting lashed by a windy shower. I hit a 4 iron to an elevated green which in hindsight was a bit too much club. I thought I was going in the back right bunker, but the ball just managed to come to rest on the fringe of the green. This left a horrible chip to the flag that was on the top level. Another 4 on the scorecard though wasn’t too bad – especially as I thought I was in a deep bunker after the tee shot.

6th hole tee shot7th Hole

7th tee shotThis is another great looking hole from the tee. Although only 309 yards it is significantly up hill. Although I managed to hit a good drive, the ball hit the fairway on the left side and seemed to roll backwards about 30-40 yards! 8 iron was the next shot and this left me about 10 feet from the pin for an easy par. I had a lot of birdie chances on this round but was scared by quite a few of the greens. I would love to play this course again and be a bit more aggressive with the putting.

7th fairway 7th approach shot Green on the 7th

8th Hole

8th tee shotProbably one of the least remarkable holes on The Montgomerie, but one of the longer ones. Into the wind meant a driver and hybrid which was slightly pulled meant a pitch over one of the bunkers. I had a long time to size up my par putt of about 14 feet and had it about 2 foot outside the hole! Rolled it down the slope, taking the break nicely and boom – into the middle of the hole for a nice par!

Rolled this putt in!

9th Hole

9th tee shotAnother of my favourite holes. You can see the entire length of the hole from the tee which I like. Blind tee shots and approach shots where you can only just see the top of the flag aren’t really my thing. A good drive, 3 woods between the fairway bunkers, and wedge left me with a really good chance for birdie on this hole, but lipped out on the putt!

9th approach10th Hole

10th tee shotAnother picturesque hole with a large pond guarding the front of the green. The tee shot requires a long iron or hybrid. The fairway runs really steeply down hill and right to left so hitting the fairway is key to allowing the ball to feed down. Unfortunately I hit a horrible tee shot that stayed up on the right, so I lay up with my 2nd shot rather than go for a miracle 200 yard shot with the ball way above my feet! The green is quite narrow so if your tee shot is offline this may be your safest way to play the hole.

10th approach over the pond

11th Hole

A big dog leg right on this hole. Big hitters may be able to go straight for the green, although you cannot see the green and so would struggle to know if it was clear or its exact location if you haven’t played the course before. I hit a driver straight at the pole in the middle of the fairway. I nearly ran out of fairway so a 3 wood would probably be a safer option. Approach into the green is quite simple although I had trouble reading the green and bashed my putt 8 feet past. First 3 putt.

11th tee shot

12th Hole

12th tee shotAnother dog leg right on this hole, and another blind tee shot. This hole could do with a bell on it as we weren’t sure whether the fairway had cleared. A slight fade with the driver is perfect for this tee shot, although be careful not to over cut it as trees and bushes down the right had side are waiting to catch your ball if your slight fade turns into a slice! If you can’t hit a controllable fade a 3 wood or hybrid would probably be OK off the tee. My drive was in position A so I was only left with a gap wedge into a green that is quite a steep drop down.

12th approach shot and green13th Hole

13th tee shotAnother short par 4, but a tight driving hole. Anything too far left off the tee will take the contours of the fairway down into the long rough and bushes. If you do get a good tee shot away you are left with another short iron into the green. There is a big run off area to the right of the green which would be a tricky up and down if your ball was to finish here.

13th green side on

14th Hole

14th tee shotBack to the par 3’s again. This one was playing slightly uphill again so a club extra was required. Sure enough, I didn’t hit the green again! The green was very tricky, with a nasty ridge running down the middle of it.

 

15th Hole

This was the only hole I forgot to photograph. Back to back par 3’s which is unusual. This was the only par 3 I hit in regulation as well! This was a really tough hole as it was playing back into the teeth of the wind as it had no protection from the elements. Although it was only 145 yards I hit a gentle 5 iron as anything shorter would need hitting hard meaning the ball would balloon up in the air.

16th Hole

Another drive over a big ravine and an uphill landing area for your tee shot means your drive will not get much roll out. This made the longest par 4 on the course at 411 yards play even longer. The 2nd shot is quite tight with long rough to the right and a drop off to tree’s on the left.

16th tee shot

17th Hole

I really liked the 17th hole. The fairway was split into 2 sections with bunkers separating them. You could either bash your driver up the hill to a green 273 yards away, or play for position with a wood or iron.

I hit a 3 wood off the tee which put me on the first section of fairway and gave me a short iron up to the raised green. The approach came up short and the big tier on the green gave me a bit of trouble getting up and over!

17th tee shot18th Hole

A great risk and reward tee shot to finish the round. A big dog left left means you can cut the corner and leave a shorter 2nd – although if you cut it too much you will be reloading. A nice soft draw around the corner would be perfect.

I hit my tee shot a bit left and ended up in the far bunker. A nine iron layup, and another 9 iron to the green left me a 5 foot putt for par which I made. Perfect way to play a hole when you land yourself in trouble!

18th green

Summary

Although The Montgomerie at Celtic Manor is quite a short course, the undulating nature of it offers a good challenge. The greens are particularly tough with many of them having large tiers. If you find yourself on a different tier to the flag – good luck! We certainly knew afterwards that we had a good walk once we finished – and I’m glad I had my clubs on my Motocaddy rather than carrying.

I did play well – which certainly helps when deciding if you like a course. I hit a lot of greens in regulation (apart from the par 3’s!) and had a lot of birdie putts which on another day would have dropped. I think I had 3 lip outs in total! After totting up the scorecard I managed a respectable 35 points playing off 8.

 

Texas Scramble Tips

Texas scramble is one of the most fun golf games to play. It is usually played in teams of 3. Each team member plays a shot, and then it is up to the team to decide which shot is in the best position. Once the best position is decided each player then plays their next shot from that position. You need to make sure the position is marked before the first player hits, and then each person drops their ball to play. This process is continued until one of the players holes out with the stroke score being recorded.

In Texas Scramble the teams handicap is worked out by adding all the players individual handicaps together and then taking 10% if the team has 3 players or 5% if it has 4.

Generally you have to choose to take 5 tee shots from each player during the round. This leaves 3 spare where you can choose anyone’s. This certainly adds a bit of extra pressure towards the end of the round and you have a number of tee shots left to take.

I’ve played quite a few Texas Scramble competitions and here are my tips for doing well in this type of competition

1, Lower handicap teams do better

Every time I have played Texas Scramble it has been a team that is mostly made up with lower handicap players that has won. The 10% handicap allowance that a team of 3 gets isn’t very much. A low handicap team is quite likely to have a birdie opportunity at every hole as they have 3 goes at hitting a fairway in regulation and 3 attempts at hitting a green.
If you have the choice, always go for the team with the lower handicap players.

2, Let high handicap players tee off first

In Texas Scramble you need to take 5 tee shots from each player so there is always pressure to hit good tee shots – unless the team has already taken all 5 of yours! I’ve found it puts less pressure on the high handicap players if you let them tee off first out of the group. They seem to take a much more relaxed swing at the ball as they know that if it’s a bad shot there is still a low handicap player to come who’ll probably hit a good shot.

If the low handicap player goes first and hits a bad shot – this only increases the pressure on the high handicap player meaning they are also less likely to hit a bad shot.

3, Let the high handicap players putt first

It’s quite likely that the low handicap players are better putters. By letting the high handicap golfers putt first in Texas Scramble you are giving the better putter more information they can use such as line and pace.

4, Play aggresively

You have 3 chances of making each shot, so you might as well go for it. On a par 5 rather than laying up get your 3 wood out and give it a wack. You need to get birdies to win a Texas Scramble competition so you might as well have a go at it! If you want to play safe, let the first member of the group lay up and get his shot safe, then the other two players can really go for it.

5, Always mark those short putts!

No matter how short the final putt is to finish the hole, make sure you mark it! You do not want to be the one who costs your team the trophy because you missed a two foot putt and didn’t mark it!

Remember if you do not mark the place of your ball before you play it, then your playing partners miss their turns once the ball has been hit.

What are your tips for playing Texas Scramble?

Why Play Golf?

I get asked why I play golf by my friends all the time. They can’t understand why you’d want to spend 4 hours walking around hitting a white ball in a little hole on Saturdays and Sundays. Many of us golfers take things a step further with midweek practice at the course during the summer and cold evenings down the driving range in the winter. I’ve been asked this question so many times I thought I’d put into words why I’ve fallen in love with this great game…

1, It is all down to you

I played quite a lot of football (soccer) when growing up and into my mid-twenties. It wasn’t too high a standard, but I took it seriously – trained quite hard for it and stayed in the night before games. Nothing would annoy me more than turning up at Saturday lunchtime and one or two of the team being hung over from the night before and playing terribly. I enjoy team games and the feeling of winning together, but one too many experiences of this made me feel as though I wanted to do an individual sport where the result was down to me alone.

While golf is mostly an individual sport there are the odd team situations such as doubles competitions and inter-club games, but mostly it is you – on your own – against the course. If I decide to go out the night before a competition and play badly I only have myself to blame. This kind of arrangement suits me a lot better. Sure you have to take the good and bad luck on the golf course but my performance and result are down to the practise and work I have put in, and not a team mate who can hardly see because he is still drunk from last night!

2, Practice makes perfect

“The more I practise, the luckier I get” is a quote that has been attributed to many people, but I always quote it as something Gary Player said. Generally speaking – if put more time into your golf practise, and practise the right things – your scores will improve. There are so many parts that make up a golfer such as putting, chipping, pitching, driving, bunker shots, flop shots and so the list goes on. You practise one thing a lot and improve that area, but something else will get worse – which is why you need to practice in the right way to see your game as a whole improve.
This works well for me – I have the time and commitment to put into practising the different things that go into making a complete golfer and to date my handicap has kept coming down. As you get lower it gets much harder to keep improving at the same rate but that is all part of the challenge!

3, Beautiful scenery

Before I played golf I used to sit in front of my computer for 16 hours a day. I’m not going to claim I was working this entire time, but either way it certainly isn’t healthy for anyone to do that! Now I’m playing golf I get out into the countryside to breath fresh air, see lots of nature, and be close to water (although hopefully not too close!). Now I can easily go an entire weekend without touching my computer. On Mondays I now approach a new work week with renewed enthusiasm.

I enjoy playing and practising on the course alone as well as with other people. I’ve always enjoyed my own company, and have had some great ideas and come up with many solutions to problems while playing 9 holes on my own.

During the summer here in the UK when sun rose really early I would get up at 5am and be teeing off at 6am. Nine holes great practise, and back to the office for an 830am start. The best way to start the day!

4, Socializing and friendship

Although in most competitions you play against each other and the course, you still have 2 or 3 playing partners who join you for the round and share the duties of scoring. 4 hours of golf will lead to many opportunities to get to know who you are playing with better and I’ve made some good friends and also business contacts from spending time on the golf course.

Of course there is plenty of time for socializing in the bar after a round of golf and often other social activities taking place at the golf club that members can join in with.

5, Good exercise

Golf is a great non-impact exercise. Seven thousands yards equals around 4 miles which is a good walk in anybody’s book. It’s not advisable that golf is the only exercise you partake in as you’ll certainly need some anaerobic exercise such as running or swimming to get your heart rate up.

But the good news is that as you play more golf and you want to improve you’ll start taking your exercise away from the course more seriously. I try to do a stretching routine twice a day, go for a run most days and am trying to get a weights program figured out for each morning.

6, A great challenge for all ages and abilities

Golf has to be one of the most accessible sports going – apart from maybe darts or fishing! (Are they really sports?) How many other sports can a 10 year old tee it up against an 80 year old and via the handicap system have a great competitive round of golf!

One of the things that attracted me to golf was the fact that it is a sport I can take up now and if everything goes well still be playing in my eighties. I love playing against my dad (who is 72) and little brother.

What other sports have a handicap system that allows a relative new-comer to golf give a seasoned scratch player a good game in a competition?

7, It is not as expensive as you think, and you do have time for it!

I added this in at the last moment as many of my friends think golf is too expensive for them to play and they don’t have time for it. Bear with me while I go a little bit of maths…

You can easily pick up a decent set of clubs and bag for £300.00

If you don’t want to join a club you can find a round of golf at many decent places for £25

Maybe you need a couple of t-shirts and golf shoes to wear £100

If you add this all up over the course of a year where you play once a week you are looking at a total spend of £1700. Quite a bit of money you might think.

But if you were to play once a week, your total playing time over 12 months would be 208 hours, so the actual hourly spend comes in at around £8.17 per hour. Now there are not many forms of entertainment these days that cost less than that! Plus you can shop around for cheap rounds of golf, only have to buy your equipment once etc…

So that brings us on to the question of time. Friends claim they don’t have four hours at the weekend to spend on golf – RUBBISH! When I play golf first thing I am back home by midday. If you were to go out drinking on a Friday night you probably wouldn’t be out of bed by that time! Maybe your priority is to go out and get drunk all weekend, but don’t tell me you don’t have time for golf!

So how about you? Why did you get into golf and what keeps you coming back to play this great game?