- Neil White
“It’s the first birdie of the day!” proclaimed our playing partner as Mrs W’s ball zipped down the second hole of Ferndown’s Old Course only to thwack into a seagull.
Seconds later another wing was clipped as the same thing happened to the group in front of us on the third.
Butterflies rather than birds had been my problem in the opening holes because I was psyched out by our names being announced over a loudspeaker at the opening tee.
The mixed open during Ferndown’s festival week was presented with the same gravitas as the Ryder Cup. Alas, I wasn’t sure that my game was up to the tremendous billing.
The picturesque Dorset course, synonymous with the Alliss family, was superbly presented for the competition.
Fairways had recovered impressively from recent rain and were cut in a light and dark before the criss-cross patterns in front of the greens. Putting surfaces were pacey but readable enough for me to sink a couple of monsters.
Not that we had it all our own way – far from it. This is a serious test of golf and many of the holes demanded harder hitting power than I possessed.
The first lays a marker - a stroke index 13 which was 401 yards according to my Garmin watch.
I can testify that a decent drive is not the end of the story because no less than seven bunkers protect the hole.
Pringles is the name of the third hole where Mrs W’s crisp shot almost killed wildlife. It is a challenging par four which bends to the right and needs care to avoid overshooting into the colourful bushes at the back of the green.
The fifth is a par three which plays longer than is 204 yards because of the slope just in front of the green. I flushed a driver and still came up a couple of yards short.
I was a fan of the par five seventh, called Elysium – an ancient Greek word which means afterlife. Well, I was in heaven – going through a green framed by colourful bushes and attractive apartments and then chipping in my return for a non-feathery birdie.
The eighth is also my bag. A shorter par four which requires strategy to avoid bunkers on the left and trees to the right, before hitting a green on a hill.
The 12th and 14th are fun par threes – the former surrounded by trees and bunkers while the latter is more accessible with a green in a bowl.
The short 16th is also interesting because brighter golfers than me will realise that a driver will probably cause an overshoot into gorse – whereas a well-placed iron will reap greater reward.
The 397-yard 17th has the defence of a ditch to dissuade cowards such as me from going for broke in two.
Meanwhile, the 18th is a cracking finishing hole – uphill towards the clubhouse, weaving through bunkers. I played to my handicap and floated up a pitch with my third before nailing a 30-footer for my par in front of the clubhouse (why didn’t they announce my name after that?!)
Our playing partner’s handicap was a dazzling plus-two so I was keen to hear her opinion of Ferndown Old.
She said it was in fantastic condition but too many of the holes demanded a long second shot, leaving her relying on the same club more often than she would expect.
I concur. We very much enjoyed Ferndown because it has an immediate wow factor. From arrival at its fabulous clubhouse with quality food, friendly staff, excellent practice facilities and the attractiveness of the course.
But I like variety and am a fan of the quirky – Ferndown doesn’t have much of the latter and is, consequently more of a pure golf experience than its near-neighbour Broadstone which we had played two days previously.
But, hey, they were both great in their own ways.