Our guide to Stonehaven Golf Course continues with a resume of the 3rd hole, kindly sponsored by Steve Reid Autobody (the hole not this missive).
Stonehaven’s 3rd hole requires two key strengths; a strategic mentality and a good deal of patience. It’s a challenge of attitude as much as golfing ability. If you canvassed the four hundred members of the club to establish which of the eighteen holes they least enjoyed, there’s a good chance the 3rd would come out on top, if that’s not a contradiction in terms. Other contenders might be the 17th and possibly the 13th, but let’s face it, if you score well on any of those holes they become your favourites overnight).
The 3rd is a par four, a relatively short one, but beware the dramatic slopes that send your ball to the most unwelcome of resting places. There’s a knack to playing the 3rd hole and not one you’ll truly develop unless playing the course several times. Visitors just don’t ‘get’ this hole, gravely underestimating its contours and racking up ugly scores as a result. That said, members too can find themselves sufficiently complacent to card double bogeys, or worse.
First things first, don’t hit your ball right off the tee, there’s no future on the right hand side whatsoever unless you’re planning to wash your golf ball with a refreshing dip in the North Sea. Out of bounds posts border the right hand side of the fairway for a good two hundred yards with a low mesh fence protecting the ball from leaving the course via steep cliffs to the rocky beach below. It’s prudent in every respect therefore to stay left, way left, not least because a ninety degree sloped fairway ensures the ball takes a right hand turn at its earliest convenience, delivering it back to the centre or, more likely, the right side of the fairway. The greenkeepers allow the grass to grow a little longer on the 3rd fairway so balls have a better chance of nestling there rather than running to the fence below, but it doesn’t always work. Fear not however, if your ball does run down to the fence, a local rule allows you relief, but you can’t see the putting surface from down there whereas you can if your ball’s alighted up the slope.
Assuming you’ve placed your tee shot somewhere sensible, your second shot requires pinpoint accuracy given the gateway to the green is narrow. If you’re not confident in carrying the ball all the way to the green, the best route in is up the left hand side, allowing your ball to tumble down the bank and onto the dancefloor. There is a bunker up on the bank mind you, parallel with the green, but if you dunt your ball wide enough to locate this bunker you fully deserve to find yourself in it.
The cardinal sin from the 3rd fairway is to shove your ball to the right side of the green, an utterly unforgiveable faux pas. Hit it right and it’ll slide off the bank and rest on the 4th tee leaving you with an awkward chip shot up to the elevated green. Synonymous with Stonehaven Golf Club is the requirement for crisp ‘up and down’ chip shots and no more so than from the right side of the 3rd green. Do yourself a favour then and keep left on the 3rd, and if you haven’t perfected the art of lofted chips you might like to choose another golf course, or take up darts.
There are two greenside bunkers on the right side, one at the front and one at the rear, positioned to receive errant approach shots that fall marginally short of the green or trundle a little too far. The bunker at the front has been the scene of many Hamlet cigar moments given it’s steep face, indeed I’ve seen a grown man cry in there after his fifth attempt finally saw his ball exit the bunker only to roll down the bank onto the aforementioned 4th tee.
The green itself appears flat but don’t be fooled, it boasts well disguised contours which allow your ball to slide by the hole just as you’re preparing to retrieve it from the cup. It’s a tough green to read, and pretty slick in the summertime. If you do three stab it though just take a deep breath and admire the spectacular views down the coastline towards the town and beyond where the war memorial stone regally stands. This is the beauty of Stonehaven Golf Club, even if you’re struggling to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo you can be consoled by utterly amazing views.