We take an inside look at one of Scotland’s favourite golf courses as it marks a decade since it opened for play
By David Cunninghame
IT is ten years since The Carrick opened its doors to the golfing public. Situated on the Western shores of Loch Lomond, it has quickly established itself as one of the country’s most popular golfing venues.
Named after its designer, Doug Carrick, little was known about the Canadian architect at the time, but you simply had to look at some of his other projects to see what a brilliant course designer he is. With the Carrick, he delivered a course that offers a challenging and fun test for all golfers, set amongst the most stunning of backdrops.
THE EARLY YEARS
The Carrick, like any new golf course, has had its fair share of difficulties over the years. One stumbling block it has managed to overcome - as a result of being situated in the West of Scotland - is the amount of rainfall the course receives. To give you an idea, the average rainfall for the Loch Lomond region is almost three times higher than London’s.
Paul McClearn is the head greenkeeper at The Carrick and has witnessed the course’s transformation since the first seed was planted around 13 years ago to the celebrated course it is today.
“At the very beginning we had some issues with getting it established, especially with the weather we get. Trying to get the seed to take without being washed away proved difficult at times,” says Paul. “We built a lot of drainage into the course which really enabled it to grow and establish fairly quickly. In the last ten years, I‘ve really seen the course settle down nicely and certainly, now, it dries out a lot quicker and is better able to handle some of the prolonged heavy downpours we get.”
It wasn’t only the rain though that was causing The Carrick some difficulties in those early years, as the Head of Golf at The Carrick, Jonny Sharp, explains. “Over the past ten years we have experienced some ups and downs especially during the recession around 2008.
“As much as it was a tough time for all, it was also a success for golf in general. It was a great time to be able to talk about a new course set on the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, and the emergence of our unique points membership offered golfers an affordable alternative during a tough time.”
GROWING THE REPUTATION
Over the last ten years The Carrick has continually grown in popularity. Many golfers who go to tick it off the list will return because of the great condition of the course and the excellent experience on offer. This is in large part thanks to ongoing improvements and work carried out by the greens staff. “Our greens team are a highly dedicated group of people who embrace what they do with such a professional attitude day in day out,” says Sharp. “Over the past two years the course has risen to a different level which has been highlighted in recent feedback from members, golf days, social media and also from the professionals who played in the recent EuroPro Tour events we have held.
“As we all know, it is the course that people come to play, so it needs to be in great condition and thankfully it is.”
CELEBRATING 10 YEARS
To mark their tenth anniversary, The Carrick hosted two successful golf days in early June. A Stableford competition was held for the members on the first day, with an open event backed by bunkered on the following day.
“I feel it was important to do both a member and guest event over the two days as it lets our visitors, who possibly haven’t played for a while, get the chance to see the improvements made, from course condition, to service and overall general offering,” says Sharp.
The Carrick has quickly gone from a club with virtually no reputation from the outset to one that now sits comfortably amongst the country’s elite. Popular amongst societies and for corporate clients, the club also boasts a healthy traditional and county membership, which is the envy of many clubs.
Paul McClearn is excited about the coming years and the way in which they plan on further improving the golf course. “Moving forward, we want to keep going the way we are going. We are always investing in drainage and our most recent investment in new machinery will help further improve the greens, fairways and the overall condition of the course,” he explains.
Even though the course opened a decade ago, Doug Carrick still has an active role. He visited the course in March of this year to discuss with the team some of the changes they have made and how they can further improve what is on offer for visitors. By filling in some of the bunkers and making the collars and approaches around the greens a little larger, they hope to make the course play a little easier for the higher handicapped golfer.
When asked what the next ten years has in store, Sharp is quick to reply. “More of the same, I hope. Our aim is to provide the best golf experience the country has to offer, yet be affordable and accessible to all.”
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