Why is it that most golfers are preoccupied with size? As if drivers with sweet-spots of dinner plate proportions was not enough, it seems that all the most talked about courses have huge par-5's and an overall length comparable to that of the River Nile. It is also ironic that if you asked the average player to walk 7,000 yards with his, or her, spouse on a Sunday afternoon stroll you would be greeted with howls of complaint.
However, request them to do it with a bagful of clubs at Wentworth and everything's fine and dandy. In fact, the longer the ordeal the better; as if it were some rite of passage: "I played that 15,000 yard Hell Park last week. Got around with only two hernias and never needed a corn-plaster!" Macho nonsense.
Sadly, those obsessed with fairways the size of an African Savannah would overlook the shorter courses, perhaps even scoff at them. This is not only a pity, but a downright insult, especially when many make up for their lack of presence with cunning.
In defending the case for the more "petite" courses, I call upon Killiow Park, Your Honour.
At only 3,829 yards in length, the initial image will be one of a large pitch 'n' putt with a bored-looking man handing out nine-irons and worn balls. How wrong you would be. Firstly, the course is extremely varied despite most of the holes being short par-4's. In addition, the greens are immaculately tended by the ground staff and the Ross Oliver design makes the most of the splendid parkland upon which it is set. And, incidentally, the staff are amongst the most obliging and friendly I have ever encountered.
All in all, Killiow is a club at ease with itself. It doesn't need to be showy or name its holes "Doom Canyon" or "The Terminator". It makes for a splendid few hours relaxation, where high-handicappers can develop their game without embarrassment, and the more experienced enjoy the numerous little tests it throws their way.
The one thing Killiow beats most other clubs at it has to be the approach to the clubhouse. Along the winding drive which serves both it and the splendid manor house, the overwhelming impression is one of exclusivity. Of course, this is not the case, even though Killiow does boast one of the best driving-ranges in Cornwall - aesthetically, anyway.
But you shouldn't just come here for an ego-boosting round of golf. Apart from the fact that you'll encounter more than you bargained for, the entire place is a nature ramble: Swallows flying past at knee height, Dragonflies at every turn, and, ridiculously tame Rabbits. Anyway, back to the game itself ("and not before time", I hear you say).
The first two holes are straightforward enough with few hazards to overcome, both are little over 200 yards, and each benefits from a slight downhill slope. Holes 3 & 4 are more demanding: longer, blind, dog-legged and split by a stream. It is at this point that notions of having an easy time will begin to be doubted.
As the round progresses more and more par-3's come into play, and the following three holes zig-zag across a shallow valley where streams and trees make for a crucial tee-shot. I have played here several times - I enjoy it so much - and I've yet to make par on the 6th, where one must loft the ball over an ancient oak to make the green. Too much weight and the woods beckon, too little and the sound of balata on tree rings across the parkland.
Continuing on, the first lake on the round adds a new complexion to these supposedly easy holes, laying down a gauntlet for those who would brand it "too small". Besides, the next few holes open up into the stunning surroundings and invite use of the driver.
Whilst erratic shots may not always be condemned, the greens are far from straightforward. Many are relatively small targets, but others of a broader nature make use of unforgiving slopes and hidden dangers. The best example of this is the fiendish par-4 16th where, having negotiated a sharp dog-leg, the second shot to the green is beset by a stone wall, trees, steep bank, ditch, heavy rough, gravel pathway, and, vicious tilts to the surface itself. In fact, it suffers from everything except razor-wire and an armed guard. Bogey here and you are far from disgraced.
The penultimate hole, the last of the par-3's, is also anything but facile. Another small lake which is, much as the whole course itself, home to wildlife in abundance, stresses emphasis on correct club selection and the perfect strike.
So, there is the defense. I can only suggest that should you be anywhere in the vicinity of the lovely city of Truro that you take the time to visit Killiow. Golf in beautiful surroundings, a relaxed ambience, and, a gentle stroll. What more do you want!?
Oh, and for those more size-obsessed amongst you, Killiow is on schedule for extension later in 2000. The landscaping is already nearing completion and it has all the looks of something special. The small-fry is about to become a big fish...a very, very big fish indeed.
Remember the name, you'll hear more of it over the next few decades. I promise.
Killiow Park G.C,
Professional: Under appointment
Tel: U.K + 01872 261055
Fax: U.K + 01872 40915
Green fees: £13.50 weekdays & weekends.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Darren Clarke learned to play the game at Dungannon Golf Club, a pretty parkland course right in the middle of Northern Ireland. While the course is pretty enough and the green fee is almost embarrassingly reasonable, the appeal of Dungannon is the opportunity to pay homage to the 2011 British Open champion, Clive Agran writes from County Tyrone.
... full article »