Inverleith Park revisited

Having included the former pitch and putt course at Inverleith Park in his list of his top nine ‘Wee Courses’, the Author felt it only right to attempt to complete a round on the course layout as it was when it closed. Click here for a full scorecard.

Inverleith pitch and putt course as it was around 1990. You can just make out the rugby pitch which now affects four of the holes; the outline of several greens is apparent if using a magnified view with Google Maps.

This despite the fact that there is now a formally maintained rugby pitch in the middle of the course, that the greens have not been maintained for around 30 years, and that the public are allowed to roam, and being the animals they are, leave great quantities of rubbish on the fairways. He used the light to great effect by starting early on Midsummer’s Day, supported by an obscure City Byelaw allowing play “so long as the public are not inconvenienced or placed in danger…”, and that players had rights from 6am. Given that the great unwashed celebrated an early return from normality by trashing the Inverleith Park ‘links’, he didn’t think that a summons was likely to be issued for non compliance.

Summer Solstice 21 June 2020

I had got to bed about 2 am after watching Match of the Day, thankfully back after lockdown with some nearly new football.    I had to watch a re-run of the last day of Royal Ascot to see the unbeaten 2 year old Pinatubo beaten again as a 3 year old this time by the unbeaten Palace Pier ridden by the irrepressible Frankie Dettori.    The biggest thrill for me was when the appropriately named gelding Who Dares Wins won the longest race at 2 miles 5 furlongs and 143 yards at aged 10.   He had won over hurdles and fences as well as on the flat and strode away from the others like a two tear old.

All of this fired me up to rise at 5 45am and drive the short distance to Inverleith Park to play a game of pitch and putt and assert some playing rights over this defunct track.     Needless to say being Scotland it was raining; a dreich morning after yesterday’s sunshine but at least it kept all the joggers away.   I had noticed a few days before a tractor and the ganger mower had the run of the course making it less shaggy looking but also more attractive for picnickers.

I decided the planets had aligned as best they could and so like the original Stockbridge Golf Club members I was on the tee at 6 am to assert my right of way in terms of the Park Regulations and was armed with a  Halley “Pinmaster” pitching wedge and a  George Nicoll “Autograph” putter.

The graffiti- strewn starters box at the Inverleith pitch and putt course, reminiscent of something from an Irving Welsh novel

   I thought these vintage clubs would do nicely even though there were no holes or indeed flagsticks!  It wasn’t too cold so I rolled up the sleeves of my shirt tweaked down my bunnet and strode up to the first tee.    Since no holes had been cut and the greens had been left untouched by the mowing I invented a local rule that once on the green the ball would count as holed after a single putt.   I also permitted two balls in play, with the better one counting, and also the use of two clubs, unlike my youth when we hired a single ineffective instrument.    I am sure the Royal and Ancient and the USGA would have approved in the circumstances and in any event they were probably still tucked up in bed with their teddy bears so I didn’t bother to ring them first.

I was undaunted that the first green no longer existed, thanks to the intromissions of the Edinburgh Northern Rugby Club. However having surveyed the land previously, as James Braid might have done, I reckoned from memory that the first green was just to the North of left hand side of the East-most Rugby goals.    I dropped a couple of lurid Volvik Vivid spheres on the tee – lurid coloured to assist finding them in the rough grass and gloom.

I was a bit rusty since it was my first golf since lockdown, but I managed to get both balls on the imaginary green and after a shot at putting which even the heavy bladed Autograph could do little with the coarse wet grass, I gave myself a 4 and strode off to the second with the Holly Bush in the background.   

The extraordinary bark on tree no. 881, an Aspen, probably of American descent, on the left of the second fairway. Heavily adorned with ‘burrs’ (or ‘burls’ if you’re a Yank, it makes a pretty picture.

I know guys on the PGA Tour can hit a wedge about 200 yards but again I was short with my shots but chipped on and awarded myself a 3 after a perfunctory putt.   I gave it my all at No.3 on the card (Lang Whang) and the ball soared high into the grey sky. Sadly the rugby boys have compromised this hole too in that the line is in the same plane as the other rugby post and my ball hit the top of one of the posts and bounced back-at least I had taken dead aim.   I sliced the other ball and eventually managed to scramble one on in 3 to count as a four.

The debris for the previous day’s alfresco parties and barbeques was all too obvious but I took up position on the fourth tee and hit two controlled shots to the obliterated green which once stood proud on what is now the rugby halfway line.    A wee putt later (a concession) and I had myself a two.    As I had purposefully marched towards the ‘green’ I noticed the remains of a large carryout of Tennant’s lager left abandoned on the fairway.     As I passed and kicked them slightly I saw that at least 3 cans remained unopened. As a lawyer I could have cried res nullius ! (that which belongs to no man) and helped myself but it was to early in the day and furthermore I was in the imaginary zone.

At the 5th there was no danger of me overshooting the green and reaching the duck pond with the pitching wedge-next time mental note take a niblick-an 8 iron to you.    Anyway I struggled up the hill what with taking divots before ball and slicing so four was a good score for me.

A mass of golden buttercups on the 6th fairway. Wordsworth eat your heart out

Now normally the 6th is a skoosh but no doubt for health and safety reasons the mower had not passed this way, and the line from tee to green was a swathe of buttercups – think Monet’s water garden without quite so much water and restricted to a green and yellow palette.    My first ball was a disaster so taking care over the second I remembered that when all the trouble seems to be at the front go for the back of the green.    Sure enough I made great contact only to see the ball soar fiercely, bounce firmly on the left sideslope and roll some way down the hill into more long grass. Still I chipped on and took the 3.      At the seventh tee I was initially charmed to see two marks on the ground as if to signify mens’ and ladies’ tees side by side owing to the shortness of the hole to be played.   Sadly, on closer inspection, these revealed to be burn marks from adjacent barbeques from the previous evening.    I was getting warm and two easy pitches ended up close to the green from where it was easy to pitch on and leave the notional deadly putter to make 3.      Hole 8 was a different proposition entirely a long hole at 120 yards, blind and with the last section uncut apart from a path worn by walkers angling their way to the East Fettes Southernmost exit. I thought this is a par 5 on the tee and so it proved to be.   Two poor tee shots still left me with blind approaches but I saw the better second shot bounce on the path on landing and located the ball just below the green. The rough and buttercups were fierce but I secured a 5 and moved up the hill to the 9th.

This is similar to the 7th and easy shot towards a recognisable green and a deft approach and putt were enough to round off with a 3.

To record the feat I walked back to the starter’s box and took a picture for posterity against the graffiti strewn door.     It was locked of course but I hope there was a homeless man sheltering inside who had secured a spare key a la Irvine Welsh in Acid House and had locked himself in out of the rain and was getting a quiet sleep.

Jock Kirkcaldy’s scorecard, Royal Inverleith 27 August 2020. One under par – an extraordinary score, even with a wee rules change

It had taken 45 minutes but it was wonderful to have the links to myself once again. I got back into the car, turned on the engine and heated seat and basked in the glow. You’ll see a facsimile of my scorecard nearby; o.k. I did adjust the rules a bit.

In some small and apparently insignificant way I feel I have confirmed Schrödinger’s cat paradox without the problematic box.     To all intents and purposes Inverleith pitch and putt is dead having been fatally wounded by the forces of rugby union, but today it was alive and gave me a feedback like the oscilloscope on a Heartstart machine.     It did not flat line – no one called me to order – I still had the Park Bye-Laws in my favour to play the game and there was no one in my way.   It was both alive and dead – dead to most people but for nearly an hour still alive to me and fun to be taken down Memory Lane again.   

Perhaps in due course I should advise two groups of my successful round – ‘Lost Edinburgh’(a website) and  The ‘Crazy world of Minigolf’ tour. I suspect however that the latter would result in a swathe of visitors, and a genuine chance of becoming the subject of a prosecution for bringing the ‘course’ to their attention.

Next time I shall have to organise Alastair, my editor, to help me get my petrol mower into the boot of my car.       I am sure that he can purloin a hole cutter from somewhere (Bruntsfield Golf Club) and we shall drive early one fine morning to Powderhall putting green, mow a lawn, cut 9 holes and have a game of putting.     Hopefully my “skill” in dealing with 19th century putting surfaces will tell against Stimpmeter man and even though we replace the cores removed to construct the holes (for Health and Safety reasons) we will leave a tangible reminder and perhaps create a new problem in the world of quantum mechanics-officially it is dead but somehow it has sparked into half-life for others to take back control – now where have I heard that phrase before?

© Frank R Crowe 21st June 2020

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