Of the many clubs I’ve visited, I rarely received as warm a welcome as I did at Hopeman. From the club manager to my hosts, Hopeman is a wonderfully hospitable place.
The course was 9 holes from its formation in 1909 until it was extended to 18 in 1985. The front 9 is interesting - but with somewhat of an ‘inland’ character. The course comes alive on the back 9. Cut through the whins (gorse, to those south of the border), this land is of true links character. Tight turf and undulating fairways underfoot, and sensational views out over the Moray Firth.
Tom Mackenzie is consulting on the course, and I was pleased to hear one of the main objectives is to cut back said gorse. Some of the holes are incredibly tight. Keith, one of my great hosts, quipped he used to take a bag of golf balls when playing, now he takes his camera instead. Hopefully the penal gorse will continue receiving the chop.
Undoubtedly the most memorable hole on the course is the splendid 12th - ‘The Preisach’. This 150 yard par 3 is played down to the green resting in the bottom of an enormous crater. With gorse and shrubbery around the green, there is a heart in the mouth moment while you wait for your ball to drop (hopefully) on the cut stuff.
Hopeman is great. As welcoming as anywhere and with some truly memorable holes to boot. If Nairn Dunbar had the feel of a club aspiring to grander things, Hopeman felt completely at ease with itself. Friendly, unassuming and good fun - a small club with a great personality.