There was a time when I went to Scotland fairly often and I am looking forward to returning. Either it was all a very long time ago or a lot of drink was taken but memories are rather hazy so these are necessarily high or lowlights.
There was an ill fated trip north of Inverness when the most experienced flyer in our party was last seen banging on the departure gate at Gatwick having taken things a little too casually. I can’t even guarantee to remember the third course we played so will have to go again
Brora, I can’t remember any details other than it was rather fun and I still have the remains of a bolt of coral and cream checked cashmere cloth that was made subsequently into a dressing gown, a waistcoat and a pair of American shorts. The latter lost, fortunately for all.
Royal Dornoch. obviously this stands out, a par on the first, too. The fact that I can’t immediately recall any other golfing achievement is ominous. Read ‘A season in Dornoch” by Lorne Rubenstein, a lovely book that gives you a great idea of the club, the course and the place. I gotta go back
Crail; A lovely day, a beautiful place, irritatingly we just missed the seafood festival. A funny old course with too many par 3s but a few spectacular links holes where you have to take on the ocean down the 5th. I am sure that hole has inspired a few dozen since then and is probably an important staging post in course design
Montrose; My kind of place, a three way battle between the ocean’s erosion of the dunes, the wind and a little white ball. Inevitably the holes along the shoreline have the drama but there were plenty of canny holes on the back nine when you had earned a reprieve from the buffeting wind. I really enjoyed it but having played Carnoustie in the morning and needing to return to St Andrews that evening, I couldn’t spend as much time getting to know the place as I would have liked. They say that golf has been played there for centuries so I would recommend that it is on everyone’s ‘To do’ list.
Carnoustie; If ever there was a place where you need a clear head and the ability to forget the previous hole and just be in the moment then this is it. A clear head is not the default position at the best of times but especially on golf tour. Fiendish but beautiful holes on unpromising terrain make this a fantastic golf course. Better for matchplay I would suggest than a medal round. Also it is better for the sanity if you are observing rather than playing.
St Andrews; Old. I am aware that this course has been reviewed before and everyone has a very personal relationship with this amazing place. We played in early May, freezing rain, and only a couple of degrees the right side of zero. Two caddies with us we played confidently up the first, money was being exchanged behind us presumably on the basis of the opening shots, safely over the water to the back of the green. My first putt was woefully short “I hit my Granny harder than that” was heard from my chap. I salvaged some honour by holing the second putt for par. The weather got the better of me soon thereafter and I was well beaten but I found some inspiration and salvation down the closing holes by the surroundings, the footfalls of every aspiring golfer who has travelled round the world to play it just once, and the history of the place which comes in on the breeze accompanied by little gusts of early memories of winners and losers, treacherous and fabulous shots recalled from telly and book. Marvellous. Some say the course is flat and open, and undramatic but it doesn't play like that. As ever it is the people and the stories that are inspiring and dramatic.
St Andrews; Jubilee. This is the only other one of the St Andrews courses that I have played and it is a real treasure. Competing with the other courses in the area is a high stakes game! Some cracking holes long, tight, and closer to the shore this would be a peach anywhere and is worth the trip to St Andrews alone. Every club in the bag was used if not always correctly.
Muirfield; A club without a PR Agency. Mrs Mustard in the Secretary’s office could always be relied upon to get us on the course and she would take no prisoners. If she thought the members were not respectful of women I am sure she would have said so. Driving out from Edinburgh through Gullane only wets the appetite, then Greywalls, then the clubhouse and course. So beautifully tended such a classic course and bunkers everywhere that save you from the most terrible rough it is almost a pleasure to play out of them! Also one of those very cold places. On my first trip we were entertained by a magnificent barman who kept us hydrated before we settled into roast beef that seemed to have been prepared on spec, for us alone.
Prestwick, Glasgow Gailes, Troon; Another trip from another time. I recall bunkers and gorse and railway lines conspiring against me. And a swing and a miss on the first tee after lunch on the first day. So invariably I was asked to tee off first after lunch on each succeeding day with, inevitably, no variation in the outcome. I shall have to return to this phenomena, and the scene of this ignominy