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    The Magic of the Scottish Golf Courses…

     

    Lochcarron golf club weathercock Ross-shire, Highland,Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

    Lochcarron Golf Club Weathercock Ross-shire, Highland, Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

     

    A few days ago, when I discovered ‘First Days of Golf’, Iain and Margaret’s last Letter from Scotland, I suddenly realised that our friends had been writing on Scotiana for more than one year. Their first letter appeared on February 13 th 2010 and we are not about to forget this memorable date since they had chosen as first subject the very popular figure of St Valentine, entitling their letter ‘St Valentine comes to Glasgow’;-).

    Always eager to receive a new Letter from Scotland, we treasure these marvellous little texts, so well written and documented, full of humour and letting show, from beginning to end, that touch of humanity and kindness that only belongs to them. So interesting are these pages that we often find it difficult to illustrate them with images or photos. These texts speak for themselves and they hardly need images. Our friends’ next letter will be the tenth! So, many thanks to Iain and Margaret who make us love Scotland still more deeply.

    Playing golf in the rain Ballachulish, Lochaber, Highland  © 2006 Scotiana

    Playing golf in the rain Ballachulish, Lochaber, Highland © 2006 Scotiana

    Today I will go on the subject of golf introduced by Iain and Margaret in ‘First Days of Golf’ and beautifully ‘stamped’ by Janice in her last post 😉 The 5 Most Famous Holes of Scottish Golf Courses. Not that we are golf players ourselves but it has not escaped to us, during our several trips to Scotland, that golf was a national game and that it well deserved the mythical dimension it had got abroad.

    With their neatly trimmed greens, often set amidst the most beautiful landscapes, the Scottish golf courses are immediately recognizable. The worse weather, and we know what that means in Scotland, doesn’t seem at all to discourage Scottish golf players. How often have we stopped the car to watch them fully absorbed in their game while it was pouring down;-)

    I invite you to share with us the magic of the Scottish golf atmosphere through a choice of photos we’ve taken in the country which is so appropriately called the  ‘Home of Golf”.

    Scotland  Fife St Andrews Old Course Club House Hamilton Hall Bridge over the Swilcan Burn

    The Old Course of St Andrews-View from the bridge over the Swilcan Burn. In the distance the R & A Club House and Hamilton Hall - © 2006 Scotiana

     

    We’ve been lucky enough to visit St Andrews on a very sunny day. The blue and green colours seemed more vivid and the old buildings clearly outlined against the azure sky.

    We stayed a long time visiting the ruins of St Andrews cathedral and what remains of the old castle, strolling along the picturesque streets lined with beautiful ancient houses and even venturing into the peaceful atmosphere of a university quadrangle closed by ivy-covered walls. But, as soon as we had arrived in St Andrews, we had stopped in front of the Old Course of St Andrews Links to see if the place looked like in our imaginary. It did ! Had we have had more time to spend there, we might have tried our hand at this open-air and typically Scottish  sport!

    I like to refer to my favourite authors to illustrate my purpose, especially when he or she can tell me something about the good old times, ‘le bon vieux temps’ as we say in French so, I invite you to read below a particularly interesting page about golf in the early 1900s. It was written by J. J. Bell, a Scottish journalist and author who particularly loved his native Scotland.

    J.J. Bell The Glory of Scotland George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd 1932

    The Glory of Scotland by J.J. Bell - George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd 1932

     

    ‘Good weather to those who take Mr Bell for a guide!’


    (Compton Mackenzie – Preface to The Glory of Scotland -1932)

     

    [St Andrews] stands high on a slight promontory in a wide, shallow bay – westward, a long lovely reach of sands, bordering the Links (..)

    It is easy to understand the quickening pulse of the golfer who approaches these Links for the first time. Since my small boyhood, when I looked with awe at Tom Morris, I have always regarded that unimposing but dignified building, the Club House of the Royal and Ancient, with something more than mere respect. In those days the members played in scarlet jackets, since when no pullovers have ever made such rich pictures on the greens.

    Then, too, there was but one course, known to-day as “the Old”. Now there are also “the New,” “the Eden,” and “the Jubilee, “the last, I believe, being sometimes called “the Duffers’.” Everybody, of course, wants to play on “the Old,” which in summer means a ballot every evening. “The Old” starts from the Club House; the others from spots on the farther side of the Swilcan Burn, flowing so gently over its rich mud under a Roman bridge – of the eighteenth century. That long open stretch of turf, whin-bushes, and dunes, is a sight indeed for town-tired eyes, and beyond it are the Sidlaws above the Tay, and beyond them, afar, the Grampian Range – most glorious to spy on a clear winter day.

    Perhaps I should mention that there is no Sunday play – “the greens need a rest, as well as the folk,” quoth old Tom Morris; but there is no law against your walking out on the course, finest of promenades, while explaining fully to your companion how you came to take eight to the fourth hole on Saturday.  (The Glory of Scotland – Fife – J.J. Bell 1932)

    I’ve just read that John Joy Bell died two years after the publication of The Glory of Scotland and that he was buried in the old churchyard of St Machar’s cathedral, Aberdeen.

    JJ Bell Gravestone St Machar's Cathedral Aberdeen Photo by Dr. Gavin T.D. Greig Source: Wikipedia

    JJ Bell Gravestone-St Machar's Cathedral - Aberdeen, Scotland - Photo by Dr. Gavin T.D. Greig Source: Wikipedia

     

    We never fail to take a couple of photos when we fall upon a writer’s grave, so I wonder if one of us has taken a  picture of J. J.  Bell’s final resting place when we visited St Machar’s churchyard. It was raining so hard then that we did not linger there. I remember pretty well, however, the atmosphere of the very picturesque streets surrounding St Machar’s Cathedral in old Aberdeen. It had been pouring down all day on ‘The Flower of Scotland’ and the beautiful granite town, so famous for his outstanding parks, gardens and floral displays, could not have looked greyer. But grey can be beautiful in Scotland 😉

    Since the time when J.J. Bell wrote The Glory of Scotland three new courses have opened on St Andrews’ Links : The Balgove Course (1972), the Strathyrum Course (1993), and Castle Course (2008). If the city of St Andrews ,where golf has been played for about 600 years, has often been called the ‘golf’s Mecca’ there are many other golf sanctuaries in Scotland and we’ve discovered some of them during our travels there.

    Lochcarron golf club Ross-shire, Highland  © 2007 Scotiana

    Lochcarron Golf Club, Ross-shire, Highland, Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

    So close to the churchyard is Lochcarron nine hole golf course that, while I was taking photographs there, I would not have been surprised to see a golf ball landing on one of the graves in front of me!

    Surrounded by mountains, in the Highlands, Lochcarron is in itself a very picturesque village situated at the foot of Glen Carron and stretching along the eastern shore of Loch Carron, a beautiful sea loch.

    Lochcarron is a nine hole course, although there are actually eleven tees. On the shoreline, on the edge of moorland, this is a magnificent
    setting near the head of Loch Carron with views to the surrounding hills. It surrounds the old church and burial ground (out of bounds) and
    straddles the public road. The 2nd and 3rd holes owe their character to the shore and can appear very different by your second nine just from
    the ebb and flow of the tide.
    With a variety of challenges this is a delightful course for the novice and experienced golfer alike. Away from the crowds, beginners and family groups can enjoy an unhurried game.

    Source: GolfHighland.com

    In Scotland, contrary to many countries, golf is not restricted to the higher social classes and though some golf links blatantly show an aristocratic air which appeals more to the  ‘milliardiaire’ than to the ordinary citizen, everybody can find cheap opportunities to practice this sport. The Old Course of St Andrews, which is publicly owned, is one of them! Let us hope that it will remain as such for a long time in this more and more money-oriented society where private interests are gaining ground each day.

    Golf has indeed become a very profitable business and Scotland appears to be one of the most coveted places to launch new projects. In a country traditionally egalitarian and deeply attached to its environment, a wave of protest has arisen against Donald Trump’s project to build  an international luxury golf in the midst of a wild and protected area near Aberdeen. This very controversial topic has been in the headlines for months, but it was an unequal contest and the cause has been lost…

    Gleneagles flower-bed Auchterarder, Perth and Kinross, Scotland  © 2007 Scotiana

    Gleneagles near Auchterarder, Perth and Kinross, Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

     

    There are more than 500 golf courses in Scotland and some of them are famous all over the world like Turnberry or Gleneagles. We’ve been quite impressed when we passed in front of these mythical places. We stopped to take photos at Gleneagles, under a changing sky.

    Gleneagles golf course Auchterarder, Perth and Kinross, Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

    Gleneagles Golf Course, Auchterarder, Perth and Kinross, Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

     

    Be sure not to forget your palette of green colours if you want to paint such places! They are green, green, green

    Scotland golf, Perth and Kinross, Auchterarder, Gleneagles, eagle emblem © 2007 Scotiana

    Gleneagles Golf, Eagle emblem, Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

    Contrary to what the above emblem suggests, Gleneagles’ s name has nothing to do with eagles.  I’ve read on Wikipedia that the name came from the ancient word ‘eaglais’ (ecclesia) which means ‘church’ and that it referred to the chapel and well of Saint Mungo, which had been restored as a memorial to the Haldane family which owns the Gleneagles estate.

    Gleneagles Hotel general view © 2007 Scotiana

    Gleneagles Hotel- General view- Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

    You hardly dare entering that kind of estate when you arrive at its gates in your travelling costume. The Gleneagles luxury hotel which won a 5 Red AA Stars Award in 1986 has certainly not been conceived for the man in the street and its history confirms the first impression. The building of this huge golf resort began in 1913. It had been commissioned by the Caledonian Railway Company but work was interrupted in 1914 when WWI broke out. Two golf courses were already completed: the King’s Course and the Queen’s Course.

    When the Hotel finally opened, in 1924, with its own railway station, it was mainly a residence for the higher classes who come here to play golf or shoot the groose according to the season. Indeed the place came to be called the ‘Riviera in the Highlands’ and ‘the 8th wonder of the world’. The Wee Course was opened in 1928 and in the 1980s the Monarch’s Course was added, best known today under the name of PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) Centenary Course. This last golf course will host the 40th Ryder Cup Matches in 2014.

    The  remoteness of Gleneagles Hotel, the security of the place and the excellence of its luxurious facilities make it the ideal location for international conferences. It is there that the 31st G8 summit was held in 2005. The countries which have participated to this summit were France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Russia.

    Will this magnificent building, which boasts no less than four restaurants (each one being run by a renowned Chef), will be ready to host the Ryder Cup in 2014?  I’ve just learned in an article dated April 5th 2011 that works of refurbishment had stopped because of the discovery of asbestos in some of the buildings.

    Gleneagles golf caddy Auchterarder Perth and Kinross Scotland  © 2007 Scotiana

    Golf player driving his caddy at Gleneagles, Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

     

    Even if you don’t play golf, a walk along the well-kept alleys of this magnificent estate are worth the trip. The landscape is superb as you can see in this extract from the Gleneagles Hotel website:

    The PGA Centenary Course begins by playing southeast towards the glen, sweeping up the Ochil Hills to the summit of the pass below Ben Shee which joins it to Glendevon.
    A feature of the PGA Centenary Course is the feast of views of the spectacular countryside in which Gleneagles is set. Putting on the two-tier second green, you are distracted by the lush panorama of the rich Perthshire straths. As you move westwards over the next few holes, the rugged Grampians come into view on the right, then distantly purple ahead, Ben Vorlich and the mountains above the Trossachs.

    Turnberry Hotel golf resort South Ayrshire Southwestern Scotland  © 2007 Scotiana

    Turnberry Hotel, South Ayrshire, Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

     

    Situated in South Ayrshire, on the beautiful Southwestern coast of Scotland  the golf resort of Turnberry arrives 1st in the list of the Top 100 golf courses of Scotland and 5th in that of the Top 100 golf courses of the world. Given the breathtaking landscape where it is situated and its history this golf resort well deserves its reputation.

    The impressive five-star 100-bedroom Turnberry Hotel was designed by James Miller and completed in 1906. James Miller (1860-1947) was a great Scottish architect who was born and brought up in Perthshire and set up his business  in Glasgow in 1892 where, among other buildings, he designed the Royal Infirmary which is situated not far from St Mungo’s cathedral. But he is best known for having  built a great number of railway stations, the most famous one being that of Wemyss Bay and the West Highland Railway Stations, our favourite being, of course, the nice little Rannoch Moor Station where we’ve been lucky to film the arrival of the famous Royal Scotsman.

    The Turnberry Hotel was used as an hospital during WWI and WWII and the golf courses served as a ground to train the RAF pilots. This luxury hotel was bought in 2008 by Leisure Corp, Dubai world’s Sport and Leisure subsidiary.

    Turnberry Hotel golf course South Ayrshire Western Scotland  © 2007 Scotiana

    Turnberry Hotel golf course South Ayrshire Western Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

    Turnberry offers a lot of golf facilities to the players. It has three courses (Ailsa Course, Kintyre Course and Arran Course), a golf academy (the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy) and a pitch and putt course (mini-golf in French ;-))

    Turnberry Ailsa golf course South Ayrshire Southwestern Scotland  © 2007 Scotiana

    Turnberry, Ailsa Golf course, South Ayrshire, Southwestern Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

    Ailsa course,  built in 1902,  and renamed after the big volcanic rock which you can see (or not) from here, about a mile or so out in the sea. The 18 th hole has been nicknamed ‘Duel in the Sun’ following a memorable match opposing Tom Watson and Jack Niclaus in the 1977 Open Championship, under a scorching sun.

    Ailsa Craig island outer Firth of Clyde South Ayrshire Southwestern Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

    Ailsa Craig island, Firth of Clyde, South Ayrshire, Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

     

    If you can see Ailsa Rock, it’s about to rain. If you can’t it’s raining 😉

    (Local saying )

    That’s all for today. Bye Bye.

    Bonne lecture.

    Mairiuna.

     

     

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