As fully paid up members of the world wide golf community, we all love to take on the challenge of displaying our skills playing in another country on a selection of its best golf courses. A visit last year to USA provided just such an opportunity to assess the type of customer experience members and visitors have come to expect from their country’s golf club operators. This prompted some reflection on precisely what anyone embarking on a Scottish golf vacation should expect and,critically, be prepared to do without.
No. 1 Let’s be clear, golf is a walking game
Yes, we all know how much fun you can have with a group of golf friends and a couple of golf buggies. However, unless you are physically not able to walk, you will be expected to get round the links under your own steam, easily exceeding your 10,000 steps target with consummate ease and take every opportunity to breathe in the freshest of fresh air. Feel free to engage the services of a local caddie or support the local Pro by hiring an electric trolley. Walk if you are able to; tread where the great champions have gone before.
No. 2 The game of golf is not meant to be easy ( or fair ! )
Challenging ? Yes. Frustrating ? Definitely. This is particularly true on the majestic Open venues at St Andrews, Carnoustie, Turnberry and Muirfield and crazily tough on our northern links at Brora, Royal Dornoch, Nairn, Cruden Bay and numerous others when the weather turns nasty and a “ 3 shot wind “ decides to visit the Scottish coastline.
No excuses allowed. This is GOLF the way it was intended to be played and the very reason you have decided to travel to these ancient lands in the first place.
Listen carefully to the good advice. Adjust your swing to suit the conditions; manage your way round the golf course. Take your medicine.
Of course it was a great drive. Of course it went “ straight down the middle “ but now your ball is sitting safely engulfed down in a nasty fairway pot bunker. Clearly a tee shot down the centre of the fairway was not the correct choice of shot. The quicker you learn to accept this, the quicker you will learn to love the LINKS.
No. 3 The rough is meant to punish your poor shot
At all times your ball should be kept on the short stuff. Leave the fairway on some immaculately manicured country club style course and your lie is probably only slightly worse than if the ball was sitting in the centre of the fairway. When the top Pros are engaged in sporting battle at an Open on one of the Scottish venues, a wayward tee shot into heavy rough will immediately stimulate a small army of officials,spotters and spectators into action, resulting in a found ball, possibly a generous ruling and an effective recovery.
When you play these intimidating courses under normal circumstances the same wayward shot into punishing rough will inevitably result in a provisional ball, stroke and distance.
No. 4 Target golf is not on the agenda
If your idea of golfing paradise is striking a series of middle and short irons on to heavily watered greens, seeing your ball land and screw backwards followed by a couple of gentle putts on surfaces resembling a snooker table then links golf is going to come as a shock. As all the best Open Champions have discovered this classic form of the game demands creativity, especially around the greens and an ability to manufacture shots working with the landscape and not against it. Any decent period of dry sunny weather coupled with the effect of the coastal breeze rapidly creates hard fast greens which will easily embarrass even the finest of putters.
No. 5. Four seasons in one day is not a myth
On your much anticipated two weeks Scottish golf tour the chances are very slim that you will experience bright blue skies and dry calm conditions every time you tee it up.In fact you could well find yourself starting in shorts and short sleeves only to hole out on the 18th green clad in Goretex and hiding below an umbrella.
Our changeable ( ! ) weather is a very good reason why we advocate allowing two weeks and a varied schedule of courses spread round the Scottish golf map in an attempt to balance out the conditions.
A classic Scottish links combined with what the locals will describe as a “ testing breeze “ , hopefully an absence of rain and you have the perfect conditions to ensure one of the golf world’s great experience.
No. 6. Our golf clubs have a course and a clubhouse
With a few notable exceptions like the famed golf centred resorts at Gleneagles and Turnberry, the vast majority of our Scottish golf clubs consist of a finely maintained course, an elegant, comfortable clubhouse and a well stocked Pro shop. We go to our golf clubs to play golf. We don’t go there for a swim or to play tennis or a workout in the gym or a haircut.
What you should expect is a warm welcome from the clubhouse staff and the team in the Pro shop, a well organised tee time schedule, a well maintained golf course, a nourishing good quality lunch or dinner and a couple of refreshments from a well stocked bar.
Here endeth the first six lessons. We could have added to them but the intention is not to alarm but simply to identify the challenges which have faced golfers ever since these fabulous courses were designed, created and continually improved.
If you have never played on a links course you are missing out on a fantastic golf experience. The only real way to appreciate the challenge is to get out there, bring your best game and just enjoy it.