Right now in these strange times most golf bags contain a bizarre combination of hand sanitiser, face mask and anything else deemed essential for self survival and for displaying selfless concern for our close companions.
Normally of course the process of setting up your golf bag is fairly straightforward. Ensure the maximum of 14 clubs is not exceeded, with clubs cleaned and dried,a selection of preferred brand of balls suitably marked, tees, ball marker, pitch mark repair tool, liquid refreshment and a couple of chocolate bars ( traditionally at least 12 months past their best before date ).
All very standard across the golf world but what about the situation when you and a dedicated group of friends or family have decided to head off on your first Scottish golf vacation. Suddenly the decision making process just got a whole lot more difficult. You need to bear in mind some key factors. You will be walking around 4 miles per round and the schedule involves two rounds on several days. It rains in Scotland; often without any warning. You will be playing a number of links courses, links where there is really nowhere to hide from the wind and rain or, on those magical days, the baking sun. We hope for the best ( weather ) and plan for the worst.
Here then is our recommended checklist.
1. A good supply of golf balls. You are going to lose a frightening number of golf balls as you attempt to negotiate your way round your tour itinerary. The gorse on many Scottish courses takes no prisoners. This is not country club style set-ups; the rough has a strangely magnetic pull on any wayward shot and unless you have mastered the ability to work the ball below the wind it will play havoc with any shot struck less than perfectly.
2. A high quality golf umbrella. I would be only too pleased if this was required to provide some shade from the relentless heat but sadly no. You will be very glad of your “ brolly “ as somewhere to simply hide behind when that gentle afternoon shower rapidly deteriorates into a mini monsoon.
3. A decent set of waterproofs / windproofs. Over the course of two weeks, one week or even an individual golf round on a classic Scottish course you can expect to encounter the complete range of weather conditions. Practising good layering is definitely the best solution. Every apparel manufacturer now boasts an extensive collection from base layers through technical mid layers and well tested “ shells “ guaranteeing to keep you dry, warm/ cool and just thoroughly comfortable out on the course. It is interesting to see the move towards natural fabrics such as merino wool and the focus on utilising recycled materials ( plastic bottles ) to create high quality products.
4. Comfortable pair of golf shoes. Covering 4 miles per round; a couple of rounds on some days during your golf trip resulting in potentially 20,000 steps plus in a day and you will appreciate just how important those spiked/spikeless beauties are going to be. It’s probably not a good idea to unveil your fresh out the box latest purchase walking to the first tee on the first round of a week/ 2 week golf tour. Far better to break in the new Footjoys/ Adidas/ Puma/ Nike or any of the other brands on your own course for a couple of rounds, add in a selection of well padded golf socks and you are good to go.
5. A suitable hat. Nobody seems to be quite sure when the baseball style cap was adopted by the golf world. Clearly the corporate marketing geniuses were thrilled by the newly created space for emblazoning their client’s logo on all the Tour Pros’s sponsored heads but for many this heralded the sad demise of the classic traditional golf cap. Regardless of your preferred style you need a decent brim to keep the sun out of your eyes ( the optimist! ) or to keep the rain from running down your face ( the realist ! ). When the wind picks up across the links it’s always sensible to have a good Beanie or Bobble hat at hand ( available from all good pro shops ).
6. Insect spray. No, not for mosquitoes. We don’t have any of those in Scotland. What we do have is the all- conquering West Coast Midge. Whilst you are unlikely to see them featured on any Attenborough “ Life on Earth “ special, these tenacious creatures have developed a reputation for wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting adventure tourist to Scotland. Fortunately for us golfers these beasties are primarily active mid to late evening, like to operate close to small lochs and ponds and are not keen on windy conditions. If you are able to organise your tee times to ensure early evening finishes or intend spending your golf vacation on our great Scottish links ( wind included ) then you may well never have to deal with this special threat. You have been warned.
The Scottish weather has always been unpredictable. Now some of our best conditions for golf seem to occur spring and autumn. We have summers when every other day sees 6 hrs of rainfall and summers of shorts, short sleeves and burnt fairways for weeks.
Standard approach. Hope for the best; prepare for the worst. Embrace the challenge and make sure you enjoy every minute of every round.