The recent festivities was another conducted in an atmosphere of updated restrictions, mass testing programmes and general disruption to what we used to understand as normality. Of course many fine traditions have managed to withstand these challenging times.
In the sporting world, this time of year always brings a succession of reviews of the year, the handing out of countless awards and even, for a select few, a “gong” conferred by HM The Queen in her new year honours list. Sports journalists compete with endless predictions of who will dominate the winners’ circles in 2022, which up and coming potentials will finally make that crucial breakthrough and which companies and products will be the sporting public’s new go to brand.
The world of golf is certainly no exception to this annual process. Whilst the professional golf writers focus their attention and skills on the upcoming major tournaments, the majestic venues that will play hosts in 2022 such as Pine Needles Lodge, Brookline, Congressional, Muirfield, Southern Hills, and of course The Masters at Augusta National and what promises to be one of this year’s special events the 150th Open Championship played over The Old Course itself at St Andrews and all the possible contenders from across the golf playing globe including Hideki Matsuyama, Lydia Ko, Colin Morikawa, Nelly Korda, John Rahm, Jessica Korda, Brooks Koepka, Jin Young Ko and In Bee Park. Dare we dream that the likes of Rory McIlroy and our own shinty playing lefty Robert MacIntyre will feature at the top of the leaderboards this season?
For all of us amateur golf enthusiasts our targets and focus tend to be very different. Play more golf or possibly play less but better golf. Lower the handicap; possibly single figures! Win a monthly medal or win a club competition or possibly qualify for the club championship. Inevitably this ambition for self improvement leads to the annual failed commitment to book some badly needed lessons with the local PGA Pro or at least contribute to the Pro shop finances by investing in that much sought after new set of custom fitted clubs.
Every golf magazine and social media page will have their experts’ lists of the best new everything on the market that any self respecting modern golfer absolutely should not be seen without.
Fascinating as all the above may be for some, my own preference is to see the extensive lists of where golfers around the world have enjoyed playing in the last 12 months and more exciting where they plan to play and dream of playing in the next couple of seasons. Very encouragingly, those with a real passion for this great game of golf still see a trip to the home of golf to play a number of Scotland’s fantastic courses as an essential part of their lifetime golf C.V.
Bucket list after bucket list appearing over the festivities invariably included a healthy sprinkling of world famous Scottish links including The Old Course, Muirfield, Carnoustie, Turnberry, Royal Troon, Royal Dornoch and Prestwick (birthplace of The Open). The mere mention of these always conjures up images of the great Open Championships and the countless Champion Golfers of the Year who have all walked these very same fairways.
However, increasingly we see a rich mixture of our courses appearing on the wish lists. Highly rated classic layouts Barassie, Gailes and Western Gailes in Ayrshire, North Berwick and Gullane in East Lothian, Brora, Golspie and Fortrose in the Highlands, Nairn, Cruden Bay, Royal Aberdeen and Murcar in Aberdeenshire/Moray area, Montrose, Monifieth and Panmure in Angus and Lundin/Leven Links in Fife all feature strongly. Experienced golf travellers are now seeking out some of the new favourites such as Castle Stuart and Carnegie Links near Inverness, Trump Aberdeen, Kingsbarns just outside St Andrews and the very latest championship course built in Fife Dumbarnie Links.
The real golf adventure types are now also very well catered for. Machrihanish on the Kintyre Peninsula boasts one of the most intimidating First tee shots in all golf. Combine with Machrihanish Dunes and Dunaverty for an excellent couple of days. Head over to the whisky island of Islay and spend another couple of days playing The Machrie and sampling our national drink. Ardfin on the island of Jura has gone to the top of many golfers’ must play lists and Askernish on South Uist; originally laid out by Old Tom Morris has established itself as a holy grail for keen historians of the game after its incredible restoration.
If you are prepared to spend the additional time required getting to these special courses you will be guaranteed an incredible golf experience and a very warm Scottish welcome. Why not add them to the list now. The sooner they are on there, the sooner the planning can commence.