The Top 10+ Videos from Scotland 2021
ISLE OF COLONSAY GC
It is believed that golf has been played on this remote island machair since the 1770’s. If that is true, nothing much has changed on this wondrous links in the intervening 350 years. The beautiful, resilient turf gives you energy as you walk the course – mostly likely you will be the only group playing. Isle of Colonsay is maintained largely by sheep, who have free reign over the machair, including the greens. Rabbit holes and scrapes are in abundance, as are natural bunkers created by sheep. Robbie found a sixty year old British size Dunlop 65 in a rabbit hole and graciously gave it to me. In over 45 years of playing this game, the time I spent on the Isle of Colonsay with my friend ranks in the top five experiences of my entire life.
Located on the Isle of Bute, about 6 miles south of the lovely Victorian era holiday town of Rothesay, Bute GC is a nine hole gem on the Sound of Bute. The walk from the small car park to the delightfully tiny clubhouse immediately lets you know you are in for a rare day of pure Scottish golf. The 324 yard par four second hole is played over an ancient stone wall to a green hard by the Sound – and it is one of the best and most stunning holes in Scotland.
Prestwick GC on the Ayrshire coast, the first home of the Open Championship, is one of the holy places in golf. The overwhelming sense of history that a golfer feels while playing this brilliant links is matched only by The Old Course. The 533 par five 3rd hole is called Cardinal and the second shot must be played over the Cardinal bunker. I must allow the great Bernard Darwin to describe Cardinal:
The third is the “Cardinal,” and has done a vast deal of mischief in its time. A topped brassie shot into the cavernous recesses of the bunker was generally thought to have cost Mr. Laidlay a championship when he played Mr. Peter Anderson; and, to come to more modern times, it was in this very same bunker that his supporters saw with horror the great Braid trying to throw away the championship by playing a game of racquets against those ominous black boards. Yet, in the ordinary way, if we can hit but a reasonably straight tee-shot, we ought to send our second flying far over the Cardinal’s sandy nob and a good long way towards the green. Then comes a delicate little pitch over some hummocky ground, or, if we are lucky, a running-up shot, and we find ourselves on a small green under the shadow of the wall, and should obtain a respectable five; a four is, as a rule, the score of heroes only. – The Golf Courses of the British Isles, 1910
Dunaverty GC is located in Southend, on the North Channel of the Irish Sea, about 8 miles east of the Mull of Kintyre – made famous in song by Sir Paul McCartney in 1977. Sir Paul’s beautiful High Park Farm is just a few minutes away and it is easy to see why he and Linda Eastman fell in love with the Kintyre Peninsula in 1966. Dunaverty GC is a brilliant one-off and doesn’t need assistance from the former Beatle – it easily extols its’ own virtues. Starting at the third hole perched above Dunaverty Beach, the links has a stretch of holes through the eleventh that are unmatched for beauty, fun and strategy. The blind, punchbowl 170 yard par three fourth hole is perhaps the essence of the Scottish game distilled into one perfect package.
SHISKINE GOLF & TENNIS CLUB
Shiskine, on the west coast of the stunning Isle of Arran, has twelve holes – it needs no more or no less. Played on a sunny day on the Kilbrannan Sound, it can be a near religious experience – to those susceptible to such things. The 275 yard Shore Hole, the 6th, is perfection. With a helping wind, the hidden green can be fetched from the tee, if the correct line is taken. The green site, in a natural punchbowl at the base of mighty gorse covered sand dunes, is the stuff of your links golf dreams.
Intrigued by a couple of photos I had seen over the years, I decided to make a detour – on my way to Durness – over to the small town of Gairloch on the northwest coast. It is located on Loch Gairloch, which is essentially the Atlantic Ocean. My curiosity was rewarded with a stunning nine hole course, each hole like an individual jewel in a golden crown. I utilized the honesty box and got in eighteen holes before the staff of the lovely cafe, which functions as a clubhouse, got in to start preparing lunch. Gairloch has it all: views, fun, strategy, criss-crossing holes – all for 20 GBP. The par five eighth, with its tee high above the golden strand, is one of the best holes in Scotland. In true Scottish fashion, the par three ninth plays back across the eighth fairway to a lovely elevated green. The sequence of the seventh, eight and ninth at Gairloch ranks with any three hole stretch I have ever played.
Brora GC lives a bit in the shadow of its’ more famous neighbor, the great Royal Dornoch. It should not do, as the James Braid masterpiece is one of the great links courses in the entire world. As was the basis of the great man’s design approach, the holes of Brora fit elegantly and effortlessly into the stunning linksland. Crofting rights are revered in Scotland, so you will share this sacred links with surprisingly curious sheep and, at times, highland cattle. A traditional “out and back” links, the 162 yard par three ninth hole is at the far end of the property – before you make the turn towards home. You can be forgiven for pausing for a few minutes, as I did, to take in the glorious scene of the ninth hole at Brora.
Wick is an exceedingly friendly and welcoming club on the North Sea, not far from the well-known village of John O’Groats – often thought to be the northernmost point on the UK mainland. It is a fast, traditional Scottish links – in fairness, it was perhaps the fastest running links I played during an entire month of golf in Scotland. Shots can, and should, be played low and along the ground. Near the end of the round come two of the best holes at Wick, the 340 yard par four sixteenth, Cable House, and the 350 yard par four seventeenth – aptly named Sinclair Bay. The blind tee shot on the seventeenth was one of my favorites of the trip.
NORTH BERWICK GC
Robbie and I drove from Argyll and across the country to accept an invitation to play the historic links of North Berwick. The kindness and welcome, afforded to us by California native and University of Edinburgh Professor Joshua Ralston, was worth every minute of the drive. North Berwick is one of the original templates of golf course architecture and is simply brilliant from the start to the finish in town. It has been twenty years since my last round at North Berwick and that was too long of a gap. Robbie continued his solid play, breaking 80 after we had walked the difficult Gullane GC in the morning. After the hike of the morning round, I called the starter at North Berwick begging for a caddie – and was rewarded with Catriona Matthew’s longtime caddie (and husband) Graeme. He was a true gentleman and his encyclopedic knowledge of the course made our day even more enjoyable.
Mt. Zion, the 266 yard par four eleventh at Dunaverty, is my spiritual home of golf. Northern Ireland, Dunaverty Rock and the Keil Hotel are in the distance. The tenth green is in the foreground, with the aiming pole for the brilliant ninth lying beyond. This is a place to stop, as the great Angus MacVicar once wrote, and “thank the Creator for giving you life and for giving you life as a golfer.”
Corrie GC lies on the opposite side of Arran from Shiskine. For years, I had been told – by Robbie and others – that I needed to visit this wee nine holer. I finally made it and played it four times – the highest praise I can give a course on a trip of this kind. The landscape of Corrie, on a sunny day, is almost surreal. I am sure my mouth was open as I stood in awe of the of the brilliant natural canvas created by God. The course is great too, with hole after hole eliciting out loud laughs due to the sheer unapologetic quirkiness. This is from the third fairway, with the bizarre, almost vertical wall green front in the distance. Lunch in the Corrie Tea Room, where your green fee is paid, is almost as good as the golf itself.
THE SEA CAPTAIN’S HOUSE AT DUNAVERTY ROCK
Quite simply, the best golf-related place I have ever stayed – or non-golf related for that matter. Donnie, the wonderful owner of the this collection of Airbnb’s at the base of Dunaverty Rock, was a perfect host – kindly offering me some missing supplies so I could cook dinner for Robbie and I without heading all the way back to the Tesco in Campbeltown. It is just a stunning spot on Dunaverty Bay and a 20 second walk to the great fourth green. It is the type of place that you never want to leave.
Durness is remote and it is not easy to get to, especially with the proliferation of camper vans barrelling down the A838, which in fairness is not as good as most B roads in Scotland. However, that should not discourage you from making the trip to this beautiful place. I was the only person on the course this day and, like Shiskine, it was a somewhat spiritual experience. For some reason, I strongly felt Jordan’s presence with me and I took my time, stopping at almost every bench to take in the natural beauty. The fifth was my favorite hole, but that was following closely by the eighth shown here – a brilliant downhill 360 yard par four and the ninth which ranks with any par three in the world. Find a place to stay in Durness so you can enjoy your time there, it is worth the pilgrimage.
SHISKINE GC PT II
The fourth tee at Shiskine is another of one of the high holy spots in golf. From the heights of Drumadoon Point that you have scaled to the third green, you play back down 140 yards to the fourth. The eighth and ninth holes are revealed. With Kilbrannan Sound as a backdrop, you might even imagine that you see Carradale GC in the far distance.
ISLE OF SEIL GC
When I try to explain to people what is so great and unique about Scottish golf, courses such as Isle of Seil are what I usually fall back on. 9 fun holes in a remote and beautiful setting, with the occasional rabbit scrape, all for the sum of 10 GBP placed in an honesty box. Thank God places like this exist in the world.