3 Men and Their Clubs Part 2 A Golf Odyssey of Ireland and Scotland

Chapter 2 – Scotland

As told to Henry Petty

Arriving in Edinburgh, and after checking into our fabulous central accommodation; The Princes Street Suites, we took an easy walk to Royal Mile.

Royal Mile, a World Heritage site, is a succession of streets in the heart of the Old Town Edinburgh, with Edinburgh Castle at its head and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at its foot. Its name comes from its tradition as a processional route for kings and queens for the last 500 years ewh.org.uk.

We immersed ourselves in these vibrant streets filled with people and entertainers.  and enjoyed a drink and the music at a local pub. The Whiski Bar.

Our timing to Edinburgh was perfect.  We had arrived in the middle of the world-famous annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  The festival attracts entertainers, comedians, and street performers from around the world and runs through August, along with the Military Tattoo, attracting thousands of people every year. 

There is never a dull moment, and the city is known as a year-round cultural mecca, providing plenty of evidence that Edinburgh doesn’t need a reason to party.

A must-visit city.

Being keen on a good laugh and comedy entertainment, on our 2nd night, we enjoyed a comedy show at the “The Monkey Barrel Comedy” venue in the middle of a very busy Edinburgh.

Having spent a great couple of nights in this wonderful city, we were heading off the following day to play golf.

In the morning, we picked up our rental vehicle and drove a short distance (about 40 minutes) through recently harvested fields of barley and wheat, a golden vista in the Scottish countryside, arriving in East Lothian to play The Glen Golf Club in North Berwick.

The Glen is a coastal links course. An undulating challenge of a course with a unique drop shot, Par 3, where the green is positioned against the rocky shoreline. The view is a spectacular outlook over the Firth of Fife.

Following this game, we travelled further east for a 6-night/4-course stay and play in the beautiful fishing town of Eyemouth. Eyemouth is a small town with a big heart and an interesting history of witches, smuggling and the sad loss of the fishing fleet in October of 1881 in a terrible storm.   We stayed in another fabulous Airbnb, “The Old Bakery”, which is close to The Contented Sole, our “local” for the week.

The publican, Eddie, was a charming host running a great bar with plenty of local characters. making for a very memorable time in Eyemouth.

Eddie is a sponsor of the Eyemouth Golf Club, enabling us to play for free. The club isn’t on the “famous courses” list but is well worth a visit. For example, the short par 3, 6th hole, plays over a ravine with the North Sea awaiting wayward shots.

Our next round was one of my “bucket list” courses, North Berwick West Links Golf Club. Founded in 1832 this club has a reputation for being amongst the best. Rated 32nd best in the world and a “must-play” by tour players.  Lying on a narrow strip of land it features stone walls, burns, wicked contours, and big undulating greens.

No.3 course on our list was Dunbar Golf Club. Dunbar Golf Club, between North Berwick and Eyemouth, is a short, picturesque, coastal drive and we were quickly on the tee.  A golf course groomed to perfection is a beautiful thing, and Dunbar is groomed to perfection every day.

According to the members, this course is a must-play.  With masterful design and layout, this wonderful course defies the space a golfer would assume a player would need for 18 holes.  A course good enough to have played host to numerous Championships and used as the final qualifying course for The Open.

On the final leg of our 4-course journey, we drove south past Hadrian’s Wall, located near the border of modern-day Scotland and England and continued to Northern England, through Berwick-upon-Tweed to Goswick Golf Club.

Goswick is an interesting, challenging, and stylish links course. Exposed to the coastal location and only protected by the big sand dunes, in this environment, the course was in great condition and will always be a good test of a player’s abilities. Once again links golf at its best.

We couldn’t leave East Lothian without a night out. “The Contented Sole” was the pub of choice, of course, and although closing time came before it was wanted, the send-off by Eddie, his staff, and locals will never be forgotten.  Eddie presented the three of us with a hip flask of beautiful Jura whiskey. A generous, heartfelt gift from a man and the wonderful people of East Lothian who had made us feel so welcome.

The next stop for a 2-night stay was The Home of Golf, St Andrews. Situated in the province of Fife, this is a stunning part of Scotland.  Surrounded by beautiful countryside dotted with wild poppies waving in the summer breeze, old stone walls overgrown with parched golden grasses, and delightful old plaster brick and tiled roofed cottages lumped side by side against slopes and valleys of the old roads and charming lanes heading to the sea, St Andrews itself is a busy, bustling city. Saint Andrews University brings diversity; the golf courses bring tourists.

A warm, friendly city with so many in their happy place, it has a great vibe. We arrived at this charming place for our 1 p.m. Tee on The Jubilee Course.

The Jubilee Course is supposedly the most difficult of the 7 St Andrews Links courses, but we enjoyed a calm day, and the course was in excellent condition. The St Andrews courses share a beautiful clubhouse which serves great food and beverages and provides an atmosphere second to none that soaks up the after-round hours into the evening.

Departing for more rounds of golf further north and with great hopes, fingers, and toes crossed, sending gratitude and whatever else to the “higher powers,” that we could secure a game on The Old Course, upon our return to St Andrews we left for our next tee time.

Ladybank golf club, a course that has been used as an Open Championship qualifying course.  It is an inexpensive inland “linksy” style course with plenty of trees, and heather dotted around the contours.  It is beautiful.

Our next stop was Auchterarder Golf Course. But first, we needed to check into our 3-night accommodation. Our Airbnb in the township of Auchterarder was a fully equipped new, welcoming abode made more so by the much-appreciated dram waiting for us to enjoy.

Once settled, we headed to the golf course. Auchterarder is not a long course, but with some super-fast sloping greens, it provides a great game of golf in beautiful surroundings.  We enjoyed a 2nd game the next day.

Our stay in Auchterarder was over and we headed further north and into Cairngorms National Park.

An astoundingly grand and picturesque part of the country, dissected by world-renowned fly-fishing locations on the River Spey. The area is also adorned with several picturesque blue lochs.

We had chosen Aviemore, a central ski resort town in the Cairngorms which boasts plenty of accommodation and restaurant choices. We spent 3 nights at (Airbnb) Wee Blondies Ski Cottage.

10 minutes from our accommodation was Spey Valley Golf Club, a large, sprawling championship course of the finest quality. We walked the course, but a cart is recommended. Surrounded by beautiful views of the river and mountains beyond with a massive water bird sanctuary housing some 1000 nesting snow geese, when we were there. The Spey Valley Course became a favourite.

Day 2 we played the renowned Boat of Garten course. Boat of Garten is an older course (established in 1898) with a rich history. History including the story that Jack Nicklaus apparently used to practice there to prepare, before taking on the championship courses in competitions such as The British Open, where he had tremendous success throughout his career.

Leaving Aviemore and further north, we found ourselves driving through to the region of Moray to Spey Bay Golf Club.

This course on land with a rich history is a classic old coastal layout with tee blocks one step from the stoney beach. We enjoyed a day of glorious weather and the sweeping views across the Moray Firth.

Spey Bay Golf Course is due to have a major redevelopment and upgrade, with a completion date of 2026. I suspect it will look quite different in the future.

After enjoying a beer and debriefing our game, we cut a track and took a short 25-minute drive to the small coastal village of Portknockie, where we stayed for the night at the old stone Victoria Hotel.

An inexpensive classic Scottish pub with great food and comfortable rooms it was perfect for our one-night stay in this quaint little seaside town.

We arrived on Monday late afternoon, and while relaxing and enjoying a beer, I received a much-anticipated phone call from a friend. A member of The St Andrews Golf Club, confirming a tee time for us on The Old Course, 8.40am Wednesday.

The caller asked if this was ok for us!  YES! I replied succinctly.

Tuesday morning, three extremely excited men departed the beautiful northern part of Scotland, with all its stunning highlands, sparkling mysterious rivers and lochs, and fantastic golf courses, for a 3-hour drive south and back to St Andrews.

Our Wednesday morning tee time was a pinch-me moment for us all.  Here we were 3 , with varying degrees of ability, amateur golfers from lil ol “Nue Zaland” playing The Old Course at St Andrews. The home of golf and a lifelong dream of any golf tragic.

St Andrews Old Course where the game started and continues to baffle and provide so much enjoyment and frustration for millions of players and spectators around the world.

The course where golfers from all over the world wait expectantly, after having entered the required ballot hoping their number comes up for a tee time, while others queue from as early as 1am hoping to pounce on a vacant spot.

This life-changing experience was capped off by an “invitation only” visit to The Member Clubhouse across the road from the 18th.

The haloed clubhouse is bulging with history. Trophies and photographs of famous players across the ages hang on the walls along with Honours boards and old golf memorabilia spanning the history of the game.

We felt as if we had made our own piece of history just by being within the walls of such a revered, respected, and honoured clubhouse.

No golfers visit to St Andrews would be complete without taking in a pint or two at The Dunvegan pub, with its walls and ceilings adorned with photographs of players current and past, the atmosphere is pure gold.

To complete our Golf Odyssey of Ireland and Scotland, 25 rounds in 42 days, the day before our departure to Glasgow to fly home, we drove 40 minutes north to play the members course at Carnoustie the Buddon Links.

An inexpensive, high-quality traditional links course with over-the-fence views of “The Toughest Test on the British Open rota,” Carnoustie Championship Links.

And therein lies another trip to Scotland.

“Golf is an exercise which is much used by a gentleman in Scotland……A man would live 10 years the longer for using this exercise once or twice a week.”
Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745 – 1813)
the history of golf.

Postscript – We 3 mates had such a great trip. A self-planned, cost-effective golfing trip of a lifetime.  Ireland and Scotland have hundreds of great golf courses, beautiful countryside, castles, cliffs, towns, villages, pubs, and most of all, such friendly and welcoming folk, making this bucket list trip a breeze.  Thank you all.

Story and images contributed by William Winchester

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