The second promotional video, starting with Chapter 1 and Allendale:
The second promotional video, starting with Chapter 1 and Allendale:
If, like me, you blagged your way through English at school using Letts study notes to save you the effort of actually ploughing through your Shakespeare or Jane Austen set-text, you will probably be tempted to pick up this handsome little paperback, flick it open at the chapter for your local area, scan read it to see if you recognise anyone, and put it back on the shelf. Please let me assure you; that would be a big mistake. This book deserves to be read in its entirety.
Admittedly, I did start at page 103 with Robin’s arrival on Mull, but then this is not a whodunnit, so why wouldn’t I? It rapidly dawns on the reader this is not a gazeeter of off-the-beaten-track golf courses, nor just another travelogue. Combining stories of local characters, history, social comment and even elements of autobiography, this delightful book will carry you along from Craignure (or wherever you choose to start) to Tobermory, then over the Sound of Mull to Kilchoan and onwards to Durness, where on completion, you’ll jump back to Allendale and find your way from there to your original departure point. Oh yes, and he plays and writes about golf on some of Scotland’s less-well-known courses, describing his experiences in a way that the longer handicapper will surely relate to.
In truth, it is difficult to say more about this book without resorting to either unnecessary hyperbole or outright pleading on behalf of the author, so let pictures paint a few words; they say never to judge a book by its cover, but maybe this is an exception. Admittedly the front cover carries a typical golf-in-the-highlands photo of the Sgurr of Eigg as seen from the third green at Traigh Golf Club near Arisaig – nothing at all wrong with that, since you ask; but flip over and look at the picture strip accompanying the synopsis on the back. There’s the Sphinx, a 1960s racing car, and Killin Railway Station in the age of steam alongside the more orthodox golf pics. Flick through the chapter heads and see the little quotes that accompany the title…Jacques Brel, da Vinci, Bob Dylan, Dickens. Now you’re starting to get a glimpse of where Robin Down will be taking you as you follow him on his golfing journey.
“Golf in the Wild” is quirky, no doubt about it, and a right good read for golfer and non-golfer alike. Don’t put it back on that shelf.
I had thought publishing Golf in the Wild was the end of a long journey but it turns out it was just the beginning. The slow, arduous distribution and PR process has already introduced me to some very supportive people from out-of-the-way places. Last weekend the good men of Traigh (see chapter 7) visited Allendale and were as enthusiastic about our course as I am enthusiastic about theirs. David Shaw Stewart produced an impromptu watercolour of Allendale’s signature hole, the 17th – Grand Canyon, in celebration of a grand, if windy and cold day out. I am proud to be mentioned and wish I had the talent to reciprocate.
Golf is all about numbers – look at a scorecard and it is covered in them: the holes 1 to 18; the White, Yellow and Red distances for each hole; pars; stroke indexes; gross scores; nett scores; stableford points, handicaps. Non-golfers might be surprised to know that there are GPS systems which tell you exact distances from where your ball has landed to the hole – more numbers.
Golf in the Wild takes you on a journey of 727 miles from Northumberland to the far northwest of Scotland, taking in fifteen courses – assuming you play eighteen at each that is a total of 270 holes and this is what awaits as a finale, on the last course, Durness – what a finish (click on the image to see if you can make out the flag):
This is exactly what the sadistic inventor of golf had in mind when he explained his intentions to Robin Williams – sensitivity warning – those offended by bad language should not watch/listen:
And this image just to prove that I don’t ‘dress like a pimp’ and no wheels are involved – I carry my own bag.
Having finally bitten the bullet and subscribed to InDesign CC, the formatting of the book is slowly taking shape. Starting with a blank sheet of paper is quite a daunting prospect – it seems like it should be easy – the page size is pre-defined, there is guidance on fonts and margins but there is still much to decide. It has taken me three days to get this far – the chapter heading is intended to echo a golf flag and there must be space for all the various course names and quotes, all of which vary in size e.g. Selkirk & Innerleithen. Then there are header and footer/page number options, line spacing, font sizes, footnotes, dropcaps etc etc. The challenge is to be original but professional – it has to “look right”. Hopefully it does.
The search for a publisher goes on but in the meantime here are some encouraging words from the friend of a friend (both writers):
Very interesting – and not just because I like the book idea. I think I probably told you I’ve embarked on a similar operation – blog etc – to help market my books. I’m no expert but your pal’s looks very good to me. I genuinely like the sound of the book and all your friend can do from now on is promote it as vigorously as possible. Sadly it’s a fact that many, many good books don’t get the success they deserve and many, many crap books become best sellers. A novel by the topless model Jordan once sold more copies than the aggregate sales of all the books on the Booker short list. It’s also a fact that some books come out of nowhere and sell many thousands and your friend can only hope his book is one of these. It could easily be the case.
The kindness of strangers…..
The weather has finally turned in the North East of England but this picture gives me hope. It was taken late October 2011, the sun is low but shining brightly and the autumn-coloured leaves still cling to the trees; there are more golfing days to come this year, hopefully dry ones. This is the view from Strathtay’s third tee with the par 3 green showing as a light patch between the trees. I can think of no other golf hole that climbs quite so steeply in such a short space – everything contrives to leave you breathless.
The course once played around the castle at Inveraray, on the other side of the view shown in this picture. Much in the way the town was relocated by the 3rd Duke of Argyll on aesthetic considerations, the 10th and 11th descendants took a similarly dismal view of the great unwashed playing golf in the Castle grounds. The course remained closed until 19th June 1993 when it was re-opened by the 12th Duke at an appropriate distance from the castle, on the southern side of town. The artist’s impression of the course at the beginning of the Inveraray chapter portrays the Castle overlooking the first – a slightly misleading juxtaposition.
If asked to name my favourite course from the book I would probably have to say it is Traigh. My opinions may be different had I arrived on a soggy dreich day but on both occasions I have washed up on its shores the conditions have been perfect, none more so than on my first visit. This photograph of the but’n’ben style clubhouse was taken in the early morning as I hunted for somewhere to pay my green fees. The skies were a near-flawless clear blue except for the scars of long-spent vapour trails.
An interesting fact – taking into consideration all of the detours, the overall route is in the region of 727 miles and forms one part of a figure eight. A return trip via Thurso, Strathendrick and Dumfries & Galloway would form a pattern worthy of Torvill and Dean.
As a taster I will use this blog to publish occasional golf course pictures which will not appear in the book – this is Allendale’s second/eleventh approached from two different tees. Named Penny Black on the front 9 and Penny Red on the back 9, it pays homage to Troon’s Postage Stamp.
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