Golf is simply not a subject that you can write about with unending flair and interest, at its most fundamental level it can be summarised as man hits ball, walks and then hits ball again – there is not even an opponent attempting a sliding tackle, nor an in-fielder hovering in the slips to catch that unintended nick off the bat. In many ways what makes golf interesting to the happy hacking amateur are the many and varied places the game can be played and this is primarily the purpose of Golf in the Wild – to explore the possibilities for playing this most frustrating of games in wild, beautiful and unexpected places. The journey starts at the centre of mainland Britain and heads, via a circuitous route, to its top left hand corner.
The route includes plenty of diversions, both real and virtual. As the route heads into the far northwest there are places that simply cannot be passed by: Sanna, Applecross, Inverpolly, Sandwood Bay and Cape Wrath. These are the geographical distractions but there are others: my odd relations, local history, railways and boyhood memories of a time when motor racing was lethal and the centre of my universe – the discovery of wild and empty places came as a welcome relief.
These are some examples of the detours:
Geographical diversions: Some years ago I read Alasdair Maclean’s Night Falls on Ardnamurchan, a touching account of the life and death of a crofting community interspersed with extracts from his father’s journal; you cannot read this book and not long to go. Suddenly it was there, just a six mile unplanned detour to the westernmost point of the British mainland across the old roads which leave no scars as they rise and fall with the undulating landscape. Sanna announces itself with a cinerama wide open space, sand dunes, distant mountains and huge, huge clouds, as though Wilhelm Reich finally succeeded. There is no discernible end to the north and west horizons, the skies, the seas, the mountains stretch to eternity and this wild place seems near empty.
Racing diversions: This was a car I sketched on the cover of many a school exercise book, the perfect shape, the perfect mid-engined configuration, radiator to the front, the engine in front of the rear wheel line, two seats in the middle. There are many other examples from the same era; powerful, fragile cars offering minimal protection to the fearsome professional race drivers of the late 1960s. The version in the picture was driven by New Zealander, Paul Hawkins, approaching Lodge Corner at Oulton Park on a very wet afternoon, in practice for the RAC Tourist Trophy, May 25th 1969. I stood happy in the rain, clicked my Dad’s 35mm Werra camera and captured the monster, nose-dipped under braking, hunting a dry line.
Family diversions: A collection of photographs from the time show Fred (my maternal grandfather) with a variety of wrecked aircraft, taking part in local ‘Inter-Nation’ football matches and posing in front of the Sphinx whose inscrutable smile is much more evident than in the 21st Century. I guess there was hardship but the overwhelming impression is of young men in their prime having the time of their lives, securely distant from the horror of the trenches. Fred stands proud and hatless in the centre with a folding roll film camera in his left hand, his pith helmet in his right and a centre parting kept in place with a touch of pomade. Their guide takes centre stage whilst a white horse enters stage left and a caged chicken exits stage right