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Blair Atholl

Laid out between the railway line and the River Garry, Blair Atholl has all the ingredients of a Golf in the Wild course – surrounded by high hills, 9-holes, an honesty box and, on the day I played, empty but for one other distant golfer. The course was effectively my own.

It is mostly flat – the elevated first tee is the high point of the course. The adjacent combined 3rd and 9th green are on the same level as the first tee, as is the clubhouse. The elevated fourth tee also plays down to what I would guess is their signature hole – a short par 3 with the castellated railway bridge behind the green.

Well maintained, tidy fairways and some very tricky undulating greens, it is a credit to the greens staff.  My favourite hole was the stroke index 1, 7th – to the uninitiated it looks tight from the tee with hints of water hazards in the distance – a pond to the left and a stream in front of the green.  It turned out they are too distant to be an issue for the average golfer.  My unnecessary lay-up resulted in a double bogey.  By contrast the 8th looks straightforward until you approach the green and realise there is an over-sized pond about thirty yards out.  My best drive of the day came about six inches short of the hazard – after a long hot summer, completely dry.

The course finishes with a testing but very enjoyable par 5 to the elevated green adjacent to the 1st tee and clubhouse – a green shared with the third.

All in all, a very enjoyable experience which is almost certain to appear in Golf in the Wild II.

... tee box, Blair Atholl.

The fourth tee box.

... Blair Atholl.

The clubhouse

... the view from the elevated first tee, Blair Atholl.

The elevated first tee

... short par 3, Blair Atholl, with the castellated railway bridge over the River Garry in the background.

The short fourth

You don’t need a weatherman …

… to know which way the wind blows – Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan, recorded on January 14, 1965.
According to english.stackexchange.com, the lyric was the inspiration for the name of the American radical left group the Weathermen, a breakaway from the Students for a Democratic Society. In a 2007 study of legal opinions and briefs that found Bob Dylan was quoted by judges and lawyer more than any other songwriter, “you don’t need a weatherman…” was distinguished as the line most often cited.

I mention this apropos of nothing other than I was at Traigh for their Open over the weekend and, as always, from the high points on the course, you don’t need a weatherman, you can see the weather coming for miles and there was plenty of it.

... 2018 - heavy weather - sunshine and monsoons

The view from the 3rd tee

... 2018 - heavy weather - sunshine and monsoons

The Clubhouse – the umbrella accurately indicates that the sun was only a passing fancy.

... 2018 - heavy weather - sunshine and monsoons

Threatening weather

... 2018 - heavy weather - sunshine and monsoons

Not immediately apparent, but I am drenched

... 2018 - heavy weather - sunshine and monsoons

The view from the 2nd tee

 

... to the 2nd tee - Traigh Open 2018 - the essence of Golf in the Wild

Looking back to the 2nd tee – Traigh Open 2018 – the essence of Golf in the Wild

While I am going off at tangents, I will make this not particularly original observation – to fully appreciate any music you must hear it in the context of its own time. This track and everything else on Bringing It All Back Home was a shining beacon of originality which inevitably fades with time and the production of more than 50 years worth of subsequent music.  Nevertheless, I can still remember the excitement felt by that introverted 14 year-old as this album first emerged from the single speaker of the family Dansette.  All the words are still in my head.

The journey continues – Chapter 7 …

… to Traigh. The yearly pilgrimage to Arisaig is nearly upon us – the Traigh Open, 28th July 2018. One of the most spectacular golf courses in the UK – the absolute epitome of Golf in the Wild.

The journey continues – Chapter 6 …

… to Tobermory

Overdoing it (after LIFE by Dorothy Parker)

Oh golf’s one long round of pure pleasure and fun –
A feast of profound satisfaction.
I bet twenty quid I could outdrive my son,
Now I’m spending a fortnight in traction.

From Summoned by Balls – Christopher Matthew

The Stage is Empty – Cullen 2018

I was last here in 1958 or 1959 but let’s just assume it was ’58 for the neatness of a sixty year symmetry.  If I am to return again, I will not have the option of leaving it so long; time is running out.

I have vague memories of the golf course behind the beach; I remember the gasometer dominating the eastern end of the town, now demolished; I remember the string of viaducts that create a theatrical  backdrop to the bay; I remember mithering for a pen-knife emblazoned with a kilted Scot and bagpipes and almost immediately slicing my thumb, blood everywhere; I remember gurning in the holiday photographs, a different pose and face for every occasion; I remember a determination to go in the sea everyday, regardless of the weather and, throughout everything, I remember my teenage sister as unconvincingly grown-up and immensely irritating.  Most of all, I remember the stinging slap to the back of an unprotected leg, my mother the executioner, never my dad.

On the bridge at Cullen House

On the bridge at Cullen House, 1958

All this time gone by and here I am again, standing outside the Bay View Hotel, now a private house, my thoughts no longer centred on pen-knifes and the multifarious ways to irritate an irritating sister. These many years later I am here to play golf but how different it might all have been.  Dad was accomplished at cricket, football and tennis, so why not golf.  If we had walked Cullen’s fairways in the 1950s what memories might we have shared, how often might we have returned.  No first nor final rounds – dad, I hardly knew you:

Two world wars, economic depressions, genocidal dictators, material privations, the ominpresence of death … enduring such stuff is not propitious for the embrace of affective ostentation, for the desire to get in touch with our inner entitlements,  for the infantile need to share our pain,  for the comfy validation of our self-pity,  for the slovenly annihilating of our restraint,  for the quashing of our shame.

Jonathon Meades – An Encyclopaedia of Myself 

Sixty years on, the stage is empty, my audience gone.

On the bridge at Cullen House -2018

On the bridge at Cullen House, 2018

Nothing quite prepares you for the joy of playing Cullen Links.  It may be the shortest of the 84 true links courses in Scotland but the lack of distance does not diminish the test nor the enjoyment.  There are ten par threes, some blind, some long, some protected by rock and some a combination of all three – this is crazy golf on the grand scale and I love it.

 

... at Cullen. The view from the 4th tee.

yard, par 3, 12th - spot the marker post between the rocks.

Golf in the Wild ...

The journey continues – Chapter 5 …

… to Inveraray.

I’ve got a smelly Labrador.  I call him Old Plum Duff.
He can’t keep up for toffee, but he’s brilliant in the rough.
While others slash through thorns and gorse and curse their wayward shots,
He finds my ball in seconds in the most unlikely spots.

Amateur – 3rd verse – Christopher Matthew, Summoned by Balls

The journey continues – Chapter 4 …

… to Killin:

Gervaise strode off the seventeenth green
And cursed like Attila the hun –
‘Oh how could I have been three holes up
And lost by two and one?’

Gervaise was not a man for words
When he had lost his rag;
He threw his putter in a bush,
And then he grabbed his bag.

He marched across the clubhouse lawn –
‘It’s more than I can take!’
He hoisted up his bag of clubs
And threw them in the lake

Extract from Second Thoughts – Christopher Matthew – Summoned by Balls

For Gervaise, Killin is conveniently sited on the banks of the fast-flowing River Lochay:

Screw Work, Play Golf …

Slider-3In 1923 the President of the largest US steel company was Charles Schwab, the President of the largest US gas company was Edward Hopson, the President of the New York Stock Exchange was Richard Whitney, the greatest wheat speculator of his day was Arthur Cooger and the Great Bear of Wall Street was Cosabee Livermore. They were considered some of the most successful people in the world.

Charles Schwab died a pauper, Edward Hopson went insane, Richard Whitney was released from prison to die at home, Arthur Cooger died abroad, penniless and Cosabee Livermore committed suicide.

The 1923 PGA Champion and winner of the US Open was Gene Sarazen.  He played golf until he was 92, passed away in 1999 at the age of 95 and was financially secure at the time of his death.

Making the Cut – Golf Quarterly, Issue 27, Spring 2018

Or maybe not – from the same issue:

Though time all other griefs may cure
All other hurts may mend,
The miseries of golf endure,
to them there is no end.

The journey continues – Chapter 3 …

… to Bishopshire and Strathtay

Kümmel and old wives

I have drunk kümmel in the members’ lounge at Muirfield – there I have said it – not exactly Golf in the Wild but a rare and fine experience nonetheless.  The full story is told here – Fairway and Tarmac.  This extract explains the significance of the liquer:

Lunch is taken in the lounge, jacket and tie being mandatory. I have brought a tie from the funerals drawer for the occasion – I am a guest and I must honour club traditions, no matter that such attire is at complete odds with my late hippy demeanour. A generous tray of sandwiches is accompanied by a gunner (ginger beer, ginger ale, dash of lime and a measure of angostura bitters), followed by coffee and the traditional Muirfield and Prestwick liqueur – kümmel, a sweet, colourless drink flavoured with caraway seed, cumin, and fennel. First impressions are mixed but I warm to it as the glass empties. I am unsure of the effect it may have on the back nine.

Here’s the thing – I played out of my skin that day which helped influence my opinion of Muirfield as a rare and wonderful place.  I cannot argue with the members’ claim that it is the finest golf course in the world.  Perhaps the kümmel had a part to play – according to Herbert Warren Wind, the American sports writer, writing in 1972, “kümmel has long been a favourite of English golfers, because there is an old wives tale to the effect that it is the best antidote in the world for shaky putting” – Golf Quarterly Issue 4, Winter 2011.  The reference to the English should probably be Scottish or maybe the Scots don’t suffer from “shaky putting”.

I will be recommending we stock a bottle at Allendale Golf Club.

Muirfield's 18th green

Muirfield’s 18th green