Fairways to Heaven
The championship courses of Scotland are among the finest in the world, and playing the Best in Golf is an experience every fan of the game deserves to savour.
It’s a fine but breezy summer’s day. The air is pure and fresh, the turf of the fairway beneath your spiked shoes is lush ‘ almost spongy ‘ and everywhere you glance, there’s yellow gorse and purple heather. This is Scotland, the home of golf. It has more than 500 courses, and the following are the best.
Golf has been played here since the 13th century. Today, those holes have evolved into the world-famous Old Course. In summer, you either pay an arm and a leg for a corporate tee time, or win in the daily ballot. Then it’s just a matter of showing your handicap certificate and paying the ’90 green fee. Between October and April, you can book tee time i advance at www.standrews.org.uk along with accommodation at the Old Course Hotel or the St Andrews Bay Golf Resort and Spa ‘ popular with partners who fail to appreciate the wonder of the game.
A course which professionals play at Par 72 but which has a Standard Scratch Score for amateurs of 75. It’s tough. A round costs ‘105, but that’s a small price to pay for the privilege of playing on the 2007 Open Championship course. Stay at the Carnoustie Hotel and Spa next to the first green for stunning views of the course and the surrounding countryside. The largest suite is the Hogan, which sleeps up to six and features a private balcony for a surprisingly reasonable ‘860 a night. But don’t expect to be able to make a reservation during the Open.
Muirfield last hosted the Open Championship in 2002; the 15th time it has done so since 1892. It has also been the venue for the Amateur Championship on numerous occasions, as well as the Ryder, Walker and Curtis Cups. Green fees are ’75 in winter, ‘120 in summer and available only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Handicap certificates are essential: maximum 18 for men and 24 for women and perhaps it’s to make up for this imbalance that women are not allowed to lunch in the clubhouse.
Nick Faldo called it ‘the finest golf course in Europe.’ Most people will see this fantastic course only on TV during the PGA Tour, because Loch Lomond does not accept green fees. It is very strictly a members-and-their-guests-only club. But if you can find a member who will invite you, the experience is quite extraordinary.
On the course it would be foolish not to employ a caddie to carry your bag and advise you exactly how to negotiate the full 7,060 yards. Every hole is an experience; particularly the sixth, which is the longest hole in Scottish golf. But it’s the luxury and service which make this experience unique.
That brings us to another important aspect: attire. Most current professionals are immaculately turned out, thanks to sponsorship deals with clothing companies. The wardrobe reality on most amateur fairways is a combination of muddy old trousers, aged polo shirts and windproof jackets blagged on some corporate golf day the season before last.
Compared with any French golf club, the general scruffiness and shabbiness of British golfers is astonishing, not least because most clubs over here maintain ludicrously strict dress codes of what can and cannot be worn.
The choice of appropriate gear is expanding and improving. Pringle is reinventing itself; Nike, Callaway and Ping offer complete ranges in smart materials and colours, while J Lindeberg, Burberry, Kenzo, Calvin Klein and the like are beginning to raise the standard. So even if your play isn’t up to par, you’ll look like a pro.