WEL­COME TO SCOT­LAND

Ed­i­tor’s picks on where to play in Scot­land in 2015.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 2/ 15 - By Stu­art McLean

Ev­ery five years the Open Cham­pi­onship is played at St An­drews, and in 2015 the home of golf will again be a mag­net for South Africans. There is much to an­tic­i­pate about this year’s cham­pi­onship in the week of July 13 to 19. Louis Oosthuizen won on the Old Course when the Open was last played there in 2010; Tom Wat­son will be say­ing farewell 40 years after his first ap­pear- ance; and there is links golf to be played in Scot­land be­fore­hand and/or af­ter­wards.

For me, and many oth­ers, the spe­cial fea­ture of go­ing to the Open is not only the unique­ness of at­tend­ing a ma­jor cham­pi­onship where your en­try is un­con­di­tional and grand­stands abound, but the golf you play your­self around the oc­ca­sion. It’s pos­si­ble to do both in the same day. You can’t spend more than a day or two watch­ing the best play­ers with­out get­ting the itch to tackle links golf your­self. On any trip to the Open it’s es­sen­tial to take your clubs and ex­plore what Bri­tain has to of­fer.

The beauty of golf in Scot­land is the choice avail­able to you, the rel­a­tively easy ac­cess of it all, and the close prox­im­ity of the cour­ses to ei­ther Ed­in­burgh or Glas­gow air­ports. You can tee up on some of the world’s best links, and pay dearly for the ex­pe­ri­ence, or you can dis­cover sev­eral other tiers of ex­cel­lent cour­ses, which for a South African bud­get are far more af­ford­able. You’ll be sur­prised at the num­ber of won­der­ful op­tions there are, and the end­less va­ri­ety of their chal­lenges. The older the course, the more likely you are to find some­thing un­usu­ally spe­cial.

My tip is to com­pile a list of cour­ses you would like to play be­fore start­ing out. But while driv­ing around the coun­try­side, if you see a sign say­ing golf club, turn in and take a look. You will know im­me­di­ately whether it’s worth stop­ping for a game. And re­mem­ber that time is on your side, with the long sum­mer evenings and the fact that the Scots don’t tarry when they play; you’ll be round in three hours or less.

When you find a hid­den gem, and walk its empty fair­ways, it will pos­si­bly steal your heart more than any fa­mous cham­pi­onship lay­out with its heav­ing crowds of four­balls and cad­dies. The cour­ses you will re­mem­ber are more likely to be chal­leng­ing in their quirk­i­ness, rather than their length. To this day I’m still un­cov­er­ing re­mark­ably good cour­ses I hadn’t pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered, and they are all places to which I mean to re­turn.

If you’re plan­ning a golf­ing trip to coin­cide with the Open in July, then it’s best to look at other re­gions of Scot­land for cour­ses to play, as those in St An­drews will be out of ac­tion for most of the month. There is a wide va­ri­ety to choose from.

I’ve played golf all over Scot­land, writ­ten many words about it, and for the first time in Golf Di­gest I have com­piled an ex­ten­sive list of cour­ses I can rec­om­mend in eight dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try ( see next page). They’re di­vided into three types: the ex­pen­sive heavy­weights; the more af­ford­able top ex­pe­ri­ences; and the lesser known gems where you are un­likely to be dis­ap­pointed. The Scots know th­ese cour­ses, and they utilise them most, rather than vis­i­tors. If you spot that I’ve omit­ted some fairly well known cour­ses, then the rea­son is that they don’t es­pe­cially ap­peal to me.

In the sum­mer of 2015 the Ailsa course at Turn­berry will be the most ex­pen­sive green fee in Scot­land, at £250, which is roughly R5 000 at the cur­rent ex­change rate. And the only ex­tras in that will be some pegs and a pen­cil on the first tee. If you’re tak­ing the high road to Scot­land, and ful­fill­ing your bucket list, you can eas­ily spend R40 000 in green fees alone over a fort­night. The low road might see you get away with R10 000. That doesn’t mean in­fe­rior cour­ses, just a dif­fer­ent diet. Many of the clubs have ex­cel­lent pack­age deals where you can buy more than one round. Study their web­sites for spe­cial deals. The cham­pi­onship lay­out at Carnoustie is the cheap­est of the Open rota venues, £160, and for another £20 you can also play the club’s Burn­side course. Never heard of it? It’s ranked in the top 100 in Scot­land.

The Open cour­ses in Scot­land, and there are five of them, are ex­hil­a­rat­ing to play, but they are ex­tremely tough for the av­er­age hand­i­cap golfer, and the pace of play among the vis­i­tor four­balls can be tire­some. You’ve got a steady flow of long par 4s and bru­tal rough to con­tend with. Ex­plore fur­ther, and you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence the game in its purest form.

Tom Wat­son will be say­ing farewell to

the Open in July.

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