EN­JOY­ING HIGH­LANDS GOLF AT NAIRN

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - By Stu­art McLean, Edi­tor stu­art.mclean@new­me­di­a­pub.co.za

Afam­ily wed­ding in the United King­dom in July, plus a visit to a Cape Town friend who has moved to the High­lands of Scotland, prompted me to im­pro­vise a di er­ent kind of gol ng itin­er­ary from what I’m used to at this time of year.

Readers may be fa­mil­iar with my lon­grun­ning pas­sion for Scot­tish links golf, which be­gan al­most 40 years ago when I at­tended my rst Open at Muir eld, and there­after got to play some of the fa­bled cour­ses I had only pre­vi­ously read about. I trav­elled to re­mote Dornoch on that oc­ca­sion, and this time I found my­self play­ing an­other favourite High­lands links, Nairn Golf Club. The open­ing seven holes are me­morable for

ank­ing the shore­line of the Moray Firth, and at low tide the beach is in play for those of us who oc­ca­sion­ally slice. Sun bathers and walk­ers had no idea what a cry of Fore! meant. For­tu­nately, no harm came their way.

Nairn and Dornoch are too far north in Scotland to ever have as­pi­ra­tions about host­ing the Open, yet they are chal­leng­ing links which have both hosted the Bri­tish Am­a­teur and, in Nairn’s case, the Walker Cup match between the UK/Ire­land and USA. They are won­der­ful tests of a golfer’s shot­mak­ing skills.

Nor­mally my trav­els in Scotland en­tail vis­it­ing di er­ent cour­ses on a day-to-day ba­sis, but re­cently I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the joy of stay­ing in one place for a while, fa­mil­iaris­ing my­self with the same ter­rain. A clev­erly de­signed links, with rm fair­ways and con­toured greens, takes time to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate, and capri­ciously never plays the same from day to day. One round at a course of­ten tended to leave me feel­ing as if there was un nished busi­ness, mys­ter­ies that still needed un­rav­el­ling.

A lit­tle known fact about High­lands golf in the mid­dle of a UK sum­mer is that there is a way of play­ing some won­der­ful cour­ses for much less than the ad­ver­tised rate. Nairn’s green fee is a steep £150 (R2 700) for 18 holes, but for an­other R200 I was able to play there for ve straight days, Mon­day to Fri­day. The se­cret to this ac­cess lay in en­ter­ing the Nairn Open, this year being played for the 111th time.

Many of the older clubs in Scotland have four- or ve-day open weeks, sup­ported right through the hand­i­cap range by golfers from +3 to 18. The en­try fee at Nairn in­cluded a Mon­day prac­tice round, then two medal qual­i­fy­ing rounds. With a eld of 150, play­ing in three­balls, and a one-tee start, this gave me a feel­ing of what it must be like to tee up in the Open. A starter in jacket and tie called each player on to the

rst tee, and we played from the white medal tees. My rst round start­ing time was 3.10pm, which meant nish­ing around 8pm. This was no hard­ship though, with the long sum­mer evenings in Scotland of­ten the best time of day.

These opens fol­low a sim­i­lar for­mat, bril­liant in its sim­ple in­clu­sive­ness. At Nairn the top 48 com­peti­tors quali ed for three match­play tro­phies. The other 102 play­ers didn’t pack their bags, but con­tin­ued to play in con­so­la­tion Stable­ford events the last two days. The top 16 gross quali ers played for one tro­phy, and the 32 best nett quali ers were split into two groups, based on hand­i­caps, the 16 low­est and 16 high­est, for the other two tro­phies.

Par at Nairn is 71, and a 36-hole nett to­tal of 152 quali ed. That’s hon­est golf con­sid­er­ing the ne weather we en­joyed. While thanks for that was due to a wel­come ab­sence of “ringers,” these higher scores also owed much to the pres­ence of 107 clev­erly placed bunkers, many with sheer walls that pre­clude easy es­cape. Of­ten the only way out is side­ways or back­wards. Avoid­ing a bunker for 18 holes at Nairn was nigh im­pos­si­ble, as they are guardians of the greens, and balls tend to bounce their way like guided mis­siles on the rm turf. The long par-3 sixth is fronted by a bevy of such endish bunkers, and not once in ve days did I par this hole.

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