Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 11/18 - By Stu­art McLean

From the fa­mous to the lesser known, ad­vice about cour­ses to play. By Stu­art McLean

You’re go­ing on your first golf trip to Scot­land, but you’re un­de­cided about where to play and how much to pay in the way of green fees.Even if the prospect of R4 000 to R6 000 a round play­ing all your bucket-list cour­ses in one go doesn’t distress you,you might still want to re­con­sider whether a week of slow­paced cham­pi­onship golf on a re­stric­tive sched­ule is the ideal golf­ing hol­i­day.

The prospect of a week play­ing Turn­berry,Troon, Carnoustie, Kings­barns, the Old Course and Muir­field sounds out­ra­geously at­trac­tive, and will have your golf­ing buddies green with envy, yet as an ex­pe­ri­enced Scot­tish trav­eller I would never plan some­thing so am­bi­tious. Never mind the credit card bill, that itin­er­ary to me is golf­ing pur­ga­tory.

You will be play­ing six of the tough­est links in the world in weather con­di­tions that may very likely be un­favourable, as your tee times are booked and can­not be changed. If you’re there in the high sea­son (May to Oc­to­ber) the cour­ses will be packed tight with four­balls and their cad­dies, many of them con­tain­ing golfers who are high-hand­i­caps and haven’t a clue about how to deal with the va­garies of links golf. If you’re spend­ing five hours out there, the odds on ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a rain squall in­creases.

Once you’ve failed to break 90, or even 100, on the first day, your con­fi­dence has been eroded. You’re steer­ing ev­ery shot. Deep bunkers with high faces scare the liv­ing day­lights out of you. Search­ing for balls in thick rough and gorse on vir­tu­ally ev­ery hole is frus­trat­ing and tir­ing. How do you stop the ball on these firm greens? Does the wind never stop blow­ing? When you wake up on day two your anx­i­ety lev­els in­crease as you re­alise an­other day of the same stuff lies ahead. On your re­turn home you might never want to play again, cer­tainly not in Scot­land.

The se­cret to an en­joy­able Scot­tish golf­ing hol­i­day is to or­gan­ise your own itin­er­ary, one which in­cludes a var­ied se­lec­tion of dif­fer­ent cour­ses, some chal­leng­ing, oth­ers flat­ter­ing, and hav­ing the flex­i­bil­ity to change your tee times af­ter study­ing the fore­cast.At most golf clubs you don’t have to book far in ad­vance to se­cure a tee time.You can even phone up on the day you want to play.

Yes, in­clude two or three bucket-list venues, but make them the cen­tre­piece of your hol­i­day, so play­ing them takes on ex­tra sig­nif­i­cance. Don’t com­mit the rookie mis­take of hav­ing your first game in Scot­land at Turn­berry and ruin the ex­pe­ri­ence with poor golf and a dozen lost balls be­cause you’re rusty and ner­vous. Rather ac­cli­ma­tise your­self first on sim­pler, fun lay­outs, mix­ing with the lo­cals, and get to Turn­berry brim­ming with con­fi­dence about your game.

Scot­land has the great­est col­lec­tion of golf cour­ses in the world for such a small coun­try.There are hun­dreds of lay­outs you haven’t heard of that will fas­ci­nate you with their orig­i­nal de­sign fea­tures.You will spot some­thing unique at vir­tu­ally ev­ery course you play. Scot­land is where golf course ar­chi­tec­ture as we know it be­gan, and its var­i­ous fea­tures have been copied all over the world.

My rec­om­men­da­tion for any­one plan­ning a golf trip to Scot­land is to ex­plore the “other” cour­ses, the ones where you can play 18 holes in 2-3 hours and make more pars and birdies than you ever ex­pe­ri­ence back home. Where you play in a free­wheel­ing style of bliss­ful re­lax­ation that af­ter­wards makes you won­der why you don’t play like this all the time.

To be so in­de­pen­dent you would have to rely on your own trans­port. If you’re a big group of eight or more golfers this might not be sen­si­ble, but then get your­self a coach and driver to take you around. It goes where you tell it.

The Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons League soc­cer draw pro­vided me with an idea of how to ap­proach a Scot­tish golf­ing itin­er­ary.All the clubs com­pet­ing in the Cham­pi­ons League are placed into four dif­fer­ent pods be­fore the draw, so that the top clubs don’t get paired in the group stages.

I’ve di­vided 50 of my favourite Scot­tish cour­ses into five pods.These are all qual­ity lay­outs, al­though some names might be un­fa­mil­iar.The top two pods con­tain what I be­lieve are Scot­land’s best 20 cour­ses.The idea then is to choose one course from each pod for five days of golf. If your trip is seven rounds, what I would then sug­gest is to ei­ther visit a course from my list of “fun gems,” treat your­self to an ex­tra round at one of the big-name des­ti­na­tions, or sim­ply stop at the first course you see and tee up.

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