Golf in Scotland

Our group of twelve bandits is just back from our golf trip to Scotland. We played 8 games in 8 days on a variety of courses – from the par 66 local Stonehaven course to the Ryder Cup GlenEagles – links courses and parkland courses.

I’ve been lucky enough to have made 3 golf trips to Scotland and one trip to Ireland. It’s a wonderful experience playing the famous courses like St Andrews, Carnoustie and Royal Dornoch, but it’s at the local courses where you really get a feel for Scottish golf.Read More>>

One thing that’s consistent in Scotland, no matter where you play, is the pride Members take in their course. When you encounter a Member in the parking lot, the locker room or in the clubhouse, they never fail to ask how you enjoyed your round. Scottish golfers have a true appreciation for the game and it’s history. Of course, when you have 400 years of history, it’s easier to appreciate.

 A Toast to the Less Fortunate on the First Tee with the North Sea in the Background

One of the great aspects of Scottish golf is how the course layouts follow the original characteristics of the land. The natural flow of sand dunes, changes in elevation, hills, valleys, gorse, beaches – all seem to fit the hole you’re playing and please the golfer’s eye. The fact that fairways cross each other at times seems to make the game more friendly and players more considerate.

Our accommodations in Pitlochry

As an add on to our trip my friend, Rick, and I decided to stay for a couple of days to try our hand at fishing. That turned out to be a bit odd, but was a cultural experience nonetheless.

In order to fish a river in Scotland you have to pay a fee to the laird who owns the fishing rights to a particular portion of a river (called a “beat”). In our case it was 150 pounds each per day. At the start of the day the fishers meet at the fishing hut and the “gillie” (guide) assigns each fisher a place to fish on the beat. The gillie is dressed in green with a tie, jodhpurs and long socks. He describes how each section of water is “fishing beautifully” and gives each fisher tips on what fly patterns to use.

The odd part of all this is that there are absolutely no fish in the river. We were fly fishing for salmon, but the Atlantic salmon population has been devastated by overfishing, climate change, and fish farming.

The gillie insisted that we master a technique called the “double handed Spey cast”. This technique was developed for the Spey River which has thick brush along its banks, making it impossible to back cast with your fly rod. Of course, we were fishing in the Tay River, which has wide open banks. This absence of river bank casting hazards made the Spey cast redundant. After lunch with the other fishers at the fishing hut we were assigned a section of river on the opposite bank of the river – which meant we had to master the “double” Spey cast.

So there we were – paying though the nose for the opportunity to flog the water with a difficult to master, redundant, fly fishing technique, wading in freezing water up to our thighs — fishing for fish that were not there. (For the two days we were there six fishers caught zero fish).

There’s no doubt that this fishing adventure is a metaphor for my golf game.

Fly Fishing on the River Tay

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