Courses: St Andrews Old Course, Gleneagles Kings Course, Royal Dornoch, Lundin Ladies, Musselburgh, and Gullane.
Host Ian Cross travels to the ultimate golfers’ destination – a country renowned for its beauty, independent spirit and, best of all, its hundreds of golf courses – Scotland.
He starts his journey at Gleneagles, a resort hotel that’s been on the list of places to go for the rich and famous for the last 80 years. Ian plays the Kings Course, described as the best northern course in the world, with the local pro Dave Brown. Missing out on the opportunity to bag his first eagle, Ian still finds himself wowed by the beauty of the course – not to mention its toughness!
Although golf is what most people come to Gleneagles for, there are plenty of other outdoor activities to get stuck into. Ian discovers he’s a dab hand on the shooting range, before trying a spot of off-roading; unfortunately, his clutch control isn’t up to the standard of his shooting!
Next stop is Edinburgh, Scotland’s vibrant capital. A must see is the Royal Yacht Britannia at the historic Leith docks – decommissioned in 1997, it really is the last word in luxury travel.
On the outskirts of the city is Musselburgh, known as the oldest continually played golf course in the world; Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have played here as early as 1667. Ian plays this short nine-hole course with Lionel Freeman, secretary of the Musselburgh Golf Club, who lets him play on old style hickory clubs. He also resists the temptation to stop off at the pub on the fourth hole, Mrs Foreman’s, which occasionally opens a window to the green to serve up golfers a wee dram.
Ian carries on up the gorgeous East Lothian coast where he’s happy to discover that there are golf courses everywhere – in fact, there are 20 courses in a 20 mile radius of here. OnGullane Three, Ian comes across an infamous local character, Archie Baird, who has a private museum dedicated to golf. Ian is lucky enough to get a personally related history of the game from Archie, who’ll only give you a tour of his museum if he likes you!
Over the Firth of Forth bridge is St Andrews’ Old Course, the world’s most famous golfing destination. Such is its popularity that you have to enter into the ballot the day before to get a tee time – sadly, Ian doesn’t get on and finds himself with a day to kill. Luckily there’s plenty to do in St Andrews – visiting the siege tunnels of the castle as well as the myriad of pro shops. Ian’s favourite is the Jim Farmer Shop, reputedly the best in Scotland, owned by the pro of the same name who kindly takes him out for a game the next day. St Andrews Old Course is not just a pilgrimage for the avid golfer but a real test of their mettle too; not only are there killer bunkers but frustratingly difficult holes – the seventeenth is a case in point – as Ian discovers!
Nearby, Ian stumbles upon the Lundin Ladies Golf Club – the world’s first ladies’ only golf course, established in 1891. It’s a pretty course with some interesting hazards and everyone’s welcome – although men aren’t allowed in the clubhouse!
On his way north to the Highlands, Ian stops off at the Edradour Distillery to find out about the processes involved in making Scotland’s favourite tipple, whiskey, which has been distilled here since 1825. Then, past, the mysterious Loch Ness and Braemar where the annual Highland Games are contested, Ian arrives at Royal Dornoch next to the gorgeous seaside village of Dornoch. Designed by old Tom Morris, its golf at its most traditional – a great way to end our trip through golf’s homeland!
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