First impressions are everything in this world. ¬†From the way someone is dressed to the way they carry yourself to the way they speak ‚?? our brains in a millisecond compute a picture of that person and make all sorts of deductions therefrom. ¬†We do it and we can‚??t help it. ¬†It is, for better or for worse, human nature. ¬†
When we roll up to a golf club on a given day, naturally we try to make a good first impression. ¬†Most days we‚??ll pull the tidiest looking polo shirt out of the suitcase; tuck it in, of course; maybe even shave before we leave; then walk upright and tall into the clubhouse, politely asking to speak to the appropriate person. ¬†It‚??s all fairly elementary stuff. ¬†On a recent occasion, however, I got it wrong. ¬†Badly wrong.
Among the 126 polo shirts I seem to have accumulated this year is a maroon one that my mother brought back from Scotland for me some years ago. ¬†It‚??s embossed with the logo of the football team I used to support as a we‚??an (Heart of Midlothian FC). ¬†And it‚??s quite smart. ¬†I was sporting the shirt in question on Friday when we turned up at Luffness New GC, down the road from Gullane in East Lothian. ¬†I had no reason not to. ¬†What no one told me though, was that the club steward ‚?? who was the first chap I met in the clubhouse ‚?? is the biggest Hibernian FC supporter in the world. ¬†(Hibs, as they‚??re better known, are Hearts‚?? arch rivals, both teams hailing from Edinburgh). ¬†Massive mistake.
The Steward (whose name I never caught) looked shocked, almost insulted. ¬†‚??Ye cannae wear that in here lad!‚?Ě ¬†In the moment I wasn‚??t sure whether his words were hearty banter or serious proclamation. ¬†Before I knew it I was marched down to the Secretary‚??s office (much as I was often marched to the Headmaster‚??s office at school for being a little toad). ¬†The Secretary couldn‚??t believe it either. ¬†How could I have been so ignorant? ¬†‚??Nobody told him‚?Ě he assumed. ¬†No, they didn‚??t. ¬†Well, there was just one thing for it: the Steward disappeared next door only to reappear moments later with a royal blue Luffness New GC polo, the tags on which he promptly cut off (with a touch of venom in his hands). ¬†I was told to change and shown to the locker room.
One more thing: ‚??do ye have long socks lad?‚?Ě ¬†No, Sir; sorry Sir. ¬†‚??Well we‚??ll have to get ye a pair of those too then.‚?Ě ¬†Two pairs of blue woolen knee length socks were tugged from a cabinet by the bar (one for me, one for Mike) and passed to me ‚??courtesy of the club.‚?Ě ¬†A nice touch indeed. ¬†And so I was a new man. ¬†Having arrived in a maroon polo and navy shorts with invisible white ankle socks I was now a picture of blue. ¬†Ready for my first day at school. ¬†What an amazing little episode (which, I must point out, was good humoured ‚?? although at first I wasn‚??t so sure).
The golf? ¬†What a magical wee track. ¬†We‚??d driven past it a number of times in recent weeks en route to Gullane, Renaissence, North Berwick and Muirfield ‚?? wondering whether it was Luffness. ¬†It was. ¬†A point of clarification, while I‚??m on the subject. ¬†As I understand it, when people talk of ‚??Luffness‚?Ě they are talking of Luffness New GC. ¬†Luffness New and Kilspindie GC down the road used to be part of the same club but then split. ¬†Kilspindie then took the (full) name Kilspindie Luffness Golf Club, and wouldn‚??t allow Luffness New to call themselves just Luffness GC ‚?? hence the ‚??New‚?Ě. ¬†Correct me if I‚??m wrong.
Anyway all that semantics didn‚??t matter a bit to us; we were just out to enjoy the golf course and hopefully not fall on the wrong side of any other sectarian rivalries. ¬†Enjoy it we did. ¬†It‚??s deceptively difficult if you ask me. ¬†The first hole looks on paper like a gimme birdie, but Mick and I had to struggle for our pars. ¬†At about 260 is a rise punctured with a string of bunkers, the green sitting only 30 yards ahead. ¬†We both laid up prudently with long irons, leaving ourselves 60 or so to the stick. ¬†I don‚??t care what anyone says: blind pitches are tricky business, particularly if the greens are running quick as they were on this occasion (apparently they always are at Luffness). ¬†Two messy shots were played over the back then a couple of dicey up and downs made. ¬†The writing was on the wall: don‚??t underestimate this place.
The next 4 holes are played on the same side of the road (the 4th being a beautifully simple but in the wind, quite challenging par 5), before you cross over to the bulk of the links. ¬†Don‚??t expect cars to stop for you either when you cross: this is a main thoroughfare along which hoards of keen golfers zip, anxious to breathe in the East Lothian fresh air or at least make their tee time thus avoiding reprimand from the draconian secretaries of these parts. ¬†Had I still been wearing my Hearts polo no doubt any Hibernian motorists that saw me would have sped up and taken dead aim.
The lovely thing about Luffness is that the links is more or less all in front of you. ¬†A bit like Gullane No. 1 next door (with the exception of the opening and closing 2 holes). ¬†A short par 3 (the 6th) is followed by a short, uphill, blind par 4 then a short, downhill par 4. ¬†It‚??s a nice wee stretch that I‚??m sure the more youthful members could carve up with glee. ¬†The 7th tee is also a fine vantage point from which to turn your gaze back west towards Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. ¬†My delight was dampened by the sight of a few Very Dark Clouds heading our way. ¬†Don‚??t you love that sense of inevitability, particularly when you‚??re on the golf course (the front 9, no less)? ¬†Hmmmm. ¬†The prospect of escape was a distant one too, given there were a string of fourballs ahead whose combined age in each case would‚??ve pushed 300.
Just when I was admiring the artwork of the bunkering (they‚??re perfectly formed much like those at, say, Muirfield, Carnoustie or Skibo), the phone rang (tisk tisk I hear you mutter...). ¬†It was a gorgeous sounding lassie called Rebecca, calling from a radio station in Dublin for an interview. ¬†I could‚??ve listened to her talk all day. ¬†Irish women have something quite special don‚??t they? ¬†But I digress. ¬†Sadly Rebecca‚??s voice was replaced with that of the interviewer ‚?? a sound chap by the name of Anton ‚?? and over a few minutes we had a good chinwag about all things puregolf2010. ¬†One of the more pleasant radio chats I‚??ve done.
Along the back 9 we got wet. ¬†Very wet. ¬†Those clouds I mentioned before held a quite miraculous carriage of H2O, which they in their infinite wisdom decided to drop on Luffness New. ¬†Och well, can‚??t win ‚??em all can you? ¬†As is often the case however, no sooner had the scoundrel clouds passed over us had the sun reared its bright head with equator-like intensity. ¬†Layers were peeled off laboriously but I still couldn‚??t avoid that itchy-wet sensation (the one you got when your school blazer got wet and gave off that funny smell).
A mediocre round looked like being rescued when I knocked it stiff on the 15th, then did the same on the par 3 16th ‚?? that is, until I missed the 2 and a half foot down wind putt!! ¬†There‚??s no fairness in this game. ¬†Two very frustrated double bogeys inevitably followed to finish. ¬†Such is the way. ¬†To rub it in Goldy closed with a fine birdie.
A kind member whose name now escapes me had got wind of our tale and very generously left a tenner behind the bar for us to have a post-match refreshment. ¬†To your good self, if you‚??re reading: thank you. ¬†I hope by now though you‚??ve got your money back from that Hibernian-supporting-miscreant, because all we could stomach was water (on the back of a sociable week in the midst of Edinburgh‚??s Fringe Festival). ¬†Perhaps ‚?? as I suggest to y‚??er man ‚?? you could donate the money instead through our website (by clicking the button above) to The First Tee?
Luffness New was a place we had few preconceptions about. ¬†It was a very pleasant surprise indeed. ¬†The staff (once they put aside their prejudices against my heathen football sympathies) were delightful; and the course was a pure and simple links treat. ¬†It might not have the notoriety of Muirfield or even Gullane, but Luffness New stands up there with the big boys as a top drawer golf club. ¬†Traditional and unassuming it may be, but under the radar is probably how the members like it. ¬†Do go there but don‚??t wear a maroon polo!
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