As many of you will know, the Queen (or ‚??Liz‚?Ě as she‚??s affectionately known to her friends) keeps a residence at Balmoral in the Highlands of Scotland. ¬†It‚??s a rather nice estate. ¬†Liz and her brood (and her brood‚??s brood) spend a bit of time there every summer ‚?? from memory, from August to October. ¬†All of this is more or less common knowledge to anyone with either a UK passport or a remote interest in the British royal family. ¬†However. ¬†What not many folk know is that there‚??s a golf course on the estate; a little 9 holer with stunning views of the surrounding hillsides and more statues than you could shake a stick at. ¬†¬†Neither of us had any idea of its existence until our recent visit to Royal Aberdeen, when Zyg told us of his father‚??s membership there. ¬†Zyg Senior kindly invited us for a leisurely Sunday evening whack and the rest as they say is history.
After playing Boat of Garten in the morning ‚?? a gorgeously picturesque but very undulating James Braid layout up the road ‚?? the legs were a bit weary when we hopped into the car. ¬†I soon forgot about this though. ¬†Because the road down to Deeside is nothing short of exhilerating; an opportunity to Get Schumacher On It and zip through the Highlands at a great clip. ¬†You fly past ski fields, down through valleys and could even find yourself airborne if you‚??re not careful coming off any of the 462 blind summits. ¬†(Don‚??t worry Graham & Trina, The Tank took it easy and felt no pain).
Zyg & Zyg ‚?? who sound like a Polish pop group ‚?? met us in the carpark across the river from the estate, where we had to leave our car in case it was full of explosives. ¬†Sticks transferred and passports in pocket and we were ready for action. ¬†PC Plod kindly allowed us into the property after inspecting Zyg‚??s pass (he‚??s the Queen‚??s appointed surgeon while she‚??s up here). ¬†
I was half hoping to see a Royal or Three as we wound through the property and up to the ‚??clubhouse‚?Ě, but no sign. ¬†They must‚??ve been taking afternoon tea somewhere up in the hills, or dong whatever royal families do. ¬†Probably the same as normal families. ¬†In any case they were hiding.
The clubhouse is a modest affair, befitting of the understated Good Scottish Atmosphere of the place. ¬†Inside is a pretty straightforward locker room with dunny, and bothy-like facilities such as fridge, sink and an empty table. ¬†You could be forgiven for thinking you‚??re in the wrong place. ¬†I must say though that the spartan hut endeared itself to me with its unassuming charm and complete lack of pretense. ¬†So much so that I even signed the visitor‚??s book, next to the names of the Sultan of Brunei and the Dutch Royal Family.
The theme continues when you walk onto the 1st tee. ¬†Only when you walk 150 yards or so and spot a statue or two do you realise that you‚??re at no ordinary golf course. ¬†Albert is perched in the trees overlooking both 1 and 17 green. ¬†I have no idea when his reign was, but it must‚??ve been a long time ago. ¬†I wonder whether he played his summer golf up here? ¬†(I expect my question will trigger a disgusted reaction in a keen historian in the audience, and will no doubt get an email or comment explaining why clearly he did or he didn‚??t). ¬†Victoria is on the other side of the 1st - hence the hole's name, "Albert and Victoria."
On the 2nd hole you play across the driveway down into The Depths. ¬†It‚??s a straightforward little flip with a lob wedge ‚?? indeed 2 of us nearly holed out ‚?? but there‚??s mischief lurking behind the green if you find yourself distracted by the bonnie view of the Crathie Kirk behind (where Liz goes to worship every week, apparently).
The greens are small. ¬†Really quite small. ¬†Mind you most of the holes are very short, so as long as you keep out of the unkempt rough birdies are up for grabs. ¬†I may have had 6, and the other lads had a few too. ¬†A good fundraising day when you consider Mike‚??s stellar effort at Boat in the morning.
In the evening sun Balmoral glowed quite ¬†beautifully. ¬†On the 4th ‚?? a short par 3 playing up hill through a chute ‚?? is a striking patch of foxgloves, which I snapped on the phone (see below); the Zygs and Goldstein also posed for a team snap at my insistence. ¬†They are pictured below too.
By the 6th tee is the Queen‚??s weekender which ‚?? at about half a mile from her main residence ‚?? is closer to home than most people‚??s getaways. ¬†Mind you it probably is much less arduous to staff and would come in handy if Liz was dashing in and out for whatever reason. ¬†¬†¬†
Zyg Junior and I paired up for a match against Zyg Senior and Goldy. ¬†We‚??d teamed up together at Royal Aberdeen the week prior and only managed a half, but on this occasion we snuck a victory with Zyg dropping a bomb on the 18th for par. ¬†A memorable victory.
Only under special circumstances do we play 36 holes, because it effectively means our legs get sorer than they need to (awwwwwwwwwww I hear you sigh). ¬†Balmoral however is very special ‚?? not the sort of place you get the chance to play every week. ¬†A bonnie wee track in quite surreal surrounds; and good company on a sunny summer‚??s evening. ¬†Huge thank you to Zyg & Zyg ‚?? one to remember.
JP ¬† ¬†
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