The Scotland leg is OVER! Turnberry wasn't a bad place to end it

Posted by Jamie on 30 August 2010 | 0 Comments | Tags: , , , , , , ,

What a way to bring our 45 day Scottish leg to a close. ¬†It‚??s fair to say we‚??re leaving this bonnie land on a high note, after a tremendous 36 hours at Turnberry: the jewel in the crown of the gorgeous Ayrshire coast, and site of four Open Championships. ¬†Mike‚??s already told you about yesterday‚??s fun and games on the Kintyre course, a superb ‚??little brother‚?Ě track. ¬†He‚??ll also have mentioned that last night our accommodation options were slim pickings; that we were odds on to be kipping in The Tank. ¬†That was until Graeme Russell ‚?? chief, champ, boss, captain, skipper that he is; Macallan Whisky‚??s ambassador to the US ‚?? played Fairy God Mother and spotted us a room at The Turnberry Hotel on his points! ¬†You wouldn‚??t read about it. ¬†I‚??ve already thanked Graeme privately (several times), but would like to do so publicly now too: as our caddy Ray at Cypress would say, ‚??you‚??re the greatest.‚?Ě

A momentary blip in the fairytale though: I awoke this morning with my first illness of the year (worry not, my friends ‚?? just a common cold). ¬†Standing outside in minus 6 degrees last night having a quick chat with Radio New Zealand I joked with the producer that I‚??d catch a cold. ¬†Then I did just that. ¬†There‚??s a lesson in there for all of us. ¬†Maybe even a couple.

But a mucus clogged sinus passage couldn‚??t dampen my spirits when I opened the curtains to find that the bright sunshine we were treated to yesterday hadn‚??t yet packed it in. ¬†That big ball of gas was out in spades. ¬†Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssss! ¬†With a spring in my step I hopped into the shower (read: emptied 6 pints of snot down the plug hole) and went in search of some appropriate golfing attire. ¬†Sadly my respectable golf breeks were in the car, so I was forced to don the Argyll Loudmouths (which I would inevitably get a hard time about in these parts). ¬†Sick and looking a tad stupid; but who gives two shakes when you‚??re about to play one of the best courses in the world. ¬†On a bluebird Thursday morning, no less.

The commute from the Hotel carpark to the club carpark is a very short one. ¬†Roughly 36 seconds if you don‚??t run into any traffic. ¬†Downhill too. ¬†Had we not been lazy Gen-Y‚??rs we might‚??ve even walked! ¬†(But that would‚??ve left an unpalatable walk back up the hill ‚?? a solid justification to my mind). ¬†In any case we ran into our host ‚?? Alan Stevenson (whose father played in several Open Championships) ‚?? on the tarmac and were soon introduced to his pal John, host #2. ¬†John like me likes cardigans and is all the more a man for it. ¬†They‚??re both locals and quality humans in their own right. ¬†Sharp banter exchanged between the two was evocative of the Laurel-&-Hardy-like Alan Melville & Mike Macdonald, our hosts at North Berwick & Gullane. ¬†I must confess I wondered whether we‚??d be able to hold our own.

There was no mucking around with coffee or cocktails or kummel or anything of the like; straight to business. ¬†With an 0820 tee time we were ahead of the pack ‚?? alleviating any concerns of being held up behind a fourball of 29 handicap tourists (each lining up every putt as if it was for The Open, of course). ¬†PERFECT. ¬†Peter McCoy the Starter provided yardage books and light amusement, including a cracking story about Juan Quirros, whom his son had been caddying for recently on the Senior‚??s Tour. ¬†Juan‚??s apparently a hothead and on this occasion lost the plot. ¬†The nearest object towards which he could direct his anger was a sponsor‚??s billboard. ¬†After chucking his club in disgust Juan gave it a good boot; only problem was a lassie was leaning over it at the time, munching on her lunch. ¬†In the melee the sandwich got splattered all over her face, poor thing. ¬†Juan either didn‚??t notice or care to notice, so Peter‚??s son went over to apologise on his behalf. ¬†As unfortunate as it would no doubt have been for the young woman, I can‚??t help but think it would‚??ve been hilarious to be a fly on the wall. ¬†Anyway. ¬†Turnberry.

The 1st hole plays parallel to the road, perpendicular with the view from the omnipresent Hotel above. ¬†‚??Ailsa Craig‚?Ě it‚??s called, after the big (I can only assume volcanic) chunk of rock sticking up out of the deep blue Firth of Clyde. ¬†A dawdle at 354 yards you might think, but there are 9 bunkers ‚?? setting the tone for the morning. ¬†And the pin was at the front, which made it difficult to get near down wind. ¬†I tried not to smile when I saw my opponent‚??s ball had come to rest deep in a divot in the middle of the fairway ¬†(one of the peril‚??s of the heavy traffic the course gets over the summer). ¬†Whether I succeeded or not, who knows? ¬†You know what they say though: every golf shot makes someone happy. ¬†To Mick‚??s credit he got it down there, there or thereabouts, and made a 4 which was good enough for the half. ¬†

Loved the name of the 2nd: ‚??Make Sure.‚?Ě ¬†Make sure what?? ¬†The yardage book pearl of wisdom offered a clue: ‚??Poor shots will be punished with trouble lurking in almost every direction.‚?Ě ¬†The Scots don‚??t beat around the bush do they? ¬†It continued: ‚??Strategically placed fairway bunkers and a steep slope to the left of the fairway and green are just a few of the problems facing players. ¬†The green is deceptively long and will require careful club selection to avoid leaving a long, difficult putt.‚?Ě ¬†Don‚??t sugar coat it boys! ¬†

Those forking out 110 squid for a game would get their money‚??s worth out of the dry humour of the yardage book alone. ¬†Rather than make the golf course look and sound easy ‚?? as is conventional in amateur golf and sports psychology generally, I imagine ‚?? they‚??ve gone out of their way to do the opposite. ¬†The fairways on the pictures look like pieces of string. ¬†Thin ones at that. ¬†‚??Woe-be-tide‚?Ě, the 4th, is aptly described as ‚??a light hearted warning to be aware of the Firth of Clyde and other possible hazards on the left of the hole.‚?Ě ¬†Ha. ¬†It‚??s a glorious short hole in any case; the first of the Ailsa‚??s coveted set. ¬†The contours of the green and the dune to the right of it encourage you to bring the ball in from right to left, especially given the aforementioned drop off to the left is severe. ¬†However. ¬†Y‚??er man cut a nasty looking bunker into the front right of the mound upon which the green is perched. ¬†So you better dam well hit that draw out of the middle of the club (or end up in Purgatory as Michael did).

Speaking of y‚??er man. ¬†Life would be much simpler if the Ailsa Course had been designed many moons ago and not been touched since. ¬†But that‚??s not how things went friends. ¬†A brief history lesson:

In 1900 the Marquess of Ailsa (a keen golfer and former Captain at our beloved Prestwick) decided to build a course on his estate at Turnberry. ¬†So he commissioned Willie Fernie, the then pro at Royal Troon, to do the design. ¬†It opened in 1901, Turnberry GC subsequently forming the next year. ¬†Turnberry quickly became popular with the expansion of the railways and when word got around about the luxury of the Hotel. ¬†World War One then got in the way of everything as it had the tendency to do (the Hotel and courses being requisitioned as an officers‚?? mess & airfield respectively). ¬†When Zee Germans surrendered James Braid did a redesign of the Arran Course, following which it overtook the Ailsa as the course of choice. ¬†So Cecil Hutchinson God Bless Him was brought in to do a re-design (hooray!). ¬†But wait for it: the course re-opened in 1938, just a year before Hitler went mental and declared war on The World. ¬†Again Turnberry was requisitioned (who would have guessed?), this time as for RAF Coastal Command. ¬†The final chapter? ¬†MacKenzie Ross was brought in to do a(nother) redesign, creating ‚??the masterpiece that exists today.‚?Ě ¬†

Now where was I? ¬†The 5th (‚??Fin me oot‚?Ě - i.e. ‚??find me out‚?Ě - i.e. find the putting surface or give up). ¬†One of the best par 4s of the year. ¬†Graeme had warned us about it last night and The Boy wasn‚??t wrong. ¬†Take a breath and enjoy the moment sorta stuff. ¬†(In a cockney accent I ask of you) d‚??ya know what I mean? ¬†Perfectly formed but no less nasty for it greenside pot bunkers await unsuspecting 2nd (or even 3rd) shots, as does a coffin bunker to the right of the green ‚?? which I carelessly allowed myself to get stuck behind. ¬†The real treat came when we stood on the next tee and looked back at what had just come before us. ¬†Check it.

Turnberry‚??s the sort of place where you just look around in reverence and wonder how you managed to find yourself there despite your abundant lack of recent prayer (by recent I mean in the past decade). ¬†It‚??s tempting to swear to impress upon you just how moved I was by its beauty, but that would betray a linguistic laziness on my behalf. ¬†How should I say...soul nourishingly stunning? ¬†Whatever. ¬†I‚??ll let the photos do the talking.

What this photo of the 6th won‚??t capture, however, is just how bloody difficult it was. ¬†‚??Tappie Toorie‚?Ě is all of 230 yards over a ravine to a raised green DEAD INTO THE WIND. ¬†Oh, and there‚??s a bunker carved into the face of the sharp rise guarding the entrance to the green that would make Hell Bunker at St. Andrews look like a toddler‚??s sand pit. ¬†Poor John had an intimate encounter with the (unnamed) hole of death (which I took it upon myself to decree as ‚??That Bastard Bunker On The 6th‚?Ě); and the...bunker...won. ¬†Convincingly. ¬†I must‚??ve been so pleased with myself at having killed a 3 wood onto the front edge that I lost the plot and 3 jacked from 40 feet straight up the hill to lose the hole. ¬†‚??Oh dear‚?Ě I exclaimed.

Between the dry wit inherent in the hole descriptions penned in my yardage book; the incrementally ascending difficulty of each hole; and the bitterly fresh wind that was growing in strength by the second, I was starting to see the funny side of all of this. ¬†A string of opening pars and I‚??d had the naivety to at least consider that maybe Turnberry wasn‚??t so hard after all. ¬†Then reality found me wherever I‚??d been hiding as we stood on the 7th tee. ¬†Why? ¬†Because ‚??Roon the ben‚??‚?Ě is 500 yards of par 4 (stroke index 1 of course) into that dastardly wind. ¬†To a green that slopes hard from right to left and that‚??s guarded by two little sods at the front right entrance. ¬†If you make a 4 in these conditions then you should give up as that‚??s as good as your golf will EVER get. ¬†I guarantee you that. ¬†What fun though, pitting yourself against a Leviathan like the 7th.

At this point my good partner Alan and I found our way back to where we should have been: namely, with our noses in front. ¬†Just finding our stride we were. ¬†Just as we were getting within clear sight of That Lighthouse, the sight most people come here to see. ¬†Why lighthouses on golf courses are so intriguing I don‚??t know. ¬†But they are. ¬†While at The National Golf Links of America I remember second guessing myself as to why there was any merit in taking so many snaps of that red and white construction on the hill. ¬†I did the same today. ¬†Why? ¬†The angles you take photos of holes or humans would have to be adjusted to as to incorporate the lighthouse in the background. ¬†For the avoidance of doubt that one was at Turnberry. ¬†Perhaps I‚??m simple minded. ¬†

In Any Case. ¬†‚??Goat Fell‚?Ě the wonderfully named 8th hole is a mouth watering long-ish par 4 (432 yards for anyone who cares) that takes you right out near the rocks. ¬†From the green I gazed starry eyed at the beach below and the coastline stretching for miles behind it. ¬†And at the lighthouse ahead, of course. ¬†For goodness sake I‚??m only human. ¬†Mick and I scuttled off with a couple of 4s pleased to find the next tee unscathed. ¬†Goat Fell by the way is the name of the tallest peak directly across the water on Arran. ¬†Why it was called Goat Fell I have no idea. ¬†Use y‚??er imagination folks. ¬†

9 may have one of the most photographed (championship) tees in world golf. ¬†You march back down a rocky outcrop to a meticulously mown square of lawn which seems to float above the Firth of Clyde. ¬†On a day like today the scene is almost one you‚??d find in those golf calendars of imaginary holes that you can‚??t quite believe would exist. ¬†360 degree views of splendour. ¬†Looking at the golf hole in front (we didn‚??t play from the championship tees because 1. You‚??re not allowed to; and 2. The wind was blowing and the hole was hard enough) you begin to understand why pros like Tiger Woods go off the rails. ¬†If I had to make a living teeing off across mischief like that I‚??d be driven to abnormal behaviour I have no doubt. ¬†A cairn is optimistically placed in the middle of the fairway, giving the player an ‚??ideal‚?Ě line over which to tonk the ball. ¬†I found the cairn to be as optimistic as goal setting during your early years of high school (‚??When I grow up I want to: 1. Become a millionaire; 2. Find creative ways to spend my millions; 3. Marry a Victoria‚??s Secret supermodel; 4. Play off scratch consistently and with consummate ease; 5. Become a respected and cherished member of the local community; and 6. Always remain in my mother‚??s good books, etc etc). ¬†

In very un-Scots like fashion we paused for coffee after 9. ¬†By now the breeze was getting rather fresh, so the shelter of the half way house had a more settling effect than we might have thought. ¬†It‚??s like a wee standalone conservatory, with 180 degree views of The Firth of Clyde and That Lighthouse. ¬†With a coffee in hand and a good bit of craic it‚??s a tough spot to beat. ¬†Unpretentious but perfectly adequate.

Although our party could quite happily have camped out for a good hour or two, the aptly named 10th hole beckoned. ¬†‚??Dinna fouter‚?Ě translates to Don‚??t Mess About. ¬†‚??The Firth of Clyde awaits players who hit their tee shots too far left and, if that‚??s not enough, EVEN MORE TROUBLE AWAITS PLAYERS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FAIRWAY, in the shape of two pot bunkers and a further bunker on the right hand side of the fairway...‚?Ě ¬†Over coffee I‚??d forgotten entirely what entertainment might await me in my strokesaver readings on the back side. ¬†As it happened I didnae fouter, instead choosing to chip in from the deep stuff left of the green for my opening birdie of the day (one of two ‚?? both of which came from off the green!). ¬†The opposition were spewing. ¬†Good riddance.

The views back up to the 9th and beyond from the 10th, and along the 11th, are something rather special. ¬†The deep blue sea hypnotises you like the Pied Piper did to those rats. ¬†Contrast the fresh white paint of the lighthouse and you have a postcard scene and a half. ¬†The caption might read: ‚??Stay away from Scotland: ¬†all the trouble is in the middle of the fairway...‚?Ě

13 is a glorious sweeping dogleg right with 3 left side fairway bunkers and a huge plateau green. ¬†With the wind hurling off the left; gorse along the right; and that trio of bunkers guarding the dogleg, it‚??s an improbable proposition that you‚??ll smash one down the middle. ¬†But you must. ¬†And don‚??t be shy with your approach either, because that upslope rising up to the putting surface won‚??t think twice about spitting your ball back down to the fairway below, leaving a tricky up and down. ¬†In all honesty I was just trying to get the ball near the hole but unfortunately it went in for a second lucky birdie in 4 holes. ¬†John by this stage was very animated, and even began to call me unkind names. ¬†Which I won‚??t repeat.

On the 14th you‚??re told to ‚??Risk-an-hope.‚?Ě ¬†We all did just that and it didn‚??t work for any of us. ¬†The pot bunkers on the ‚??Ca Canny‚?Ě 15th ‚?? a par 3 playing short with the wind behind ‚?? were gruesome, particularly the one over the back. ¬†John as he was prone to doing picked another fight with one, and was again forced to accept Second Prize. ¬†Luckily he has a good sense of humour (although by this point it was no doubt running thin).

Many photos must‚??ve been taken over the years of ‚??Wee Burn‚?Ě, the 16th, particularly around the green complex. ¬†It‚??s a gorgeous ‚??little hole‚?Ě (at 455 yards...) that plays shorter than it sounds, but is no less difficult for it. ¬†Not a time to thin a 9 iron Jamie...into the burn... ¬†Michael hit a smashing drive down the right as he was instructed to, then made a very good par indeed after coming perilously close to finding a watery grave over the back right of the green. ¬†It‚??s no ‚??Wee‚?Ě burn let me tell you.

Perhaps the most evil little bunker we‚??ve encountered all year is positioned sadistically just off the fairway ‚?? into the face of a rise ‚?? on the par 5 17th, ‚??Lang Whang.‚?Ě ¬†When the wind‚??s behind us as it was, assuming you get a decent drive away the little codger shouldn‚??t come into play. ¬†It‚??s 88 yards of the green, which you can hit with a driver and a 9 iron if you play your cards right. ¬†However. ¬†In less favourable conditions this thing could give you nightmares for life. ¬†I wouldn‚??t wish an adventure in there on my worst enemy, unless he deserved it. ¬†

Many of you will remember The Duel in The Sun, the showdown between Watson and Nicklaus at the 1977 Open Championship at Turnberry. ¬†Well the 18th‚??s name has since been changed in reverence to ‚??what is regarded by many as the finest Major Championship ever played.‚?Ě ¬†A nice touch. ¬†By the time we were coming in it was becoming a Duel in The Wind, and a nailbiting one at that. ¬†After having been up for most of the match, Alan and I somehow found ourselves dormy 1 down after 17, courtesy of a characteristic Goldstein par 5 birdie. ¬†So we needed some magic. ¬†I‚??d positioned myself menacingly just off the front edge with a Texas Wedge at the ready (angling for my 3rd off-the-surface birdie to pull equal). ¬†Goldy knocked it relatively close. ¬†And John appeared to be in no man‚??s land way back left somewhere. ¬†Alan was gone. ¬†Then John much to my dismay pitched in, the rascal! ¬†After he‚??d been giving me so much jip for it too... ¬†A lovely moment to finish a well fought battle. ¬†Credit where credit it due: the heathens combined well and probably deserved their victory in the end. ¬†There, I said it.

No sooner had we finished than we found ourselves in the bar with an American size bowl of chips in front of us. ¬†The clubhouse by now was buzzing as big groups were readying themselves for their day of reckoning. ¬†We inhaled the chips then realised it was time to get back up the hill to check out. ¬†And check out of Scotland altogether. ¬†Stranraer was our last port of call on what has been an incredible 45 days here in this bonnie land, my homeland. ¬†It‚??s no St. Tropez, believe me, but it softens the blow by making the next destination ‚?? Belfast ‚?? all the more enticing. ¬†

Before I knew it we were out on deck on the Stena Line ferry, pulling into Belfast Lough. ¬†The old Harland & Wolf cranes ‚?? David & Goliath ‚?? looked to have had a paint job since I last saw them a decade ago. ¬†Sadly the ferry doesn‚??t take you all the way past them anymore as it used to. ¬†Och it‚??s still a lovely introduction to Nor‚??n Ireland though, which‚??ll be our adopted home for the next week. ¬†It‚??s the land of my fathers too. ¬†Slainte.


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