Scotland turned on a stunning day for our penultimate round at the Kintyre course at Turnberry on the South West coast of Scotland.
The township of Turnberry revolves 100% around golf.¬† As you drive in the road sign reads ‚?? ‚??Turnberry, a golfers paradise‚?? and then it is a case of blink and you‚??ll miss it.¬† But only a non-golfer would ever miss this.¬†
The massive hotel sits atop the hill to the East (the inland side) of the road with an amazing pitch and putt laid out below, and on the seaside is a large car park with signage on the front saying ‚??golf courses‚??.¬† The entrance to golf paradise.
We arrived with plenty of time so we decided to do something about our lack of accommodation for our last night in Scotland and popped up to the Turnberry Hotel to see if they‚??d put us up.¬† Worth a shot I guess. ¬†After two nights straight in the car JP was particularly keen for a decent nights sleep. And with The Tank being a much smaller beast than its American counterpart Dodgy & not being able to accommodate the both of us, I‚??d had two nights straight in a YHA which was not kind on the budget.¬†
Unfortunately the marketing chap at the Turnberry Hotel was not so receptive and we were politely asked to step outside and speak with the concierge about finding somewhere more appropriate to stay.¬†¬† Sure...¬† Problem is around these parts ‚?? the Turnberry Hotel has a bit of a monopoly ‚?? over both the accommodation and the golf courses (actually there are a couple of B&B‚??s set up to cater for the golfers).¬† The Hotel & Golf courses are very commercial‚?? they‚??re both owned by an outfit from Dubai and so it‚??s very up-market and eager to please the well-heeled golf tourist.¬†¬† Stay and play packages are the norm at a rate that could purchase a small nation. ¬†I wondered to myself what the story was with the members of Turnberry ‚?? two of which we were to play with on the Ailsa course the following day.¬† [later we would find out the gig: they negotiate their rights to the course with the owners from time to time and have access to the courses at set times during the week and play their competitions from there ‚?? it looks like a great club culture but there‚??d surely be a sense of insecurity knowing that someone more concerned with their cashflow than the club has the final say].
The Kintyre course? The second course which was once named the Arran course before it was entirely redeveloped following the second world war. ¬†If I may digress, during WW2 Turnberry was taken over by the airforce with landing strips built through the golf courses and the hotel used as lodging.¬† Supposedly the officers spent a fair bit of time playing golf around the few holes that remained on the Ailsa course‚?¶.¬†
So to the golf. Perfect weather - no wind and the ultimate big blue. ¬†A day primed for scoring we thought to ourselves as we set a birdie challenge of combined 10 for the day.¬† Ambitious stuff.¬† Of course.¬† Probably eyes too big for the stomach kind of stuff.¬†
The first tee shot was always going to set the tone.¬† A dog-leg left par five bunkers on both sides and crap far off in the nether regions where I am prone to hitting driver. ¬†Too long for the 2 iron I found myself driver in hand, eyes closed and boom ‚?? to the surprise of all down the middle. My 8th fairway in Scotland using a driver (that‚??s not great odds). ¬†Birdie resulted ‚?? 1 down 9 to go.
The front nine was straight forward provided you got it away from the tee and both Jamie and I were hitting it pretty well - I think we both hit 8 greens in regulation.¬† But there was some difficulty being had with the putter.¬† I found myself with 100 thoughts going through my head standing over the ball, none of which had anything to do with the 20 foot putt laid out before me.¬† Where are we staying tonight?¬† How are we going to fund the Irish leg?¬† How is Gretta? What‚??s happening with our final month in NZ? I think it‚??s one aspect of the golf game that has improved over the course of the year - being able to block out all kinds of stuff and instead live in a little bubble that is the golf course and the task ahead on each particular hole.
Well that‚??s what I must have done today as out in 32 I found myself freaking out in a different way on the 10th about the possibility of shooting a number that is ordinarily preserved for those who play this game for a living. ¬†Moments later I was wandering around in the knee high stuff looking unsuccessfully for my ball. ¬†¬†Double bogey / Bogey later my feet were back squarely on the ground.¬† JP and I had both started straying from the tee and now all we could see before us was the thick gorse lining both sides of every tee on this relatively tight course.¬† Supposedly the members rate it one shot harder than the more undulating, longer Ailsa course which hosts the Championships.¬† After now playing them both I do not agree with that assessment!
Let me quickly rewind though to a hole which cannot go unmentioned. The par four 8th hole is a little beauty. ¬†It's a blind par four and at 290 odd yards it is very much reachable. Even more so because of the sharp undulations short of the green. The green sits in a sheltered nook between the ocean and some rocky outcrops. ¬†It's a hole that takes your breath away, and with the green sloping subtly away from you it's by no means a gimme birdie either! ¬†The photograph below is of the 8th green. Gorgeous.
Amidst a few bad swings there really wasn‚??t much to worry ourselves over whilst out on the course as we‚??d caught Turnberry on a perfect night with the Aisla Craig glowing offshore, the famous lighthouse shining in the evening sun and not a cloud in the sky. ¬†Looking around I just had to pinch myself.
Then as the holes started traversing back towards the clubhouse the cup started to get wider and wider and a few long putts snuck in.¬† Unfortunately all of them were after poor iron shots and poor chips had left me 20 feet away for par.¬†¬† Then to the last hole, a par five which plays back towards the clubhouse and with heavy bunkering it requires two solid shots to maneuver around / through / over the bunkers to the green and give yourself a chance at eagle 3. ¬†Down a slight breeze both of us managed this and a cheeky two putt later I‚??d signed for a career golfing low of 2 under 69.¬† I was thrilled.
Keen to celebrate with a beer or 3 this plan was stalled after JP hit the practice putting green to work on his stroke.¬†¬† An hour and some later we left the course, myself with spirits still (relatively) high and JP with a new putting stroke (cack-handed no less).
We got some tucker from the local supermarket (end of day rolls & salami as you do) and then headed back to the course to suss out sleeping options.¬† Just as we‚??d agreed on the hut / car combination and were having a beer and a few (more) practice putts, we got a call from our man Graeme Russell from Macallan who saved our bacon and jacked us up a room in the Hotel.¬† So up we drove where we met up with the kiwi lads, Erik, Laurie, Rhys and their latest recruit ‚?? Peter Fowler (the Aussie pro) and had a couple of drinks hearing all about their day at Western Gailes [which is a wonderful course and when you can still remember each hole 40 days on this is a great sign].¬†¬†¬† A radio interview with National Radio back in NZ followed & then it was bed time to prepare for the final day, the ultimate challenge and what would be my favourite golf course in Scotland ‚?? the Ailsa course at Turnberry.¬†
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