Category Archives: Golf

Scotland: Golf at Turnberry; Visit to Robert Burns Home & Poetry Reading

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Well, our clubs finally made it to Scotland on our last day. Lyn extended by a day so that he could play one round of golf. It was going to be “we”, but I didn’t think we should pay for my golfing. I was just as happy to be caddy and photographer.

Initially, it didn’t look like Lyn was going to get out onto the Ailsa course, the main and famous course at Turnberry. It is his favorite golf course in the world. My heart was breaking for him. I happened to mention to the man who brought our dinner that we weren’t able to get on and he said he would look into it. Within an hour, we got a call that we could come to the course for an 8am tee time.

Rain was predicted, so I bundled into rain pants, multiple layers, rain coat and rain hat. It turned out to be clear! Still, with the stiff ocean breezes, I was glad I had a solid windbreak.

Named after the third Marquess of Ailsa, who owned the land on which it was built, it is easy to see why this is one of golf’s storied places. By the end of the round, we had walked over 8 miles! Home to four Open Championships, Ailsa has shaped some of the most remarkable moments in the tournament’s history. While we were there, the tents were being set up for the European Open tournament. Throughout the Clubhouse, photos of famous players line the hallways.

Things are different at Turnberry and it seems this way at all courses in Scotland. People walk. Golf carts are only used with a medical waiver and, even then, only on certain courses. The emphasis is on nature and purity of play. It was quite unpretentious for being Turnberry after all. You can walk right up to the 18th green, people walk their dogs through the course and down to the beach and families quietly strolled through with children hand in hand. Young children are clearly used to golf – you can see them sprinting as soon as a golfer hits his tee shot.

We arrived at the starter shed before anyone else. The starter was a tall, kind, enthusiastic Scottsman in his senior years. He warmly greeted us and presented Lyn with a starter package. It was a very cute light blue tartan bag with a scorecard, yardage book, tees and a pencil.

The holes at Turnberry have funny names which are Scottish words such as:

#2: Mak Siccar (Make Sure)
#3: Blaw Wearie (Out of Breath)
#13: Tickly Tap (Tricky little stroke)

We made our way to the #4 tee to start by walking along the holes 1-3. We started out on hole #4 due to a shot-gun style start. This gave a taste of the challenges ahead. This holes was named “Woe-Be-Tide”. It ran right along the ocean.

All I heard was water. there were no sounds of engines, people talking or distant parties from homes along the courses we typically play. Just stillness.

Its first three holes pose a fairly tough opening, particularly when the wind blows from the direction of its namesake, the brooding isle of Ailsa Craig, 11 miles out to sea. It is said that if you can’t see Ailsa Craig, it’s raining. If you can see it, it is about to rain. From the 4th to the 11th, the coastal scenery is magnificent and the course is demanding. Lyn had several incredible drives and a few birdies. There were a few lost balls and I quickly learned there is NO finding them.

Lyn had one experience in the famous pot bunkers of Turnberry. It bounced off the top. They really are a thing of beauty and engineering (if you are not a golfer).

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We had been told that the course was busy, but we rarely saw other players. It was refreshing to play without golf carts. Pushing a cart and walking up to your last shot this way really gives a different sense of preparation and stillness.

The 5th to the 8th holes are framed by sandy hillocks. You can hear the ocean hitting the rocks on the otherside, but you can’t see the surf. Leaving the 5th, you climb a big hill to reach the #6 tee, “Tappie Toorie (Hill to the top)”. Emerging from the 6th, the lighthouse comes into view.

The 9th, 10th and11th are flanked by craggy rocks. #9, “Bruce’s Castle”, is called the “Pebble Beach of Scotland”. On its stony ridge on the edge of the sea, the 9th hole is Turnberry’s trademark. The landmark lighthouse casts shadows over the 13th century ruins of Bruce’s Castle, the reputed birthplace of Scotland’s hero king Robert the Bruce. I am not sure this fable is true because Donald Trump is about to put a green through it. There is a narrow path to the tee. The drive must be perfectly straight or it will land in the rocks below. Lyn had no problem.

While the rocks came come into play, it was fun to play a course without trees. I am used to hearing the crack of a golf ball hitting a tree somewhere during my rounds. Here you can see across fairways and there are no tree lines.

Hole #10 was my favorite, Dinna Fouter (Don’t Mess About). It ran along the ocean and had an island bunker (picture a donut of a bunker). Not sure what would happen if you landed on the island….

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Hole #12 is called Monument. This hole get it’s name from the monument on the hill that commemorates the airmen who lost their lives while stationed at Turnberry during the World Wars. It’s interesting to note that the whole course and region was heavily involved in WW2. Some of the fairways were converted to landing strips, and the hotel was used as a hospital to treat the wounded. You can see photos inside the hotel from these days.

All through the course, you can always see the Scottish flag flying high and the hotel comes into view from #15 on. Ca’ Canny (Take care), #15, is a par 3 with very steep sides going down to a creek.

The 17th, named Lang Whang, Long whack, is the only par 5 on the course. A short but challenging hole, its subtle contours slightly obstruct each shot-characteristic of the trickery of Turnberry. I would run ahead to keep an eye on his ball.

On the 18th, Duel in the Sun, with the red-roofed hotel in sight to distract, gorse running down the right side and small dunes peeking up just enough to block your view of the landing zone, finding the fairway is even more difficult. Not for Lyn; however, he was on the green in two.

We finished up on #3. Lyn had an amazing drive and excellent putting. He finished the day just over 80. He was very pleased.

11,000 steps and nearly 8 miles of walking, we hobbled a bit getting back to the clubhouse. Lunch in the restaurant, “Duel in the Sun” of soup and sandwiches hit the spot. Coming out after lunch, I smelled the sea air again and was reminded how much the ocean and this course are in harmony.

After golfing, we contemplated going for a hottub and a nap, but we decided to do some more sightseeing. I wanted to see Robert Burns’ birthplace and museum. Robert Burns, as you may remember, is a famous Scottish poet. It was very inspiring.

When we returned, we had a drink in the lobby sitting in the window. We were treated to a Robert Burns poetry reading complete with a charming man in a kilt. As he finished, a bagpiper began (in pouring rain) piping and marching in front of the hotel back and forth for about a half an hour.

As I write this, the wind howls outside our windows. I can see the grey Firth of Clyde from the windows. It matches the heavy grey clouds above. It stays dark until nearly 10:30pm here. Golfers play in the rain and even into the dark…

Another Honeymoon Everyday!

Ca’ Canny!

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