Shivas Irons Society Board Member John Rousseau is in Scotland on our joint trip with the Golf Historical Society of Canada. John has promised to keep us up to date with their adventures, so that we might virtually share the experience, even if we are a little jealous that we're not there with them. Enjoy!
Our first full day in Scotland was excellent. The Piersland House Hotel turned out to be a typical Scottish hotel. It looked beautiful, very elegant, but the plumbing was bad; the bed was lumpy; and it had so many stairs (a torment for an aging golfer at the end of a long day on the links). On the other hand, the breakfast was plentiful and the servers friendly.
The drive to Turnberry Golf Club took much longer than expected, but we got there. Roundabouts work great during most of the day, but rush hours . . .? It rained during the drive, but had stopped by the time we got to the course. There was very little wind and the weather improved constantly, over the course of the day. By the time we got to the back nine, it was perfect. Our caddies told us that the weather does not get much better than we were having, at Turnberry. Na wind, na golf?
The course was green and lush. The greens were typical links greens, much slower than we are used to back in Canada.
......On to Royal Troon tomorrow!
BEN KLINE CARMEL, CA
05/03/2019 • 2:50 pm
Another sunny day in Ayrshire, Scotland! So much for the weather forecasts! I came to Scotland prepared for every kind of weather but the glorious sunshine and warmth we are getting. I will bring a pair of shorts next time, regardless of the forecast.
The people at Royal Troon was incredibly friendly. The pro, Kieron, and the bookings manager, Alan, could not have been nicer. They bumped our tee time two hours forward, which made the day go much more smoothly. We had an excellent lunch in the dining room, overlooking the 18th green.
Royal Troon was in great shape. Once again the greens were a little slow by our North American standards, but they were smooth and rolled true.
Two days of putting on slow greens clearly demonstrated the power of habit to me. I kept looking at putts and telling myself that I had to hit them harder to get them to the hole, but could not seem to force myself to do it. My conscious thoughts could not seem to overcome the unconscious bond between what my eyes were seeing and how hard my body would hit the putts. End result, I spent the day coming up short on almost every putt.
We are looking forward to meeting up with the group in the morning and starting the tour in earnest. Our backs are aching, but we are as “warmed up” for the organized trip as we can be.
BEN KLINE CARMEL, CA
05/04/2019 • 2:41 pm
Hello there. I trust this message finds you well. We have now met up with the group and spent our first day with them. They seem like a nice bunch of fellows. There are several Shivas Irons Society members, such as Gerry Stratford and Larry Jacobs, as well as the people from the Golf Historical Society of Canada.
Today we drove to Western Gailes for lunch and an afternoon round of golf. It is a wonderful links course, made even better by the weather we played through. After being piped in on the first tee, we saw sun, rain, hail, wind, and still air, all in the space of four hours.
Today, the game reminded me that trying too hard is a mistake. Most of the time it is better to let the game come to you! When you wait patiently for them, good bounces seem to want to happen.
On one early hole, I hit a perfect 6-iron, right on line, which landed just in front of the green and bounced sideways into a very difficult lie in a steep faced bunker, resulting in a big number. A few holes later, a 7-iron, hit 20 yards to the right of my intended line, took three or four sideways bounces around a bunker and ended up close to the pin. Sometimes you just have to let it happen!
We ended the day with an excellent dinner at the Marine Hotel in Troon. On to Glasgow Gailes tomorrow.
BEN KLINE CARMEL, CA
05/09/2019 • 10:26 am
Day two with the group was a visit to Glasgow Golf Club, also known as Gailes or Glasgow Gailes. We took a bus over and had lunch at the course before playing. Attached is a photo of some Society members at the back of the bus.
Earlier in the morning, I took a walk on the beach beside Royal Troon with one of the trip participants. We walked back across part of the course to get back to our hotel. Walkers or ramblers are quite common on golf courses here.
By happenstance we came upon two members who were playing a match. At the 17th tee, a long par three into the wind, we asked the members if they would mind if we watched them play their tee shots. The first of them said that he did not, but that we should definitely not imitate anything we saw. He then proceeded to hit a driver approximately 220 yards, into a stiff breeze, to 3 feet from the hole. His opponent, seemingly nonplussed, hit a hybrid to the front of the green. But for the previous, spectacular shot, the second shot would have looked grand. We followed the players up to the green, where the first player cashed in his great shot, by making the putt for birdie. We gave them a little applause and then walked on. It was an interesting ten minute vignette.
When it came time to play our own round, I was reminded that you cannot force the game. You simply have to wait for it to come to you. I started slowly but improved on the back nine.
One of the highlights of the round was watching Bill Stanton, a.k.a. Billy, fight back from a deep deficit in his match with Wayne Morgan, a.k.a. the Commish. The photos below, from the front of the 18th green, show them settling the match on the final hole. Billy won and the match ended all square.
BEN KLINE CARMEL, CA
05/09/2019 • 10:42 am
A very early morning, as we set off for the 5.5 hour coach ride to Brora, the northernmost point of our trip. The weather forecast was not good, but it turned out even worse than that.
The coach ride was pleasant and the Scottish countryside beautiful. Brora is a very small town, hard by the North Sea. The clubhouse, at Brora is modest, but the hospitality was excellent.
The golf course at Brora has sheep and cows grazing on the fairways. There are low electrified fences around the greens, to keep the livestock at bay. We did not have to worry about livestock this day, as the animals were too smart to go out onto the course.
The weather changes are just as quick and as big as we were led to believe. The temperature was in the low single digits (with the windchill, less than 40°F). The sleet and hail, coming in sideways at times, were bone chilling.
The lesson the game taught today was perseverance. Everyone finished! Everyone got wet!
This is a course that you could play every day without getting bored.
My caddie told me that the statue of a dog was meant to keep the livestock on edge and moving. I have no idea if he was telling me a shaggy dog story.
BEN KLINE CARMEL, CA
05/09/2019 • 10:57 am
We arrived at Dornoch yesterday evening. It has a similar feel to St. Andrews. It seems to be a town largely devoted to golf.
Some of us stayed at the Links House. It was glorious. It had golf memorabilia and books everywhere and even had a putting green outside our door.
This morning, the fourth day of our trip, we headed off mid-morning to play Royal Dornoch. The course was in full bloom. The sun was out for much of the day (although we did see a little hail). It was a glorious day to be alive, especially on a golf course.
The lesson today was that wanting something too much on the golf course, or anywhere else, can be a bad thing. I played very well today, but all I can remember is what happened on Foxy. Foxy is the 14th hole at Dornoch and, by most reckonings, the most famous hole on the course.
It's a 435 yard par four, with an offset, raised green. I have always wanted to play the real thing, having played a replica in Michigan years ago. I hit my best drive of the day and a wonderful three hybrid that stopped just short of the green coming to a stop at the bottom of a steep slope. I wanted a par so badly, I could taste it. My caddie almost cost himself a tip that day, by saying that he would buy me a drink if I two putted! After that, I was so nervous that I putted it up the slope, across the green, and down the slope on the other side. When all was said and done, I had four putted for a six. I really wanted that par . . . .
Some of us went for a whisky tasting at that afternoon. We followed that with a wonderful dinner at the Dornoch Castle Hotel.
A great day overall, but Foxy . . .
BEN KLINE CARMEL, CA
05/15/2019 • 12:58 pm
We left Dornoch and travelled to Inverness by coach this morning. The weather remained quite good.
We drove straight to Nairn Golf Club, where we had lunch and headed out for a round on the Nairn Championship course.
The golf course itself was not in the best of shape, but you could tell by looking around that it had excellent bones.
All of our participants were offered a copy of a history of the Nairn Golf Club when we checked in at the pro shop. This day was about both history and the future. They are making significant improvements to the golf course to ready it for the Scottish Amateur tournament a couple of years down the road.
Nairn looking rough but inviting
After our round, we had the great pleasure of visiting the club archives and being immersed in the history of the game and the club.
There were any number of old golf clubs, including several which might have been the sort of baffing spoon that Shivas Irons used to make his late night hole-in-one.
Unlike most museums and archives, at Nairn we were invited to touch the various exhibits. It was a singular experience.
Following our visit to the archives, we had an excellent dinner in the Bullmer Room which is usually reserved for official club functions, with a beautiful view of the sea.
All told, the day was an excellent way to put our tour of these wonderful links courses in context of the long history of the game.
On to Castle Stewart tomorrow.
BEN KLINE CARMEL, CA
05/16/2019 • 9:58 am
After an excellent dinner in Inverness and a quiet night at the hotel, we set off to Castle Stuart golf club. This course is somewhat different, in that it is much newer than any of the other courses on which we played during the trip.
The weather had became cold and windy again. My roommate decided to take the day off, as he was getting very sore and tired from playing golf every day for more than a week. I should probably have done the same, but I could not resist seeing this course, which was reputed to be one of the most beautiful seaside courses in Scotland. The course reminded me of Kingsbarns, near St. Andrews.
My warm up went well and I set off with a high sense of optimism. It turned out not to be well-founded. Today was a lesson in endurance. By the time I got to the last few holes, I was on my last legs.
During this round, we practiced several of the traditions of the Shivas Irons Society. We played a silent hole, on which we could hear nothing but birds chirping, the rustle of our rain gear, and our own breathing.
We also played a one-club hole. It is always amazing to me how little difference using only one club makes. It was a medium length par four and I took a lofted hybrid. I reached the greenside in two shots and three-putted from there, not much different from my results on holes where I had a whole range of clubs available from which to choose.
Finally, the par three 11th hole, which is somewhat secluded, at the base of a bluff and facing the the sea, we took the opportunity to let out a loud yell before hitting our tee shots. Some of my foursome seemed to be self-conscious doing it. As for me, venting my frustrations and filling my lungs with air resulted in a good tee shot and rare good birdie opportunity today!
As I said, by the end of the 18th hole, I was hobbling and worried about the next day’s golf. My endurance was sorely tested, but, once again, like everyone else, I persevered.
It says something about how tired we were getting that all of us agreed to skip the stop at the scheduled visit to the Culloden battlefield that afternoon.
A number of us went for an excellent dinner and a few more hours of singing the praises of golf, before calling it a day. That made eight days of endurance!
BEN KLINE CARMEL, CA
05/16/2019 • 10:12 am
Today, we left relatively early in the morning for Gleneagles, driving along the western edge of the Cairngorms (hills or small mountains) on the way. The hills were snow-covered; beautiful to look at but daunting for golfers hoping to play golf nearby. Fortunately, at Gleneagles, the only parkland and inland golf course on the program, the weather was much improved over the previous day.
When I got to the first tee, I was still hobbling, after yesterday’s round at Castle Stuart. My expectations were not high. My play on the first few holes was a struggle.
If anyone had asked me on the third or fourth hole whether I thought I would finish the round, I would have been uncertain.
Once again, the game decided to teach me something. Out of necessity I started swinging much easier and found that I began striking the ball purely. At first, the shots were not traveling very far, but by the time I got to the back nine, I was hitting some of my best shots of the trip, some of them reasonably far. In fact, I gave myself two eagle putts on the back nine, one on a driveable par four and the other on the par five 18th hole.
Can anyone identify this handsome fellow?
Even better, as the round progressed, my calf pain and hobbling began to lessen. I guess I walked off the injury. I was delighted to finish the round feeling as good as I did, much less hitting the ball better than I had for several days. Sometimes the game is quite merciful and shows us kindnesses. This can be hard to remember this on days when the bounces are going badly and we hurt, but things do tend to even out.
In the evening, we had a whisky (and wine for the non-traditionalists) tasting in the cellars of the hotel, followed by a fine dinner. The Gleneagles hotel itself is a lovely old place. Unfortunately, our day was so long that we did not have an opportunity to use many of the wonderful facilities of the hotel.
On to Prestwick and our last round together in the morning.
BEN KLINE CARMEL, CA
05/16/2019 • 10:25 am
I woke up early this morning and decided to take a walk around the Gleneagles Hotel grounds. It is truly a lovely spot.
After a very substantial breakfast (I averaged about 22,000 steps per day of walking on this trip, but did not lose a pound, presumably because we ate and drank so well), we boarded the coach for one last ride back to Troon and a round of golf at Prestwick.
Prestwick is a marvelous course. It has a number of blind shots. I always think of a blind shot as being a little like Christmas. You hit the shot and then have to wait until you climb over the hill to see what you got.
On this day, we were scheduled to play a Ryder Cup type competition, between the Americans and Canadians in our group. As a general rule, I do not participate in competitions, preferring to play the game for what it can teach me, but, since it was a team event and I was needed to help balance the numbers on the teams, I agreed to play in this case. Having said this, my plan was to play the course, not battle it out with my opponent. It helped that my opponent was a wonderful gentleman and fellow Society member, Gerry Stratford.
A photo of our whole group, in front of the Prestwick clubhouse, just before the start of the match is set out below.
Quite frankly, whether Gerry won or I did, I was happy either way. I only hoped that we both would play well. As it turned out, neither of us played as well as we would have liked and it was a close match throughout.
Before playing, we had a look around the clubhouse and I purchased a Prestwick belt, which I will always think of as my version of the Open Championship Belt which Tommy Morris took home after winning the Open Championship three times running.
Before the round, a couple of us wandered over to the Red Lion Pub, the original 19th hole and the place where the professionals met before the first Open Championship in 1860. It seemed like a fitting spot to visit before our last round on this venerable old course.
My only regret on the day is that I allowed the caddy of one of my playing companions to irritate me and get me angry on the famous 17th hole, a blind par four.
After discussions with my caddie, I took out a 5-wood and decided to try to hit over the mound and bunker guarding the green. The caddy for my playing companion walked by and told me, somewhat derisively that I would never get to the green with that club. I believe I might have made it, but after hearing that comment, I swung extra hard and hit the ball nowhere. This so frustrated me that I then made a total mess of the rest of the hall, ending with a triple bogey.
Fortunately, my match had already been decided, so it did not make a difference to the team. Having said this, I was still annoyed with the caddy when we finished the 18th hole, 20 minutes later. In my annoyance, I declined to shake hands with him. While there may have been some justification for what I felt, I feel bad about letting his words get to me on the 17th and how I dealt with it. A bit of a sad ending to an otherwise excellent day. The game still has lots more to teach me.
That evening, we had one last dinner at the Piersland Hotel. It was a fitting conclusion to an interesting and enjoyable trip. A photo of the Shivas Irons Society contingent on the trip is set out below.
Author John Rousseau on the left