Bill at Fraserburgh gave me Gordon’s phone number. Gordon happens to be the Director of Greenkeeping at St Andrews, so of course I called him and in fact am meeting him today for a bit of a tour. I told him I was on a bit of a pilgrimage to play at Shiskine on the Isle of Arran and he asked if I was planning on playing at Lamlash. I hadn’t arranged to play there but told Gordon I would while on the island.
I arrived on the Isle of Arran Saturday after stopping in to Gleneagles for a spot of tea. My only lament was that I didn’t have time to play there as I had a ferry to catch. But I will be back to play there.
Sunday was very wet and I spent the day doing foodie things, calling in to Arran Fine Foods, The Cheese Shop and The Chocolate Shop was a very good start. I had a delicious spinach, garlic, green onion, wild mushroom and cheese turkish pide at Cafe Thyme. I had also arranged to interview some food producers at different places later in the week.
I then stopped in at Lamlash Golf Club. The course was closed as it was so wet and all the doors downstairs were locked but as I had noticed a car in the carpark I was determined to find someone to speak with as Gordon had recommended the track, so I had to play here.
The door upstairs was open and initially I chatted to the barman who called for Smithy to come over. I told Smithy I was golfing, eating and reviewing my way across Scotland and that the Director of Greenkeeping at St Andrews had recommended I play here and would like to arrange a round. He said he would play with me if the captain couldn’t.
I got a drink (the boys couldn’t believe I was Australian but drinking water) and sat chatting to Smithy and Dan for a bit. Not long after, Ian the current captain, came in and we chatted about when we could play together as I was already playing at Whiting Bay Monday. The forecast for Tuesday was terrible so Ian and I arranged an early start on the Monday, meeting at 6am.
Five hours later I was leaving the club and had interviewed not only Ian (as I travel I do a “Twenty Questions with Tiff” interview with everyone I golf with) but also Smithy and Dan.
Ian had agreed to come out before he had to go off to work. He did say we would take turns hitting each others ball so we could play quickly. I think he thought I would be worse than what I was.
I got back to my accommodation made my breakfast smoothie, ready for my early start the following day.
I crawled out of bed at 5.30am. It was a gorgeous morning, cool, clear and no one around – in fact most people were not yet awake.
After teeing off the first, Ian said he thinks we can just play our own ball.
It was wet out there after all the rain Sunday but was drying as the sun rose higher. Ian had phoned the Head Greenkeeper to advise we were going out in a buggy and he requested care to be taken on the wet track. We only got bogged the once and I jumped out pushing from behind and as the buggy spun forward I was coated in mud. I could do naught but laugh and demand that the horrified Ian just take a photo.
While I donated a couple of balls to Lamlash the rolling hills and the views were fantastic. I was very glad I crawled out of bed early to enjoy the quiet morning with the birds flitting about.
I returned to my accommodation to check out and get my stuff and the folk taking breakfast were astounded to learn I had already played eighteen and was off to play another round at Whiting Bay. I also learned that a couple of fellas that were on the bus last night were talking about a mad aussie golfer who had turned up at Lamlash Golf Club and spent hours chatting. I was assured they spoke highly of me.
Up the road to Whiting Bay and I met the Captain, David. Whiting Bay is a very steep course with lots of hills and some tiny greens. Was a great challenge and I am chuffed to say it was here I cracked 100 for the first time ever. While it is a short track (a par 63) I was beside myself when I added the card up to learn I had shot 92. It was a day of firsts as I had four gentlemen who were coming up the 17th stop and applaud my second shot on the 16th.
I was a little shocked but delighted and I had hit an awesome 7 iron. You know when you hit it in the centre of the club, it is no effort at all and you watch it sail exactly where you aim it. It was one of those and just perfect. After taking my handicap into account I had shot 60. Three under par – for me unheard of.
I then had the pleasure of one of John’s curries. If you play at Whiting Bay ask John for a curry. If there is no pot simmering on the stove he will always have some stocked in the freezer and you will not be disappointed.
I then headed across the island to the fantastic B&B at Machrie Bay, Achabhealaidh – which I cannae pronounce. I’d booked for four nights at this stunning setting overlooking the Mull of Kintyre and the Machrie Bay Golf Course.
Upon arrival Douglas (current Captain at Machrie Bay) asked if I had spoken with James the pro at Brodick Golf Course. I had not. James knew I was on the island and golfing up a storm and was expecting my call. In all honesty I hadn’t planned on playing Brodick at all, but phone I did and arranged to play Brodick on the Thursday with James after I finished playing at Machrie Bay. I was also going to be playing with Piet (Douglas’ wife) who was the Secretary at Shiskine.
Tuesday weather was as predicted and woeful but I had planned to spend the day eating and talking food so I didn’t mind at all. I met and interviewed James of Arran (chocolatier) and then interviewed Alistair from Taste of Arran. We talked for quite a while about all things food and golf.
Wednesday and I headed to Cafe Thyme and interviewed Hansa the Turkish chef and may have eaten a loaf of turksish bread hot from the oven. Now I do have a rule that I never eat anything bigger than my head, which the loaf was, but hot from the oven I just couldn’t stop.
Next stop was Shiskine, which was whole reason I was on the Isle of Arran in the first place. After reading Preferred Lies I had to experience the course for myself. Once again I thank you Andrew Greig.
I met Piet and had a delicious curry carrot soup for lunch at the clubhouse, although I didn’t touch the bread that accompanied it.
Piet and I teed off and I was very happy with my start. A little wayward on the second and got to the Eagles Nest and tried to nail one straight up but just wedged it in the gorse. My second ball was not over but not too bad and I chipped nicely from there on to the green and dropped the putt for a five. I was ok with that. I mishit by fourth drive into the side of the hill (or is it a mountain as I felt a little like a mountain goat looking for it) but nailed my second drive to the green. A couple of putts and another five.
I was playing ok doing some great things amongst some crap (my usual game) and parred the eighth with a nice putt. I followed that up on the ninth with my worst hole. Got a nice even ten after chipping from some gorse further into the gorse and taking a drop. On the tenth I nailed my drive a little directionally challenged, a little higher than the pin and I just happened to be near the eleventh tee. A chip and a putt and I’d be fine. Until I hit my chip that is.
I topped it, watched it hit the green and go rolling off into the longer rough about 30 feet from the hole. I pulled out my putter and looked at the hole and decided I would just hole it. And hole it I did. Piet couldn’t believe it, I let out a whoop of delight and danced a little jig on the spot. I had looked at the tricky green and aimed it to snake around but watched in astonishment as it went exactly where I wanted it and hit the pin as it dropped into the hole.
Very very satisfying. A shot I will remember for a while. Piet gave me a high five and I nailed my next two drives finishing with a bogie and a par. Great day, great experience, great twelve hole track. I love that there were nine (if I remember correctly) blind holes and you just give it a good nudge. Whack well, is one of my favourite sayings and I must say I didn’t whack too badly this day.
Wednesday night and I was off to Creelers to interview Tim, talk about all things smoked (mainly salmon) and eat a feast as the restaurant. The hot and cold smoked salmon was the best I had ever eaten (may have not eaten smoked salmon since a bad experience 15 years ago) and the halibut on a bed of mash with chowder sauce was rich and creamy and way too much, yet I ate it all. My body wasn’t really happy with me overeating.
Thursday and I had two rounds booked.
Following a quick run to the Arran Butcher and an interview with Dawn, I then met Douglas to play Machrie Bay.
As he lives across the road we headed over and started on the seventh. It was the match to end all matches and as we teed up on the sixth (our final hole) I was one stroke ahead. Did I choke or did I just have my usual inconsistent round?
Regardless Douglas beat me by one stroke. I was just playing the scenic route and challenging myself to get out of the rough. My chipping all around the greens had been very good and again I dropped some long putts.
That was until I got to Brodick. So inconsistent here but walking down the fairway looking up at Goatfell with the sea beside you. What a back drop. I played with James and we had a great time laughing and whacking balls all over. He from fairway to green me the most round about way I could. I did hit a few good shots but I gave myself lots of belly laughs with things I attempted and duffed completely.
A lady walking her dog asked me if I was winning and I told her I was always winning playing golf regardless of the score card. Here I was on a sunny Thursday afternoon on the Isle of Arran in Scotland playing golf. How could it be anything other than winning.
Following that it was off to Brodick Bar and one of the best dishes I have eaten in a long time. I had a good laugh with James and Jacki along with the fantastic food. Poached pear, grilled goats cheese, fresh apple, toasted walnuts and a green salad. My tastebuds haven’t been this happy since the stuffed mushrooms at The Tufted Duck – so at least a week. The lamb was good but I was delighted by my entree and grabbed Ian, the owner, on the way past to tell him exactly that.
Next day I was off to meet Wolfi at The Trafalgar where unfortunately I wasn’t able to eat at but I was entertained by Wolfi nonetheless.
I needed lunch before I caught the ferry and took myself off to Brodick Bar for another delicious meal. I wanted the best place closest to the ferry and this was it. I had a simple soup and sandwich but the flavours were nothing simple. A roast red pepper and goats cheese soup with a grilled chicken, sweet corn and swiss cheese toastie hit the spot before I sailed across to play at West Kilbride.
Was a dull day on the coastal links with the sun well and truly hiding behind the cloud but playing and constantly looking across the water to Arran where I had just had a wonderful golfing experience made me happy. I lost a couple of balls but as courses are known to do (for me anyway) I found more than I lost and while I had some terrible holes and spent a bit of time at the beach I was getting on to some fantastic 3w and dropped some great putts. As the wind picked up and the rain started falling we were happy to head to the car after playing 16. I had just played 91 holes in five days and carried my bag around 73 of them so I was happy for a wee rest.
A seafood feast at Scott’s at Largs was a great way to end my golfing week.
I had yesterday off golf completely and spent it touring Ayrshire but shortly I am off to my accommodation in Edinburgh then on to meet Gordon at St Andrews and a little excited I am.