Scottish golfing holidays are about so much more than the historic courses
EACH FALL, along with a few friends, I make a pilgrimage to Scotland to play some of the old courses that the golf lords built into the seaside landscape. This year was no exception. These quick trips, just a few days long, are good for the soul—and not just because of the golf.
In the little community of Lossiemouth on Scotland’s Moray Firth, we went out for dinner on the night that Scotland and England were playing in separate World Cup soccer qualifying matches. Scotland was up first and not surprisingly, the streets of Lossiemouth, doubtless like all others in Scotland, were deserted, while the pubs were full. Scotland won and the celebration began. The coverage then switched to Belfast, where Northern Ireland, which hadn’t beaten a visiting English team in more than 70 years, was ready for battle. The pub had pretty well emptied, except for a few stragglers splashing ale. Not a single pair of eyes, though, was raised to the television, and when we asked why, the answer came back, “Auch, it’s England.” Even with its star-studded team of Beckham, Owen, Rooney and a manager who makes, wait for it, $11 million a year, and even with Northern Ireland scoring in the second half for a shocking win, no one bothered to watch. When pressed, it was clear they were happy for the Irish, but they weren’t about to disrupt their evening to observe the English, even in defeat. Some grudges never die.
Further along the coast, we stopped for a night in Nairn. It’s a charming town that has all a traveller could expect—hotels, restaurants, banks, cashmere
A memorial stands in Naim’s main square. I thought it was for the war dead, but instead, it was for an 18th-century teacher.
shops. And history. In the middle of the main square stands a memorial. I thought it was for Nairn’s war dead, but this wasn’t about soldiers. Here, the people of Nairn remembered a resident who had guided a generation in the late 1700s. Not a mayor, not a sports figure, not a poet or painter— but a teacher. It made me think: we all like to recall that one teacher who affected us, whose style made us want to learn, but a memorial in the centre of town? The more I thought about it though, the more sense it made—somehow I suspect no one disses teachers in Nairn.
All right, then, permit me one Scottish golf story. Just as our threesome was about to tee off at Cruden Bay, an elderly local briskly approached. He was in golfing gear we don’t normally see in North America: black dress pants, a very proper shirt and tie. One of our group asked if he was looking to join us. And he so politely responded, “Oh, would you mind?” Mind? Hardly. We spent a delightful four hours in the company of a remarkable man and his stories. He was 75, a retired RAF officer and civil servant who proudly declared his 27 handicap, and always putted out, turning down our offers of “gimmes.” We asked for the secret of his long and apparently healthy life, especially when we caught him disappearing between holes for a cigarette. His answer? Thirteen cups of tea a day with three spoonfuls of sugar each. And to top that off, his fingers repeatedly dove into a bag of toffee. We kept wondering how he was still standing.
He was a perfect companion. Perhaps sensing we were all desperate to play well, at one point he smiled and ventured, “Don’t focus on your scores, boys, the game isn’t about numbers, it’s about enjoying the day.”
Can’t wait till next year. Iifl
Peter Mansbridge is Chief Correspondent of CBC Television News and Anchor of The National.
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