Busman’s Holiday

I have just enjoyed a week’s vacation, and played a few rounds of golf. 5 in fact, and Bruce Harper you would have enjoyed them!

The first round was in Dublin, Ireland. The K-Club, scene of the Ryder Cup and numerous European PGA events. I played with a great group including the Head Professional Lynn McCool, the Head Pro at Gleneagles Russell Smith and a DJ named Spoony. The course reminded me of London Hunt for some reason. All the dog leg left holes made it easy to guess Arnold Palmer had designed it. The Hotel and Spa was excellent, very luxurious. The course is one of Arnie’s best, the company was tolerant and lots of fun.

The next two rounds were at Royal Dornoch. An easy four hour drive north from St. Andrews through some amazing countryside. At first the drive reminded me of Muskoka, then it turned into Alberta and then became pure Scotland when you get back to Inverness and the sea views. Here in St. Andrews the locals have definite Scots’ accents, we found in the north the people we met spoke the most perfect pleasant English. That was amazing but so is the golf course, Royal Dornoch. It has now become my favourite links course – not only is it championship calibre, it is fun to play and I mean fun for every handicap player. You can play the course with a putter (if you are straight), the North Sea is the only hazard (and you really have to hook to get in it). I guess the beautiful slopes covered with gorse and whins might be hazardous but usually far from your target. I played both rounds with the same ball if that means anything. We stayed in the Eagle Hotel, our room was above the Pub which seems to be the local, good food too! It also allowed us to take our dog Marley with us (they even have two tables in the Pub for accompanied dogs).

We played the course by ourselves on Sunday afternoon, and with Richard Goodale and his wife Jose on Monday morning. Later I might explain why Royal Dornoch is a can’t miss for visitors (but read Lorne Rubenstein’s “Season in Dornoch” for a better explanation as he can write). The course was “designed” by several people, including Mother nature, Tom Morris, and Donald Ross was pro and keeper of the greens before he moved to the US and Pinehurst. Not all the greens are Ross type inverted saucers, many are bowls and other unique brilliant creations. The BEST par threes anywhere! And they invited our Marley to go with us on the Sunday round – his first 18 holes walking (he probably rode in a cart for over 400 rounds in Jamaica). The only rule was he had to attached to my bag.

Old Pro and Marley at Donald Ross birthplace, Dornoch (picture by Carolyn)

During the drive home to St. Andrews we committed to the Atkins diet for the next wee while.

The next round was on the New Course, usually ranked next to the Old Course and often preferred by the local players. After Dornoch I found it a bit boring but an excellent course with numerous revetted bunkers and many exciting greens. A bit narrower than the Old Course, an easy walk and although crowded we played in less than 4 hours. I wouldn’t consider it as good as our Devlin or Torrance courses but the New is a true links course with hard and fast conditions.

Yesterday I played with the Thursday Club lads on the Old Course. I still can’t believe that my Links membership includes as many rounds on the Old Course as I want! And my annual rate is less than what most visitors drop for one round. The weather was a perfect 60 degrees with little wind. 42 putts might explain why I lost my $12.00 to Gordon Murray (read George Peppers book to find out more about Gordon). I hit the first 11 holes in regulation and was four down. Later I want to do a match play comparison between Dornoch and the Old Course, I’m afraid I know which tract will win.

Dornoch card on top, Old Course bottom


When I was leaving the St. Andrew’s Golf Club clubhouse I ran into designer Robert Jones II on the street. It was great to see him again, we had worked together during the Reef Golf Club process a few years ago. He is a brilliant artist and his recent course in the NW has been picked to host the US Open. And for all you people who have read about the feud between Robert and his brother Reese Jones, well they were having lunch together at Rusacks April 3, 2008.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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