The Independent Golfer

Excerpt from CHAPTER 4

Do Ye Ha a time?

...Americans hear is that scheduling tee times on Scottish courses is difficult. This is true if you aim to play the well known courses frequented by American golfers who are not aware of the wide range of excellent courses scattered across the Highlands and Islands. The St. Andrews Golf Trust recommends that you write to them 18 months ahead of time to get a start time on the Old Course. Royal Troon only accepts visitors on three days a week and during limited times on those days. Muirfield also only allow visitors onto their links on selected days of the week. Gleneagles and Turnburry give preference for tee times to those who stay at their resort hotels, an expensive condition to meet.

But for the Independent Golfer who plays the Highlands and Islands, the booking picture is much less limiting. My buddies and I had lingered a bit too long over lunch in the clubhouse after a morning round on the Nairn Golf Course. The good food, the comfortable clubhouse and the interesting conversation with a couple of local characters we had met on the putting green all combined to make us extend our lunch well into the afternoon. We had planned to spend the afternoon on a tour of the Glenmorangie whiskey distillery but finally arrived there at 3:30, 30 minutes after the last tour began. A phone call ahead would have alerted us to their schedule but we hadn’t made it and we were stuck with nothing to do for the afternoon.

The young lady in the distillery visitor center was kind enough to “pour us a dram” of some of Glenmorangie’s offerings. As we sipped samples trying to determine the difference between their single malt aged in port oak barrels vs. that aged in Madeira oak barrels Nick recalled that the Tain golf course was just down the coast. “Let’s go play a round at Tain!” As true Independent Golfers, we had no schedule to keep and no responsibilities to meet the remainder of that day other than finding a place to eat dinner and getting back to our B&B for the night. We piled in to our car and, 10 miles later, we were at the golf shop at Tain.

Tain is a wonderfully situated links course on the shores of the Cromarty Firth north of Inverness. Nestled between the sea and the medieval town from which it gets its name, the Tain course was initially laid out in 1890 by none other than Old Tom Morris and remains one of the great links courses of Scotland. We arrived at 4:00 in the afternoon remembering that, in August, dark doesn’t come to Northern Scotland until well after 9:00. It was a glorious afternoon, balmy by Scottish standards. A light breeze off the ocean floated white, puffy clouds across a deep blue sky. The shirt-sleeve temperature might lower enough to require a light sweater as the evening wore on. But could we just drive up and play? On a day like this?

The pro shop attendant was happy to see us. Could we get out right away? No problem, gents....

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