After reading Preferred Lies by Andrew Greig I decided I needed to golf at Shiskine on the Isle of Arran as the way he described it, I just had to experience it for myself. I had been put in touch with Gordon Moir (Director of Greenkeeping at St Andrews) and he recommended I play at Lamlash if I was visiting the Isle of Arran.
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 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. I arranged a 6am start the following day with Ian (Club Captain) and five hours later, I was leaving the club and had interviewed not only Ian but Smithy and Dan too.
Monday I crawled out of bed at 5.30am. It was a gorgeous morning, cool, clear and no one around It was wet after all the rain Sunday but it was drying out 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 only the birds about.
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. The course may be up the hill and not as easily accessible as some on Arran but there is no way you could be disappointed playing this track.
It 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 four gentlemen coming up the 17th stopped and applauded my second shot on the 16th.
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 your taste buds will be happy. I then headed across the island to the B&B at Machrie Bay I'd booked for four nights overlooking the Mull of Kintyre and the Machrie Bay Golf Course.
Upon arrival Douglas (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 Thursday after Machrie Bay.
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.
Next stop was Shiskine, which was whole reason I was on the Isle of Arran in the first place. Once again I thank you Andrew Greig. Piet and I teed off and I was very happy with my start. A little wayward on the second and on the 3rd, the Eagles Nest, I 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 was playing ok, doing some great things amongst some crap (my usual game) and got a par on the eighth with a great putt. I followed that up on the ninth with my worst hole. The tenth I nailed my drive and ended up 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. I pulled out my putter, looked at the hole and decided I would just hole it. And hole it I did. Piet couldn't believe it and I let out a whoop of delight. I had looked at the tricky green and aimed it to snake around, yet watched in astonishment as it went exactly where I wanted it and hit the pin as it dropped into the hole.
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. Thursday and I had two rounds booked.
Following a quick run to the Arran Butcher to interview Dawn, I then met Douglas to play Machrie Bay.
He lives across the road so we started on the seventh. 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. My chipping all around the greens had been very good and again I dropped some long putts.
That was until I got to Brodick. My golf was so inconsistent here but walking down the fairway looking up at Goatfell with the sea beside me, I was constantly smiling with delight. What a back drop! I played with James and we had a great time laughing and whacking balls all over. 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.
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?