Monday, May 29, 2017
(post written mostly by Rich)
The first thing I noticed this morning, besides the gray skies, was that the winds had shifted 180 degrees. That was going to put the first hole tee shot directly into it – swell. These are the thoughts of a hack golfer on holiday. The Machrihanish Golf Club is reknowned for their first tee. According to their website: “The Machrihanish Golf Club has become well known in recent years especially for the Championship Course’s exceptional first hole which requires the round’s opening shot to carry the Atlantic. “It can be a tough start, particularly into a breeze”.
Linda and I loafed downstairs to find breakfast in the gorgeous old barroom. Egg sandwiches, rhubarb yogurt, coffee, toast & marmalade.
Next up was deciding what to wear out on the golf course. Forecast calls for rain and 55F – perfectly typical Scottish weather. We’ve really dodged it all so far, but we’re actually looking forward to a traditional rainy round, just to see what it’s all about. Linda and I both don layers beneath with rain pants and jackets outside.
I’m a little surprised that the course is so open. It’s Monday morning, about 9AM, gray and threatening rain, and yet, I have not seen a single golfer go out. The vibe here is hard to describe, super chilled out, super low key, not many people around, and yet very focused on golf.
We grab pull carts (called trolleys here) and do some practice putting. With no range, we head immediately to the 1st tee to size it up. A sign proclaims it the greatest opening golf hole in the world. It is a 430 yard par-4 that opens with a full carry over the Atlantic Ocean. Well, that may be overstating it, but picture a left-sweeping fairway guarded by the water and beach – one of those pure risk-reward shots.
As I approach the tee’d ball, a helicopter zooms in over the water and does a close circle immediately over my head. I’m not sure what they’re doing – and I sure as hell hope it isn’t to watch my tee shot. Backing off, the helicopter completes it’s loop and then flies in very low right across my teebox, landing next to the 18th green. You don’t see that everyday. Linda quips that she hopes it’s Barrack Obama, and maybe he will join our group. We meet the guy, not Obama but a golf tourist who’s popped over after playing at Trump’s Turnberry course just north of here. I’m not sure Barrack would even play there.
Whew, after all that I’ve got to get back to my tee shot. I make it only to the beach, but Linda kindly permits a breakfast ball due to the disruption, so my “real” ball ends up out in the fairway. Linda easily carries her shot into the fairway too, and we’re off on the Machrihanish course.
Like the Gleneagles Kings course, this one throws monster (for me) par-4s at you, one after another, 420 yards and more. Don’t they believe in par-5s? In the cold and wind an rain? And yes, it certainly did rain, heavily on some holes. Linda and I made the best of swinging in our rain gear and it was fun, but certainly an acquired skill that neither of us has yet.
We only saw 2 other groups out on the course. One golfer was stuck in the rough, hacking shot after shot, with colorful language after each one. With his Scottish brogue, it sounded like: <swing> “fook!” – – – <swing> “fook!” – – – <swing> “Fook!!”
But otherwise, Linda and I were walking in isolation, deep within the dunes and grasses. Felt like some kind of beautiful fairyland. Almost half the shots were blind – only an educated guess where the hole is. It’s as if we’d temporarily fallen down the rabbit hole of golf.
Takeaways from a cold and rainy Scottish round:
- Distance markers are to the front of the green, not the middle (this was true on other Scottish courses)
- The cold and rain makes the ball slow off the club and upon landing it will not roll – club up.
- Hit your shots low. Punch your long irons rather than flying your short ones.
- Never ever ever – ever – get in the rough. If you find your ball, you’ll wish you hadn’t.
- Bump-and-run is always the preferred shot when feasible.
- Wet bunker shots fly further and dry ones
- Putt your ball through the hole. Linda muttered this quote often: At least 95% of putts left short won’t go in.
To add spice, we finished the last 6 holes with match play for a beverage. I won #13 and #14, and Linda then took #15 and #16. Halving #17, we headed to the final hole all square. Both of us found the fairway. Linda slightly fatted her 2nd shot but it kindly rolled up onto the front of the green. I hit a fine wedge landing pin-high, but then slowly rolled off the back, down a steep hill and into the snarly rough. Such is golf. Game set and match Linda – nicely done.
We stowed clubs and wet clothes in our room, then walked to the Members clubhouse, which is also open to visiting golfers. Along with a beer and a whiskey, we found some fantastic chicken and rice soup and shared a buffalo burger, all the while licking our wounds over the beating we’d taken. But we also felt immersed in the authentic Scottish golf experience, playing a true dunes course in such conditions.
Back in the room we dumped out our soggy golf bags in an attempt to dry out our grips, gloves and paraphernalia. A nice nap was calling our name. We answered the call.
Soon enough it is time for our 8:30 reservation in the Wee Pub. A short walk across the parking lot finds us in a cute little pub that is nearly empty. Reservation needed?
We had fun jukin’ and jivin’ with the bartenders. We were intrigued by the “Haggis Nachos” and even though one of the patrons told us that those items don’t go together we decided to forge ahead. They were super delicious! (so much so, in fact, that we didn’t even take time to snap a photo…).
Rich had the Steak/Sausage and Ale Pie and Linda ordered the Lentil Soup. Both were great and we enjoyed sitting in the proverbial “Catbird Seat.”
No great sunset tonight. One of the bartenders told us that last night’s sunset was one of the best she had seen in a long time. I think it is just too cloudy tonight.
We almost closed up the pub until a group of 10 Brits whom we had seen at breakfast came in. We chatted with them for a while. They had just played the course that we will play tomorrow (Machrihanish Dunes). We swapped stories about the courses we played today. Lots of fun banter.
Tomorrow is an early (9:00) tee time so we try to turn in early.