Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Today marks the start of the Ryder Cup, which gives me the perfect excuse to mention one of Scotland's great inventions....the game of golf.

As you will know, the Ryder Cup, which this year is being held at Newport in South Wales, offers European professional golfers a chance to compete against their peers from the USA. The competition has taken place biennially since 1927, interrupted by WW11 and the terrorist attacks of 2001. It is considered one of the world's great sporting events, and is a particular favourite of golfers and fans alike.

I have to declare that although I am a Scot, I would never describe myself as a golfer. I have grown up surrounded by golf clubs, golfers and golf courses, and once, in a moment of enthusiasm, I helped to build a course (well, it passed the summer hols). Later on, I spent several years living in St Andrews, but, to the dismay and incredulity of most golfers, I never played the sacred game while living in the Home of Golf. I know...it's shameful, but I was busy.  

Nowadays, I restrict my playing to one or two favourite courses on small islands, often in fog, where the fairways are enhanced by the sheep that graze upon them and the planes that occasionally land there. My skills as a golfer are lamentable, but do at least allow me to venerate the great game with a suitable level of humility. However, much to my surprise, while in Norway, I did somehow find myself playing golf in the Arctic...at midnight, just because you CAN. 

There is some debate as to the exact origins of golf...there is a view that the Romans were busy clubbing balls as well as several other things as they went about expanding their empire. Some believe the Chinese are responsible, but nobody can prove a thing. What is generally accepted, however, is that the modern game derived from a few Fife shepherds who gained their kicks by knocking stones into rabbit holes with their crooks at the site of the Old Course in St Andrews.

Later, in 1744, a group of men met to establish some rules (and they were all men...believe me, when, in my youth, I gained employment as a 'plongeur' at the 'Royal and Ancient', the notice at the front door still said 'No dogs, and no women'). Since then, the original framework for these rules has been modified and updated from time to time, safeguarding the game and ensuring respect for its traditions. People visit the Old Course in St Andrews from all over the world...some of them play, but many simply look upon the hallowed turf in awe and wonder.

There are some who think that one is not a proper person unless one chooses to play and take an interest in this great game. I find this view extremely trying, knowing as I do many a good and courteous citizen who has no interest whatsoever. Golf can raise tempers and displays of less than perfect manners, particularly at the moment while Mr Donald Trump is busy establishing a course off the North East coast of Scotland, a scheme that has enraged many a Scot.

But whatever one's attitude to the game in general, however much one might play and however often one might enjoy watching golf, there is no doubt it lies at the very heart of our culture here in Scotland. It suits the climate, it suits our topography, it allows for a dose of exercise and fresh air that creates thrill without causing too much breathless effort. But I can't help suspecting it rather suits our character too....Scots like to grapple with things, to face challenges and seek to conquer them. The old jibe of golf being 'a good walk ruined' has an air of truth to it....is there anything more frustrating than trying to whack a wee white ball round some holes with accuracy and aplomb? Pent up frustrations can vanish.

I may not be a regular golfer, but, rather like old age, I can feel it coming on....there's a kind of inevitability about having to spend some of one's life playing golf. However, there is absolutely no inevitability about the outcome of a game, and that is why we can't resist watching a decent championship.

So, I'd like to know, whether or not you play golf, where in the world is your favourite course?


  1. The only time I could hit a golf ball successfully was when I was 8 months pregnant! I keep thinking it would be A Good Thing to Do.... but the golf clubs sit unused at the back of the garage. My only excuse - the small 9-hole golf course here is often under water. Bu I shall watch bits of the Ryder cup with interest.

  2. Freda...just goes to show, women were always designed to play golf, whatever shape they were at the time. Also, personallly, I've often felt that 9 holes are better than 18...I guess that proves I'm not a true golfer.

  3. I don't yet have a favourite golf course because I haven't been playing long enough to experience many.
    My first attempt at the game was many moons ago at Cruden Bay. It took me twenty-seven swipes to get the damned ball from the first tee to the first hole - so I didn't bother playing the second and considered myself completely hopeless.
    Then I married a keen golfer and have spent the last thirty-cough years avoiding anything to do with the game. Some nights when I haven't been able to sleep, I've asked him to talk me through his last game and fallen asleep from boredom within the front nine.
    But, for some reason I don't fully understand, this summer I have taken up golf. After a course of lessons from a very good teacher, I can now whack the ball satisfyingly well about thirty per cent of the time. Mind you, hitting it's one thing - direction's something I still need to master. My husband is so delighted that he bought me a beginner's set of clubs and we now toddle off into the sunset of a Sunday evening to play a few holes or go down to the practice ground.
    You're right about nine holes being plenty; I can't see me being able to concentrate for another nine.
    So far, I'm enjoying it and finding golf related news and coverage quite interesting - to the point where it no longer works as a tranquilliser.

    There's just one thing.
    I will never, ever wear a diamond patterned jumper - nor anything beige.

    And Donald Trump? Harrumph.

  4. Teuchter...that is all most encouraging, and I am particularly thrilled to hear your views on diamond-pattern jumpers. What I want to know is, after several years of golfing, does one become blind to the lurid nature of the diamond-pattern? You should see what I wear for, say, skiing....normal people would think it is beyond all reason, but to a skier, my outfit is the bee's knees.
    Happy golfing, and you can work on the question of which is your favourite course.