Chapter 1: My Heart's in the Highlands
Originally published on Top100GolfCourses.com, during my brief spell as Editorial Director, I'm planning on publishing anecdotes and memories from 'off the course' in this longer format. Let me know what you think!
There’s a painfully accurate joke that sometimes does the rounds on social media. It goes something like:
“Five things my husband will do for golf that he won’t do for our relationship:
- Get up early
- Improve his flexibility
- Watch instructional videos to improve his performance
- Buy clothes
- Spend 5 hours outside”
And so, as I silenced my alarm as the first chime rang out, jumped out of bed and pulled on my new club-adorned quarter zip – I had a smile on my face heading out into the semi darkness of a September morning. It was the first day of an adventure six months in the making. I had an 8am tee time at Machrihanish and I couldn’t wait to get started…
But first, let me explain why this wasn’t an ordinary tee time.
When the Covid Lockdowns hit England in March 2020 – staying home and doing our bit to protect everyone from the unseeable disease was the least we could do. But like many self-confessed golfing addicts, my mind would be on the golf course while my body was sat at home.
Harriet (my marvellous wife) and I worked together – developing residential property but with no further appetite to take on new projects as the world and economy were very much on hold. Instead, we wondered if it might be time to do something a little different – and YouTube provided a rogue suggestion. “You might be interested in watching…” the fates (or algorithms) were right, and we watched video after video of people who had converted regular vans into luxury campervans.
It wasn’t a straightforward decision, but in a lockdown world we were emboldened – and another experience ultimately helped us make the leap. Our 2019 summer holiday had seen us drive the North Coast 500 route, staying in hotels and guest houses along the way. The juxtaposition of that fortnight with the two months of lockdown was immense. The drama and freedom of driving around the majestic Scottish Highlands to our new reality in a handful of rooms was enough to convince us that we should be bold.
So as England slowly opened up, we were busy making our pipe dream a reality. Finishing projects, tying up loose ends, searching for vans and designing our conversion. I was supplementing my long-standing evening hobby of digesting every book on golf course architecture with scouring the web and Google Maps to compile the most comprehensive list of links courses in Great Britain.
The plan was to explore the coastline, and for me, to play every single links course in England, Scotland and Wales. At that stage, the list sat at a daunting 182 courses. From Royal Jersey to Whalsay, Askernish to Rye – looking back I do wonder if the world hadn’t looked so very different in 2020 whether we would have made that first step. It has now grown to 225 – and at time of writing have managed more than the initial target.
So with our farewells made and the loosest of plans, we left our home in Hoylake to head up to Kintyre. With a full dose of the optimism every golfer possesses, I could see no downside to spending the autumn in northwest Scotland. We had everything that lockdowns had taken away – freedom, adventure and a seemingly endless list of links courses to tackle.
Our lodgings may have gone from capacious house to cramped van – but as I watched an instructional golf video or two before setting my alarm for the crack of dawn – I felt this was a new normal I could get used to.
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