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David_Tepper

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David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« on: November 16, 2012, 02:52:13 PM »
Has anyone else played Gairloch GC, a 9-holer on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands? Here is David Owen's review of the course:

http://03547c3.netsolhost.com/WordPress/2012/11/13/back-roads-scotland-gairloch/

I played Gairloch a couple of years ago. The one comment I would make on Owen's review is that it appears he played the course when it was pretty much empty. If you ever play the course when it is busy, by sure to wear a helmet and have your liability insurance fully paid up!
« Last Edit: November 16, 2012, 03:30:07 PM by David_Tepper »

David_Tepper

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2012, 03:53:35 PM »
Brian -

I am quite certain the pic immediately below "My Usual Game: David Own" is not from Gairloch. The Gairloch pics are the ones within his review of the course. Gairloch is a very scenic spot and the drive across the Highlands along the south side of Loch Maree is beautiful.

DT

Tom_Doak

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2012, 05:14:34 PM »
Wow!! David, do you know if that main title pic is Gairloch?

I am pretty sure the first picture (before the Gairloch article starts) is of Royal County Down, looking across to the third hole and the enormous dune behind it, from the fifth or sixth tee perhaps?

Dave McCollum

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2012, 06:20:36 PM »
I’ve played Gairloch and could do captions for the pictures:

1.   Tee box on number 7.  Par 3 and, yes, the green is blind.
2.   The drive there is gorgeous.
3.   Beach by the course
4.   Not sure the hole, in the center of the course
5.   8th/17th
6.   All true, but Skye is a pretty far away, especially in the rain.
7.   8th.  See that flat spot on the left of the fairway?  That’s a tee box for another hole: 5?  Yep, right in LZ for your drive.
8.   & 9 Clubhouse with lots of old photos on the walls.

I don’t remember exactly, but 3 or 4 holes criss-cross over other holes.  The club is very proud of their course.  After I played I was talking about my round in a pub and said something like “it must be hard hats and body armor for the club championship.”  The bartender came over and proudly told us all about it.  You have got to be tough to live in that part of Scotland.  It’s west of Dornoch on the west coast and very exposed to the storms.  The drive from there to Ft. William is very beautiful as well, especially between Gairloch and Kyle of Lochalsh (Gateway to Skye) and a lot of single lane tarmac.  I wrote something about playing Gairloch and could post it, if anyone is interested.

 

Bill_McBride

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2012, 06:25:28 PM »
I’ve played Gairloch and could do captions for the pictures:

1.   Tee box on number 7.  Par 3 and, yes, the green is blind.
2.   The drive there is gorgeous.
3.   Beach by the course
4.   Not sure the hole, in the center of the course
5.   8th/17th
6.   All true, but Skye is a pretty far away, especially in the rain.
7.   8th.  See that flat spot on the left of the fairway?  That’s a tee box for another hole: 5?  Yep, right in LZ for your drive.
8.   & 9 Clubhouse with lots of old photos on the walls.

I don’t remember exactly, but 3 or 4 holes criss-cross over other holes.  The club is very proud of their course.  After I played I was talking about my round in a pub and said something like “it must be hard hats and body armor for the club championship.”  The bartender came over and proudly told us all about it.  You have got to be tough to live in that part of Scotland.  It’s west of Dornoch on the west coast and very exposed to the storms.  The drive from there to Ft. William is very beautiful as well, especially between Gairloch and Kyle of Lochalsh (Gateway to Skye) and a lot of single lane tarmac.  I wrote something about playing Gairloch and could post it, if anyone is interested.


Please do, Dave!  Looks like fun. 

Dave McCollum

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2012, 12:05:01 AM »
This overlong travel log was written in 2007.  It contains no more useful information than my post above; it just goes on for three and a half pages so I can crack a few lame jokes.   Actually, I sat down after my trip to Scotland to write up a few notes that might be useful in our course newsletter.  Sixty thousand unedited words later, I blew this bloated nonsense out to a backup drive.  My thought at the time was to go to Ireland, complete my links education, and then I might have ten pages of material.  I did get to Ireland, eventually, last year, but this draft had long since reached finger exercise status.

There are photos of both the course and some lovely sights along the way, but I ran into technical difficulties posting them here and am too lazy to sort them out now.  Quit now and save some time.
 
HARD HATS AND FLACK JACKETS

It’s rather a long story about how my wife happened to be along on a golf trip.  Her first and, I’m sure, her last.  However, when odd things happen while traveling, it’s my general policy to go with the flow.  So, instead of staying around Dornoch another day and playing the course again, or taking in several others in the area such as Tain, Golspie, or jumping the fence and sneaking on at Skibo Castle (the very posh and exclusive Carnegie Club), Sally hatched up this idea of going to see her best friend’s cousin, who lived all the way over on the west coast in a village called Gairloch.

To understand how remote Gairloch is, consider the fact that Dornoch is about the same latitude as Juneau and has a good road to ferry the golfers up from Inverness.  Gairloch, however, was connected to the northern capital by a branch of the good road, but also by sizeable pieces of those lean little lines on the map that twenty years ago meant “single track” with turn-outs barely wide enough for two bikes to pass without the pedals doing a Ben-Hur chariot race number on the other’s spokes.  We’d have to travel south toward Inverness to where the good road branched, and then take the wee lines northwest all the way across northern Scotland to this lonely village on the west coast.  Granted, Scotland is not a big country, but, still, this was a coast to coast journey, from Dornoch on the North Sea to Gairloch on…well, I’m not sure what they call this body of water.  Gairloch is so far north it could be the Sea of the Hebrides, the Atlantic, or even the Arctic Ocean.  Whatever, it was miles north of any place I’d gone in Scotland back in the days when I’d go get lost in some country just to see what it was like.

By now, you are wondering why I would ruin a perfectly good golf trip by agreeing to go visit a friend’s cousin, that neither of us knew, who lived in a place so remote that nobody cares?  Good question.  The answer is that it’s all my kids’ fault.  My boys had given me a book for Christmas entitled Scotland for Dummies.  It was one of those books you buy someone when you can’t find anything they actually might read.  Thanks, I get the joke.   But I did read it, and had even brought it along on the trip as a quick directory of phone numbers and directions in case I threw my clubs in the sea and spent the rest of the trip holed up in the nearest distillery.  At the end of this book was a chapter of top-10 lists:  the top 10 distilleries, pubs, natural attractions, castles, and so on.  Well, of course, there was a list of the top-10 Scottish golf courses that actually included 18 names because no travel guide, even one written for dummies like me, could possibly pick just 10.  And at the very end of this list was this intriguing entry:

"Gairloch Golf Club.  It may be only nine holes, but this course is a challenging and tricky one.  Combine this challenge with a location along a golden beach and overlooking Skye and the Outer Hebrides, and you have a great course for all players.  Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, played here when he was in the Royal Navy."

Sounded good to me, especially when I learned that the locals made HRH Andy cough up his dough and play some golf just like any other sailor.

Actually, I had been almost that far north in my previous travels, loved this part of the Highlands, and was anxious to see more.  I also wanted to show Sally some wonderful, rugged country and the interesting folks who lived there. 

Months before, when I suggested she might want to join me for a few days of my trip, Sally was living in London.  Of course, she read everything on the Internet about Scotland and studied all the media ads touting adventure travel destinations in the Highlands.  Londoners have a serious shortage of wild places nearby and Scotland is advertised extensively as a place where you can get away to experience exciting outdoor adventures.  Her favorite ad was a double fold-out magazine ad that showed a glorious picture of a rugged, treeless, granite mountain topped with snow and covered with waterfalls, rising from a beautiful, desolate moor.  The copy encouraged people to come see the incredible wildlife of Scotland.  When she opened out the folds, there were more beautiful landscapes and, indeed, shots of the promised wildlife:  A puffin, a grouse, and some kind of squirrel.  She still made the trip up to join me, but she noted on arrival “Who goes all the way to Scotland to look at a freaking squirrel?”

We got to Gairloch in a little under three hours.  Along the way, Sally called the cousin and we had a plan.  The cousin would meet us at the golf course and take Sally to lunch while I explored the “tricky one”.  When the cousin and hubby arrived, he showed us around the clubhouse.  He wasn’t a golfer, but he was quite familiar with the joint and seemed pleased to point out his grandfather in one of the old photos on the wall celebrating the founding fathers of the club.  Staring out were a bunch of rugged, bearded fellows dressed in heavy tweeds and ties.  A caption indicated the shot was made in 1898.
I arranged to meet them at a pub across the bay after the round and they took off.

Here at Gairloch, unlike Dornoch, £60 would buy unlimited golf for a week.  A 9-hole round was £10 and an 18-hole round was £16.  Real golf, no tourists, and at market-driven, real-world rates, especially pleasing if one is from a Podunk place like Idaho (where the wildlife is just that).

I grabbed my scorecard and trolley went right to the first tee.  Glancing at the map on the front of the card, I had to laugh.  As I glanced down at the Gairloch routing, I counted 9 greens and 13 tees, the alternate tees used on a second 9 in a round of 18 holes.  Out of nine holes, four holes were cross-over jobs, the center line of the play of one hole playing directly across the center line of another hole.  On hole #5 not only was the tee box on the opposite side of #8’s fairway, according to the lines of play sketched on the map, it was located directly beside the landing area for a drive on the par-5 8th!  This was going to be fun.  Cross country golf, play to any green you like.

I won’t do the blow-by-blow.  I’ll only say I walked the nine holes in a little over an hour and had a blast.  It was a really fun little course and one of my favorite rounds in Scotland.  There were blind shots, bells to ring when you left a green, and a downhill par 3 with no green in sight, only a 15 foot flag sticking up and just barely visible above some bushes and trees.  Part seaside links, partly up a hill into the trees, bunkers, a pond, and just as natural as if a bunch of bearded fishermen had gone out and discovered a golf course.  Playing this little gem required precision and imagination as the course was routed up and down over big sand hills with lots of change of elevation. 

Quirky would be a vast understatement.  From the point of view of a typically spoiled American country-clubber, there wasn’t anything fair about this course.  On the other hand, this was a remote Scottish Club where every feature and hazard is fair game and it’s up to the golfer to solve the problem presented.  It was so refreshing and fun to play that I actually got focused enough to play like a real golfer on a few of the holes.  I used all the clubs in my bag, made a few pars, a birdie, and a quadruple bogey going for the par 5 green in two, a foolishly difficult shot that ended up on the side of a steep dune in the high beach grass, and at about eye level in the only stance possible. I had tried to cut off the dogleg on a hole running down a dune ridge by taking it out over the beach and back to an impossible landing zone on the sharp edge of the ridge.  The shot actually was over the ridge and into a generous valley beyond, but none of this information was visible from the point of attack.   It took four whacks to get the ball back on the course.  I shot bogey golf against a par of 31.  If I had gone around again after I knew the layout, I wouldn’t have made the same mistakes selecting clubs.  However, there was no guarantee the score would have been much better.  Gairloch is indeed a testy little bugger.

Actually, I think Gairloch is perfect for a golfer’s education.  They would have a hoot and learn a lot.  They’d realize that that there are no absolute rules for fun golf designs and that there is no such thing as an unfair hazard.  As I walked around I kept thinking of the Bandon Dunes tagline, “Golf as it was meant to be.”  Without pretense, over-the-top conditioning, excessive eyewash, as my father would say, and no design guidelines for such silly things as golfer safety.  Just don’t hit anyone and play for the pure joy of the game.  They would find it all here at Gairloch.  And it would more than live up to the standard of being holes we’d blow up in a heartbeat at home.

I didn’t play another nine.  As I was finishing up, a squall blew in with powerful gusts of wind and the promise of more.  I was sitting comfortably in the clubhouse as the rain pounded the windows into translucent blurs of defuse light.

I eventually found the pub across the bay and joined Sally and the cousin.  As I tried to explain the cross-over holes and the quirks the barman brightened and smiled.

“Imagine,” he said, “every year we have a local tournament with 60 teams on the course.  It gets pretty interesting out there.”

I can’t, but I’ll not question his description.  Hard hats and full body armor recommended? 

Goaded by his pals into retelling a story, the barman told us about the time Michael Douglas and Mick Jagger pulled their cruising yachts into the harbor and played the course.  “Best 9-hole course we ever played,” said Douglas at the end of his round.

“And just how many 9-hole courses have you played?” he was asked.

“Two.”

This little 9-holer in a remote village was as valued and important to the people of this village as Dornoch was the economic engine and treasure to theirs.  The bartender might poke fun, but love, respect, and pure fun glowed brightly in reserve.  Golfers might be morons, but they know a good thing when they see it.

We  moved on.  We left Gairloch and took the back roads down to Kyle of Lochalsh, a fantastic drive down from Gairloch south to the town with a new bridge connecting the mainland to the Isle of Skye.  Somewhere along the way we rounded a corner to encounter a mama sheep in the middle of the road with her lamb down on its knees banging away at the teats.  There was nothing out of the ordinary, but we laughed and enjoyed the delay.  We also stopped and photographed the view up the glen to Loch St. Marie.  The rain came and went and the sunshine was dazzling.  We still had hours of daylight to burn freely.  At Kyle of Lochalsh we took the new bridge over to Skye for no good reason other than we could.  Then we headed east to the Eilean Donan Castle, the trademark Scottish castle and tourist picture stop.  From there we wound our way down to Fort William where we found a B&B and more good Indian food. 

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2012, 03:17:46 AM »
But is it a Links? 

Not in the Pepper book.


Looks a lot of fun and with 6 par 3's linksy turf is less important.  The West Cost of Scotland is stunning, one day I'll get to Gairlock after stopping off for a round on the course above Oban.


Anyone played Wick?  Another course not in the book.  Photos I've seen show at least part of the course in Duneland.
on 29th May I am riding 100 Miles to help raise funds for Dementia Research. All donations are welcome.
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Jon Wiggett

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2012, 05:02:20 AM »
Tony,

it has a links location but as with many west coast seaside courses it is not a classic links but still very much a ground game course. It is a fun course to play and except on certain weekends is not usually over run with players. There is a whole run of great, really quirky 9 holers up this part of the west coast.

Jon

Colin Macqueen

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2012, 06:53:22 AM »
David McC,

For a Scot sitting in Brisbane and riding out a quintessential sub-tropical storm your vignette brought a tear tae my een! When I go home we hang out at Tomintoul and often take the road West and South to Drumnadrochit and Fort Augustus and onto Fort William as we head back to Dundee. Beautiful country. So I for one am very glad I didn't cut my losses and skip over your travelogue. A really fresh description of just how simple golf can be yet still be thoroughly enjoyable.

Thanks Colin
"Golf, thou art a gentle sprite, I owe thee much"
The Hielander

Dave McCollum

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2012, 12:33:41 PM »
Thanks Colin, glad you enjoyed the blather.
 
I don’t know if I’d call Gariloch a links as much as a hybrid.  Maybe a half links.  Big dunes by the beach, climbing up a hill into the trees and rock outcroppings, then back down to the sea.  I’d guess little dirt was moved.  Definitely a course designed by lawnmower instead of a bulldozer.  Behind one green the dune falls away almost vertically at least a hundred feet.  If you went down there to hit a shot, you’d  never climb back up to the green.  Instead, you’d probably continue downhill  around the dune, a walk of many hundreds of yards.  The charm of Gairloch is simply that you’ll see a lot of golf that you will see nowhere else.  It breaks a bunch of conventions, not the least of which is the utter disregard of protecting other golfers from errant shots.  Like Owen, there were a only a few golfers on the course when I played, maybe a few groups, so it was easy to wait until they cleared out of my way before launching a potentially dangerous rock in their direction.   I can’t imagine 60 teams competing in a local tournament.  What’s that…a hundred and twenty golfers on a 9-holer?  Must be on a day with 20 hours of daylight.  I was smiling or laughing out loud the entire round.
 
 I haven’t seen Sheep Ranch near Bandon.  Maybe this course works like that.  Although I’m certain Gairloch is built on much more extreme ground.  Suppose they only had 30 acres of ground for golf, much of it extreme.  Those bearded fishermen must have said “well some golf is better than no golf” and just built what they could.  It’s an original.         

Mitch Hantman

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2012, 01:39:49 PM »
David Tepper,

How long is the drive to Gairloch from Dornoch?

Jon Wiggett

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2012, 04:42:28 PM »
Mitch,

its about 2.5 hours if you drive safely or just under 2 if driving like a local ;D

Jon

David_Tepper

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Re: David Owen plays Gairloch GC
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2012, 05:40:37 PM »
Mitch -

As Jon W. says, 2 to 2 1/2 hours is about right. It is almost all 2-lane road now.

Anyone visiting Gairloch should also visit the Inverewe Botanic Gardens, which is 8-10 miles north of Gairloch. As visit to the Badachro Inn, in Badachro, for lunch is not a bad idea either.

DT     

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