Golf courses are apparently like buses.
Roamer waited for ages - about 65 years to be more precise - and then three arrived together!
On Wednesday’s page I recounted my recent visit to the Dundonald Links near Irvine in North Ayrshire, and to the famous golf course at Prestwick, where modern golfing history began in 1860.
Today I’m at another of the 50 exquisite golf courses in the vicinity - Lochgreen at Troon, where Jack Nicklaus qualified for his first ever Open in 1962.
I was born and brought up next door to Enniskillen Golf Club in the grounds of the beautiful Castlecoole Estate, and though I often searched for lost balls (wondering why people kept shouting ‘fore’!) I never played a game there, or anywhere else!
When Sir Nick Faldo designed his stunning, multi-award winning golf course a couple of miles away at the Lough Erne Resort, Roamer still wasn’t tempted to tee, though I had dinner there several Christmases ago, and sundry saunters since.
Familiarity evidently breeds consent because last week I enthusiastically accepted Visit Scotland’s kind invitation to Ayrshire and Arran, one of the best golf destinations in the world.
The breathtakingly beautiful Scottish coastline boasts three Open Championship venues and five of the UK’s top 100 golf courses.
My report from Dundonald Links on Wednesday’s page was slightly distracted by heavy rain and strong winds, though amidst the tempest, the gently undulating, impeccably tended fairways and greens were still stunningly beautiful.
Roamer merely walked to the first tee, admired the view, and then strolled back to talk to Club Manager Ian Ferguson (from Belfast) and his staff in the club house.
Their scrumptious club-menu included an aptly-named
‘9-hole breakfast’ a ‘birdie burger’ and ‘snap hook scampi’!
A ‘snap hook’, by the way, is a ball that soars sideways from the tee - one of the many golfing terminologies that I necessarily became acquainted with, such as the ‘divot’ - the turf that’s hit into the air, sometimes accompanied by the tee; the ‘cup’ - the hole with a flag in it that golfers aim at; an ‘albatross’ - next best to a hole in one, and ‘the Claret Jug’ - the historic, silver Golf Champion Trophy, which came after the original prize of a leather belt with a silver buckle in 1860.
A News Letter reader e-mailed Roamer with a quotation by the early 20th-century American sportswriter Henry Grantland Rice who summarised the game rather nicely - “golf is 20 percent mechanics and technique. The other 80 percent is philosophy, humour, tragedy, romance, melodrama, companionship, camaraderie, cussedness and conversation!”
Roamer didn’t attempt the first 20 percent in Ayrshire, but accompanied by Belfast golfers Billy, John and Paul, I experienced and thoroughly enjoyed the other 80 percent!
The world will see Dundonald it in all its glory next July when it hosts the 2017 Scottish Open Championship.
“It’s incredible what’s going to be here,” said Belfast ex-pat Club Manager Ian Ferguson.
There’ll be a massive influx of spectators requiring stands, seating pavilions and 4,000-5,000 extra car parking spaces.
There’ll be celebrity players (with their back-up teams) along with a host of sponsors, squads of attendants, hospitality providers, international media and merchandising and restaurant staff.
“We’ve got the land,” smiled Ian, looking to the distant sand dunes and seemingly quite relaxed to be co-ordinating the immense, international golfing extravaganza.
The third golf course on Roamer’s itinerary, along with some magnificent ‘non-golfing’ local attractions that included two castles and several restaurants, was Lochgreen at Troon Links.
And the sun was splitting the sky!
Not far from Dundonald, on a road lined with coastal courses, Troon Links is a collection of three excellent courses - Darley, Lochgreen and Fullarton, located alongside Royal Troon, Portland and Barassie, forming a group of six courses that encircle the famous golfing town of Troon.
“This is a real people’s course,” said Billy, admiring Lochhgreen’s ‘extremely challenging’ expanse of green; its boundary of trees, tidy houses and little restaurants, and its adjacent coastline of dunes, rocks and the beautiful Firth of Clyde.
Salty sea-air blew across the fairways.
The ‘rough’ areas, immaculately tended and tailored, were bedecked with wild flowers and heather.
Hares scampering away from local folk walking their dogs.
Amazingly, this very beautiful open countryside is just 10 minutes, 30 minutes and 90 minutes from Prestwick, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports, in that order.
I walked Lochgreen with my golfing chums who enthusiastically applauded some of the course’s outstanding features.
“Three shots out and three shots back,” said Billy, describing the first part of the course, “just like the M2 at home!”
And like our M2, there are flyovers! Fullerton course crosses over Lochgreen, with its ‘airspace’ traversing and intersecting it, the cups marked out with different coloured flags.
Lochgreen’s flags are yellow and Fullerton’s are blue so no one hits their ball into another course’s cups!
After the game, and a short visit to Dundonald Castle - built in 1371 and a splendid example of a medieval tower house - it was time for the 1½ hour, always-picturesque, coast-road bus trip, past the equally majestic Culzean Castle (there are as many castles as golf courses!) to Cairn Ryan, and the comfortable ferry homewards.
Full details of travel, golf, hotels and local attractions are on www.ayrshiregolfscotland.com