By Thomas Tripp
One bullet point on my bucket list was to play golf in Scotland by my 70th birthday. Be careful what you ask for.
I found a course that would fit our itinerary near the seacoast town of Oban, where we would stay for a few days. My wife and I visited the course first to inquire about times and equipment. She had intended to ride in the cart with me to share the experience. A friendly, white-haired gentleman came out to answer our questions and told us, “Whin ya cum back on Soonday, I’ll hav everthin reddy fo ya.”
“Uhhhh, where are the carts?” we asked. We were staring at some awfully steep hills and heavy foliage – not the typical links course of Scotland I had seen on TV.
“Oh we have no buggies (motorized carts), but you can use a trolley (pull cart) if ya’d like.” On the way back to our bed-and-breakfast, my wife sheepishly said she wouldn’t mind staying behind in town to shop, and let me enjoy my dream round all to myself. Yeah, thanks.
Come “Soonday” I took a taxi to the course to ostensibly save my legs. It would be a futile effort. The name of the course is Glencruitten, but I would soon lobby to rename it Glen CRUEL-ton.
While checking in I notice a can on the counter asking for donations to the Defibrillator Fund. The man in charge gives me six used balls in a plastic bag, smiles and wishes me luck with a detectable snicker.
I strolled to the first tee and stared at the task ahead. It was 445 yards, half of which was flat, and the rest steeply uphill. A hidden green lay somewhere on top, hinted at only by a barber pole at the summit. My drive was of decent length, and mingled with shots from a foursome teeing off on the adjacent 18th hole.
“Not a bad start” said I, thinking that the ghost of Old Tom Morris might be watching.
I came across the foursome coming down 18, who appeared like the White Walkers from “Game of Thrones.” One asked, “Hav ya eveer golfed hare.” After I nodded in the negative, he gives me a “Guud luh-uk” warning with another detectable snicker.
I get to my ball and notice no yardage markers of any sort. I take out the lowest iron in the loaner bag, and address the ball. It’s here where I notice a black “S” scribbled on the ball. It would prove to stand for “sucker.” My shot disappeared into the heather.
Panting heavily, I reached the point of my ball’s entry into the heather, stopped to catch my breath, looked around for a Sherpa guide, and dropped another ball. When I finally reached the summit and saw the green, I was glad I put a British pound into that defibrillator can.
The remainder of the round was very similar. One hole would challenge you vertically with blind targets, and the next would have you descending from the clouds and hitting down to a magnificent vista.
Around the eighth hole I heard the high-pitched ghost of Seamus MacDuff chanting from his cave somewhere in the glen, but I was just wheezing.
I only completed 14 holes that day – not just because I was physically spent, but because I had lost five of the courtesy balls. I cut over and finished the last two holes with the lone survivor, and actually parred the 18th hole.
I met the white-haired gentleman again while returning my clubs and trolley. I must have looked like a true Scottish White Walker now. He gave a hearty laugh, and said he hoped this would not be the conclusion of my bucket list. I said, “No, but I almost kicked it up there somewhere.”
My dream round, abbreviated as it was, was physically difficult, yet priceless. I slept very well that evening.
Thomas Tripp, of Depew, learned some cruel realities of playing golf in Scotland.