Our day out at Gullane Numero uno (#1) or ‚??Gillan‚?? if you‚??re a local was one of those cracking days that makes an innocuous round of golf seem like it is the tonic that makes the world go around.¬† But who would have known such a day was to be forthcoming as waking up in the early hours of the morning Jamie and I were both more than a tad hazy after a night out at the Edinburgh festival the night before.¬†¬† Self esteem levels were low and golf was looking as appetizing as a sweaty day old tuna sandwich.
But as we do, we managed our way out to Gullane with a sense of humour ‚?? the kind of humour which happens after a late night ‚?? the kind of mood we were in when this crazy project was conceived almost a year ago to the day.
Upon arrival we were to do a photo shoot for Today‚??s Golfer ‚?? a UK magazine running a feature on us ‚?? which was, as you can imagine, the last thing I felt like doing.¬† I tried to banter with the photographer, Mark, who probably just thought I was a neb.¬† We‚??ll look like two tired boys in those pictures.¬† But Mark was a top chap and, as a freelance journalist who gets paid to effectively do what we‚??re doing, we had a wee bit in common.¬† Although it is fair to say that Mark‚??s camera was a shade more impressive than ours (particularly more impressive than the iphone camera which has now taken on full duties whilst Sony keep trying to fix the dysfunctional one they sold to us which has grown tied of taking photographs of golf courses and packed it in).
We got through the photo shoot unscathed partly due to the timely arrival of our hosts Alan Melville and Mike Macdonald who turned up and whisked us off for some lunch.¬† Our plans to eat in the members clubhouse were scattered due to the (increasingly pasty) flesh on our bare knees showing ‚?? our shorts were not welcome here [nor would we be allowed in the ordinary bar later on and had to resort to having a beer in the ‚??ladies bar‚?Ě afterwards?? How bizarre are some of the rules here‚?¶.]¬†
I‚??m not painting a rosy picture so far.¬† It gets better‚?¶ To the visitors clubhouse we went ‚?? the clubhouse which acts as a central port for the three golf courses at Gullane so it‚??s busy.¬† Today there were a group of juniors buzzing around about to start a tournament and there were a few tourists getting their bearings and being introduced to their caddies who would show them the way around Gullane 1 (again formidable groups of 8: 4 golfers and their accompanying caddies, were to be seen all afternoon dominating the fairways). ¬†After a rather manic interview with a friendly sounding Irish woman for a local paper in Dublin organised courtesy of my wee gem of a girlfriend back in NZ, we sat down to a hearty and much needed meal of pie, beans and chips.¬† Good Scottish tucker.¬† The barman ‚?? whose name I forget but he was a Good Man - well he was some craic indeed and before we knew it he‚??d taken a fancy to his boy from Kirkaldy (pronounced in a sharp Scottish twang as ‚??Ki-koddy‚??) JP and there were more than a few photographs of JP in his hearts top holding a rival football teams mug.¬† They‚??re a proud lot over here when it comes to football!
So now I am going to come to the two reasons why today was the kind of day that is just about impossible to beat. ¬†¬†The first, but by no means the main reason, is the golf course at Gullane (Number 1).¬†¬† The precurser being that this golf course is one that I‚??d heard very little about so had low expectations for.¬† You unsuspectingly play the first hole away from the road and towards a great big hill that in Florida they‚??d call a mountain and then are faced with a par four second which actually winds its way straight up the hill ‚?? sounds innocuous at 395 yards, but when you look at the incline, the fierce wind in our faces, and the hay that surrounds the barely 20 yard wide fairway ‚?? it‚??s some test.¬† Mark was still in tow at this stage so we were playing for an audience and he was getting some good frustrated faces as the best we could muster amongst the group was two bogey fives‚?¶
Then as you walk to the 3rd tee a magnificent view is laid out below ‚?? some 14 holes of pure golf. ¬†Holes laid out on an amazing piece of golfing terrain that enjoys spectacular view across the Firth and towards Fife.¬† These holes are some of my favourite that we‚??ve played in Scotland and more than once during the walk I thought they reminded me of NSW GC ‚?? one of my Very Favourite courses this year.¬† Like NSW the holes run in all directions (although not mathematically laid out to each point of the compass) and so the wind is always presenting a different challenge.¬† Some times you need to cut it into the wind, other times a wee draw is the play.¬† It requires real shot-making to simply keep your ball going straight.¬†¬† These 14 holes sit high above the cliffs but still are blessed with rolling undulations and the odd dune.¬† There aren‚??t any trees and the wide expanse waves in the wind as the long fescue grasses blow from side to side.¬† The greenies tried to put a spanner in the works out here when the course was developing a new hole ‚?? the par four 8th hole - because of the odd beautiful little purple orchid which are supposedly endangered but after seeing acres and acres of them around the property I think the club told the bureaucrats where to jump.¬† The 8th has turned out a treat ‚?? it‚??s an example of a newly developed hole where a visitor like myself would have no idea of it's age but for the information of our tour guides.¬† The green is flat and subtle. The bunkers fit in with the rest of the course. ¬†The hole is a strong par four but remains entirely in character. Take note M Clayton when you‚??re next (if ever) asked to tinker with another of Aussie‚??s gems.
The back nine winds its way back up to the crest of the hill where the 16th green is perched ‚?? a par five which plays downwind but uphill making yardages very difficult to calculate!¬†¬† I think it was around this point that the final nail in the coffin was placed in the fourball match by our opponents Jamie and Mike Macdonald when JP made birdie thus raising another few pounds for The First Tee. ¬†The golf snakes by the names of Patton and Macdonald who had last time out at North Berwick contrived some 9 birdies over the closing stretch to hold out Alan Melville and I had done it again. ¬†Although this time the onus was equally on the ineptitude of Alan and I.¬† Alan took a putting lesson the day after our match.. I could do with the same.
Anyway Gullane is a great track and I can see why it's made its way slowly onto the tourist roster. If you're coming out this way it's definitely worth a hit.¬† And now I come to the number one most important factor in making today the sparkling day which it was. ¬†And that, as clich√©d as it sounds, is the company that we kept.¬† Last time we played golf with Messers Melville and Macdonald out at North Berwick I left the words to your imagination as I whipped up a wee video blog.¬† This may have been because I had nothing good to say. But it wasn‚??t. Quite the opposite. These lads are two guys that could quite happily join us for every single round of golf for the year and fit in a dream.¬† Asides from both loving their golf and being handy (and competitive) players they‚??re full of life and good craic and make the round of golf seem like it‚??s taken about 2 hours (when actually we‚??ve dragged our sorry excuse for a fit healthy 25 year olds body up and down hills for 4 hours).¬† Alan, my dear partner, informed me later in the round as we were both struggling along that he‚??d managed a 75 in the monthly medal here last month. ¬†That's good golf. ¬† And Mike, well he just hits it straight sinks putts and probably was a pro a few years back but we didn‚??t go into that as life is too short to talk golf all day long. ¬†These boys are full of all kinds of interesting stories and that‚??s what makes them superb ‚?? we‚??re on the same wavelength regardless of age, occupation (Alan is a vet Mike runs a golf shop) and all that carry on. ¬†We often get asked by journalists about some of the famous or notable characters we‚??ve played with over the course of our 235 rounds to date.¬† Alan and Mike probably don‚??t fit into the famous camp but they are the epitomy of good natured golfers that make the game what it is and the kind of guys we try to explain to the journo's that make our trip and the journey what it is.¬† So boys if you‚??ve bothered to read this far down this rambled blog post I hope we can have another game or 7 in the future ‚?? Read: stop making excuses and get yourselves down to NZ where we can have some home course advantage and by that stage Alan, our putting lessons would have come to fruition and we‚??ll show the pretenders a thing or two.
[Alan (left), Mike (centre) and Jamie on the last hole at North Berwick - photographs for Gullane are courtesy of Alan's camera cheers mate!]
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