Sometimes it takes a while to upload a video to youtube and this morning the Cruden Bay is Mental video couldn‚??t get up quick enough! It finally got there and we bid farewell to the Mackenzie clan and their spectacular surrounds and heading north. Thanks for having us guys. ¬†Destination today? The northern most golf course of the year at Brora.
The first issue was Accommodation. Jamie and I tend to leave this aspect of our planning to the last minute and whilst we often have friends and family and random strangers who offer to help out, we had none of the sort in Brora. ¬†A couple of the B&B‚??s we stumbled across had no vacancy and we were starting to get a bit worried ‚?? could this be our first night in Scotland sleeping in the car? It had been a while since our experience sleeping in the Honda back in Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula and neither of us were particularly looking forward to another such episode.
Then we came across the grand Royal Marine Hotel ‚?? the place where golfers stay, right next to Brora golf course.¬† The manager there, Joan, had heard us on the radio and had wondered to herself where the kiwi boys were staying up her way. ¬†And so she did us a huge favour and put the two of us up in their last remaining room for the night. ¬†This was special as the Royal Marine Hotel is like the Pinehurst Inn. A golfers hotel ‚?? filled with memorabilia mainly centering around the James Braid society (James Braid was, aside from being a sensational player and winning 5 Open championships, the architect behind the Brora golf course).¬† The current President of the society is a lad from downunder who has also had some success in the Open ‚?? Peter Thompson. His record at the Open was up on the walls at the Royal Marine and continues to astound me. He won 5 times, but most impressive was that over 7 consecutive years, he got either 1st (4 times) or 2nd.¬† Thompson used to have a house up here at Brora and is a big fan of the place.¬† So is Bob Charles according to the affable secretary at Brora, Tony.¬† Sir Bob visited the club a couple of years back and joined up with some of the locals and then shared some stories of New Zealand in the bar afterwards. ¬†Tony was a busy man today as half the township of Brora had descended to the course to watch the final of the Clynelish Open ‚?? the biggest tournament of the year around these parts.¬†¬† Tony had kindly given us courtesy of the course from 3pm onwards and so Jamie and I made our way to the first, optimistic as ever for another good round‚?¶
This optimism was soon faded by the fact that we were suffering from a distinct lack of information. ¬†No yardages, and all kinds of weird and wonderful things going on in the fairways and around the green complexes.¬† In fact both Jamie and I teed off on the first hole thinking we were heading to the 17th green but then as we walked up saw another green perched around the corner to the right which was actually the 1st.¬† The greens at Brora enjoy a reputation that proceeds them ‚?? not a like Nairns for their purity ‚?? but because these greens are surrounded by knee high electric fences. The purpose? To keep out the greenkeepers aka sheep.¬† I was waiting for a forgetful moment from JP and for him to forgetfully walk into one but on this occasion he was alert. ¬†I‚??m sure this happens a bit to visitors as the wires don‚??t particularly stand out in the dull light up here. ¬†I'm pleased to report that neither of us had the stupidity to see if the fences actually worked but we'll take their word for it‚?¶
The highlight of the round came on the 9th hole which was the farthest north point in our golfing journey all year.¬† From here it‚??s pretty much a constant trek back south and across the world to Cape Kidnappers on December 31. The 9th was a par three played down towards the water and into a fierce breeze.¬† A popped up 5 iron left me 30 yards short and a double ensued which must be a sign that it was time to turn around and head home‚?¶ It‚??s strange how targets like this serve as motivational points for us to work towards and on the 9th the camera phones were out in force and I think both of us had a sense of ‚??homeward bound‚?? as we turned and played back down the 10th hole.
[the 9th hole from the tee block]
[the 9th green]
[the view north from the farthest north point we'll venture this year]
We shared the back nine with the friendly sheep who served the purpose of making us kiwi visitors feel right at home and also keeping the course in a pretty good condition. They didn't do a bad job either - surely they must get some help from quite a few 2 footed creatures. The club kindly allows you to treat she sheep droppings as ‚??casual water‚?? meaning you get a free drop if you‚??re ball is in them or if you‚??re standing on them. Crucial.¬† Otherwise the car boot may have reeked of an even funkier smell.
No birdies were forthcoming on the back nine despite the holes playing downwind and being accessible with irons.¬† The lack of birdies can probably be put down to the tricky green complexes and the surfaces were firm and quick for the Open being played ahead.¬† It was a stern test and the fences had clearly done their job of keeping the riff raff of the sheep (with tails?) out.
We came to the par three final hole and the formalities were happening above us by the clubhouse.¬† So JP and I putted to rapturous applause and then both shakily knocked in our 4 footers with the crowd looking on above.
We thanked Tony and then saw Joan as she was walking back to the Royal Marine Hotel. She had been out watching the young gun win the Open ‚?? the son of one of her best friends so it was a Good Result.¬†¬† An example of how central golf is to the local township ‚?? the Brora Club had people out on the course tweeting the results of the four finals as they progressed through each hole. The tweets were sent back to the TV screen in the clubhouse and to people like Joan around the local township so they could follow the matches before they finished work for the day. Great culture.
We bypassed the hustle & bustle of the clubhouse and headed back to the Royal Marine where we both had a swim, spa and sauna in their indoor swimming centre.¬† ¬†An amazing facility for the Hotel to have and if you‚??re on a golfing holiday then using the pool and spa to unwind each day is the perfect way to keep the body fresh.¬† I know my body was thankful!! I can only imagine how good it would be having a spa etc after playing around the links in a day when the weather was not as kind as it was today ‚?? sounds it gets pretty wild up here at times and so far on our travels the words rain and Brora seem synonymous. ¬†We didn‚??t make it into the restaurant at the hotel but it is highly rated and we saw many groups wandering in dressed to the nines. The place was buzzing with couples enjoying a wine or two in the lobby waiting to enjoy their michelin star dining experience.¬† But JP and I settled in for some tomato soup, a spot of catching up on the local news in NZ and a much needed rest before the big day at Dornoch tomorrow.¬†
Posting comments has been disabled.