Gutty Golf in Paradise (2023)
HSC News Item: June 27, 2023 – Gutty Golf in Paradise (2023) Reported by: Vaughn Perusse, GHSC Hickory Ambassador
My love affair with Scotland began in the summer of 1978. I took a trip with my friend Tom prior to heading off to university that September. We stayed in Bearsden, a favourable part of Glasgow, a city which was very different then from today. We toured the country and our visit included some golf with Auntie Mary, a member at Cawder. She took us to play The Old Course (it only cost 1 pound at that time!) and The King’s Course at Gleneagles (50 pounds!). It just so happened that Seve was playing an exhibition match with Trevino on The Queen’s Course that very same day. It was a trip which would inspire many future visits.
I returned in the summer of 1995 to see an amateur Tiger Woods play The Open at St. Andrews. We witnessed Rocca’s putt on 18 and the subsequent playoff where “Wild Thing” Daly prevailed. Of course this trip included many rounds of golf at some famous locations as well as some hidden gems. It was also on this trip where I discovered an interest in Hickory Golf after playing Old Course Golf Club at Musselburgh Links.
Upon returning in 1998, I stood up as Best Man for my friend George (a CPGA pro) at his marriage to Susan. Six days later, Rossana and I eloped (a well-kept secret which took many months of planning) while George and Susan were our Best Man and Maid of Honour. After the ceremony, our priest invited us for a lovely lunch and round of golf at his home course Uphall, just outside of Edinburgh. This event would also entrench our love for this magical place.
We have been back many times since, visiting more of the country than most Scots. We have enjoyed Orkney, Skye, the Highlands, both the East and West coasts. This summer marks my 11th trip and Rossana’s 7th. We decided to spend 2 weeks on The Isle of Arran. We chose to rent a self-catering cottage in Torbeg, on the edge of Blackwaterfoot. We loved the west side of the island and we were a 15-minute walk to Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club. While it may not appear to many as a Golf destination, Arran has 7 golf courses. They vary in length, number of holes and degrees of difficulty. We had decided to bring over our hickories and I was determined to play with my pre-1900 clubs as many of these courses date back to the 1890’s. What follows is a brief summation of our golf experiences on this beautiful Island.
Of all the courses on Arran, Brodick is the flattest. This parkland course is fun to play with some lengthy par 4’s and challenging par 3’s. The layout is 4500 yds. par 64 and boasts some of the most beautiful views of Goatfell, the highest point on the island. The view from the first tee is breathtaking. It is situated on Brodick Bay and you are likely to enjoy some wind and also a very hospitable clubhouse experience.
This lovely 9-hole course is found just north of Blackwaterfooot on the west coast. It is a par 33, 2154 yard. layout which has some very unique features. There are several greens protected by Hummocks which run across the fairway, covered in fescue which prevent the player from any low running shots to the putting surface. The final hole, a par 4, requires you to lay up, wait for passing traffic on the A841 and then strike a perfect niblick from a tight lie! The course also features a tap and pay honesty box! We met Willie, the resident greenkeeper, while playing the 4th. He was most excited to see our smooth faced clubs. He accepted our invitation to hit a few shots and immediately hit several beautiful strikes. What a swing! The Tea Room is a highlight for the community and visited regularly by residents and visiting golfers.
After hiking on the Holy Isle just off the south east coast of Arran, accessible only by ferry, we headed to Lamlash to play their local club. (The most challenging on the island! according to our bus driver Keith, a member of the club) There are no flat lies on this course. You climb steep grades then descend them facing challenging approach shots and putts! The course is par 61, measures 4,000 yards, and has beautiful views of the island. The par 3 12th hole is especially difficult. You may enjoy a post round meal at the newly renovated clubhouse or go to the Drift Inn for some fine seafood. (Try the local Langoustines, well worth the effort!)
South of Lamlash is Whiting Bay, another extremely hilly layout of 18 holes. The course dates back to 1895. It is a 4100 yd., par 63 layout which boasts some of the longest par 3’s we have ever played! The elevation changes, small greens and various hazards; burns, bunkers and gorse all contribute to a sensational experience. We enjoyed a lovely post round lunch in the clubhouse and were welcomed with unrivalled hospitality.
If you were to create a golf course within an idyllic valley … this is it! The course emerges naturally from its location. After playing the 1st hole (stay below the pin!), you look west to the most beautiful landscape you could imagine. A mix of par 3’s and 4’s, this 1600 yd., par 31 layout is truly a pleasure to play. The greens were amongst the best on the island. Founded in 1892, Corrie is a must visit when golfing in Arran!
Of all the courses on Arran, it was the 12 hole Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club which captured our hearts. We chose to stay in Blackwaterfoot because of its proximity to Shiskine. The west coast is quieter and suited us. It is home to Standing Stones (Machrie Moor), the King’s Cave, the Arran Coastal Trail the Tee Room (Shiskine’s Restaurant) the Kinloch Hotel Restaurant and the best ice cream you will ever taste in your life! You can purchase fresh baked goods each day at 11 am from the bakery and Wednesdays mark the arrival of a fresh seafood van in Blackwaterfoot.
The golf course is 2800 yds., par 42. You will be treated to some of the most beautiful landscapes you have seen. The golf is FUN! Vistas in all directions will prove inspiring. There are some blind shots, but they are truly exciting, climbing over a hill to discover the fate of your ball is like opening a gift at Christmas! In addition to the views of Kilbrannan Sound and the Mull of Kintyre, you will also be treated to the sounds and sight of seabirds, seals and porpoises. Our hickory clubs also garnered the attention of some members (who gave them a try!) as well as a visit from Stewart Fotheringham (Shiskine_Greenskeeper, Instagram) whose work is wonderful.
As we stated to head professional Dougie Bell, “This is a course you could play for the rest of your life!” That is not an uncommon phrase. Upon completion of your round, you must visit The Tee Room for lunch or dinner. Try the Smoked Haddock Pate, the Haggis/Cheddar/Chutney Toastie and the Lentil Soup, WOW! Our visit began with a round here and ended with 2 on our final day. We spent 2 weeks on Arran and enjoyed genuine, sincere local hospitality. We did not hire a car for the first time in all our visits. The buses were dependable and the drivers both friendly and informative. We were recognized within a few days and felt as though we were part of the community. Arran is a great place for hiking, sightseeing and Gutty Golf!
As we look to the future, we are thinking about the Outer Hebrides but we will start with a visit to Arran! Do yourself a favour and consider this as a destination.