Haste Ye Back – The Ayrshire Coast

Haste Ye Back – The Ayrshire Coast

The Ayrshire Coast

No sooner did we disembark from the Stena Line ferry, we came to the first little hamlet. A minute later we saw the familiar sign: Haste Ye Back. No doubt about it — we’re in Scotland.

We rolled into Troon where we are staying at the refurbished Marine Hotel. Under new ownership, the landmark 19th century Ayrshire property features 89 guest rooms, a luxurious spa and fitness center, indoor pool, steam rooms and sauna. Our sumptuous room had views in three directions, including the fairways of Royal Troon and even the clubhouse, one prodigious 5-iron away.

For me, our accommodations ticked all the boxes. Dining in The Rabbit Restaurant with Gillian Black, Director of Sales and Marketing for the venerable hotel, which is now part of the Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts portfolio, was icing on the cake. Or maybe I should say it was the Salted Butterscotch Sauce on the Sticky Toffee Pudding, that we couldn’t resist.

Not only is the setting and menu exquisite, I love that you can also devour the facts about where so much of the outstanding food is from — like the Cumbrae Oysters, sourced from sustainable fishing boats and oyster farms just off the coast, and the Isle of Mull Cheddar, made by the Reade family using unpasteurized milk from cows fed on grass and whisky grains from the nearby Tobermory Distillery.

We had a lovely Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand to go with the Chicken Liver Parfait and Grilled Orkney Scallop starters. Gillian and Kevin both had the Grilled Middle White Pork Chop, Rainbow Chard & Rhubarb and I had the Roast Shetland Pollock, Capers Brown Butter and Herb Mash. Gillian was driving home to Glasgow, so only Diet Coke for her!

Before heading up to Prestwick, we popped into the Royal Troon Clubhouse so I could browse the selection in the pro shop. I did not leave empty-handed! Always fun to wear a Royal Troon item when home at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’m useless on the golf course, but I can hold my own in the “I’ve Been There” department.

Royal Troon will be hosting the 152nd Open in July 2024. I will often say a silent prayer for Tom Weiskopf, the winner of the 1973 Open at Troon, who had just passed away on August 20th. The course at Troon CC was designed by Tom Weiskopf — the first course he designed, with Jay Morrish, and it was named as a fitting tribute to his Open win at Royal Troon.

Interestingly, the first Tom Weiskopf-designed course I ever played was Loch Lomond Golf Club near Glasgow in Scotland. I still love that parkland course with stunning views of the loch. He certainly found his genius when his playing days were over. R.I.P. Tom.

Upon arriving at Prestwick, we were hoping for a few minutes with Ken Goodwin, the Secretary at the venerable club for over a decade. We wanted to get the latest intel on the re-creation of the original 12-hole course played in the first Open Championship in 1860. Thanks to a chance encounter with David Fleming, the Head Golf Professional, I learned the club just received the hot-off-the-press limited edition course guide of the historic layout. What a great souvenir to bring home with me!

When we caught up with Ken, with his characteristic Scottish humor, he said: “The original course was dangerous! Four holes intersected at one point. Old Tom obviously did not do a risk assessment!” Ken confirmed the demand to play the re-created original 12 holes for just a few short weeks in October “far outstrips the supply.”

Only members of Prestwick, Muirfield, the R&A and a small number of golf history enthusiasts will get the chance in October to play the 12-hole layout to commemorate 150th anniversary of the Open. They will all be walking in the footsteps of Open Champions — one being Young Tom whose score of 47 was recorded on his opening round in 1870. How did he do it? He started with playing the 578-yard first hole in three shots.

In the early days the golfers went around the 12 holes three times to determine the winner. Although he designed the course, Old Tom did not win the first time. That honor went to Willie Park, Sr. from Musselburgh, with a score of 174. However, Old Tom did win in 1861 and then went on to win three more times. He still holds the title of being the oldest golfer (at age 46) to win the Open in 1867.

We made one more stop at Dundonald Links before we crossed the country to St Andrews on the east coast. The course, designed by Kyle Philips, was always a treat to play. Now there is an outstanding clubhouse where there used to just be a fancy trailer. The reception area is very unique—full of fascinating books like: The Secret Life of Tartan, How a cloth Shaped a Nation by Vixy Rae.

Kyle’s best known course in Scotland is probably Kingsbarns in Fife. It is impossible not to like a course where you have had a hole-in-one as a couple of our clients have done recently (#8 and most recently #13). No hole-in-one for me but I had one of my best rounds ever (low 90s) with a caddie who was a student at Dundee University. I would have him be my caddie for life, except that job falls to Kevin!

We had a delicious lunch in The Canny Crow, on the second floor. Susie Sinclair Watson also showed us several of the well-appointed luxury golf lodges, ranging from 2-bedrooms to 6-bedrooms. Some very nice touches include the designated equipment room for storing golf clubs, and many of the lodges were clustered around a putting green for convenient practice. This is the ultimate in seclusion.

Of course being an art lover, I couldn’t help but notice the monumental sculpture of a wound ball made of corten steel. It is the perfect material for the marine atmosphere where the rust-like appearance resembles the rubber thread used in the ball-making of the early 1900s.

Haste Ye Back – The St Andrews Experience

Haste Ye Back – The St Andrews Experience

The St Andrews Experience

It’s always exhilarating to pull into the Auld Grey Toon and see the hallowed ground of the Old Course spread out with quiet dignity on your left. We had a set agenda that included meeting with the captains of both St Regulus Ladies Golf Club and The St Rule Club.

At St Reg’s both the incoming and outgoing captains are named Moira and Kevin and I got to meet them both! The current captain is Moira Hall and she greeted us upon our arrival at 9 Pilmour Links, a few steps from the Rusacks Hotel. We learned that even though St Regulus was founded in 1913, Moira Wilbraham, the vice-captain said, “When I took up golf 25 years ago women were not encouraged to play.”

“How is that possible, if your club was formed over 100 years ago?” I queried.

Moira clarified, “Men were not encouraged to play with women…not with their wives, anyway, as the men were out playing golf, to ahem, get away from the missus.”

Just a short time later, we were to meet with Janet Winter, captain of The St Rule Club. It was established at the end of 1896. From Janet we learned St Rule is not a club with just a golf section. They have a book club, gardening club, and in the winter months weekly meetings are held for Arts & Crafts and bridge. Their enviable location at 12 The Links has a stunning view of the Old Course and West Sands — the very beach where Chariots of Fire was filmed.

Our last meeting of the day was with Angela Howe, the Museum & Heritage Director of the World Golf Museum. She’s responsible for the running of the museum and oversees the management of the collections in the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. It’s a pretty big job, especially since the museum was completely re-imagined to introduce an exciting, interactive presentation of the golf heritage experience.

The exhibits are organized in a very compelling way exploring concepts like “Ball and Stick Games” and “Clubs and Societies.” There is a fascinating section called “Women to the Fore” and a special exhibit of Seve: His Life Through the Lens by David Cannon. It includes many of the most iconic photographs of Seve Ballesteros, like the jubilant scene when he won The Open in 1979, wearing his trademark navy blue V-neck sweater. David captured this intensely euphoric moment when Seve sunk the winning putt. The crowd would have been roaring and so was he. Seve was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year three times — 1979, 1984, 1988.

One of the best panels at the museum states:

Golf is Everywhere. It is staggering to learn that there are 40,000 golf courses spread around the world from remote islands to bustling cities. We are reminded that golf continues to flourish around the world and that it is a sport for life. And right here at the Home of Golf, the R&A aims to make golf more accessible, appealing and inclusive.

The World Golf Museum certainly reflects that goal.

We had heard good things from our clients who were attending the Open Championship in July about a new restaurant called Lupo’s. The establishment takes its name from their patron-wolf, and a vibrant mural-size painting of the head of the animal creates an amazing atmosphere in this trendy upstairs restaurant.

When we saw Little Beauty on the wine list, we ordered it straight away. But when told it was out of stock we were offered Little Darling. This organic Sauvignon Blanc, also from Marlborough, was perfect with our pan-seared Branzino.

We were lucky to get into Little Italy, a reliably good restaurant for years. The place was packed and the food was fabulous. Kevin had a homemade ravioli stuffed with lobster and crab and I had a veal dish made with Marsala wine, sage and cream sauce, topped with Parma ham. Accompanied by a bottle of Ca’Bolani Pinot Grigio. You can’t go wrong here.

When I finally had a few hours to just meander around the charming town, I took a leisurely stroll over to the Wardlaw Museum, which is part of the University of St Andrews. Henry Wardlaw (died 6 April 1440) was a Bishop of St Andrews and a founder of the university.

Displays showcase the extraordinary art, history, science and natural history collections spanning six centuries since the university was founded in 1413. A very informative panel answers the question: Why St Andrews? It states:

Already home to Scotland’s largest cathedral, with its important library, St Andrews attracted scholars from across Europe for centuries before the University was formally founded.

In 1410 a small group began teaching in the town under the authority of Bishop Henry Wardlaw, but only the Pope could grant university status.

Western Europe was in political and religious conflict, including dynastic wars on a grand scale and a major split in the Catholic Church. Combined with Scotland’s increasingly bold assertion of itself in Europe there was a strong case for a university here. In 1413 Bishop Wardlaw and King James I of Scotland secured approval from the Pope, and Scotland’s first university was founded.

One delightful surprise was the enchanting bronze of Peter Pan. The statue was presented to the University by JM Barrie, the creator of the famous character, when he was Rector in 1922.

This day was capped off with dinner at Rusacks with our clients who just arrived and checked into the hotel. We’ll be staying there ourselves the next night to have our own first-hand experience of yet another property in the Marine & Lawn portfolio.

When it was our turn, we checked into a magnificent suite — bottle of prosecco waiting — chilled to perfection. We consumed it pronto in dainty old-fashioned champagne glasses— admiring the view of the Old course.

I was delighted to find a selection of books in our sitting room including Roger McStravick’s: St Andrews in the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris. I’m privileged to own a copy that I keep in my golf library at home. Roger is a brilliant award-winning writer and he is currently the Editor of the British Golf Collectors’ Society journal — Through the Green. He contributes a “Letter from St Andrews” for the Golf Heritage Society’s quarterly journal called The Golf. It’s great to feel the connection, through Roger, to the Home of Golf on a regular basis.

On Sunday we played golf at Panmure Golf Club. I had heard many years ago that this is where Ben Hogan practiced in 1953 before he won the Open at Carnoustie. He only played in the Open once and never came back to the UK again. At the time, Hogan was the reigning Masters and U.S. Open Champion.

We learned from Scott Grant in the golf shop, while picking up our score cards and a course guide, that the pot bunker front right of the green on hole #6 was Hogan’s idea so it is named after him. However, it was the flat hole #17 where he practiced the most. He kept a mower and hand-cut the green himself.

As we made our way to the first tee, I was astonished to see a scallop, emblazoned in rich pink on a 4-foot high boulder. This shell is the emblem of Panmure Golf Club.

I found it very ironic that I am currently reading The Pilgrimage by the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho. Written in 1987, full of enchantment and enlightenment, it is about his experiences as he walked the Road to Santiago de Compostela across northern Spain. On the cover of my copy is a scallop shell — the most well-known symbol associated with the Camino de Santiago. It is this shell that accompanies the pilgrims on their quest for self-knowledge and spiritual mastery they are seeking on the Road.

And here is a bright pink one on the rock at Panmure! How did this come to be? The story goes like this:

Maule & the Scallop Shell

The Coat of Arms of Guarin Le Jeune de Maule, was incorporated into the Panmure Family Crest. The Escallop was adopted by Panmure Golf Club with the gracious permission of the Earl of Dalhousie.

We are often asked by Members, Guests and Visitors alike why our Club uses a scallop shell as its emblem.

Maule is the family name of the Lords and Earls of Panmure. There are strong associations between the name and Angus with, for example, street names in Monifieth and Carnoustie. Carnoustie is twinned with the town of Maule.

Guarin Le Jeune de Maule came from France with the Normans and indeed may have fought at the Battle of Hastings (1066). His son Robert de Maule accompanied David I to Scotland when he succeeded to the throne in 1124. Sir Thomas Maule (1521 – 1600) was Ambassador to France and fought at the Battles of Hadden Rigg (1542) and Pinkie (1547). Patrick Maule (1585 – 1661) was a courtier to King James VI and Charles I. He was created Earl of Panmure and Lord Maule of Brechin and Navar in 1646 and was granted lands stretching from Fettercairn to the Tay Estuary, including all the land now taken up by Golf Courses.

James Maule, the 4th Earl (1658 – 1723), was a Jacobite who fought at Sheriffmuir, fled to the continent and thus lost the family estates. His nephew, General William Maule (1700-82) returned, became a loyal soldier, bought back the estates and recovered the Earldom. However, dying without children his estates were eventually divided between a cousin George Ramsay, the 8th Earl of Dalhousie (d.1787) and George’s second son, William. In 1782, William assumed the name Maule and was created Baron Panmure of Brechin and Navar, the 1st Lord Panmure.

The course is a traditional links. Now and then you see a train zooming by and other times you see cows grazing lazily. At Panmure, a couple of miles from Carnoustie Golf Club, you will find tall pine trees along with a very dunes-y landscape. It is the kind of course you could play every day.

For dinner we met up with clients at The Locker room at The Russell Hotel — a very intimate private space. All the names on the lockers are winners of the Open at St Andrews. Lots of good food and laughs. The room only seats 10 people.

Our only other round of golf in the St Andrews area was at Dumbarnie Links. I waited years to play this new course with very high expectations. They were met and then some. We started off with rain on the first hole but by the third we were putting the umbrellas away and could concentrate on enjoying the course. The layout, designed by Clive Clark, former Ryder Cup player-turned-developer and golf architect was fun, memorable, and challenging. Every hole engaged all your senses and at times it seemed like we were the only people on the course due to the clever routing and use of the generous amount of land.

Holing out the last putt on the 18th leaves you feeling like you want to come back. In a word — it is seductive.

I can’t think of anything that would make the whole experience more special except running into Clive himself! And lo, there he was with his lovely wife, Linda, as we were just ordering some lunch in the clubhouse. Now that was a thrill. They both said they remembered meeting me years ago at the Hideaway in La Quinta, Ca. Even if they didn’t, they insisted they did! That’s class.

“I have no doubt that Dumbarnie will soon come to stand along with Kingsbarns as the two courses (after the Old) that every serious St. Andrews pilgrim will want to play.” ~ George Peper, Links Magazine

Haste Ye Back – Machrihanish, My Spiritual Golf Home

Haste Ye Back – Machrihanish, My Spiritual Golf Home

Machrihanish, My Spiritual Golf Home

The time had finally come to make the pilgrimage to my spiritual golf home: Machrihanish Golf Club. The journey down the Kintyre Penninsula reminded me of the famous Paul McCartney song: The Long and Winding Road. It is said that he wrote the song at his farm in 1968 near Campbeltown, just a few miles from Machrihanish.

We arrived in darkness after a 6-hour drive. I was never happier to get into a cozy room and have a hot bath. We woke to the gorgeous view of the sea, pro shop and first tee — known the world over as the “Greatest Opening Hole in Golf.” Your drive has to carry the Atlantic Ocean, or at least a lot of beach if the tide is out. Exhilarating.

This is a pilgrimage of a different nature and like the Camino it is also filled with trials and tests. This is one of the most natural golf courses you will ever set eyes on. The 18-hole course we play today was laid out by Old Tom Morris. The club was founded in 1876 and Old Tom was brought in to extend the course to 18 holes in 1879. The course was modified in 1914 by J.H. Taylor and later by Sir Guy Campbell. The allure of the course has never been ruined. What will you find? Charm and mystery. At least I do.

“Specially designed by the Almighty for playing golf.” ~ Old Tom Morris

You like quirky, you say? Plenty of it here. Blind shots all over the place, rarely a flat lie, aiming posts to guide you on many fairways, and a bell to ring on a couple of holes to let the group behind know it is safe to send their ball to the green. All the holes have a name. I like Punchbowl. It’s just like it sounds. On the par-3 fourth hole you can see the majestic Paps of Jura (hills) that run the length of the island. Name of this hole? You guessed right, Jura.

We were thrilled to romp around Machrihanish two days in a row with splendid weather. And then to be able to have dinner in the new clubhouse was an absolute joy. When the original clubhouse burned down to the ground in December of 2018, I got an email from the club letting me know about the disaster. As a member (since 2003) I always followed the club news to keep track of all the goings on. But this disaster was absolutely devastating. Thankfully nobody was hurt. It is a marvel to see what stands on the site of the burned out rubble.

Even though they had to deal with the COVID pandemic, the G-1 Architects were hired, design approvals were given and construction carried on. The new building is modern, but not overly so. The structure is very sympathetic to the entire environment. The views of the course and the sea from the second floor of the clubhouse where the restaurant is located are superb. We even saw dolphins playing by the shoreline.

We loved being cocooned in the Ugadale Hotel. The staff is genuinely friendly and you can’t beat the convenience of just having to walk next door to the Machrihanish clubhouse or across the street to the first tee.

Along with creating Machrihanish Dunes, designed by Scotland’s own, David McLay Kidd, and also refurbishing the Royal Hotel in Campbeltown, Southworth Development made a huge investment in elevating this magical golf destination.

Alas, it’s time to make the epic journey to Cairnryan to catch the ferry back to Belfast. I reflect on our all-too-brief experience in this remote part of Scotland. I say goodbye to the Hebridean islands Islay, Jura and Gigha off the coast to my left. From the rock clusters along the jagged shore to the changing landscape of rolling hills dotted with sheep we leave the extraordinary Kintyre Peninsula and make the turns around the lochs.

Racing around Glasgow on motorways we hurtle toward the linksland of the Ayrshire Coast. We retrace our route, and then bang — the massive Ailsa Craig comes into view as we approach Girvan. It is lit up gloriously in the sunshine like a spectacular cabochon. Zipping along, passing through the little hamlets of Lendalfoot and Ballantrae that greeted us at the start of our Scottish adventure, at last we see the familiar signs that tug at our heartstrings:

Haste Ye Back.

A Sticky at the End

A Sticky at the End

The oldest recorded golf club in the world

Most people would be delighted to be playing at Muirfield. I was far above delighted, I was ecstatic. Playing golf at the home course of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is a rare privilege indeed; and many a grown man has been known to grovel to get onto this course. Founded in 1744, it is the oldest recorded golf club in the world, and right now sits firmly on its perch at #12 on the GOLF Magazine Top 100 list. Most probably it has been in the Top 15 ever since the list was drawn up.

Like many courses in the early years, it started with far fewer than eighteen holes. This didn’t become the norm until ten years after The Society of St Andrews Golfers was formed in 1754. In fact, the Leith Golfers, who later became The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (HCEG), played their golf over just five holes in Leith. The Club moved to Musselburgh in 1836, where they played within the racecourse, which has continued to serve as a horse racing venue until this day. Some thirty years later, when the Musselburgh course was shared by four clubs, overcrowding led to the Club moving again.

In 1891, the course at Muirfield that opened for play was designed by Old Tom Morris as sixteen holes. Two more holes were added a few months later. In 1928, Harry Colt and Tom Simpson made alterations to the layout. It was the first to be designed with two concentric rings of nine. The outward nine run clockwise and the inward nine run counterclockwise. Muirfield has been host to 15 Opens, starting in 1892; and the Open Championship is returning in 2013. Not that the pedigree needs any enhancing, Muirfield has also staged many other premier amateur championships, along with the Ryder Cup, Walker and Curtis Cups.


The memorable Greywalls and its exquisite gardens 

Our sure-to-be memorable day began with meeting Kevin’s good friend and fellow Dubliner, Peter Webster, at Greywalls, a very posh hotel situated next to Muirfield, overlooking the greens of the 9th and 18th holes.

We found Peter reading the paper and enjoying a cup of tea in the elegant library. He was impeccably dressed in the required jacket and tie. While we waited for tea ourselves, I browsed through a book about the celebrated Edwardian architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944), who designed the Country House in 1901 for the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton. Alfred was a keen golfer who wanted to be “within a mashie niblick of the eighteenth green of Muirfield.” (Today that would be the equivalent of an 8- or 9-iron.)

Peter was aware of a special architectural feature in the garden. He insisted, “You must not miss the clair-voyee,” and I was out of my winged-back chair faster than you could say White Rabbit!

Like Alice in Wonderland, I found myself in the most magical place teeming with all manner of cool and fiery colored flowers and secret shady places full of gorgeous ornamental gates and elaborate stone statues. Although I did not come across a Cheshire Cat or make it as far as the croquet lawn (surely it was inhabited by flamingos?), I did discover the clair-voyee.

What a clever device. The oval-shaped opening in the garden wall was like a portal to another world. A little research revealed that the clair-voyee was common in French gardens of the seventeenth century and was usually placed at the end of a walk to extend the view outward and “call in” the countryside.

The garden embodied endless charm. No wonder. It was designed by Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), who collaborated with Lutyens on scores of gardens, and as England’s most venerated designer, she was revered as a national heroine. And, it was this prolific designer who introduced Lutyens to most of his early clients. Considered bilingual, speaking both art and horticulture, her philosophy was distilled from the Arts and Crafts Movement, which expounded on the importance of creating with heart, hand and eye.

Influenced by her studies in London, travels abroad, and her association with William Morris, Jekyll’s own personal unity of the aesthetic arts led her to practice many other crafts such as embroidery, metalwork, woodwork, painting and later photography, before taking up garden design. Without knowing at the time who created this multi-layered living tapestry, I felt a deep connection to this pleasing place and found it hard to tear myself away. What a superb appetizer to our main course!


The gate that stops you – to marvel at it!

Our appointed time arrived to meet the Master of our Muirfield experience, David Sanderson. A recipe for a better host you could not conjure up. He was generous portions of gracious, bright, charming and funny, topped off with a huge dollop of excellent golfer.

Starting when you arrive at the massive iron gate, cleverly designed with golf club and ball elements, plus elegant raised lettering, you know you are someplace special. In fact, I was so blown away by this monumental work of art that I later wrote to the owner of the company. This detail is all part of his reply:


“The gates were commissioned in 1999 by the then-Captain of Muirfield, Mr. J. B. Neil, and the design was developed by Phil Johnson & Jois Hunter.

The whole main gate is part of a giant golf ball with 18 holes scattered
about the lower section.

Inside the trophy cabinet of the Clubhouse there are a number of silver golf  clubs displayed, each with a silver ball attached (one for every club captain). These silver balls are represented by negative/positive discs holding the  lower solid panels in place. There is more…can you find any Birdies, or Eagles, or Albatrosses?

The thistle and clubs are the Coat of Arms of The Company. As you say, the  components were forged separately and then assembled onto the back plate, as was the lettering on the pedestrian gate.

The gates and panels and posts were riveted together after all the components were forged and shaped. The assemblies were first galvanised, then painted and finally the coat of arms was overpainted in the appropriate colours and the lettering gold leafed.

The main gates, which are automated, were installed in July 2000.

There is just over a ton and a half of steel in the whole work. They took us seven hundred and twenty eight and a half hours to make.”

Now you know why I was blown away.


The protocols of Muirfield

Once inside the gates, it was just a short walk to the clubhouse entrance, where the men continued on to their locker room and I was escorted back outside to a little walkway leading to the ladies locker room.

Modest and tidy, with a single cushioned bench running down the length of it, the locker room did actually have small lockers under the bench, where I stowed a few things. My escort then brought me back to the main clubhouse so I could join the men for a drink before lunch.

One understands why all the protocols of Muirfield are what they are when you know the essential ingredients of how the club was formed. I read about it in previous research, but here it is, extracted from the official Muirfield And The Honourable Company by George Pottinger, a copy of which my genial host bestowed on me as a gift:

“Golf at Leith Links—and at St Andrews and Perth—was becoming more popular every year, but there was as yet no sign of any corporate body or collection of individuals forming a club or society to promote their common interest in the game. The establishment of the Company of Gentlemen  Golfers in the 1740s seems to have come from the golfers’ habit of taking refreshment at a particular tavern after their exercise.

The Gentlemen Golfers were accustomed to meet for this laudable purpose at Luckie Clephan’s tavern at Leith. Clephan was an innkeeper and clubmaker who died in 1742 and it was the house of his widow that became the Company’s first headquarters.”

So there you are. Now bring on that drink while I sit back and absorb the atmosphere of the Smoking Room wherein many of the crown jewels hang on the walls.

A magnificent portrait of William St. Clair of Roslin (1700-1778) commanded my attention as he towered over me in his red coat, holding a long wooden club, probably addressing a feathery golf ball. The small attached plaque explained that St. Clair was “the last of a line said to have come to Britain with William the Conqueror.” He was the Club Captain 1761, 1766, 1770 and 1771. I was informed by my escort that the original is actually in a vault and this one is a reproduction. It is technically “after the portrait by Sir George Chalmers”.

The other painting that engaged my attention was called “A Club Dinner” by Angus Hampet. It was commissioned by a member, G.A. McElveen III, and presented to the Club in 2008. Sadly he did not live to see its completion. It was a festive scene of dozens of members, seated for dinner in their red jackets—quite atmospheric and almost Degas-esque.

We were soon called to lunch. It was quite a lavish affair. We sat in a large airy room with a view of the course. It was a lively ambience with all the gentlemen in coat and tie. I noticed a few people had plates full of cold salad foods, and realized I was supposed to serve myself, and so I did, thinking that was the lunch.

Not the case at all! There was an entire hot meal being served at the other end of the elegant dining hall, with several carved meats and miles of vegetables. Oh. Now I am sorry I had an extra bite or two of beets. While we were consuming lavish amounts of delicious food, the entire salad table was replaced with desserts. How would one attempt to resist?


The ‘Scotch’ Foursome

After lunch, I changed into my golf shoes in the ladies’ locker room and met the lads on the first
tee, where Peter announced, “You and Stallion are a team.”

Now for the other key component of the Muirfield Recipe, also extracted from the Muirfield history book:

“The Honourable Company is the home of the Foursome—sometimes called the ‘Scotch’ Foursome—and regards it as the true game, the epitome of all that is best in golf.

A prominent Notice hangs beside the entrance to the clubhouse at Muirfield, saying: ‘Fourball games are forbidden at weekends and on public holidays.’ Any member (or visitor) who attempted to break this rule would get short shrift. And, if it be reported that a player plays twice as many shots in a  fourball game as in a Foursome, the Muirfield man would reply, ‘Play  36 holes in 4 1/2 hours (as we do) and you will get the same number of shots, twice the exercise, far more fun, and you won’t have to wait between shots. Furthermore you will learn to play golf better.’”

I was intoxicated by all I was experiencing and didn’t play my best golf or anything close to it. I did, however, have the most fun and never waited between shots—that is, until we got to the fourteenth hole. This long par-4 (par-5 for ladies) follows a par-3 with an elevated green. The members’ tees were around the dune and my forward tee was below, so I didn’t follow Peter up to his tee box, nor could I follow where he hit his drive. Kevin and David were already walking through the rough; David along the left and Kevin along the right side of the fairway.

After I heard Peter’s strike and saw that he was on his way down from the tee box, I got set to hit my drive. It landed in the light rough on the right side of the fairway. Peter evidently was in deeper rough on the left. David went over to help him search for his ball.

We saw that the group behind us had already reached the fourteenth tee. We waved them through, staying clear of the fairway. Mindful that we didn’t want to hold them up, but over 200 yards away and not in earshot, Kevin and I had a little chat.

And then zzzzuuummmmp! Into my golf bag went a ball. As soon as Kevin realized what had happened, he keeled over in laughter. Peter and David were now calling out and waving vigorously, thinking Kevin had been hit by a golf ball.

Kevin and I were laughing ourselves silly. He picked up my bag, turned it upside down, and shook it to coerce the ball to come out. About this time, the hapless golfer, clad in a Pebble Beach shirt and wearing an angry frown, arrived at this comical scene. Only he didn’t find it funny in the least. But why not? He just had a hole-in-one!

We backed away from where his ball lay, and kept quiet as he took an angry swipe at it, shooting us dirty looks and muttering to his caddie. One hates to be the reason for another’s card-wrecking hole. Since we now had to continue waiting—Kevin would be playing the next shot with his fairway driver—in between the giggles, we pitied this joyless fellow who could not embrace the hilarity of the mishap, as he was so driven by his score.

Out of rhythm now with our own game, and not wanting to crowd this sorrowful soul, we walked a half step slower to keep out of the slipstream of the sourpuss.


The Original 13 Rules of Golf

But we regained our collective good spirit and carried on to the eighteenth hole, allowing our bonhomie to carry us back in to the clubhouse. David then offered us a tour upstairs so we could see the Original 13 Rules of Golf.

Like the Roslin painting, it was a facsimile, but nonetheless, it was a thrill to see the Rules written in the hand of John Rattray, first Captain of the Club. It was impossible to take it all in, but one other tasty morsel of memorabilia stuck in my mind: the scorecard of Mr. B.A.D.T.M. Shade, otherwise known as Mr. Bloody Always Down The Middle Shade, who shot a 70 on this par 71 course.

Although we didn’t follow the complete protocol for the Muirfield members—especially in the early days when they met at the tavern (these were “no half-pint men”, mind you), perhaps aptly described by Tobias Smollet in his 1771 epistolary novel The Expeditions of Humphry Clinker. He recalled the golfers he saw on the Leith Links: “They never went to bed without the best part of a gallon of claret in his belly.”

However we were informed of the members’ ritual of the day’s golf-lunch-golf round involving a Sticky, which consisted of a liqueur—a particular favorite at Muirfield being Kummel.

Our convivial host described this most agreeable liquid course this way:

“There is a tradition of self-pouring stickys at our club to create a meniscus at the top of the glass. Often as not, this is broken during the journey to one’s seat with unsteady hands resulting in sticky hands. They are had with coffee in the smoke room at the end of lunch before we go out for our afternoon round. Sticky hands can be helpful for holding on to golf clubs after lunch…”

And certainly the Sticky at the end was especially helpful for holding on to the great camaraderie of the round itself!

A Sticky at the End is the third story in Taba’s newly published Golfers, Scotland Is Calling

Birthplace of The Open – Part 1

Birthplace of The Open – Part 1

Prestwick – Birthplace of The Open

Created in the days when golf professionals were also ball and club makers and greenkeepers like Old Tom Morris, The Open Championship was first played in 1860 at Prestwick on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland. The where and when might be fixed in many minds, but the why is not so well known.

In September of 1859 when Allan Robertson, the undisputed best golfer of his time, died at the age of 44 a few months after an attack of jaundice, it was agreed that a tournament would be held to determine who would replace Robertson as the “Champion Golfer”.

The members of Prestwick Golf Club (founded in 1851) paid £25 to commission a red Moroccan leather belt with a richly engraved silver buckle. It was designed to be the prize for the first Open Championship, and was a stunning trophy indeed. Every bit as regal as a crown, this highly ornamental piece of paraphernalia must have imbued its wearer with a very deep visceral feeling of accomplishment.

It was, to say the least, a very tantalizing prize. Wearing it would certainly symbolize one’s supremacy and would without a doubt, add an aura of personal glory to the triumphant golfing gladiator.

Willie Park, Sr. of Musselburgh claimed the prize with a score of 174 over 36 holes, which meant going around the course three times since Prestwick was just 12 holes back then. Old Tom Morris, who created this layout, was one of eight golfers in the field. But even with his intimate knowledge of these twelve holes, he lost to Park by two strokes.


The first winners of the Open Championship

The Open Championship was held at Prestwick every year for the next ten years and was won by Tom Morris, Sr. four times, Willie Park, Sr. two more times, Andrew Strath once, and Young Tom Morris three times.

When Young Tom won the belt three times in a row (1868, 1869 and 1870) it was his to keep forever as stipulated in the conditions of the competition. He actually won The Open four consecutive times, but since he already owned the magnificent Challenge Belt and a new trophy was not organized in time, the competition was cancelled in 1871. Imagine…cancelled. Wouldn’t happen today of course over lack of a trophy. A world war, yes, but a trophy, I don’t think so.

In 1872, when Young Tom won The Open again, which was held at Prestwick, he was awarded a commemorative medal. Since he already owned the mother of all belts, maybe he was content. But it seems a shame that he didn’t get to hold the now-coveted silver Claret Jug in his worthy hands, and keep it for a year, as is the custom now.

The new trophy was jointly paid for by Prestwick, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The handsomely decorated silver jug, officially named the Golf Champion Trophy was made by Mackay Cunningham & Company of Edinburgh at a cost of £30, and was hallmarked in 1873.

The winner of the 1873 Open Championship, Tom Kidd, was the first to receive the new trophy, but there must have been some consolation for Young Tom, because his name was the first to be engraved on it.

Prestwick went on to host The Open 12 more times between 1875 and 1925 with 1884 being the year the competition was staged over two rounds of 18 holes, since the course had been expanded in 1882. In all, Prestwick hosted The Open 24 times, which is second only to the Old Course in St Andrews, which was the venue for the 28th time in 2010.


Only The Open Championship is The Open

Perhaps now you understand why I always refer to this, the oldest of the four “Majors”, as The Open or The Open Championship rather than calling it the British Open. In fact, not only was this tournament created in Scotland, and staged in Scotland until it was played at Royal St George’s in England in 1894, the Champion Golfer right through 1889 was Scottish until the competition was won by John Ball, an English “amateur.”

The U.S. Open is not The Open. The Phoenix Open is not The Open. Only The Open Championship is The Open. Now that we have settled that, here is the rest of the story.

I had a pretty good working knowledge of the history of Prestwick, so it engendered enormous respect and instilled great anticipation the instant Kevin asked me if I would like to go there.

We had plans to be in St Andrews later in the week, so we tacked on a couple of extra days at the beginning of our trip, which meant we played Prestwick the same day we took the ferry over from Ireland. I was truly looking forward to it for months. Well, maybe years.


Ah, the Ailsa Craig

About the time the Ailsa Craig came into view, we were motoring north along the windy scenic road headed up the western coast toward the famous Turnberry Resort and Prestwick just 35 minutes farther on.

Ah, the Ailsa Craig. There is something magical about this monstrous mound that looks rather like the top of a bald giant’s head, submerged to allow only his watchful eyes to survey and protect the ancient land now known as Scotland.

The Ailsa Craig climbs out of the Firth of Clyde, and is a volcanic island that is presently uninhabited except for large colonies of gannets and puffins. Even using the power of the zoom on my Nikon camera, I could barely make out the lighthouse and the ruins of the 16th century castle.

The lighthouse was built in the late 1880s and used oil-burning lamps in those days. It was automated in 1990 and then converted to solar electric power in 2001. No further need for a lighthouse keeper then, since the birds could always find their way back to their home with their internal GPS.

The massive domed rock appears to be anchored to the center of the earth. At times, it looks like a colossal blue cabochon gemstone, resting in its watery setting, nearly ten miles from mainland Scotland. It is a stone alright. The very meaning of the word craig (or the Scottish Gaelic creag) is stone.

Along with being an iconic landmark situated about the halfway point in the sea journey between Belfast and Glasgow, the island is known for its blue hone granite, which has been quarried since 1851. Apparently it is one of only two sources for all stones used in the sport of curling—the other being the Trefor Granite Quarry in Wales.

Further research revealed that the last “harvest” of the Ailsa Craig granite took place in 2013. The 2,000 tons that were quarried are thought to be sufficient to fill orders until at least 2020. So if you’re in need of a blue hone curling stone or two, and you’re not on the list, you are in for a long wait.

Maybe it is the blue hone granite that seems to infuse the monumental mound with a blue glow or haze. That is, when you can see it.

The Scots have a saying:

If you can see the Ailsa Craig, it’s going to rain.

If you canna (cannot) see the Ailsa Craig, it’s raining.

The moment we rolled into the car park beside the Prestwick clubhouse, I hopped out to get a photo. I was eager to capture this and every moment of being here, at the very birthplace of The Open Championship. Like my first time at the Louvre, it was love at first sight.


A VIP tour with Ken Goodwin

Our visit was made ever more special when Ken Goodwin, the club Secretary, graciously offered to give us a VIP tour upstairs and down to point out many items in their vast collection of artifacts and memorabilia. This included treasures like a number of Tom Morris golf clubs and even Morris’ winning scorecard from the 1864 Open, plus all the scorecards up to 1875.

Another special item on display is the ball that James Braid used when he won The Open in 1908. He sent it to the Prestwick Member who was his marker for the tournament along with a cover letter. It was Braid’s fourth of his five Open championships. He was surpassed only by Harry Vardon, who won a record six Opens, the last being in 1914.

Just moments after we came through the ultra contemporary glass entrance and stowed our golf shoes away in lockers, Ken began by telling us, “For our 150 year anniversary of The Open Championship (2010) we received gifts from clubs all over the world!”

There was an endless array of framed prints from all the most famous and prestigious clubs with congratulatory messages inscribed on brass plaques.

We followed Ken up the green-carpeted central staircase and he proudly pointed out through a window and enthused, “From here you can see the seventeenth hole which was once the original second hole!”

Ken was enjoying our utter amazement, and delivered the most astonishing fact of all: “And there are still six original greens in play today.” Clearly, he knew every square inch of this historic golfing ground, as if he had built the course himself.

In the middle of our ebullient mood, though, there was one sad moment. Ken took us into the Members Card Room. He pointed out a photo of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, hanging on the wall by a round table and four chairs. I was already choked up when I said to Ken, “It is such a surprise to see a photograph of Lady Di here.”

Ken nodded. “She was at an event nearby and had been invited to visit the Club.”

He placed a hand on one of the green leather chairs, and in a very solemn and thoughtful manner added, “She sat here at this table when she signed our guest book but we don’t know which chair she sat in.” It wouldn’t have been so important at the time, but certainly now, anything she touched would have been cherished and held very dear.

After a few moments to gather ourselves, the tour continued. “This is the old Smoking Room,” Ken informed us, “where you would need to wear rather formal attire to go in.

“Of course it is still called the Smoke Room, and the men still have to wear jacket, collar and tie,” Ken raised an eyebrow, “but we don’t allow smoking any more.”

Later on we learned what has now become a bit of the Prestwick folklore. Apparently, the day before the ban back in 2006, the members in a single act of defiance, staged a smoke-a-thon! The smog was so thick it blanketed the room clear up to the rafters. Someone remarked, “They practically needed the old decommissioned Ailsa Craig foghorns to find the members floating around in a sea of smoke.”

Ken did also point out, “Although smoking is banned in the Clubhouse, we do still retain the brass ashtrays and pipe and cigar ashtrays on the tables. They were made from the end of World War I naval artillery shell cases.”

Once again, I was rather dumbstruck. Here the Scots demonstrate in a remarkable and clever way how ingenious and resourceful they are, while at the same time providing a sobering reminder of the 700,000 Scottish soldiers who joined the forces to fight in the First World War.

It was long past lunchtime, but Ken proceeded to show us the formal Dining Room. Top to bottom hung dozens of pictures of various dignitaries associated with Prestwick. The dark green painted walls, elaborate white crown moulding and rich wood-paneled wainscoting harkened back to earlier times where as many as thirty-two people would be seated for a grand meal at the long mahogany table. I’m sure the claret wine and genial banter flowed generously.


READ MORE – Part 2

Birthplace of The Open is the first story in Taba’s newly published Golfers, Scotland Is Calling

Birthplace of The Open – Part 2

Birthplace of The Open – Part 2

“…one that stirs the soul of the daredevil golfer.”

At last it was time to put on our shoes and get out on the course. There is only one word I can use to describe this classic links layout, made-before-the-age-of-the-earth-movers. It is a gem.

Even the scorecard is a gem. It informs you on such local rules as “All sleepers on the course are defined as immovable obstructions.” And no, they are not tinkers (gypsies) camping out there. Don’t ask me why railroad ties are called sleepers in some countries, but they are still prevalent at Prestwick where they are used to face steep bunker walls, like the Sahara bunker on the 17th hole and the Cardinal on the famous dogleg par-5 third hole.

The golf architect from New Zealand, Scott Macpherson, on his website characterizes the third hole as being “perplexing, terrifying and exciting.” Scott also provides an apt quote from none other than the great Harry Vardon, who described the Cardinal as “…one that stirs the soul of the daredevil golfer.”

The hole, which is a daunting dogleg to the right, actually takes its name from the vast and deep Cardinal bunker ominously lurking about 230 yards from the tee. If you take a look at the aerial view of this cursed bunker on the Strokesaver Course Guide, it takes on the shape of the wide-brimmed hat that cardinals wear. But I hardly think the hole got its name from the scarlet galero bestowed on a senior ecclesiastical leader centuries ago. No, I rather think you required the blessing of a powerful cardinal to absolve you of your sin from having found yourself in such a sandy purgatory.

Then there is the rule declaring “Shelters, benches, posts and internal rabbit fences are defined as immovable obstructions…” where maybe they should have written “infernal rabbits” since they are rather bothersome pests on a golf course. I was even advised that the “Course Toilet Code” (C1850) is on the card as well. I’m not sure why they chose 1850. Perhaps so nobody could simply guess 1851, as that is the year Prestwick was founded.

I can honestly say I’m ultra glad I was playing with Kevin, who knew his way around the course very well, having played it for ten or twelve years in a tournament during his engineering days. The annual event was sponsored by one of his clients, Prestwick Circuits, that made printed circuit boards for the electronics industry. Kevin’s Dublin-based company was one of their suppliers. Prestwick also made a perfect excuse for Kevin’s travels to Scotland every year to tee it up at the Morris museum piece.


Playing on the famous course of Prestwick

In fact, during the drive from the ferry terminal up the windy road, Kevin recounted a story of one of his tournament days in the early 1990s: “I was playing off a 4-handicap at the time and I shot my career best gross 69 in the first round, that included a triple bogey on the thirteenth hole.”

“Wow, Kevin, that’s fabulous!” I gushed, utterly amazed.

With obvious pride, Kevin continued, “With the exception of that thirteenth hole, I was completely in the zone for the other seventeen holes.”

We hear tales of professional golfers and other elite athletes being “in the zone”, a phenomenal state of heightened consciousness, and this was clearly one of those experiences for Kevin.

In reliving this transcendent moment, Kevin told me, “I recall that I drove the par-4 fifteenth and eighteenth holes and had eagle putts from inside 12 feet on both, neither of which I managed to hole.”

Goodness, I thought, what an unbelievable score he would have had if he holed them!

Kevin reveled in the sweet memory. “Twelve pars and five birdies for those seventeen holes was as good a game of golf I had ever played in my whole life.”

He grinned and said, “The real fun started when all the cards were in and my net 65 was found to be leading the tournament by a single stroke!”

Kevin was especially chuffed when he learned he was ahead of his close friend, Stuart Bickerstaff, a local member of both Prestwick and Royal Troon. This made his “leader in the clubhouse” status twice as nice.

“Didn’t you tell me this was a 36-hole event?” I asked, curious to learn how it wound up.

Kevin’s smile disappeared. “Yes, and we had lunch before going out for the second round, which is when I was, er, enticed, shall we say, to have a couple of glasses of wine to celebrate my great score.”

“I know you like to have a glass or two of wine (OK, maybe three) for dinner,” I reminded him, “but honey, was that a smart move?”

“I have to confess, at the time, I had forgotten about the tradition of the halfway mark winner being obliged to imbibe two glasses of Kummel before playing the second round,” he acknowledged. “And these weren’t ordinary little dinky cordial glasses. These were more like big glass goblets!”

“Oh lord,” I moaned, “did you have any idea what you were doing at that point? And what is Kummel?”

“To be completely honest,” Kevin sheepishly confided, “I had never had Kummel or any liquer in the past, so by the time I had downed the two glasses of it, I was fairly well inebriated.”

“Oh-oh, how did you get on?” I asked rather worriedly.

Kevin further regaled, “In the afternoon second round, the pairings were re-arranged with the leaders going out in the final group. Despite hitting my first drive out of bounds onto the railway bordering the first hole, I managed to shoot a respectable 74 gross for the round.”

“Well, that’s a relief, sweetie. How in the world you did that, I don’t know!”

“Can you believe I missed eagle putts again at the fifteenth and eighteenth holes?” Kevin huffed.

I tried to console him.“Well, honey, you were maybe a little drunk?” This didn’t exactly make Kevin feel any better.

Vividly reliving the final scene, with complete frustration, Kevin concluded, “The putt that I missed on the final green was less than eight feet! Not only that, I was pipped at the post by the 19-handicap Stuart Bickerstaff, who hadn’t had a drop of Kummel. The bugger carded a 68 and beat me by one stroke!”

“Oh, that’s really too bad, luv,” I said rather gloomily, at the conclusion of this heartbreaking defeat.

But then Kevin perked up and said, “I’m happy to say that several years later, when all of the aging regular rascals who participated in this event, decided the tournament should just be one round, I shot a 1 under par gross 70, this time off a 5-handicap.”

“Wow darling. That’s awesome!”

“My net 65 ended up being the best score by one stroke, ahead of none other than Stuart Bickerstaff!” Kevin beamed.

“Well, well. How sweet is that?” I was ecstatic that this time Kevin was the pipper instead of the pippee.

“Yeah. It was nice to avenge my Kummel-induced loss to Stuart, especially since he had won the event two or three more times in the intervening years.”

“So how did you celebrate?” I asked, jubilant in his triumph.

With a big smile, Kevin confirmed, “This time I was more than happy to maintain the tradition to down the two large glasses of Kummel as the leader in the clubhouse, strong in the knowledge that I was not going out again in the afternoon!”

After having heard Kevin’s, um, intoxicating story a little while ago, the sheer exhilaration of being out on the course made the whole landscape feel rather ethereal.

I had my usual struggles with occasional flashes of brilliance. In my euphoria, I even forgot my putter back on the the fifth hole, and did not discover it until we were nearly on the green of the sixth, which is called Elysian Fields. That required a fast jog back to get it, and left me somewhat breathless and discombobulated for a bit.

Just about every other hole Kevin said, “The greens seem much larger,” or “This hole is much longer than I remember it.” Like in the story Kevin told me earlier, he is clearly one of those guys whose brain is wired to remember every shot he ever hit on every course he’s ever played; and he’s probably right. Not that Kevin is playing the championship tees, but the course has been stretched to 6,908 yards.

I thoroughly enjoyed walking on the cockle shell pathways and I was ever more glad to have Kevin help me with my trolley as we climbed around the dunes to reach holes called Wall and Goosedubs.

By the time we got to the 15th hole, I was already fantasizing about the Tikka Masala at the Indian Links restaurant I noticed right behind the clubhouse.

At the hole named Narrows. I wrote on my scorecard: “VERY!” (with no score). Anything slightly mishit caromed into a bunker or a severe slope. I found all of the above, and thus, it became a blank on the card. Piece of cake for Kevin though.

Finally we got to the 17th known as Alps. This is the original 2nd hole from 1851 and is considered the oldest existing hole in championship golf. Between the blind shots over imposing sand dunes and the Sahara bunker, you do just about want to hoist your own victory flag when you have negotiated the Alps.

Thankfully, the 18th hole is rather gentle. Just aim for the clock on the clubhouse and fire away. Considered a shortish hole from the medal tees, Kevin could probably birdie it with his eyes closed. And remember, he nearly eagled it twice in one day.


Young Tom Morris

My exhilarating maiden voyage around this historic course was coming to a close, but I was happy to get back inside the clubhouse and have one last look at the Challenge Belt and Claret Jug replicas. Little did I know at the time that I would see the original belt that Young Tom won when I had the good fortune to be inside the Royal & Ancient Clubhouse in St Andrews just a few days later. Even more shocking was the fact that I was allowed to photograph it, given the R&A has always been the private preserve of an extremely exclusive membership. Wonders never cease.

I left this storied place in complete awe, especially of Young Tom Morris.

When the golf scribes of our time write about the child prodigies like Tiger and Rory, or Lydia and Michelle, they would be well-advised to remember Young Tom, who learned to play golf at Prestwick and went on to win golf’s oldest major four consecutive times.

And may I further point out that Young Tom played in his first Open at age 14. Young Tom’s first Open Championship win, in 1868 at age 17, made him the youngest major champion in golf history, a record which still stands.

And, when we read about golfers winning back-to-back majors like Jack Nicklaus or Bubba Watson at Augusta, or winning a particular major a record six times, like Vardon (The Open) or Nicklaus (The Masters), we need to put Young Tom up on his own pedestal as the only champion to win four straight Opens. That’s four in a row!

No one else has ever done it since. The only accomplishment that comes close, or perhaps matches this amazing feat, is Bobby Jones winning the Grand Slam of his era in 1930.

What a tragedy that Young Tom’s life was cut short at the tender age of 24, just three years after his fourth consecutive Open Championship win at Prestwick. Who knows what he could have gone on to accomplish had he not died on Christmas Day in 1875.

Less than four months earlier, Young Tom’s wife had died in childbirth. The baby, a son, was stillborn. Tommy, depressed and drinking more than before, had been persuaded to play in a week-long golf match in brutally cold weather. Emerging triumphant, after battling eighteen-year-old Arthur Molesworth through snow and even hail, Tommy was hardly festive in the days that followed.

Although Young Tom did not exhibit any of the common symptoms to warn of his sickness; the grief, freezing temperatures, and excessive drinking couldn’t have helped. His father found him lifeless, in his bed, on the morning of December 25th. In actual fact, he succumbed to a pulmonary embolism; but many Scots would say Young Tom died of a broken heart.

Thankfully, our precious Prestwick lives on, having survived two World Wars. Back down the road we had just traveled, the government acquired the property at Turnberry during the First World War and used it as an airbase, turning the linksland into concrete runways. When World War II erupted, The Turnberry Hotel was (again) commissioned as a hospital and the golf courses were used to train the Royal Air Force (RAF).

So now we know where those naval artillery shell cases came from to make the ashtrays in the Smoke Room—it is because the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) trained pilots in aerial gunnery and combat over the Ayrshire coast. Then in 1918 the RFC merged with the Royal Naval Air Service.

Prestwick has seen many battles fought and won, both in the air during wartime and on linksland during tournament time. Alas, we are blessed to be able to chase a little white ball around the humps and hollows on the fairways where Open champions walked; then putted their gutty balls over the undulating greens and carried home their trophies, all under the watchful eyes of the Ailsa Craig.


READ MORE – Part 1


Birthplace of The Open is the first story in Taba’s newly published Golfers, Scotland Is Calling