After our sojoun at Nairn, we motored up further north to Dornoch, Scotland-home of the incomparable Royal Dornoch Golf Club, without doubt the northern-most great golf course in the world. There we met fellow members of the members of the James Braid Golfing Society. The Society, which honors 5 time British Open champion and prolific golf architect Braid, arranged for 4 days of matches. The town of Dornoch is a picture-postcard place where you can (as we did) leisurely while away a morning in an array of coffee shops, antique shops, a medieval cathedral, and a castle which serves as one of the town's hotels. When noon approached, we scampered over to the golf club where we were greeted by JBGS captain and noted golf writer , Malcolm Campbell, and the JBGS's affable secretary Ken Horne. Lisa was comforted by the fact that numerous of the British golfing wives joined their husbands to play in the various events. Dear readers, we apologize for not taking pictures of the majestic links. We were both wrapped up in engrossing matches.
Our marches at Royal Dornoch pitted two JBGS members in better ball (the Brits would call it 4-ball) against a pair of members from Royal Dornoch. affair. My partner was St. Andrews resident Richard Perry. Our opponents included Edward Sierra, a transplanted Californian lawyer who was a member at four Scottish clubs and another gentleman whose name I have forgotten. The match came down to a 2 foot putt by me for the win on 18 which I somehow missed right. Oh well, a draw was at least a sporting result. Lisa and her partner were bested by the Royal Dornoch ladies.
Golf was followed by the first of two very convivial banquets. The captain of the prevailing Royal Dornoch side and JBGS's Campbell matched droll repartee which would had us in stitches even had our mirth not been additionally fueled by copious quantities of wine and single malt.
Lisa and friends at JBGS
We carefully negotiated the half-hour drive further north from Dornoch to Brora. With the summer solstice, there was still plenty of sunlight when we arrived at our golf links apartment at 10:30 PM. Our comfortable digs abutted both the Brora Golf Club's links and the charming Royal Marine Hotel. The JBGS scheduled an individual stableford event for Brora the following day. The old course at Brora, designed by Braid of course, is a real hoot! The club's linksland is shared in common with local crofters who run cattle and sheep over the grounds. Foot high electric fences envelop the greens to keep the livestock away but they are free to roam elsewhere. The animals are rarely encountered in the fairway, presumably because there is less grass to chew on there. It is a quirky but extremely fun layout; Lisa labels it her favorite in Scotland. Lisa and I had middling rounds and did not threaten the day's winners. I was paired with Brora's companionable club secretary who played off 4. Golf was followed by another madcap dinner at the Royal Marine. Contributing to the hilarity was the captain's series of "fines" in the form of a bottle of port assessed against members who had committed such sundry transgressions as not wearing the club tie or hitting the wrong ball. When one of the members expressed indignation about his particular fine, Malcolm Campbell fined him another bottle of port. By now we had become acquainted with several couples, mostly from a group who came from St. Andrews, who shared golf as a common bond. All were welcoming and pleased that we had joined the society.
Livestock and golf at Brora are compatible
While Lisa took Saturday off from golf, I competed in the 36 hole James Braid Open which was open to all amateurs. I had not been playing all that well up to this point and questioned whether I could keep it together walking 36 holes in a single day. My threeball was off early at 7:30 AM. I found something early in the round which helped me overcome some pretty blustery conditions. A tidy 77 was the result. I was only 6 shots out of the lead, and there were a number of scratch and low-handicap players in the field.
After a short lunch, it was back out again! A 42 going out was disappointing; but I steadied and finished with a flurry of pars for a total of 78 and a total of 155. The winner shot 144, but it turns out that I was the low competitor from the JBGS and that entitled me to some recognition.
I must say I was exhausted from the effort.
Bill wins something!
Our final day of competition was a Sunday mixed "Greensomes" open competition which was separately sponsored by the Brora Golf Club. Both Lisa and I would drive off our respective tees; then we select a ball and play alternate shot for the rest of the hole. I must confess I was a drag on the team, screwing up several shots. A highlight of the round was our pairing with a 76 year old woman who walked the course and pulled her trolley with dispatch. Another highlight was that we only had to pay 10 pounds apiece to enter the competition. Edward Sierra invited us to have dinner with him and his lovely significant other Marelle MacKay in Dornoch. Marelle runs a B & B adjacent to the Royal Dornoch links. We had a great time with them; invitations like this are not uncommon in this wonderful country.
We have urged our golf friends to play in these opens and join societies like the JBGS to experience the best in Scottish golf. It adds a social and competitive aspect to the golf which elevates the experience at low cost.