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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Golf in Scotland - Part III

Lundin Golf Club
After taking a day off on Wednesday to travel to Edinburgh for some siteseeing, we were back on the course on Thursday afternoon at Lundin Golf Club, which is a beautiful links course south of St. Andrews adjacent to Leven Links.
I had done a good bit of research on courses near St. Andrews that might not be familiar to Americans, and I chose Lundin based on reviews and pictures on the web. Close contenders for the Thursday slot were Crail (Balcomie Links), Monifieth Golf Links, Leven Links, and Elie. After talking to several Scots about these options, each of them had a favorite, but they all said that they were of similar caliber and loads of fun. The pro at Belleisle went so far as to say that Lundin was his favorite course in Fife, so that made me very confident in my choice (Fife includes St. Andrews and Kingsbarns).
Lundin Golf Club is also referred to by the locals as Lundin Links. It runs right along the sea, and except for three holes midway through the round which run up and along a hill pretty far inland, it is a very pure links track. From the first hole, I knew this would be one of my favorite courses ever.
The guys in the pro shop were welcoming and quick with a laugh. I told them about Jimmy's hole-in-one at Turnberry, and one of them said, "What did they give him?" I mumbled something about a certificate, and he was incredulous. He said that if he had aced a hole at Lundin, he would have been given a bottle of whiskey!
We tried our best to win the whiskey, but the closest we got was my tee ball on the 5th hole, which came to rest about 15 feet from the cup. Pretty weak.
The conditions were optimal for scoring. There was very little wind until the back nine, but even then it never blew more than 15 mph. We all started out gangbusters; Tubby birdied the first, and Jimmy and I were both hot at the outset. However, somewhere near the seventh hole, the wheels started to fall off. Tubby had two other birdies (he drove the green on the par 4 sixteenth), but none of us could make a run. We were again derailed by too many drives in the gorse, and Jimmy and I found ourselves hitting three off the tee about five too many times. We all broke 100, but there were no fireworks. Tub Rock was undone by a horrid display from 150 in; if he had been able to hit more greens after ripping bomb-diggities off the tee, he could have had the round of the week.
There are several blind shots at Lundin, primarily on tee shots. I am a fan of blind shots, but many people don't like being uncertain of the landing areas. Blind shots make you think, and when you hit it where you're supposed to, it's like getting a little bonus. Courses where "it's all in front of you" are nice, but I enjoy the quirkiness of courses like Lundin. And so, the yardage book is indispensable for first-timers. Thankfully, Tubby and I each invested in one at the pro shop. Had we not, it would have been a drubbing. I felt like for the most part I hit the ball well at Lundin, but penalties and a balky putter held me back. It was disappointing to score poorly, but I'll always remember it as one of the most fun and interesting rounds of my life.
As we were walking up the finishing hole (a real beauty of a par 4), the guy from the pro shop was driving down the road next to the green (you can see the road in the picture below). He rolled down his window and said, "Should I be getting out the bottle of whiskey?" Only in Scotland.

Note: This is a good time to mention a tip for anyone planning on golfing in Scotland. It was my experience that feeling as though it's essential to play the famous courses like Royal Dornoch, Troon, Turnberry, St. Andrews, Muirfield, Carnoustie, etc. might prevent you from playing gems like Lundin Golf Club. There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to play the world-beaters, but one can have an extremely fulfilling golf trip in Scotland without playing the "top" courses. I could play Crail (Tubby and I checked it out), Elie, and the like every time and feel like I was getting all I needed. So, don't get frustrated if you can't afford Kingsbarns or can't get on the Old Course. There are scores of second-tier tracks that will blow your mind and maintain some heft to your wallet.
Pictures: 1) Jimmy, Maureen and I in Edinburgh, 2) A view from the 18th fairway of the uphill approach at the first, 3) Lundin Golf Club meets the sea, 4) A blind tee shot, and 5) I have no idea why Tubby his holding this divot on the last.


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