Monday, June 8, 2009

Hitting the Scottish Links

I have golf clubs, balls, and tees; everything should seem like another normal round of golf, but it doesn’t. Not even close to normal. The grass on the course is a beautiful bright green as it always is. White sand fills bunkers spread liberally throughout each hole. I am golfing in the gorgeous Highlands of Scotland, the original home of Golf, and no bad shots or three putts can turn my gigantic smile into even the slightest frown.

It is 6:30 p.m. in Fort Augustus, I have been here for an hour and have already located a course, reserved rental clubs, and made a tee time. My heart is racing in anticipation for my first Scottish golfing experience. Every few minutes goose bumps appear on my arm. The hair on my forearms and neck rise to attention, this is without a doubt a special day.

As I enter the clubhouse a tall, blonde haired woman greets me. “You’re the lad who called about the clubs, ay?” I replied with an exuberant “YES” unable to keep my emotions in check. “You picked a great night to play, the weather is beautiful and the wind isn’t too bad,” she said with a smile, her Scottish charm pouring out.

My equipment is, to put it kindly, not what I am accustomed to playing with. My 3 and 5-wood are literally wooden. The irons look like they had been used by the Jacobites as weapons, and my putter’s shine has dulled to a dark coal black. But all that doesn’t matter. Today, the goal for my round is not breaking 80, or making 3 birdies, no way. Today, my goal is to enjoy this great game in its purest form, in the atmosphere that is was meant to be played in.

Dark brown heather, yet to bloom into its beautiful purple color, runs parallel to each fairway, waiting patiently to suck up one of my wayward shots, as it has surely done to thousands of golfers in the past. Huge mountains; some colored a florescent yellow, others packed with tall green trees, enclose the course like bleachers surround a stadium.

The sound of wind howling through leaves on trees outlining the perimeter of the course is constant. Every 30 seconds or so a gust sweeps down piercing through my body as if I wasn’t really there. Could I be dreaming? Am I really playing golf in frickin’ Scotland right now? 

Even in my state of nirvana I can’t help from being hypnotized by the beauty of nature that I am all of a sudden smack-dab in the middle of. The picture of mountain after mountain layered perfectly next to each other behind the 1st green is as clear as the light blue sky, no cloud in site.

The air has a different scent to it, but I can’t put my finger on it. It is very sweet, like honey, and fresh, perhaps a family is baking a cake close to the course and the wind is carrying it into my face. Whatever it is, it couldn’t be more pleasant.

Golf carts, America’s proudest invention, are not permitted to trample the course; yet not one fairway allows for a flat shot. Each fairway has its own crevasses throughout the hole, truly signifying just how much history has occurred on this old patch of land. Perhaps, wars and battles between the Scottish and English for territory were decided on this land. Maybe years ago livestock grazed the fields, some of which were undeniably brought to their death by the monster occupying the nearby Loch Ness just outside the gated fence of the golf course. Who really knows? All I am certain of is that it now has a permanent place in my mind and soul forever.

To passerby’s who see me play while they drive down the road, I am sure they think nothing out of the ordinary is going on. I am also quite positive that people who read this will say, “What is so special about playing golf in Scotland?”

In my heart, everything is different. I have played upwards of 50 golf courses in my life, and it will take me 50 more to feel the way I feel right now. In the center of the most beautiful scenery I have ever witnessed. There are so many pleasant distractions, golf almost takes a back seat to all the other variables surrounding me. The sun is still nowhere near setting, still high in the sky waiting for me to make my swings.

When I am playing golf back home, I play a game with myself on the course. On the 18th hole I pretend I have a putt to win the U.S. Open, usually I miss, although the times I make it I am ecstatic. Today, I will add a wee twist to my game. This time, and only this time, my putt on 18 will be to win the British Open, and I will make it.