Writing articles for golf magazines offers a huge sense of reward when you see them in print...
... getting paid for them is all the sweeter!
So it seems slightly ironic that I have been paid for an article in this month's Golf Monthly, for writing about Scotland.
[Photo: the 9th at Nairn Dunbar]
I flew over with my wife last November, in the misguided belief we might see the Northern Lights. 10 year cycles, solar flares... all that stuff had me thinking it was a good time to head to Aberdeen and then on up to Nairn, where we'd be right on the coast facing north.
There were to be no Northern Lights... not unless you count the flames spurting from the tops of oil rigs in the distant Cromarty Firth... but we stayed in a plush hotel (the aptly named Golf View Hotel) so we had all the comforts we could want... not to mention Nairn Golf Club next door and Nairn Dunbar Golf Club a couple of minutes away.
[Photo: the lighthouse at the end of Fortrose & Rosemarkie]
We were over for a few days and we - sorry, I - made the most of it, playing Nairn, Nairn Dunbar and Fortrose & Rosemarkie all on the one glorious day (my wife forgave me... in January), and then Castle Stuart (home of the 2011 and 2012 Scottish Open) and Forres over the next couple of days.
[Photo: the Castle Stuart Clubhouse]
In terms of brief descriptions:
- Nairn is a highly rated links, with a flat landscape, perfect greens and a long history. [Photos]
- Nairn Dunbar is a parkland close to the sea, with a very easy rhythm and intriguing greens. [Photos]
- Fortrose & Rosemarkie is a links that juts into the sea, running out to a lighthouse with deep ocean on each side, and what must be a terrifying test of golf in a strong wind. [Photos]
- Forres is a more obvious parkland, but it's hard to tell how good when you spend the entire round under an umbrella.
- Castle Stuart is a links that runs across two tiers and has such amazing shapes to fairways and greens that it's almost fairytale links. And then there's the clubhouse. [Photos]
[Photo: the 1st at Nairn]
Which is my favourite course? As with all courses each has its merits, but if I was going to play one, and only one, then I'd pick Nairn Dunbar. Colour, trees, rhythm, fun - it all adds up.
And if you fancy the non-golf alternatives, I strongly recommend the 18 year old single malt from Tomatin Distillery in the Cairngorm National Park. Just make sure the other half is driving.
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