Sunday, October 25, 2015

North Coast 500 - A Scottish Golfing Tour. Day 4

OK, so somebody’s having a laugh. On Friday I took a few photographs over the Moray Firth towards the northern mountains of the Scottish Highlands. Stark and brown, the mountainsides looked burned and bruised with the heather that splashes its colour over the slopes. Today, as I left Inverness, those same mountains had been painted with a dusting of white.

Twice today I have seen warnings for ‘icy
roads’ and ‘snow gates’. I don’t even know what a snow gate is. It serves as fair warning of the conditions that can descend on this landscape. Perhaps that was why I was so surprised when I was talking to Lisa, at Alness Golf Club. They got a new greenkeeper last year. Not a local guy… no, this one’s from Australia. Slight change in climate, eh! But he's doing a good job and that's what counts.

The short par four 12th at Alness. The blind par three 13th is
immediately beyond.
Alness is a little beauty of a golf course, 20 miles north of Inverness. It’s ‘country’ quality so don’t expect glamour… but do expect fun, and lots of it. The course rumbles up and down over heaving terrain, surrounded by fields, forest and mountains, and if there’s one piece of advice for potential visitors, it is this: leave your Driver in the car. There’s one (short) par five and six par threes... two of which are blind! The par fours are all short. And there’s so much trouble off many of the tees that finding the fairway is the only important thing here.

The blind par three 18th, clubhouse above.
And as seems to be a common theme here, the greens are small.
The Alness GC logo.
A brief 'I didn't know that' moment: the club's logo has a series of ruined pillars which look like a gateway. You'll find these ruins a couple of miles south, outside the village of Evanton. They sit on a hill top and it is the remains of Fryish Monument, built in the 1780s, on the orders of the landowner, Sir Hector Munro. It was his attempt to give the local population work and, in order to extend the work, it is rumoured that he would push some of the stones off the hilltop so that the workers then had to bring them back up. Crafty fella.

A quick non-golf visit to the Storehouse at Foulis – a restored 1740s three-floored grain storehouse, made out of  lime harled sandstone and positioned on the water’s edge of Cromarty Firth – and then on to Invergordon, a small town with a rich history of the admiralty. Full scale murals cover the ends of many buildings, embracing Invergordon’s history… although the RNLI guy looking like Vinnie Jones is just a coincidence, I’m sure.

Invergordon Golf Club (established in 1893 and extended to 18 holes in 1996) is a simple affair with plenty of big trees and rhododendron bushes scattered about. It’s a popular course with passengers from the cruise liners which sail up Cromarty Firth. Yep, surprised me too.

The short 18th at Invergordon Golf Club, with a steep rise to the green.
Weather Report: chilly but sunny morning… windy, dull afternoon. 
Golf Report: let’s not go there.

Now I’m in Tain, home of the Old Tom Morris course. It’s a pretty town, home to the Glenmorangie Distillery, and the oldest royal burgh in Scotland. It is renowned for its striking late 19th century architecture… I expect to see some on the way to the pub.

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