Nairn Golf Club:
The first course on the days agenda was the Nairn Golf Course (www.NairnGolfClub.co.uk). While currently enjoying considerable notoriety and acclaim, it was only a few short years ago that Nairn sat in relative obscurity. Then, as host of the 1999 Walker Cup, the eyes of the world of golf were opened to its unique offerings. Our eyes were opened on the first tee as we looked out on the beautiful, expansive championship links course sitting on the shores of the Moray Firth.
Nairn is another of the classic nine out, nine in, designed links and in my estimation, the finest overall links course we have encountered so far on our golfing journey. It had all the classic elements: few trees, direct influence by the winds off the adjacent water, hard rolling land with narrow, fescue and gorse lined fairways and undulating greens of infinite imagination. It was tough, but it was fun.
Old Moray Golf Course:
I find that the high notes of any journey of discovery usually reveal themselves at moments of minimal expectation. While not conscious of such a mindset, in retrospect, I think it an apt description as we rolled from our diesel carriage onto the Old Moray Golf Course, still riding a high from the great links golfing experience we had had earlier in the day at Nairn.
Designed by Old Tom Morris, the rugged and craggy landscape seemed to embody its designers image.
The ancient looking, yet welcoming, clubhouse sat on a pinnacle high above the first tee and Eighteenth Hole. Rather than being restrictive, the clubhouse gave you a feeling of an old slipper; well used, comfortable and indispensable. Such an instinct was well founded.
Immediately upon entering, we were welcomed by two old-time members that wrapped around us like spiders around a fly in a web. Predictably, yet charmingly, they assured us with a wagging finger, that we would find their course to be the ultimate links golfing experience and that it would easily surpass all others, either in courses we have seen or will ever see. As we were a threesome, we individually invited both to join us in our round, a notion that was quickly dispelled by the members, due to their claim that they were in no condition to be playing a proper round of golf. We had little reason to doubt their claims.
The golf course was indeed a fitting test of golf as promised with seven par fours in excess of 400 yards. Deserving particular note was the slight dog-leg right, 18th Hole. Measuring just over 400 yards from the mens tees, it is to my mind, one of the great finishing holes in golf. The tee shot must be carved around an ancient wall that sits at the base of a massive hill running up the right side of the hole. Atop the hill are a series of towering hotels that all appeared to have been built in the mid 1800s during a period of particular prosperity. Facing you on the tee box is a massive granite outcropping that forces the illusion that it protrudes three-quarters of the way into the fairway.
One of the members warned us that the rocks and the wall had a way of enticing an over-compensating cut that is only accentuated by the predominate wind off the ocean that also wants to drive your ball to the right. True to form, none of us hit a particularly heroic tee shot, although, blessedly, the balls all finished in-bounds and in manageable positions to hit our approach shots. The approach shot must be played up a long, sharp hill that brings the ledge-perched green almost back up to the height of the clubhouse (and the row of hotels). A great hole all-around and I can only imagine how exciting it must be to watch the conclusion of an important match or tournament from what has to be one of golfs original amphitheaters.
As we walked down the fairway, we noticed our hotel for the night, the Skerry Brea Hotel (www.SkerryBrae.co.uk), piercing down on us and I made particular note of the guests rooms located above the pub and dining rooms (all of which looked out on the course and ocean). It was nearly impossible to not notice that at the very peak of the building sat a majestic three-bay window suite that I was certain must have one of the greatest views in golf.
It was nearly dark by the time we putted out and made our way down the road a wedge shot away to the Skerry Brea. The attendant, Andrew, saw us to our rooms and as he led me up the squeaking, moaning, narrow steps, he sheepishly turned to me and noted that my room was a little bigger than the others.
After turning the skeleton key, I realized that our ascent up the winding staircase had, in fact, led me to the very pinnacle room I had noticed from on the course. Both spacious and highlighted by huge picture-windows, the view over the links and ocean was stunning, even better than I had imagined.
Mesmerized, I sat for a long while catching my breath from the long trek to get up to the room and watching arching approach shots into the 18th green far below me (most were missing the putting surface). Recognizing that either through luck or accommodation I had been given something the others in my party likely were not, I decided that it was best not to mention the matter of my special room to my traveling companions.
At dinner in the Skerry Brea we engaged in the obligatory dialog of how is your room? and I simply nodded when the others said their rooms were fine, (in fact, not until they read this recap will they be aware that my room was any different then their own). After a couple of Belhavens (The Cream of Scottish Ale) and one or two single malts, we each retired to our respective rooms.
As I had a wee bit of beverage left in my glass, I carried it with me as I started my ascent back up stairs. Once in the room, I sat in the dark in the same chair I had earlier and gazed down on the sleeping links. The course was lit in eerie strips of light projecting from the pubs lining the backs of the old hotels. Somewhere amongst the dunes the light would die away, leaving a tapestry of half-lit mounds that looked as though they belonged to Nessie herself, between valleys of darkness, broken only by distant blinking lights somewhere on the ocean beyond. I awoke in the chair some hours later.
To be continued in Part III
Copyright 2007 Matthew E. Adams Fairways of Life
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Editor's Note: Matt Adams is a golf journalist, best-selling author (Chicken Soup for the Soul, Fairways of Life) and a golf course general manager. To view Matt's books or sign up for his 'Golf Wisdom Newsletter,'go to www.FairwaysofLife.com.