The true touch of golf

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A body in Motion
Stays in Motion.

A body in a Recliner
Stays in a Recliner.

It doesn’t take a great mind to figure this out, but it does take a young couple in their ’70’s  longer to recover from a two week overseas trip.

The Golf House Club at Elie

There we stood on a rather flat lowland tee box looking left over our shoulders at the Firth of Forth with white caps splashing on the banks of the golf course. Straight ahead and looming skywards stood a grass covered cliff  that a goat might thoroughly enjoy climbing and munching on the luscious green grasses. To the right a small white building housing the pro shop to Ellie Golf Course where the starter now uses an authentic submarine periscope to look for the foursome over the hill, making sure they are out of the way of our tee shots.

(Click here to see the slide show and history of the Golf House Club of Elie).  Behind us stood a row of homes built centuries ago, and there out of sight a single car road leading down to the rocky shores of the expansive clear blue waters of the Firth of Forth. (NE Scotland)

Jack and I dressed for cool temperatures and possible rain showers which didn’t let us down. Neither did our bodies. Being simply overwhelmed with the landscape, the cool winds, and history oozing out of the rocky fences protecting old lands, I barely managed to hit the ball, while Jack’s tee shot flew upwards but not nearly enough to fly the edge and roll downhill. Pushing a golf cart with borrowed clubs we set off on our first Scottish round of golf. After three holes we had climbed a cliff, walked down the hill proudly as our shots did roll on the fine grasses, then pushed our trolley (holding our golf clubs) slowly up hole #2, took a deep breath and walked over the ridge and played a daring side hill, down hill par 3.

For our first round of Scottish links golf we found a few things that confounded us. One, being people near our line of ball flight. Didn’t they know they were in danger of being hit? Two, I saw people standing immediately behind the green I intended to hit with my golf ball. Luckily, my gut said wait because my shot rolled over the green, through the low area and found a home on the next tee box. Looking around I saw people on every hole and very nearby. I smiled, and the sun peaked through the clouds long enough for me to say that it was a sunny day in Scotland.

A Note on the Scorecard reads:
Players are requested to be aware at all times
..of other players and people walking near or over
the course, especially when playing the 10th and
12th holes where the path to the beach crosses

these holes.

The greens rolled more smoothly than any I had ever played on, but not a flat place to be found. Each green rolled like the waves on the ocean. A quote on the Elie website says, “If you love links Golf, you will love Elie’s close cut fairways with firm, fast, true greens. A memorable and enjoyable test for golfers of every ability.” I personally loved their velvet undulating greens twice the size of Prairie Dunes.

The greens rolled on and on, and my eyes drifted to vistas and castles, all in the same breath.

Hole #10 challenged us to hit not only straight up, but over rocks and bushes. Only a serious Swiss mountain goat would find footing on the approach side of this rocky mound!  Just the fact that I found my ball on a ridge made me proud.  I felt more like a mountain climber than golfer, as my second shot hit the top of the ridge and bounced back! Once again I hit the ball and this time my 8 iron sailed up over the hill and disappeared from sight. Jack’s tee shot sat proudly on top of the hill waiting on me. The reward came swiftly when I realized that my third shot rolled forever down the hill and left me a putt across the green. I beamed with pride that I’d conquered the cliff, but oh, I had yet to me my biggest challenge at Balcomie Links, a few days later.

The uniqueness of Scottish golf reminds me so of my childhood in the 1950’s playing golf on courses that offered drinking water out of the ground, rough raw nature at its best, and walking golf on terrain that kept the weight off all golfers. At Elie there is an old ship bell near the bottom of the 10th hole, sitting right on the water’s edge.

I rang the bell with the spirit of a child then looked back up the hill and suddenly began to respect the game of golf as it is meant to be.  From tee to green the course for women to play is considered 5,768 yards, add to that wearing two layers of clothes, pushing a heavy bag and two wheeled trolley sideways, up and down, then flat out on lowland side, I beamed with pride.  The winds seem to carry that gritty spirit it takes when one is challenged and focused.

I teed off hole 14 and proudly found the middle of the fairway with my tee shot, but my ball lay very near a stonewall (by the rules it is called an integral part of the course). Puzzled, I laughed, “How do you play a stone wall?”

“Carefully” came a whisper in the wind. “Be careful.”

Greed is a part of golf and like in life greed takes away what smart has played. I could have played a short club and gotten the ball over the wall, but I didn’t. I played a 5 wood out to the left of the fairway, and never saw that ball again. It seems the stone fence continued down the left side of the hole, as the fairway weaved through an opening in the fence. Did the wall act as a retaining wall against the water, to keep the sheep in or out, or as a wall for keeping golf balls?

We finished our 18 holes in four hours. After having only made one or two proud putts all day, I managed to sink the last putt of the day, a 20ft. putt on hole 18 in front of a gallery of men. I was ready to clap for myself when they took up the cheer. For a brief moment a tear fell down my cheeks, wishing the old pro, my father, could be here to celebrate. Because of his love of the sport we, too, have come to love this game, where men and women take on the links, the weather, the terrain, the challenges. Where in Scotland your walk alone with your thoughts, your ball, no fancy carts to take you place to place, no food or drinks to order at the turn. Where a player is truly one with the game.

Where do I begin to say thanks to our hosts, Niven and Lesley Hunter, for arranging tee times, safe travels on the narrow curving roads, expeditions to castles, Queen’s views, a feeling that time had gone backwards, fabulous drinks and meals every night, and for sharing their time with us. The Solheim Cup, another highlight, didn’t let us down.


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