My Favourite Golf Experiences in the World
I don’t often find myself disputing literary giants, but on at least one topic I can say unequivocally that Mark Twain was wrong.
He famously told a friend, “Golf is a good walk spoiled,” but I suspect even he would have changed his tune if he had experienced the very best of the world’s golf havens. Fortunately the golf gods have smiled on me, because I’ve been able to do just that. (Now if only they would help me with my slice.)
With the world’s best golfers descending upon Gleneagles next week for the Ryder Cup, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on some golf experiences so spectacular, even Twain would enjoy the walk.
Scotland: The Home of the Game
There are sports and games that run so deeply into a culture that the way in which cities and villages are built eventually become completely reliant on the sport. In ancient Mayan Cultures, the game Ōllamaliztli was a major part of the design of cities. Chichan Itza has a court almost 100 metres long in the middle of the ancient city. Soccer pitches are focal points in Central America, while table tennis dominates life in southern China. But no sport pervades life more than golf in Scotland.
I remember as a child growing up in Georgia, sneaking on to the course near my house, and feeling like I was getting away with robbing a bank. But in Scotland, a golf course is less of a sectioned-off, gated, privileged experience; instead, courses are found in the middle of villages, and all are encouraged to partake. Even St. Andrews, the one place on the planet where one might think golf would be more hallowed and church-like than in any other locale, is in fact a parade of public golfers and even non-golfers, walking the course and on some days, almost pouring out of the village that surrounds it.
As the world’s best once again converge on Gleneagles for the Ryder Cup next week, I’m reminded once again that it is the birthplace and ancestral home of the sport, where both golf’s sacredness and the childlike joy it evokes seep into the identity of Scotland itself. Simply put, it absolutely must be experienced firsthand to truly comprehend.
Where it All Began
Scotland Golfing Private
In the cradle of the game, you’ll experience golf at its purest.
The West Coast of Ireland
It always seems like Ireland is a second thought when it comes to golf destinations—and it’s a crying shame! The wild, windswept Atlantic Coast is a perfect breading ground for links golf, with deep traps, grassy mounds and pints of the dark stuff always right around the corner. Courses like Doonbeg, Ballybunion and Old Head (and yes, those are really their names) are themselves worth a trans-Atlantic flight. In Ireland it is a game that is still folded into the ritual of everyday life, and unlike Scotland it’s still without the touring crowds of bad golfers and folks who just want to take a picture of Swilcan Bridge. Instead, with the Irish, you get the majesty of some of the best links in the world, the purity of the game, and the warmth of the Irish hospitality. (Plus, I think the food is better.)
Luck o’ the Irish
Ireland Golfing Private
The more leaves on the clover, the fewer strokes on your round. OK, so we just made that up. The good news? Even if you duff it, there’s a pint of the dark stuff waiting for you at the 19th hole.