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Golf: Finding Old Tom Morris' Hidden Gem

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Contributor:
Stan Sutherland
Stan Sutherland

Finding a golf ball you thought you’d lost in long rough always brings a sense of relief. But coming across a long forgotten golf course designed by Old Tom Morris is something else.

The story of Askernish came to mind as I read the BBC News headline “Stornoway Golf Club in Sabbath drinks bid”
In fact they’re not even allowed to play golf on Sunday.

The news item continues, “A golf club on the Western Isles is facing opposition from church groups over its application for a licence to serve alcohol on the Sabbath.

Stornoway Golf Club on Lewis has asked the islands' licensing board for permission to serve alcoholic drinks from noon until 2300 BST.

The Free Church and Murdo Murray, who was an independent Christian candidate in the general election, have objected.”

The Askernish golf course is also located in the Western Isles and the story of its discovery by the outside golfing world and its re-creation is best told by David Owen of the New Yorker. David’s headline reads, “The Ghost Course”. And he opens with:

“In 2005, a Scottish golf-course consultant named Gordon Irvine took a fishing trip to South Uist, a sparsely populated island in the Outer Hebrides, fifty miles off Scotland's west coast. South Uist (pronounced YEW-ist) is about the size of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket combined. It is virtually treeless, and much of its eastern third is mountainous and uninhabited. Gales from the Atlantic strike it with such force that schoolchildren hope for "wind days." Irvine had approached the island's golf club, called Askernish, and offered to barter greenkeeping advice for the right to fish for trout and salmon in the lochs nearby, and the club had welcomed the free consultation. It had just nine holes and a few dozen members, and the golfers themselves mowed the greens, with a rusting gang mower pulled by a tractor. Irvine walked the course, in driving rain, with the club's chairman, Ralph Thompson, and several regulars, and then the group went to lunch at the Borrodale Hotel, a mile and a half down the road.

At lunch, one of the members surprised Irvine by saying that Askernish was more than a century old and had been designed by Old Tom Morris, a towering figure in the history and folklore of the game.”

And like they say, “The rest is history”. However I recommend you click here and read more about this fascinating story.

For those readers who want to learn more. There’s this from the Askernish Golf Club’s web site

And if you’re like me and would love to play it one day, Here’s some feedback from people who took the trouble and far distance travel to play the course.

Thought for the day, on Old Tom Morris who was called “The Keeper of the Greens” at St Andrews.
Some years ago I bought an excellent video cassette tape called “The Keeper of the Greens” and I’ve just this minute checked to see if David Joy has made it available in DVD. You can order it here.

Ben Crenshaw says of David’s work and portrayal of Old Tom Morris, “I enjoyed it immensely and certainly understand how important it is to constantly remind people of the wonderful traditions of the game. If people cannot travel to St Andrews, your video provides a wonderful insight into this romantic town".

And if your sporran is kinda empty at the moment and you can’t afford to buy it. You can watch a wee bit of it on a video clip on David’s web site

Slainte

Stan

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