By Mike Stevens, USGTF Teaching ProfessionalTampa, Florida
Edinburgh, Scotland, is old. Evidence of people in the area date to 8500 BC. The city has been home to royalty, novelists, poets, engineers, scientists and golfers. It is the home of the oldest golfing society – the Royal Burgess Golfers of 1735. They played at Bruntsfield Links, which is steps from the heart of the city. It is still in operation today as a 36-hole short course which is free to everyone. A few blocks away is Leith Links, where the first rules of golf were established by John Rattray in 1744. The course no longer exists and now serves as an open park, but once a year the course is laid out for play as it was back those many years ago. Leith was also the site of the first international match between Scotland and England in 1681, featuring the Duke of York, who would become King James VII.
On this occasion of my travel to the golfer’s land, the lovely Mrs. Stevens and I let an apartment adjoining Holyrood Park across from Arthur’s Peak, the top of which I reached one day, giving me a magnificent view of the city and Edinburgh Castle. We were there for the annual World Hickory Open and Archie Baird International matches. There’s nothing more satisfying than golf on century-old courses with the clubs of the original game. Just east of the city are the courses of East Lothian, where this year the venues were Gullane #3, Luffness New and Kilspindie. Those familiar with the area know these well. A record number of participants from around the globe gathered at the sites, including four from the Florida Hickory Golfers clan.
The weather was spectacular for the entire week. Think of fall in New England. Not a drop of rain, either. Our first round was played at Gullane #3, and I managed to turn a good round into a mediocre 79 and a five-shot deficit. On day two at Luffness New, my game was just not there. Numerous mental mistakes and a couple of bad breaks resulted in a disastrous 85, well back of winner Johan Moberg of Sweden. Such is golf, and age has caught up to me. For our third and fourth rounds, we ventured over to 150-year-old Kilspindie GC, where the Florida Hickory Golfer team of myself, Winter Park’s Bill Geisler, Lakelander Mike Tracy and Tampan Steve Haigler managed to take third place in the Archie Baird International Championship. It was a great way to close out the week.
The remainder of the trip was a respite from golf, as the frau and I spent time wandering Edinburgh’s many historic sites, from the Queen’s Palace, the National Museum, and another trek up Arthurs Peak to the café where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter , “for sure, maybe, possibly,” as it said on the marquee. We especially liked the writer’s museum chronicling the lives of Robert Lewis Stevenson, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. I have to say, it is one of the most fascinating cities I have had occasion to visit.
I said Edinburgh is old. Everywhere you go there are dates on buildings going back centuries, and then you arrive at Castle Rock, which dominates and overlooks the city. The “Maidens Castle” goes back to 989 BC. In America, Scotland is known for golf, but her contributions to the world are so much more.