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THE GOLF COURSE

Golf has been played at Traigh since about 1900, but the old layout was much too small, and the course was enlarged and greatly improved between 1993 and 1995. It was redesigned by the well-known Scottish golf architect, Mr. John Salvesen.

Cunningly using the natural contours of the hills that rise up from the beach, he has created "a fair challenge to all levels of golfer – but a course that is great fun to play on, so that one wants to play it again".

Arisaig Golf
The first green

The main feature of the course is the line of grassy hills, originally sand dunes, which rise some seventy feet, and the first hole demands a cunning tee shot to the top. At the second, a long drive is needed to get from one summit to the next. The third is aimed straight at the glorious views of the islands, and is followed by a short but testing par four where big hitters can easily find trouble. Another ocean bound par three over a broad burn - broader still at high tide - takes one to McEachen's Leap, back across the burn in a tricky dogleg par four. This brings the player to the most testing part of the course, in sight of the Creag Mhor cliffs. The long par five, "The Lang Whang" leads to the most difficult hole, an uphill par four into the prevailing wind, demanding a long and accurate second shot. After this ordeal the player signs off with another magnificent panorama as the final hole sweeps back towards the Cuillins of Skye on the horizon. (see Player's Guide to the Course )

John Salvesen, the designer of the course, is a past Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Course of St. Andrews, and a past chairman of the Championship Committee (responsible for The Open). He has designed and improved courses all over Britain and abroad, including new courses at Charleton and Elmwood in Fife, the Strathmore course at Alyth, and a new course in southern Norway.

During the rebuilding of the course invaluable advice and help was provided by the late James MacDonald M.B.E, head greenkeeper at Royal Lytham & St. Annes for over 20 years, who was a native of Arisaig, and knew the ground well.

SCORE CARD

SSS 65

Hole

Name

Yards Par Stroke
Index
1 Captain's Caper 130 3 12
2 Spion Kop 452 5 4
3 Road to the Isles 173 3 18
4 Jimmy's Choice 257 4 8
5 The Bridge 135 3 15
6 McEachen's Leap 283 4 9
7 The Lang Wang 479 5 1
8 Local Hero 367 4 5
9 Traigh Mhor 180 3 11
OUT 2456 34  
10 Tobar an Steallain 130 3 14
11 An Sgurr 452 5 2
12 Rathad nan Eilean 173 3 13
13 Tagadh Sheumais 257 4 10
14 Allt an Asaidh 135 3 17
15 Leum MhicEachainn 283 4 6
16 Strac Fada 479 5 3
17 Gaisgeach Lonadail 367 4 7
18 Machair Thraigh 180 3 16
IN 2456 34  
OUT 2456 34  
TOTAL 4912 68  

 

AN AMERICAN VIEW

    "TRAIGH IS WHAT GOLF IS"

    An article in "The Sports Ticket" by Bill Ellis, Alabama, USA.

    It is really odd. I went to Scotland to find where my grandmother was born, and to play golf at the Old Course. My lucky 70 has been previously reported on these pages and I'll not bore you again. I played other "great Scottish Courses" as well.

    I played golf though, true Scottish golf, at a small course on the Atlantic in Northern Scotland named Traigh (though it is pronounced "try"). It was not a hard course. It was the most beautiful golf scenery I've ever experienced, and most likely ever will. I've played Pebble Beach, the Old Course, Troon, and Royal Dornoch. All great courses. But Traigh is what golf is, and that is a man walking up and down hills with the wind whipping in his face, waves crashing at the beach below, and sheep grazing in the pasture lining the course. The road to Traigh is one-laned, with "passing areas" not for the American faint of heart. In fact my cousin steadfastly refused to drive. He insisted that the Scots had entered into some type of conspiracy to keep tourists from the best spots. Arisaig, a small village and Traigh are the best spots.

    Nothing commercial here. We lodged in a hotel called Cnoch-na-faire, a celtic word. Rooms were 12 pounds a night, 16 pounds if you get the full Scottish breakfast. There is truth in the advertising because full is what you are when you leave the table. Not conducive to the golf walk ahead.

     Scottish Highlands Golf Course

    Any course should never start or end with a par three. A basic American truism in golf. Traigh does, and they are the two best little par threes you ever played. Number one is about a six or seven iron straight up hill, with a waste area short of the green that doesn't say poor shot, it says don't even look. Number nine is straight down the same hill into what I bet is the prevailing wind. In the morning nine I hit a five. In the homeward nine with the wind up I hit 2 iron. It wasn't enough.

    The par fives measure 452 (that would be named Spion Kop) and 479 (the Lang Whang). Scotland has this plant called gorse. It appears to be a cross between cactus and hell itself. If you hit it in the gorse its gone. I mean literally.

    As my readers know, I have a list of current 18 top holes I've played around the world. Let me add a new one. Traigh number 17, aptly named, Gaisgeach Ionadail, or for those of us whose Celtic is just a mite rusty, Local Hero. It is 367 yards long and plays to a par four. Only 367. Blind drive, blind second and if you hit it too far you may be on the 18th green some 150 yards past the Local Hero. You could even be back in Arisaig if you really caught it thin. The first time I played the hole was like trying to find a date in a seaport. You know one's somewhere about, but you just can't quite place your hand on where. I hit my second thin. The nice lads on the 18th tee pointed me about 100 yards to where my ball was, and one said "that's what happens when you blade one." The second time around I enjoyed the uniqueness and challenge of the hole.

    In America, golf is merely grip and rip it. Over there it's more of finesse, weather, patience, and imagination. In America, golf is 7000 yards of lets see whose advanced technology is better today. In Scotland they play golf. No carts. Pull carts they call Trolleys, and most people carry their clubs. You see children on bikes with clubs. No country clubs here. Just good old fashioned golfers. If the club pro isn't about, you put your money in the "honesty box" and he'll collect it in due time. Imagine an honesty box over here. They would have to hire a full time security guard just for the box.

    When I die I hope heaven is like Traigh. You would never get bored. Each change in wind and weather makes this nine hole course a new challenge. And if you get tired of playing you can just sit and watch God's own handiwork, where He did his best work. You can watch the sheep graze, and contemplate why gorse is the way it is when everything else is so perfect. That's probably why God made it. Everything else is so perfect. For a day, I forgot the divorce trials and complaining clients, and thought about how I wished my daughter were here. She has just taken up the game after walking and riding literally thousands of rounds with her Poppy as she calls me. She has carried a bag or two at Pebble Beach, and the Alabama Open, and my fruitless attempts to qualify for the U.S. Open. Lads, I'll be back next Spring. Gonna bring my daughter too. That kid can read a putt like Robert Burns can write a poem. I want her to see what golf is all about, and I want to play a quick 36 with the local lads. And then go into Arisaig and lift a pint or two to rejoice my new found love - Traigh hard by the sea, with the Isle of Egg off the horizon. Nothing Royal about Traigh, merely glorious.

    By the way, at age fifty I learned I can try and qualify for the British Senior
    Open.

    Now there is an intriguing idea.

    Bill Ellis
    Alabama, USA

     golf course in Lochaber

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