Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Winter 2008-9

How did Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter describe golf, again?

Golf in the Con-dom

Dave Schlosser


The very idea of writing an article on golf that somehow had some relevance to SF or fandom seemed, at first glance, almost ludicrous. At a severe guess I’d think that I and Howard Ackerman might be the only points of intersection for those two worlds. But it was almost that very thought that provoked the association that was needed to make the notion work - since it circles around (a) round of golf that I was able to play in Scotland after the Glasgow Worldcon in 2005. ((For the slow among you (mostly Guy), I mentioned “points of intersection” above -- Intersection the 1995 Glasgow con, which reminded me of Interaction, the 2005 con and the trip associated with it.))

Knowing we were going to be in Scotland again. And knowing - roughly - where we would be going in the country, I was able to use both the internet and some saved articles to research possible places to play (and how obscene the cost would be). St. Andrews - again - proved simply unworkable between cost and logistics in the time frame we had. On the other hand I did find two courses that were interesting looking, not *gag-retch-choke* expensive and reasonably accessible from the loop that we were taking. (Note that we were renting a car for part of the trip so I did have transportation.)

The first was a place called Cruden Bay, about 30 miles north of Aberdeen. Cruden Bay is pretty much a true links course (even if it is rather a hilly seaside area). Much of it runs near the edge of the sand (just over some small dunes) along the bay and the North Sea. The course itself varies from rolling to hilly and the wind wanders in all direction. (Boy does that wind ever wander.) While the round itself was so-so, I generally don’t worry too much about that when I’m working with rental clubs and, for the most part, I was striking the ball decently so no issues there. The only issue is that, as with most cases of trying to get pictures of scenery, it’s hard to get ones that really get across the full impact. Across the bay (and which I didn’t have the chance to get to) are the ruins of Slains Castle - which, so the tale goes, is what inspired a certain young writer to write a classic tale of gothic horror ((No, no, no, not Monty Python and the Holy Grail)). This is supposedly where Bram Stoker was staying when he got the inspiration for Dracula. It should be noted that of all the pictures I took on this trip, it’s only the shot of Slains Castle that seems to have a bit of an aura / softening of focus. Maybe that “can’t be photographed thing”, somewhat attenuated by distance?

The other round was a day’s drive away across the northern part of Scotland at Nairn, near Inverness. But again, background. When we arrived at our B&B in Inverness, to our surprise, the owner made a remark about our being long-awaited – we had two messages. Messages? Who knows we’re staying here?

Seems that the first call was from Nairn Golf club wanting me to call and confirm my reservation (they must have gotten this number from our travel agent, who’d booked the time). The second was even more of a surprise - the van Toorns (Dutch fen, Kees chaired the 1990 Worldcon) were staying next door. (We’d given them the names and numbers of where we would be in Edinburgh and Inverness even though they hadn’t really planned on coming up north while touring after the convention. But their plans changed.) (The actually stayed on both sides of our B&B - nobody had room for all the nights they were staying so they moved between two.)

On the day I was playing, before I left, it started to rain a bit. As I got closer to Nairn (about 15 miles east of Inverness) I drove through several squalls and, as I got there, said squalls were raining down pretty hard in the town. It was still impressive - I turned onto the road to the course and literally just before the road hits the rip-rap of the sea wall it turns left and you drive into the lot. The course is that close to the beach. I changed, unloaded and went into the pro shop - while debating whether or not to go for it with the rain coming down as it was. While I’m deciding, people come in talking about lightning down the road and some puddling on the greens. Then I think to look out the back door (roughly back upwind) and see several breaks in the clouds. What the hell.

So I check in and get sent to the starter. From there I get directions to the driving range for some warm up. While I’m there, the rain stops, the sun starts to come out and everybody there starts peeling off rain jackets, windbreakers, etc. And that was the end of the rain for the day.

I have to say that, while Cruden Bay was impressive, Nairn was simply breathtaking. The first seven holes are all along the shore (ie 10-15 yards right of the fairway you hit the rip rap and then you’re on the beach of the Moray Firth (essentially the North Sea). And the entire stretch up through the 12th is just slightly rolling scrubland and it’s just amazing how much you can hide in that. I’m not even sure how to describe the very simple beauty of the place, but I spent a good deal of time just looking around and taking it in. The round itself went pretty well until I made some major flubs on four of the last five holes, but that’s fine, just the playing there was great and I could see playing there a lot if the commute wasn’t quite so tough.

And when I got back and had had a bite of dinner (the rest had eaten on their own) our group reunited and I received a bit of a gift. Seems that in Inverness it had poured just about the entire afternoon and all of them were a) commiserating about how sad it was that I was getting soaked and b) “admiring”(?) my determination so, as a sort of consolation, Kees had bought be a bottle of whiskey in the shape of a golf club - with an actual ball attached/embedded in it. (For the curious, it’s still aging. Maybe I’ll take it along for the next time I sally forth for golf on the firth.)

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