AroundWithRog - Scotland - Loch Lomond
The morning arrived that had long been lettered red in my calendar - the opportunity to play at one of the most private and exclusive golf clubs in the UK. Unfortunately, the Scottish murk and drizzle ensured that the ride was intense and damp, with little scenery visible to lighten the load. Setting off on a motobike in the wet is always difficult for me, as Sonny has, from the off, been principally a leisure interest. The intensity I talk of is the nervousness I feel as, in the wet grip is reduced, white painted lives become slippery, manhole covers in a corner need to be treated like ice and banded tar repairs to the road can be similarly treacherous. Add the fatigue that had by now started not to be remedied by a night's sleep and that is all the intensity on a ride that you need. It was lucky that the ride was only forty minutes.
At the entrance to the otherwise anonymous access road, only a small logo with the head and antlers of a red deer suggested that this jewel of a golf course could be hidden away here. At the gatehouse, I was welcomed and greeted with a comment such as 'so you made it then, we've been expecting you!' I was instructed to ride to the club house where I could unload my clubs - wow what an entrance, even in the rain. (This was once the country estate of the Colquhoun, pronounced 'colhune', clan. Rossdhu House was built in 1773 and the remains of Rossdhu castle that are next to the 18th green hosted Mary Queen Of Scots.)
The awaiting valets were not acquainted with unloading a bike of golf clubs as, understandably, I was the first to have arrived here on such a mode of transport. That didn't mean that the valet did not take it to the car park - on the contrary. However, Sonny is fitted with a custom seat that is way higher than most riders would choose. This allows me, at 6'8" tall to sit in an ergonomically sound position, giving my back the best chance of avoiding injury through poor posture. To add to this the drive surface was gravel making the bike more difficult to control so I felt compelled to check that he felt confident he would not drop the bike on its side which could damage the golf club carrier.
Coffee offered and drunk from a fine china cup, I went to join my playing partners Frank and Nigel in the locker room. We were given a full length locker in this most sumptuous of locker rooms. Running short of time, we headed out to the practice ground, where reputedly the best golf balls (Titleist PROV1) were arranged in neat triangular pyramids. Their golf bags had arrived, but mine had not. But not to worry, that eventuality had been covered. Twenty or more different six irons from all manufacturers were placed in an oversize golf bag style tub to use for warming up. Frank than hired a caddy and we met up with our contact, Donald McDonald who would be playing with us and act as our host for the day. It was about this time that Nigel delivered the most unwittingly savage body blow to me - 'you do realise that they had been expecting us last night do you?' A miscommunication had prevented this additional generosity by the club in reaching me, meaning that instead of staying in some of the finest rooms in Scotland, we had stayed in a friend's B&B in Glasgow. . . . .ouch. . . . Ana would be devastated!! I was too, as my playing partners had indicated they would have paid double their already generous £800 each just to play here if they could have stayed. . . . and of course the rooms would undoubtedly be rather sumptuous.
Initially, this prevented my swing finding an early rhythmn as I missed fairway after fairway. On trying to recover, I was mystified why I could do little more than chip out of semi-rough. Donald explained that the grass was mixed with a particularly coarse rough grass which created much more drag on the golf club, even when the rough looked short. The rain kept falling further exacerbating the escapes from rough as well as dramatically reducing visibility - this limited our appreciation for the surroundings merely to the finely designed holes and manicured course among the magnificent trees. Ben Lomond was noticeable by its absence as the dramatic backdrop to the par four fourth.
At the tee of the eighth hole, Donald walked up to a large tree, picked up a telephone and ordered us each a beer. In the rain, the refreshments tray was delivered on the fingertips of a smartly dressed waiter as we exited the par three green some ten minutes later. Now this is the sort of service anyone could easily become accustomed to. It helped me to forget some of the scores I had recorded so far, if nothing else!
The round continued with some great holes. My golf improved, Frank's had fallen off the high cliff that he had set himself as a standard at Turnberry, but Nigel was surreptitiously scoring consistently; his score ended up at 38 points and won second prize in the overall guest competition. Well done Nigel!
In the clubhouse afterwards, we went to change in the clubhouse; to say that the changing rooms are different from many would be an understatement. While being somehow understated, they are enormously classy being panelled with rich oak or similar, but no-one prepares you for the sight of gents drinking and eating lunch at a table among those arriving, showering, changing and grooming all around. There is a bar serving beer in the gents changing room - another first for me.
During your shower, Willie takes your shoes, dries cleans and polishes them, making you wonder how he achieved such a feat in so short a time. Behind the scenes, your clubs are cleaned ahead of your golf round and again as you change in preparation for your departure. Everything about this club exudes service, but in that wonderfully understated manner that the Scots staff here managed like few others in the hospitality trade, but like no other at a golf club.
With the help of a member who happened to volunteer he had similar health issues to me at a similar stage in life, we organised a collection and raised almost £500 from those present. If that wasn't enough, Ana, Tanya and I were fed and watered, then given a tour of the house, accommodation (Ana checked my emails upon return to ensure I had not received any communication about staying there!) and grounds in the improving weather before we set out along the road to Machrihannish at the bottom end of the Kintyre penninsula.
All in all, it was a great day that I didn't want to end. But a long ride awaited. Bike duly delivered by the valet to the front of the house raised questions from those there who now knew about my adventurous challenge; it took me a while to get packed up. A last question, this time from a valet about how he could register to become a bone marrow donor and I felt that my message had truly got through in this corner of Scotland. . . . . . . . . . . . but that room. . . . . . aaaaargh! At least the experiences of the day had energised me once more for the next section of tarmac.
The ride north, west then south proved to be one of the most scenic parts of the whole trip. If you ignore the potentially disastrous moment of being blown right across the road by a tremendous gust of wind undoubtedly funnelled by the topography, it was to immerse myself in the sheer exhileration of motorcycling that had originally got me hooked. More to do with being alone out in the countryside, with open windy roads through wild windswept scenery and a destination that made it all the more purposeful than 'just a ride out on a Sunday', than the closeness of man and machine with all the power and potential that a big bike offers its rider. For much of the ride, I had even forgotten about my golf clubs on the back.
As I made my way south, the scenery was like looking into a lagoon at first, but the re-emergence of the Ailsa Craig would at some stage confirm that my whereabouts really were not far from where I had been only yesterday, despite the separation of at least four hours drive between them. This turned my thoughts to my playing partners for tomorrow who had been considering the transport challenges and had talked of renting a boat from a Glasgow marina. They hadn't resolved their plans before I left a week or so ago.
The lovely sounding lady in my GPS notified me of a left turn down a lane marked as a single track road. Sometimes such an instruction is for a shortcut, as "shortest route"command is taken in a very literal sense at times. Our hotel for two nights would be the Dunvalanree Hotel at Carradale, but the GPS was showing half an hour to arrival at my destination. Within a trice, she announced 'continue for eighteen miles'. Now this is what you call rural! Sonny's horn worked almost as hard as an Indian truck horn clearing the truck's path through livestock and approaching traffic. Instead Sonny's horn warned of my approach to no end of blind bends on the single carriageway.
When I arrived, Ana and Tanya were tucking into their second glass of wine, glad to have survived the long single track road in the sponsored BMW X3 (thanks again, BMW GB) unscathed. But their apparent need for relief turned out to be rather more based on another type of fuel. A short while after exiting Loch Lomond, the petrol low warning light had indicated it was time to plan a stop. The GPS indicated three garages along the way within the car computer's indicated 'range remaining' estimate. After finding garage number one closed and number two not to have been in existence for some years, they were left with no option but to head for number three which they would be reaching while running on fumes (5 miles on the trip computer). There is no doubt that by this stage, Ana would be 'having kittens'!
They passed the said location to see a 'Spar' shop but no petrol pump. Realising they could not continue without a refill, they turned around to seek an alternative supply only to find a sole petrol pump 'hiding' (their words, not mine) behind a van on the pavement. No wonder they had needed a refuelling on the wine front when they arrived in Carradale!
Eventually, the fantastic and eventful day ended with a wee dram at the hotel, before dinner and bed for a well earnt rest.
Published on writebuzz®:
> A day in my life