Nairn provides canvas for vintage Scottish golf
Chad Conine is a sportswriter from Texas who spent the summer in Scotland and the town of St. Andrews. He chronicled his golf adventures before this year's British Open, held at the Old Course July 15-18.
NAIRN, Scotland — When my dad and I walked onto the first tee at Nairn Golf Club, we had a former Walker Cup course in front of us with a light wind at our backs.
Like most of the great links here in the home of golf, Nairn goes straight out along the sea, reaching its farthest point from the clubhouse on the ninth green. During that stretch we played our usual match with the wind at our backs, making it a good game. In the back of my mind, though, I knew it could get tough coming back against the wind. Still, I assumed it would remain a modest breeze.
I was mistaken.
Almost immediately after we turned back toward the clubhouse, the wind kicked up to about 20 mph. The battle was on.
By the time we finished, I was trying to punch the ball low, beneath the wind that had cranked up to about a 40 mph gail, and complete the round. After putting out on 18, we shook hands with our caddies and went into the clubhouse for a bite of lunch before driving south.
Just before going into the dining room, we took in the Walker Cup photos from 1999 when a Great Britain and Ireland team led by Luke Donald and Paul Casey defeated the American team, which included Matt Kuchar and Bryce Molder. A few minutes later, as we were ordering lunch, the flags just outside the clubhouse went limp. The weather was changing costumes again. Within minutes, as storm clouds neared the golf course, the wind was blowing back toward the first tee having made a 180-degree turn.
So that's classic Scottish weather on a classic Scottish links course.
Maybe my best effort coming in against the wind was a bogey on the 412-yard uphill par-4 No. 13. The fairway starts up the hillside before it rises rapidly to a green with bunkers protecting both sides of the front of it.
My caddie, Neil, who was in his early 50s, grew up playing Nairn. As we were walking toward my tee shot, he told me a story that both challenged and comforted me on the courses' No.1 handicap hole. Some days when he was growing up playing the course Neil would come in for the day and his father would ask him how he had played. "Oh, not too well dad. I struggled a bit," he would answer on many days. His father came back with another question "How did you get on at 13?" When he said he had made a 4 on the daunting par-4, his dad would light up, "Ahh, that's a good score!"
So having made a bogey, I looked back down the hill toward the sea with some degree of satisfaction. Another awesome Scottish course to add to the list and another great memory.
(Photo: The 13th at Nairn climbs the hill away from the sea, offering the steepest challenge on this classic links course, which hosted the 1999 Walker Cup.)