John was right that there was no map showing all the golf courses in Scotland. Collins had produced one but it has been out of print for a few years.
As we travelled around a slightly damp Scotland in our motorhome I found myself using the campsite map a lot, replotting our route in an attempt to escape the rain. I don’t remember the last time I had a physical map in my hands, but it was really useful to lay out out the map on the table to discuss our panic rerouting with my wife and kids.
The tweet from @drakeydistiller came back to me and I realised that a map which showed all the Scottish golf courses would be really useful. Of course, I knew where all the big names were, but Scotland has a golf course around every corner, and being able to see them in one place would be helpful.
I think we can all agree that 2020 was a fairly dull year, and the combination of the lockdown and a winding-down job meant I had plenty of time on my hands. I’m also the kind of person who likes a project, so I set about seeing what it would take to publish a map of every golf course in Scotland.
I really liked the campsite map I’d been using on holiday so I sent an email to the company who had produced them – Nicolson Maps. I quickly got a positive response and they put me in touch with the head cartographer, Val, who explained to me what producing a map would entail.
Val is a master of her art and proved to be an absolute godsend, She patiently took me through the process of producing a map. The first step was identifying all of the golf courses in Scotland. That would be an easy one, wouldn’t it? There would surely be a list somewhere. Ah…
My requests to Scottish Golf fell on deaf ears. In fairness, they were trying to roll out the World Golf Handicap system at the time so I wasn’t high up their ‘to do’ list. Visit Scotland had an online brochure which I could have printed out but I heard rumblings that it didn’t include all the courses, and it wasn’t in the most user-friendly format for my needs.
But then I came across a website – http://scottishgolfcourses-allofthem.blogspot.com/ – which chronicled the attempts of keen Scottish golfer Alan McPherson to play every course in Scotland. Here was a man clearly obsessed with Scottish golf and he seemed like he might be the man I was looking for. Within an hour of an email, Alan was in touch and was incredibly helpful. He had a comprehensive list of every place in Scotland where golf was played.
As of last November, Alan had played at 674 places – he is trying to play anywhere that has fixed tees and greens, including pitch and putt courses and those on private land. It’s quite an endeavour and luckily for me he had a very detailed spreadsheet – by far the most comprehensive list I had found.
The next stage was to go through every one of the courses on Alan’s list to see whether they should make the cut for the final map. Quite a few had closed since Alan had played, so that was an easy decision. Others were courses played only by the owners of private estates. Alan had managed to get onto these as part of a charity quest but they weren’t looking for anyone else to visit so I excluded them too.
There were others which you could debate. Asta has 9 holes that can be played both clockwise and anti-clockwise. Alan had rightly taken it to be two courses. For the purpose of my map, it was just one.
Through a combination of web research, emails and phone calls I whittled the list down to 569 courses. There may still be a few questionable ones included – for example I have shown the North Berwick and Gullane kids’ courses for personal, sentimental reasons. I am sure I will receive feedback on some of my choices for inclusion (or exclusion) and the second edition may require some edits!
The next part of the process was a little unexpected. Val sent me a large scale map of Scotland for me to plot the courses on. This took a few days of research, Google maps was hit hard and a very fine pen was needed. There are some areas of Scotland with very tightly packed golf courses! I realised this was going to be an iterative process.