In 2007, a Scottish guy told me that I absolutely had to play Gairloch Golf Club, a nine-hole links course in an isolated village on the country’s west coast. Gairloch was a solid hour and a half out of my way, but he insisted. So I went.
I’m glad I did, in part because the drive—through the desolate mountains of Wester Ross and along the southwestern shore of Loch Maree, on a road that sometimes narrowed to a single lane—was beautiful:
I got a room at a small hotel on Gairloch’s harbor, and was awakened during the night by what sounded like a hundred-year typhoon lashing against my window. In the morning, the BBC said that the weather that day would be pretty good in all of Scotland except the part where I happened to be, for which the forecast was “heavy rain” and “gales.”
I drove through both on my way to the golf course, a short distance down the coast road, and found the parking lot empty and the clubhouse locked. So I zipped up my rain suit, let myself through the gate, and teed off alone.
Gairloch is just nine holes, and six of the nine are par-threes, and you have to go around three times to push your golfometer past six thousand yards, but it’s a wonderful course and I’m not a bit sorry I went to so much trouble to play it, even in driving rain. (How’s that for a recommendation?)
To get to the medal tee on the eighth/seventeenth, the course’s sole par-five, you climb a slippery path up the rocks to a spot from which you can see the course, the clubhouse, the town, the mountains, the harbor, and (I think) the isle of Skye, among other stirring sights.
And the hole’s a corker, too.
A club employee had arrived by the time I finished my first nine. I watched her raise the Gairloch flag in a wind that was almost strong enough to rip it from the pole, then made breakfast of a couple of candy bars from the golf shop. Then I played nine more holes, returned to my hotel, took a hot shower, and checked out.
And here’s a photo of Gairloch’s Honesty Box, which is mentioned in one of the comments below: