I have a passion for seaside golf, in part explained by this short extract from Golf in the Wild:
Gairloch is pure seaside golf – yes, it is a links course, but it is more than that, it is within sight and sound of a well-used beach. The soundtrack to golf at Gairloch is excitable, shrieking children, the gentle lapping of waves and the barking of frisky dogs taking too much salty air. It is the holidays of my childhood when walks near the beach skirted the local links and very serious ladies and gentlemen in chequered trousers could be seen staring intently at bushes and the long grass as though searching for their lost youth.
There was no playing on the links for us, but there was always the putting green on which to hone my skills, skills I have clearly mislaid since those long-lost summer days. For many years holidays meant Sandbanks on the south coast, west of Bournemouth: familiar territory for my parents raised not so many miles away in Hampshire. In those days Sandbanks was certainly desirable but not the place it has now become – reputedly the fourth most expensive place to live on the planet.
These images are not from Gairloch but Reay on the far north coast of Scotland, taken on a recent ‘research trip’ – the best part about writing travel books on golf. It is adjacent to the Dounreay atomic energy site, suitably distant from any centres of population and as far as can be imagined from the sands of Bournemouth. The top half of the original domed reactor is visible from some parts of the course.
In this distant and remote land the beaches are cinerama-wide and post-apocalyptic empty, not a whisper of shrieking children nor barking dogs because something more sinister than ball games is happening on these shores. Reay golf course overlooks Sandside Beach and is visible in all its glory in the last image. Look closely and there are two dots on the sand – the one on the left is a Land Rover, the support vehicle for the one on the right – the Groundhog, scouring the beach for radioactive particles leaked from adjacent Dounreay. Sandside is open to the public, the risk of radioactive contamination being estimated at 1 in 80 million. Having said that, any balls I might have sliced onto the beach would have stayed where they landed – one day they would be perfect for nighttime golf 😉