Photo courtesy of www.traighgolf.co.uk
The phrase ‘hidden gem’ is possibly one of the most over-used in golf tourism. In truth not every ‘gem’ is as well hidden as the industry might like to believe. Traigh however is a genuine exception. This nine hole course of the western highlands is completely off the beaten track. You have to know of its existence, and even then, you need to make an effort to get there. It’s well worth the endeavour however. With extensive views of the western isles of Rum, Eigg, and Skye, the course looks-out over pristine Atlantic washed white sands, and crystal clear, clean, aquamarine sea.
Traigh golf links is the most Westerly golf course on the UK mainland. The word Traigh (pronounced ‘try’) means ‘beach’ in Gaelic. Being so close to the famous white sands of Morar and Ariskaig, Traigh also looks like its been lifted out of Maldives and transplanted. It sits at the gateway of the ‘road to the isles’ in one of the most beautiful parts of the West Highlands of Scotland
||1900 (sort of)
||No handicap restrictions apply
The Course itself
Golf has been played at Traigh since about 1900, but the old layout was much too small, and the course was enlarged and greatly improved between 1993 and 1995. It was redesigned by the well-known Scottish golf architect, Mr. John Salvesen. Cunningly using the natural contours of the hills that rise up from the beach, he created “a fair challenge to all levels of golfer – but a course that is great fun to play on, so that one wants to play it again”. To no small extent this is the essence of Traigh. It is a charismatic course and above all else, fun.
The layout of the Traigh golf links can’t be far of being unique in that it starts and finishes with a pair of par 3’s. Both are exquisite. The main feature of the course is the line of grassy hills, originally sand dunes, which rise some seventy feet, and the first hole demands a cunning tee shot to the top to reach them. The is about a six or seven iron straight up hill, with a waste area short of the green that doesn’t say poor shot, it says don’t even bother looking.
At the second, ‘Spion Kop’ (named after a hill in South Africa from the Boer war) a long drive is needed to get from one summit to the next. At 452 yds it offers you a chance on paper, but then Scotland has a plant called gorse, a sort of cactus with a tendency to spread. Should you become acquainted, you can reasonably rest assured you’ll be returning with one golf ball less than you started with.
The third is aimed straight at the glorious views of the islands, and is followed by a short but testing par four where big hitters can easily find trouble. Another ocean bound par three over a broad burn – broader still at high tide – takes one to McEachen’s Leap, back across the burn in a tricky dogleg par four.
This brings the player to the most testing part of the course, in sight of the Creag Mhor cliffs. The long par five, “The Lang Whang” leads to the most difficult hole, an uphill par four into the prevailing wind, demanding a long and accurate second shot. It might only be 367 yards, but a blind drive, followed by a blind second begin to essay a potential travelogue. If you hit it too far you may be on the 18th green some 150 yards away . You could even be back in Arisaig if you really caught it thin. After this ordeal the player signs off with another magnificent panorama as the final hole sweeps back downhill towards the Cuillins of Skye on the horizon and often played into a prevailing which could convert your par 3 into a 2 iron.
I played golf though, true Scottish golf, at a small course on the Atlantic in Northern Scotland named Traigh (though it is pronounced “try”). It was not a hard course. It was the most beautiful golf scenery I’ve ever experienced, and most likely ever will. I’ve played Pebble Beach, the Old Course, Troon, and Royal Dornoch. All great courses. But Traigh is what golf is, and that is a man walking up and down hills with the wind whipping in his face, waves crashing at the beach below, and sheep grazing in the pasture lining the course. The road to Traigh is one-laned, with “passing areas” not for the American faint of heart. In fact my cousin steadfastly refused to drive. He insisted that the Scots had entered into some type of conspiracy to keep tourists from the best spots. Arisaig, a small village and Traigh are the best spots. – Bill Ellis, Alabama, for “The Sports Ticket”.
The Traigh golf links are more about finesse, weather, patience, and imagination. It isn’t about the manufacturers equipment arms race with a whole host of holes set up to advertise whose clubs can perform over 7000 yards, in the hope of gaining admiring gawps who will then go out and buy the same. In Scotland golf tends to be played with no carts. Just good old-fashioned golfers. If the club pro isn’t about, you put your money in the “honesty box” and he’ll collect it in due time.
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