October 18, 2017
Last week I spent three days golfing in Scotland with my great friend and golf tour operator Marty Carr.
The occasion was the Inaugural Donald Ross Invitational, organised by Carr Golf Travel and held at Royal Dornoch Golf Club. The course, founded over 400 years ago is about 50 miles north of Inverness, a mere well-struck 2 iron from John o’ Groats. Donald Ross was a Scotsman and golf apprentice with Old Tom Morris at St. Andrews, who emigrated to America over 100 years ago without a ‘bean’ in his pocket and started designing golf courses. Golf was exploding in America at the time and Ross became one of the most prolific and famous golf course designers in history. His courses include well known Pinehurst No. 2, Oak Hill Country Club and East Lake Golf Club. The competition held in Ross’ birthplace of Dornoch is open to members of any Donald Ross designed course.
So, expecting Baltic conditions I packed my best polar exploration gear but was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by clear sunny skies, very little wind and warm weather which held for all three days.
As most of the playing teams were Americans that I had never met I was a little concerned that current worldwide events would dominate the conversations and there would be a few sticky moments. Also, my love of golf has certainly waxed and waned over the years mainly due to the endless rules, dress codes, members, committees….. but in this case I couldn’t have been more wrong. They were the nicest and easiest-going bunch I had met in a long time. We had great fun.
In the end the competition was won by Tom Scarborough and Seán Tobin (pictured below) playing out of the Country Club of Orlando. Tom is a great gentleman who must have drunk the elixir of everlasting youth and has a wicked sense of humour. He’s retired from insurance but could have made as much money telling jokes for a living. He was ably supported by a super golfer in Seán who hits the ball further than I could jog.
Organising events is a skill that requires talents quite foreign to me. You need to be extremely organised, plan well in advance, have the hospitality gene switched on and be able to completely change all those well laid plans in an instant. Having the patience of a saint wouldn’t go amiss either. I can confirm that the Carr Golf team have all those attributes in spades. It was a super event, seamless organisation and great, great fun.
A highlight of the week was meeting the hugely well respected golf author Bradley Klein. Apart from caddying for Bernhard Langer on tour many years ago, Brad is a senior writer for Golfweek magazine and the author of seven books on golf course architecture. His speciality is his knowledge on the designs of Donald Ross and his gentle demeanour and love of golf course architecture is only rivalled by his love of chainsaws (go figure – as they say!). We had many laughs but if you really want to put a smile on Brad’s face he has many books available on Amazon entirely suitable for corporate gifts, birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs and Christmas presents.
The week would not be complete without a shout out to the super Carr Golf team that looked after us. Hospitality done well is like all things done well – it feels genuine, effortless and real. It takes a special type of person to do it and either the hospitality gene is switched on or it’s not. Nothing ever seems like too much trouble. So thanks to Ciara, Susan, Mark and Seán at Carr Golf, Neil Hampton and all at Royal Dornoch, Rob from Donald Ross Sportswear and last but certainly not least the legendary Peter Keighery. Peter (photographed above with Ciara from Carr Golf) is a man of unique charm, an entertainer, guide, piano player and a kind and wise counsel to Marty and his Carr Golf team. His autobiography about his many years of adventures at the ‘coalface’ of corporate and private entertainment is in the works as we speak – to be ghost-written of course by none other than Bradley S. Klein! Isn’t that right Peter?