Final observations about Scotland...finally


Golf courses in Scotland are considered essentially public land.  On every course we played, including the Old Course at St. Andrews, we saw people walking their dogs, often across fairways.  They never got in the way.

    I've just about run out of material about our weeklong stay in Scotland (no applause necessary).  Here are a few final thoughts, although I will share more photos of the courses we played in the coming days. (Note:  Click on small photos for larger versions and captions.)


Bad drives...It took 60 years, but I finally had the experience of driving on the wrong side of the road (apologies to any Brits reading this who think we Yanks drive on the

I held my breath until she gave me the look that said "We get this all the time from you Americans."

wrong side of the road).  I had the most trouble with the roundabouts, what many of us refer to as rotaries or traffic circles; a few times I failed to yield to convention or to the cars already in the roundabout and was almost T-boned.  I had trouble judging the distance from the steering wheel on the right side of the car to the curbs on the left; I stopped counting how many times I kissed the left side of the shoulders and scraped against curbs.  When I returned the rental car, the attendant called the boss out to inspect the wheels on the left side.  They knelt and ruminated and I held my breath until the boss looked up and gave me a knowing look that said "We get this all the time from you Americans."  She didn't charge me for the scarring.

No escaping the Donald...It is bad enough we have to endure Trump on billboards and TV promos and newscasts here in the States, but to find him the big story in
The Glasgow Times editorial referred to Trump as "weirdly coiffured."

Scotland while we were there was a true downer.  The Sunday Times of Glasgow, in its commentary pages, featured a photo of his royal arrogance in "You're fired!" posture, mouth wide open, every bit the ugly American.  The opinion piece was titled, "You're on the wrong course, Trump," and took the "weirdly coiffured" billionaire to task for bullying the citizenry of Aberdeenshire who don't want him to build his luxury resort on their local beach.  The Donald had called "disgusting" the dead bird and animal carcasses littering his development site, claiming "shooters" had created the mess.  The Times' editorial writer had a different take, calling the dead animals "fundamentalist suicide outraged by Trump's plans as the local population."  You gotta love the press in the UK.

American spoken here...but not Japanese.  At the Old and New Courses in St. Andrews, we heard a lot of American accents, belying the current exchange rate imbalance.  Subtract the caddies, and we heard more American than Scottish.  Beside the first tee I overheard a few obviously well-heeled Yanks -- you could tell by their bag tags from upscale U.S. courses -- comparing all the world's great courses they had played.  As we moved to the lesser-known but outstanding courses of Crail and Lundin, I heard a smattering of German and French accents on the practice greens.  I was surprised not to see anywhere the world's most passionate golf travelers, the Japanese and Koreans.

A wee bit about Shanks...Virtually every locker room at every course we played in Scotland featured urinals and toilets made by Armitage Shanks, a major porcelaincrailbalcomieshankstoilet.jpg manufacturer in the Isles.  It is a little disconcerting to stop at the loo after nine holes and have to confront the Shanks.  You would think that golf courses in the land where the game arguably was invented would show a little more delicacy in their choice of depositories.  What's wrong with Ideal Standard, Farmeloe, Yukka (yes, that is really the name of a toilet manufacturer) or the many other toilet makers of Great Britain?

Out of phase...Five hours doesn't really seem like much, but the time difference between the Isles and the east coast of the U.S. is always a bit disorienting.  I was forced to pre-set my lineups days in advance for my fantasy baseball league.   We didn't read many newspapers or watch much television in Scotland, except for the exciting and splendid Euro Cup football (soccer) matches, so we weren't up on much news, and certainly none from the U.S.  It was therefore a shock to fire up our laptops at the Bean Scene in St. Andrews, about the only place with an internet connection, to find that Tim Russert, the NBC political correspondent, had died...and then, a day or two later, George Carlin.  The news would have been shocking if we had been home, but somehow the distance from home made it more so.  My worries about my fantasy baseball team suddenly seemed small indeed.

Food for thought...The Scots still haven't quite caught onto the dining out thing, although all evidence is that the food in Scotland is way better than it is alleged to have been just a few years ago.  We queued up for fish and chips at the legendaryanstrutherqueue.jpg Anstruther Fish Bar in the town of the same name.  After an hour wait, the sodden little piece of fish served in a cardboard box (inside the restaurant) and the mediocre fries (chips) would hardly pass muster at Long John Silver's.  We found it was best to keep it simple when it came to ordering out, as in a nice cheese plate at the Bean Scene; or ethnic, as in the good Thai restaurant we dined at in St. Andrews.  That was probably our best meal of the entire week in Scotland, save for the Peat Inn, which I reviewed here a few days ago and which cost essentially a month of house payments.  Actually, come to think of it, one of the best dishes of my week was the chicken tikka masala, an Indian dish I ordered, with some trepidation, in the Scotscraig Golf Club clubhouse.  It was excellent, perhaps as much for the meals I had eaten in the days before as for its own inherent good taste.

The simple life...If Americans were faced with the enormity of the taxes the Brits pay -- income tax up to 40%, a national health insurance tax that begins at 11% and a value added tax of 17.5% on all goods and services -- we would probably start the 21st Century equivalent of the Boston Tea Party.  We'd complain as well about the waits for doctor's appointments and surgery in the National Health system.  And if you think we have an immigration "problem" in the States, spend a little time in London where the doors are wide open to the outside world and even the stiffest upper lips are starting to quiver.  And yet, in Scotland and London, everyone we met seemed quite content with their lot in life, despite the comparable shortfall in worldly possessions and entertainment options (compared with Americans).  The standard form of entertainment in the UK seems to be get-togethers among friends and family in homes or in the many beautiful parks.  And everyone walks a lot, especially on the golf courses.  In a week of golf in Scotland, I saw only two electric carts.  On the quality-of-life scale, the people of Scotland and England don't seem to be taxed at all.


It was not easy to leave our temporary home in the quaint fishing village of Crail, just nine miles from St. Andrews and just one mile from the fabulous 36 holes at the Crail Golfing Society.


-- Article and photos by Larry Gavrich 

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