Senior writer Alex Miceli, affectionately known as the Bulldog, will be in England and Scotland for nearly a month and will be keeping you updated with his latest tidbits in a daily blog for Golfweek. Here is his July 9 installment . . .
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INVERNESS, Scotland – Just as it is at home in the U.S., the mercury is rising in Scotland. I struggle with the conversion, but 26 or 27 degrees Celsius is hot enough for residents of a country who lather themselves in suntan lotion while visiting Americans wear jackets.
The more you talk to the locals, the more you hear about the setup at Muirfield, site of next week’s Open Championship. It won’t be easy.
Not that I was expecting anything less, but Muirfield will play hard and fast, with a significant amount of rough: in places, high and almost unplayable.
Interestingly, in talking with players who have been to Muirfield recently, such as Henrik Stenson, Darren Clarke and Branden Grace, they rave about how fair the course is and that the brick-hard fairways are reasonable because the course is one of the flattest links in the Open rota.
With the talk of Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon dying down, some of the locals have started talking about Graeme McDowell’s comments about Castle Stuart not being a stern enough test for this week’s Scottish Open.
Paul Lawrie was quoted in the tabloids making a defense of the event, if not the layout.
The course was pretty dead Monday, with the odd player working on his game.
So it was an easy day, which allowed for a trip to Royal Dornoch.
It’s a little over an hour drive, over three bridges and a lot of distinctive Scottish scenery.
I hadn’t been to Dornoch since 1999, when I covered the Walker Cup in Nairn and I had forgotten or didn’t appreciate one of the true gems in the U.K. I think partly because I don’t get up this way much is why I haven’t played it more, but Royal Dornoch is on my schedule as often as possible.
The course played just like it was designed back in the late 1800s: hard, fast and with the need for much imagination around a links that boasts Donald Ross as one of its “Keeper of the Greens” and also Dornoch’s first golf professional.
So keen is the club with its history in the game that it announced Tuesday it is establishing a three-year Ph.D. studentship to investigate the history of sport and culture in Dornoch and wider Moray Firth coastal region during the period.
The club has evidence that golf was played and taught at Dornoch as far back as 1616 and had donated 54,000 pounds toward the doctoral program.
Playing from the back tees at 6,711 yards, Dornoch poses a stern test and does not suffer the foolish golfer well.
The 6,625-yard yellow tees are more than enough of a test for any single-digit handicapper and provide an enjoyable round that is still incredibly tough.
Each hole feels like a walk back in time, but a story of an occurrence on the first hole is worth telling.
According to Dornoch lore, Mike Weir some time ago teed it up on the first tee and hit his tee ball left and out of bounds in the Golf Hotel that borders the left side.
The starter for the day snickered a little and suggested maybe an iron would be the better decision.
At 331 yards from the back tees and 302 from the yellow markers, Weir needed a solid drive to get close to the green, but after pumping one in the junk and the starter snickering, Weir launched his second drive on the green and made the putt for par.
This story could be historic fiction, but it’s still pretty good.
As you can see for yourself, pictures of Royal Dornoch can speak for themselves, but it’s smart to add one thing about the course.
It was so much fun, every shot requires the player to think – and then, of course, there are the views. From the eighth green to the 16th green, the course borders the Dornoch Firth and the views are … well the pictures can speak from here.