Scottish Open back on the coast, where it belongs

The 9th green at Castle Stuart Golf Links.

The 9th green at Castle Stuart Golf Links.

Golf purists are rejoicing at the news that the Scottish Open is going back to a seaside course – the Castle Stuart. If any tournament should be played by the sea, it’s the Scottish Open, held July 7-10.

You have to go back to Carnoustie in 1996, when Ian Woosnam won, for the last time Scotland’s national championship was played on a links. Loch Lomond had played host to this tournament since.

I know money rules everything these days, but I’ve always been uneasy that my country’s national championship was held on a course that was about as un-Scottish as golf carts on fairways.

Loch Lomond Golf Club may be situated in one of the most beautiful locations in the world, but it’s not typical of Scottish golf. It’s an American-style course smack in the middle of Scotland.

Competing at Loch Lomond was never the perfect preparation for the British Open the following week, because comparing Loch Lomond to a links is like comparing ball-covering materials balata and surlyn. Given the heavy rain that affects the Loch Lomond area, the course is usually soft, allowing players to fire at the pins at will.

Why anyone serious about winning the British Open wanted to play target golf the week before they had to play a bump-and-run game always puzzled me.

Competitors at this year’s Open won’t have that problem. Castle Stuart is similar to Kingsbarns. It isn’t proper links in the true sense of the word, but it plays like one because the design is so good. It should be ideal preparation for the challenges of the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s a week later.

Reviews of the Mark Parsinen and Gil Hanse-designed course have been overwhelmingly favorable. Only 2 years old, the course has quickly gained a reputation as a must-play layout.

“I’ve raved about Castle Stuart since I first played it,” said touring pro Stephen Gallacher of Scotland. “It is a bit young but a fantastic golf course. It is not a links. They will say it is because it is by the sea. But, for me, it's a Kingsbarns-type course, the main difference being the views are a bit better at Castle Stuart.

“If the wind blows, it will certainly be a good test. And, if you are looking to take positives from the move away from Loch Lomond, then I think taking the Scottish Open to different parts of the country is a good thing. It is the Scottish Open, after all.”

Think about Scottish golf and you picture rolling fairways, pot bunkers, gorse, heather and shimmering sea views. After 15 years, we’ll finally have that.

Amen.

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