When I visited Scotand for the first time, I left the country with one thought… I need to go back to Scotland. The golf is so good that it will actually change the way that you view the game. With golf being such a huge part of my life, one could deduce that Scotland has changed my life. So when the opportunity came to participate in the 2019 Golf Vloggers Challenge hosted by Scotland. The Home of Golf. I ran across the room with my hand raised.
The format for the challenge was really creative. It consisted of 3 different groups of 3 golfers each. Each group was scheduled to take on a specific region of Scotland. Each individual would play for themselves in a stableford scoring format. In between those stableford rounds, there would be unique challenges to earn additional points. These challenges were not just unique, they were hitting golf balls off of castles unique.
Highland and Aberdeen Team:
Ryan Tripp - Hawaiian golfer with a personality ranking coming in at 9.2/10
Patrick Koenig - Local golf enthusiast/idiot
Rachael McQueen - The McQueen of 27 different high end golf courses
Matt Fryer - Teaching professional in England. Taught us a thing or five.
Zac Radford - Can hit a stinger a quarter mile. Nicest guy in Nashville.
Lloyd Greenaway - Didn’t take his golf glove off the entire trip.
Brodie Smith - Frisbee legend and serious pounder of the golf ball.
Ollie Neglerio - Seriously talented photographer…. not just average talents, serious talents.
Garrett Clark - Arousing trick shot artist and amateur hair model.
Like any good journey, the trip started off with some excitement. Unfortunately, that excitement was the airline losing our golf clubs. Fortunately, the fine folks at Brora Golf Links came to the rescue. Ryan was set up with a nice rental set and one of the pros lent me their golf clubs. The staff even found a pair of goIf shoes for me to wear. I would have golfed in my sandals if necessary, but the staff at Brora made us feel like VIPs. It was business as usual for these guys.
There are 75 things that I love about Brora but I was able to narrow it down to the three things that make Brora a special experience.
Sheep - The sheep at Brora are everywhere. They roam the fairways and graze the rough. The course belongs to them. Cows are there as well.
Electric Greens - There are electric fences surrounding every green at Brora. This is done to keep the sheep and cows off of the greens.
Wild - My favorite word to describe Brora is wild. It’s been there for 200 years and it just feels wild and natural.
After an exciting intro to Scottish golf, we took a stroll down the road to take a peak at the world renowned Royal Dornoch golf club. We didn’t have time to play the golf course, but I gave McQueen her second lesson in golf modeling. The occasion called for some bunker angels and Rachael performed like a champion.
The next morning it was time for our first Vloggers challenge at Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club. It was a 100 yard shot from the lighthouse back onto the extremely difficult 5th green. Just holding the green would turn out to be a real challenge. We each had 3 attempts and the closest to the pin would take home a big 10 points.
After a handful of attempts to keep our golfballs on the green from 100 yards, I managed to clip one just right and it nestled just inside 4 feet. Ryan and Rachael would try to best my shot, but they would not come close. Just like that, I jumped to the top of the leaderboard. However, my lead was slim with the other regions competing hot on my tail.
That afternoon, Rachael pulled some strings and we found our way out to the highly acclaimed Castle Stuart Golf Club. This was easily one of our favorite rounds on the trip. The course was co-designed by managing partner Mark Parsinen and golf course architect Gil Hanse in 2009. Dubbed as a modern links, the golf course feels like it has been around for 100 years and fits very nicely into the Scottish golf landscape. The links terrain and bunkering is some of the most unique that I have found in Scotland.
After a great walk around Castle Stuart, we retired to our quarters for the evening at Meldrum House Golf & Country Club. This place blew all of us away. The service, food, and accommodations were unbelievable. Rachael even had a television that rose from the foot of her bed. Our group would stay at some spectacular places, but this one may have been my favorite of the trip.
While we did not have time to play the golf course, I managed to take some pictures before we headed out for our afternoon round. While the course at Meldrum House is not a links course, the conditions are immaculate and It looks like a ton of fun to play. Even the local Highland cattle or “Coos” add to the ambiance.
With all of the dust now settled from the trip, I can assuredly say that Murcar Golf Links was the course that exceeded my expectations by the largest margin. I had barely even heard of the golf course when I saw it on the agenda and the instant that I laid my eyes upon the property, I was smitten.
With tight fairways on just about every golf hole, Murcar is one of the more challenging links courses that I have played. When the wind blows at this place, even good shots can be swallowed up by the tall and lush fescue grasses. We were fortunate to catch Murcar on a relatively benign day of weather and managed to only lose a handful of golf balls.
Some of the best things about golf in Scotland are the unique things that you find on the golf course. The country is filled with history and if you take a quick look around, you will find some pretty interesting landmarks. The old ice house above was used by fisherman hundreds of years ago and still stands on the property as a remnant of the land’s history. Scotland is filled with this sort of stuff.
After 3 putting for bogey on the 18th hole, I walked off of the green with a resounding “Man, that was fun!” However, we still had an afternoon to kill and we decided to head on down the street to get a quick look at Royal Aberdeen. Murcar Golf Links and Royal Aberdeen actually share a property line. If that doesn’t scream “Day of 36,” I don’t know what does.
At this point, I am thinking, “This is one of the greatest days of all time, it can’t get any better.” But that is when Scotland usually surprises you. We headed down the road for a quick visit to Dunnottar Castle. Perhaps I forgot that I was in Scotland because I thought to myself, “Whatever, probably just a bunch of rocks in a field.” That was clearly not the case. Dunnottar Castle is awesome.
Our accommodations for the evening were at Maryculter House & Hotel. Steeped in history dating back to the order of the Knights Templar in 1227AD, the hotel drips with historic ambiance. Apparently the Knights used to hang out in the basement and do secret society type stuff.
As soon as I heard the word Knights Templar, I immediately thought of The Da Vinci Code and started the search for the Holy Grail. I quickly received a hot tip from the staff that there may be “undiscovered treasure” on the property. However, it felt inappropriate to start digging in the hotel lobby. I marked an X on my treasure map and vowed to return.
BONUS: Impromptu Aberdeen University (nicknamed Babe U) modeling class.
The next morning we woke up and found ourselves with another closest to the pin Vloggers Challenge. This time it was from the courtyard of the Maryculter Hotel across the banks of the Dee river and onto the nearby Peterculter golf course. Like last time, we each had 3 shots. Rachael was up first and she set the bar high with a shot to 8 feet from 150 yards. Ryan came close to taking the lead but his 9 iron only managed to crawl to 10 feet. It was up to me to stuff one and take home another 10 points.
After poor shots on my first 2 balls, things were looking good for Rachael and bleak for me. However, I had my distances dialed in and knew exactly what I needed to do with my 3rd ball. Just like Michael Jordan in Game 5 of the 1989 NBA playoffs Eastern Conference First Round against the Cleveland Cavaliers, I hit the shot that was required to win the game.
As it nestled to a foot, I resisted the urge to fire off 4 fist pumps like MJ but I did allow a smile to come across my face. I was certain to maintain my lead heading into the final day of competition. Before the finale, we had another day of golf planned at Trump International Aberdeen. This was more of an exhibition round and did not count towards the point totals.
Despite what you might think about Donald Trump, one cannot deny that Trump Scotland is an outstandingly good golf course. Not surprisingly, the design has a similar feel to Trump Doonbeg. The dunes are bold, the bunkers are perilous, and the fescue rough is penalizing. We caught the links on a day of intermittent rain followed by sunshine.
After our round at Trump Scotland we hustled across the country to meet up with the other two groups competing for the final competitions. When we arrived at Murrayshall Country House Hotel & Golf Club, we had another Vloggers Challenge waiting for us. This challenge was a team game.
We had to play the 9th hole at Murrayshall Golf Club which is a 190 yard par 3. The goal was to complete the hole as quickly as possible playing an alternate shot format with your 2 team members. Someone hits the group’s tee shot and then the next team member either chips or putts the 2nd shot. Your 3rd member would then hit the next shot and if the ball still isn’t in the hole, the turn loops back to the first team member. The team with the fastest time wins 10 points to share!
Our team was up first and I was designated the golfer to hit the tee shot for our team. Like a seasoned speed golfer I fired one low and right at the flag. Rachael immediately hit the 2nd putt to a foot and Ryan tapped in for our par. It was all over in 10 seconds. The bar was set ridiculously high and both the Ayrshire and Fife teams would fold under the pressure. It was off to the finale with a pretty big lead.
That finale would fittingly take place on Gleneagles Golf Club. As a host of the 2014 Ryder Cup, this venue was no stranger to competition and high stakes drama. Aside from the golf, there are also a wide range of activities at Gleneagles. They have a shooting range, tennis, riding, archery, cycling, fishing… heck, they even have gundogs and falconry. That is right, gundogs and falconryI
I had a 6 point lead over Garrett Clark going into the final round. That lead would evaporate quickly as I began to pile up the double bogies in a big hurry. By the time that back nine came around, my lead had vanished. That’s when Garrett stepped on the gas, made some birdies, and zipped across the finish line.
Thousands of fans crashed the 18th green and carried Garrett off into the sunset. Meanwhile I was crying over in the rough. My victory charge had turned into a hot pile of burning trash. Ok, so the sunset thing was made up, but the trash pile analogy was real.
Even though I had blown the lead in the final round, it was clear that the visit was not at all about winning the competition. it was about exploring the country of Scotland, making new friends, and sharing the experience with the world. When it came to doing those three things, Team Highlands and all of the Scottish Vloggers were true champions.
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I believe this is the only group photo we captured. Most of us had never met one another. Each person from a different country, background, walk of life. Varying skill levels, both on the course and behind the camera. One common denominator unified us this week: GOLF🏌🏼 Each person here has an insatiable love for this great game. We came together to golf the world’s greatest courses and document it. (Be sure to follow each person for some amazing videos coming soon). Some of us may never cross paths again, others have already made plans to reunite. It’s amazing to me that I could fly halfway around the world and be thrown in with a group of complete strangers to experience something that I will forever remember. What an epic experience! Big thanks to @scotlandhomeofgolf for creating this event. I’m so grateful to have been involved. Team Highlands we crushed it! Thanks for making the trip so fun 🏴 #scotvlog19
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This trip has completely exceeded any expectations I had. All the dancing, modelling, laughing, the road trip, and the golf, it has been something I will never forget. It is going to be sad to say bye to these two crazies but it’s definitely a see you again soon!! #dreamteam 🏴❤️🇺🇸
The only bad thing about golf trips to Scotland is that they always end before you want them to. The good times roll quickly and before you know it, you have to jump on a plane and head back to reality. Unlike the USA, almost all of the premier courses in Scotland are open to the public. I love the fact that anyone can enjoy these golf courses and experiences. Start your golfing experience and escape with VisitScotlandGolf.com