The Loop

Back-roads Scotland: Grantown-on-Spey

December 18, 2015

Grantown-on-Spey is a small town on the Spey River, near the northern edge of Cairngorms National Park, in Scottish whiskey country. It was the birthplace of Bobby Cruikshank, a Scottish golf pro whose principal claim to fame is that he lost to Gene Sarazen in a semi-final match in the P.G.A. Championship twice, in 1922 and 1923.


The town was founded in 1765 and was named after a local rich guy, James Grant, who is at the far left in the foursome below. I don't know why the golf clubs these guys are holding don't have heads:


The local course isn't one I would plan a trip around, but I did enjoy playing it. It was designed by Willie Park and James Braid in 1890, during the second Scottish golf boom, which accompanied the rise of the railroads. (The first American golf boom took place at the same time. In those days, just about the only thing you needed to be a golf-course architect in the United States was a Scottish accent.)


There's a practice area in a field next to the course. A member with a tube of shag balls was working on his short game.


Ladies' Night was about to begin, but the pro said I could tee off ahead of the crowd. A member of another club had told me that Grantown is really three distinct six-hole golf courses -- and he was right. The first six holes are flat; Nos. 2-5 work around the corners of a big triangular field, at upper right in the aerial shot below. They were more fun to play than you might think.


To get to the second six holes, I went through a gate and across a road, into much more dramatic terrain.


I liked those six holes the best.


The final six holes are quirky, and are squeezed into a sort of open valley bordered by two schools. I surprised myself, after my round, when I realized that I could mentally walk through all 18 holes, something I'm usually terrible at unless I've played a course four or five times.


As I finished, I saw the last of the women's groups heading out -- the grans of Grantown. There were several foursomes, and then the last group was a sixsome:


Two guys were drinking beer on a bench in front of the golf shop when I finished. A carnival had been set up in a field next door, but I didn't stick around for that.