Robert Frost shined a light down the road less traveled by and created a compass for the souls of adventure. When we divert from the routine paths life has laid before us, it enables us to discover people, places, and ideas that were patiently waiting for us to find them. We often stumble upon a piece of ourselves that we didn’t even know we were looking for.
The Scottish Isles provide a pallet of scenery that must be experienced firsthand to fully grasp the magnitude of their beauty. Brisk winds flow down from the lush, mountainous terrain to the ferries as they cross the Atlantic. The chill in the morning air ignites the eager souls ready to explore castles, pubs, and of course Scottish golf.
The 12-hole course cut on rolling Scottish terrain gives “off the beaten path” new meaning.
The Isle of Arran, often referred to as Scotland Miniature due to its landscape, provides a taste of everything Scottish culture has to offer. But one must use a little “Frostian” wisdom to find their way from the ferry boat landing on Arran to Shiskine Golf Club. The 12-hole course cut on rolling Scottish terrain gives “off the beaten path” new meaning. Shiskine was born from farm pastures in 1896, originally a 9-hole layout, and was designed by the 1883 Open Champion Willie Fernie. World War I ceased the construction of the back nine, leaving the locals with the unusual yet stunning 12-hole routing along the coast. Before the drive up the hill to the historic links, a roadside putting green in town welcomes its guests. Golfers can gaze out into the ocean while warming up the flat stick before their round. A passing tractor with a beaming pilot signals your warm Scottish welcome to the Isle of Arran.
Jack Nicklaus notably voiced the concept of 12-hole golf in 2007, however very few of these course routings exist in the world. The famed Prestwick Golf Club was originally a 12-hole course when it was founded but was long ago extended to a traditional 18-hole layout. Railside Golf Club, located in Gibson City, Illinois, is the only 12-hole course found in the United States. The scarce presence of this design across the world creates rare air for Shiskine. The idea of a condensed course appeals to the beginner golfer or even the seasoned player who simply does not have the time to spend on a full round.
Erik’s round at Shiskine was naturally guided by an Arran local, a jovial Scottishman named Willy. Willy was once a cattle and sheep farmer who has spent his entire life on the Isle of Arran. Plainly stated, Willy invoked golf as the catalyst for forgetting your troubles, something we can all fondly relate to. Growing up on Arran, “there’s not much else to do but play golf”. In places such as Arran, golf is sewn into the fiber of the people. The game is as much a part of them as the accent that flows from their wind- weathered lips.
The course was built for the Arran community of locals, who are naturally carefree but take their golf and their heritage of the game very seriously.
As the round commences, it’s quickly apparent that many of the shots at Shiskine are blind. The accompanied anticipation lingers from strike to strike as the mystery of your balls resting place is unknown for a special instant. The mind is gently pulled away from the game for a brief stint to focus on the Arran beauty surrounding the links. The ocean on one side, rocky cliffs on the other, and a 12-hole walk with friends fitting itself comfortably in the middle. Shiskine was not fashioned with the intent of being a championship golf course. As Erik states, it occupies two worlds, “one of serious 18-hole course and one of a pitch and putt”. The course was built for the Arran community of locals, who are naturally carefree but take their golf and their heritage of the game very seriously. At points along the 12 holes, it is easy to imagine yourself at a resort club. But there are no valets, no 5-star restaurants, and no fancy clubhouse at Shiskine. There is golf as it was meant to be played: with bags on their shoulders, smiles on their faces, and kindness in their hearts.
The third of a five part series highlighting Erik’s travels in Scotland.
Ryan is a writer currently living in Atlanta, GA by way of Augusta. His writing evokes his passion of golfing throughout the south with friends, family, and total strangers. The people who have crossed his path inspire each piece, aimed at peering into the beauty of the game and its untold tales. He prefers his coffee black, on a first tee, in the Georgia pines. It is rare to find him without his Ray-Bans and a witty quip to lighten the mood. His approach to writing, life, and the game made him a perfect match for the Lang team.