The Golfing Rules of Scotland

A New Orleans native, Ron Borne is a medicinal chemist by experience, and an amateur writer by avocation.  He served Ole Miss and the School of Pharmacy as a teacher, researcher and administrator for more than 40 years and is now “retired” and living in his center of the universe. Email him at  rfborne@yahoo.com.

Scotland is my third home – after New Orleans and Oxford. In 1988, I was fortunate to receive a grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a research project trying to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. With the “official” start to the 2013 golfing season about to take place at the Masters Golf Tournament, I am reminded of my many golfing experiences in Scotland.

While living there for a year and on my many trips there since then, I have had the opportunity to play 33 different golf courses. From Hawick in the south to Cruden Bay and Royal Dornoch in the north, from Winterfield at Dunbar in the east to Machrihanish on the Mull of Kyntire in the west, from hilly courses like Torphin Hill in Edinburgh to the mountainous Perth courses like Pitlochry and Killin, and the famous courses such as Murifield, I have had the good fortune to see courses in Scotland that few Americans get to play.

My colleagues in the Pharmacology Department at the University of Edinburgh Medical School and my friends at my favorite local pub, The Earl of Marchmont, introduced me to courses as famous as Gullane and as unpublicized as Kilspindie. I was steered away from the “name” courses such as Glen Eagles, Troon and Turnberry in favor of local favorites that represent the best of Scottish golf –– courses where American tourists are as uncommon as pennies at a gambling casino.

I do brag about playing some courses as famous as St. Andrews, Cruden Bay and Carnoustie with Judge Neal Biggers and of playing The Royal Burgess –– claimed as the world’s oldest golfing society –– but the lesser known courses remain my favorites. The memories of trying to avoid hitting the sheep in the fairways and greens at Lothianburn and Killin, or trying to avoid falling into the North Sea at Winterfield, or climbing 800 feet with a pull cart to the top of the Pentlands at Torphin Hill will remain with me as long as I can swing a club.

Part of the thrill of playing golf in Scotland is the chance to play by local rules that one does not usually encounter when playing in the States. I have collected scorecards listing the local rules from courses I have played. Some of these rules seem quite amusing and add to the beauty of playing golf in Scotland. For example:

• On holes #13, 14 and 15 at the East Links Course at North Berwick, “a ball landing on the shore or over the edge of the cliff is not out of bounds and may be played at the player’s discretion”.

• On the West Links Course at North Berwick, “the beach to the North of the course is a lateral water hazard. The margin of this hazard is either marked by red stakes or is deemed to be where sand, rock or water are continuous.”

• At Lothianburn, “The walls on the left of the 11th fairway and in front of the 12th and 14th tees are NOT out of bounds”.

• At Machrihanish, a beautiful course located next to a NATO air base, immovable obstructions are defined as “shelter huts, bridges over the Machrihanish Burn, the trolley pathways at the 2nd and 17th holes, ladders and wooden flakes in the bunkers, and the landing light posts and wire cages at the 9th and 10th holes”.

• Lift and drop rules are interesting. For example, at Killin or The Glen course at North Berwick, you are allowed to lift and drop, without penalty, if your ball is in a “rabbit scrape” and at Taymouth Castle if your ball is lying on the stonework surrounding Beardy’s Well.
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• At Cruden Bay, “stones in bunkers are movable obstructions” (as at many other courses) while “the service road from the greenkeeper’s shed at the 17th hole leading to the Clubhouse via the 18th hole is an obstruction…..All other roads and paths are integral parts of the course.”

• On the Royal Dornoch Course, “all paths, roads, telegraph poles and their supporting wires and stiles over the boundary fences/walls within the boundaries of the course are declared integral parts of the course. Play ball as it lies.”

• On the Gullane No. 1 Course, Ground Under Repair includes “outcrops of bar rocks” and “horses’ hoofmarks”.

• On the Killin Golf Club course a ball is declared Out of Bounds if it “lies in the River Lochtay”.

• But my favorite is the rule at Lothianburn where, “a ball lying against or in any way interfered with by sheep droppings may be marked, the obstruction cleared and the ball replaced without penalty”. Sheep in the fairway or the rough are not considered immovable objects – you play the ball where it lies until the sheep move.

So, if you have the good fortune to play golf in Scotland – read the rules!

 

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