Seeking escape from the pressures that are spoiling the game for both fans and players, Rubenstein, who covers golf for the Toronto Globe and Mail, retreats to a fabled course in the northernmost part of Scotland.
A gifted golf journalist, Rubenstein is also a fairly serious amateur player seeking respite from the complexities of the game, trying to suppress the “swing thoughts” that play havoc with his own golf, seeking a place where he can relax and rediscover golf as pure play, pure joy. He finds that demi-nirvana in a village of a thousand souls at the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska, in the Scottish highlands. Royal Dornoch is probably the best yet least-known of the classic Scottish links courses built at the edge of the sea, whipped by unpredictable northern winds. Dornoch’s most famous son, the great golf-course architect Donald Ross, grew up a middle-iron shot away from the course before he followed most of the town’s young people to North America. During his three months in Dornoch, Rubenstein falls easily into close relationships with the people of the town who, belying the cliché of the “dour Scot,” are warm and open. He drinks a lot of excellent single-malt, plays a lot of golf, and discovers a second home where he can indeed decompress. Although he doesn’t cure his swing problems, he does rediscover much of what drew him to the game in the first place. At the same time, he offers some intelligent ruminations on the tragic 19th-century Highland Clearances—when wealthy landlords drove tenant farmers off their land to replace them with herds of sheep—and some thoughtful reflections on the ecological problems that face land-poor Scotland.
A book of considerable charm that will delight more than just golf fans.