Jeremy Ellwood finds out all about the free-to-join Ballantine's Golf Club on a never-to-be-forgotten trip to Castle Stuart for the AAM Scottish Open

I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the AAM Scottish Open this year as a guest of Ballantine’s, enjoying the chance to play in the pro-am alongside 2014 Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley.

Playing in the AAM Scottish Open pro-am with Paul McGinley and the Me & My Golf boys

Playing in the AAM Scottish Open pro-am with Paul McGinley and the Me & My Golf boys

At a reception on the Tuesday night I got to find out that not only had McGinley been a successful captain for Europe at Gleneagles, but he was also enjoying a successful spell as captain of The Ballantine’s Golf Club for 2015/16, taking over the reins from Ian Poulter, the inaugural captain when the club was launched at 2014’s AAM Scottish Open.

The Club, it transpires, is free to join for golfers throughout many countries across the globe and offers members excellent opportunities and benefits, which fall broadly under the categories of Win, Watch and Play. In addition, there is much fascinating insight on The Club’s website from captain McGinley via his regular diary piece, which covers topical issues and reflections from his long and illustrious career in the game. Most recently, Paul shared his thoughts on the Dustin Johnson US Open Rules incident and the spate of Olympics withdrawals.

But what about Win, Watch and Play…?

WIN

The Ballantine’s Golf Club regularly offers prizes to members (whether golf equipment or beautifully framed course prints, for example), as well as opportunities to play at some of the most recognisable and desirable courses in the world, with the world-renowned links at Castle Stuart, Gullane and Royal Dornoch among the roll-call to date.

WATCH

The Ballantine’s Golf Club website hosts bespoke content which includes…

Moment of Truth’ films, which cover the defining moments in the careers of both Club captains to date – Messrs Poulter and McGinley.

Off Course Portraits’ stylised films, which offer a fascinating insight into ‘everything golf’ from artists such as the highly regarded Graeme Baxter, to course designers, club makers, fashion experts, golf course photographers and Ballantine’s master blender, Sandy Hyslop.

Shotmakers’ instructional golf videos that allow members to tap in to the strategic mind of captain McGinley to help improve their own games and course management, with a recent series of videos shot at the wonderful Archerfield Links in East Lothian.

PLAY

Members can enter the prestigious Ballantine’s International Cup for free, a global amateur tournament with national finals in countries as diverse as the UK, Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Canada, Brazil and Poland. The national winners are then flown to Scotland during the week of the AAM Scottish Open to compete in The Ballantine’s Golf Club International Cup Global Final – this year staged at Royal Dornoch’s world-famous championship links – with the top three also then enjoying the thrill of playing in the AAM Scottish Open Pro-Am at Castle Stuart alongside a top European Tour professional.

You's be smiling like Taiwan's Lin Pei-Shou if you'd just won the International Ballantine's Cup!

You’d be smiling like Taiwan’s Lin Pei-Shou if you’d just won the The Ballantine’s Golf Club International Cup Global Final!

During the reception just before this year’s AAM Scottish Open, the winners from Royal Dornoch were announced, with a particularly delighted-looking Lin Pei-Shou from Taiwan emerging victorious. Guests at the reception were also treated to further insight not only from captain McGinley, but also special guests YE Yang and Patrick Reed who joined him on stage to talk about their careers and the world of professional golf.

YE Yang and Patrick Reed join Paul McGinley and Di Dougherty on stage

YE Yang and Patrick Reed join Paul McGinley and Di Dougherty on stage

As you might expect on such a trip, whisky tastings also ensued, and I was privileged to get the one-on-one, undivided attention of Ballantine’s International Brand Ambassador, Ken Lindsay, as I worked through the 17-year-old, 21-year-old and 30-year-old blends, noting what flavours and tastes sprang readily to mind as the heavenly liquid passed my lips.

Ken then reappeared that evening to host a traditional Scottish Dinner (in which all guests – myself included – donned the kilt and full Scottish regalia!) and deliver the finest and most impassioned rendition of Rabbie Burns’ Address to a Haggis I’ve ever heard.

Paul McGinley gets down to some serious tasting with Ballantine's Brand Ambassador, Ken Lindsay

Paul McGinley gets down to some serious tasting with Ballantine’s Brand Ambassador, Ken Lindsay

If all that sounds like a lot of fun, then it was! If you fancy a chance to potentially join in the fun next year, why not sign up to The Ballantine’s Golf Club for free?

The Ballantine’s Golf Club is the world’s first online golf club of its kind – a destination for golf fans worldwide to share in their passion of the game. The Club offers unique online content and exclusive opportunities for members to play the game they love. To join, visit Ballantinesgolf club.com