Next to England, my favourite country is Scotland, which is coincidentally next to England. Blessed with the best golf courses in the world (nothing really controversial there), it’s beautiful and, despite the loathsome porridge and drab architecture, is a wonderful place to visit. And so before you could say ?och aye the noo? I accepted an invitation to attend the climax of the UK Finals of the International Pairs competition, which took place this week in ?Carnoustie Country?. Since I?ve always had trouble distinguishing my Fifes from my Anguses, identifying an area by the principal golf course therein strikes me as eminently sensible. Anyway, it?s about 90 minutes by car north of Edinburgh, just above St Andrews Country.
The International Pairs competition is a clever idea. It gives golfers the opportunity to play in their favourite format ? two ball, better ball ? and, by simply winning their club?s nominated Stableford, go through to the Finals, which this year were staged at five outstanding courses; Alyth, Blairgowrie, Downfield, Ladybank and Letham Grange. I?ve not played Alyth or Ladybank, but Blairgowrie is beautiful and Downfield is delightful. As I doubt very much that you will have heard of Letham Grange, allow me to enlighten you. It?s a glorious parkland course fifteen minutes inland from Carnoustie that, at its heart, has the quirkiest, most eccentric and enjoyable hotel in the world. The paint may be peeling in places but, if you want an unforgettable experience, heed my advice and take a break there.
Anyway, back to the International Pairs UK Final. After the first day of competition, the leading 40 teams survived to battle it out over two rounds at Carnoustie. With the inevitable strong wind, conditions on the Championship course were tricky and scoring was comparatively modest. Amidst rumblings that inevitably accompany an exceptional tally, two geezers from Dawlish Common went to bed with 45 points, a five-point lead and probably an easy conscience. Had their handicaps been in the low single figures rather than the mid teens, doubtless the murmurings would have been less audible. We don?t mind exceptionally good golfers scoring well but feel a little uneasy when less accomplished competitors tear it up.
The following day?s final round was played over the marginally less demanding Burnside course, which runs alongside the Championship course at Carnoustie. Despite a slightly less spectacular 39 points, the Dawlish duo ran out overall winners by two points from a couple of young chaps from Howley Hall, one of whom rejoices under the name of T Woods. Both they and four other pairs will join dozens of others from various countries around the world at the 2008 World Final at St Andrews. The only outstanding question is; have I said enough nice things to be invited back next year?