Back in March 2020 we had our annual Race to Scotland (“RTS”) trip planned, with six deserving participants having earned their place on this “exclusive” golfing experience in Scotland, only available through participation and success in the International Junior Golf Tour (“IJGT”) events. Less than a week before they were due to leave we had Covid lock-down and the trip was “postponed”.
But we honored the commitment made, not just to those that earned their places by doing well in 2019, for the 2020 trip, but also those that earned their places by doing well in 2020, for a 2021 trip that was also delayed by Covid, and then those that earned their places by doing well in 2021, for the 2022 trip. We combined the three trips with back to back weeks, taking sixteen IJGT participants in total.
The concept behind RTS is to reward regular IJGT participants with points based on their “Net of Handicap” scores, with 500 points for the winner in each IJGT category in each tournament, down to 50 points for tenth place. Therefore, instead of only a few participants likely to win the “Gross” competition, everyone in the IJGT field has something to play for, and the more events one plays in, the greater the opportunity for this “trip of a lifetime”, which is how the participants found it to be. The opportunity of the trip was to:
- Stay in a comfortable home in Gullane, East Lothian, 30 minutes from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, with Pool Table, Table Tennis and Media Games room. The house is located on Gullane #1 and looks out over a total of four golf courses.
- Also in Gullane, on the other side of the village, is the Open venue Muirfield, with the Scottish Open venue Renaissance and prestigious Archerfield Links courses, eight championship golf courses in the village with only a few thousand residents;
- The RTS participants got five to six games of golf on these links courses, including Renaissance, the two Archerfield golf courses and two of the three Gullane courses;
- Then a visit to St Andrew’s, 90 minutes away, walking the closing holes of the Old Course, visiting the R&A Museum, walking the famous pier and enjoying the town. Also visits to Edinburgh, the capital, as well as some local castles and tourist sites.
A balanced trip, with plenty of links golf experiences, but also cultural and social activities.
The highlight of the first week was the general excitement of the group, as the home, golf courses and location exceeded expectations. They also discovered the beach, voted the top beach in Scotland, and enjoyed the spectacular views that this afforded. Hanna and Bess, sisters, had friends from Hong Kong based in Edinburgh and we had them join us for golf and dinners. Jimmy, our big hitter, learnt that distance can be a problem in windy conditions on links courses and needed to load up with golf balls. Despite the golfing abilities within the group, particularly in the Japanese participants Yuo, Sena and Taishi, no-one broke par on any rounds, learning that golf here is so very different to the game in the US, with the third dimension of strategy so important in keeping the approach shots on the hard, firm, greens and not bouncing through. We celebrated Hanna’s birthday in a private dining room in Greywalls, overlooking Muirfield, with the boys wearing Scottish kilts!
The highlight of the second week was again the positive energy of the group, bonding well, and enjoying the challenge of links golf. Filip and Thomas took on “superstar” brothers on the main Gullane course previously used for the Scottish Open, and narrowly lost, with the brothers a better ball ten under against their nine under. Filip had the only under par round of the entire three weeks, perhaps familiar with links from a few tours with the Czech national junior team. The loved their visits to Edinburgh and St Andrews, with Maria B. and Ana Maria finding fun and good food wherever they went. They also had the fun of watching the European Cup Final, huddled together in the only comfortable place to share a laptop screen!
The highlight of the third group was again the enjoyment of a “holiday of a lifetime”, with Hibiki and Ana Maria managing level par rounds on the second Gullane golf course. St Andrew’s was a memorable trip, coincidentally finding a recent graduate Andres Asin from Spain playing the Old Course, and we followed his last couple of holes, including the famous 17th “road hole” where his young playing partner chipped in from twenty yards short of the green! The last day of the group was a spectacular day, with not a cloud to be seen, and we walked up the small hill to get 360 degree views stretching many, many miles, including a view of the Bass Rock, a small volcanic island in the sea, home to 150,000 birds, one of the natural wonders of the world. Our three Korean participants, Eugene, Taehyun and Joel were also surprised to bump into their housemate on the Gullane practice range and we arranged a dinner in Edinburgh the next evening with Lucas and his parents!