Lorne Rubenstein is a well know golf author who writes a regular column for the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper out of Toronto. He has also written and co-authored a number of books about the golf swing, working with such notables as Nick Price, George Knudson, and David Leadbetter.
Rubenstein wrote this book A Season in Dornoch — Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands after spending a summer in Dornoch, Scotland. He had visited the famous golf course in Dornoch a few years earlier, and attracted by the remoteness and mystique of the place, decided it was worth a longer stay. Ultimately it became a book.
If you’ve ever played Royal Dornoch, or just been to the town, you’ll understand the attraction. It is a beautiful little historic village in the Scottish Highlands, just north of Inverness on the Atlantic side of Scotland.
Sheltered by the neighbouring hills, and influenced by the Gulf Stream that skirts the northern part of Scotland, Dornoch enjoys a climate that is moderate by North American standards, and relatively dry compared to the rest of Scotland. This means that golf can be played year round at a latitude just slightly north of Moscow.
A Season in Dornoch is filled with intimate recollections of people and places; the sort of stuff you could never learn just by visiting for a day or two. An interesting undercurrent is the way Rubenstein puts the infamous “clearances” of the 1840s at the centre of the Highland world view.
“The Mannie” — a statue of the 1st Duke of Sutherland standing high atop Ben Bhraggie near Golspie, looking out toward the sea, and overlooking the entire area of which Dornoch is just a small part. This was the same person who evicted the peasant farmers throughout the entire Sutherland region and replaced them with sheep. According to historians, this had a lasting impact on the local population, and created bitter resentment that remains to this day. Many of these displaced farmers ended up in North America.
And then there is the golf course. Royal Dornoch is considered one of the world’s great courses, and perhaps as “pure” an example of a seaside links course as you will find anywhere. Because of its remote location it has never hosted the British Open, even though it is on a par with virtually any course in the UK. Rubenstein brings the course to life with his own experiences — solitary late evening rounds by the sea, playing in a gale, his attempts to tweak his swing. There is also the day Ernie Els comes to town, and the Scottish Amateur which takes place over a beautiful summer weekend. The golf story culminates in Rubenstein’s own performance in the club championship — an experience to which many of us can relate.
All in all, this is a very interesting book, and one I would highly recommend.