Did you ever have a dream that was so good that you tried to go back to sleep to try and relive it? You know that feeling when you wake up and say to yourself ‘what a great dream…can I get some more of that’. And then you try in vain to get back to sleep only to toss and turn and realize it’s gone…maybe forever.
Well, I have had that happen to me only it wasn’t a dream while I was sleeping.. it was a daydream. Yes, a daydream. It’s something I do often, maybe too often I think sometimes.
But this was a daydream I have been chasing for over a year. It hit me one morning as I was taking one of my regular walks. Us old folks have time to take leisurely walks and I had formed a habit of walking each morning, well attempting to anyway.
It was late in March 2020 as the pandemic had started on its daily onslaught and we here in New York’s Hudson Valley were beginning our “lockdown.”
I was out for my walk on the Dutchess Rail Trail, a wonderful converted railroad track that sees plenty of walkers, bikers and dog walkers. My walk serves many purposes as it clears my mind, gets my blood moving and gives me time to daydream.
On this particular day it was sunny, bright and a bit cool and as I walked my mind wandered. As I approached a slight rise in the trail a cool breeze caught me off guard. As I looked up to the sky a lone cloud stood there plastered against a deep blue sky and the breeze slapped me in the face.
But as my eyes fell from the sky downward towards the trail I was no longer on the blacktopped trail I know so well. I saw a dirt path laden with scattered pebbles beneath my feet and as I looked round I knew this was no longer my normal route.
It was a familiar scene, I know I had been there before but it took a few moments to orient myself and then it came to me. Crail.
Crail is a small village a little south east of St. Andrews and the Crail Golfing Society is home to two great golf courses, The Balcomie, a historic course and the Craighead, a worthy partner. This was the walking path that bordered the Crail Balcomie course and I had been there before. As I stood there on that new-found path I remembered a moment in 2016 when I played there and my approach to the green carried a bit too long (links golf is so different) and two walkers happened to be passing within a few yards of my ball.
Scottish golf is so different from here in the states. Most courses are open to non-golfers especially those links courses that sit by the sea. And Crail is so very much by the sea. I remember thinking that the waves crashing on the rocky shore there reminded me of Pebble Beach.
Anyway, the walkers and I shared a laugh back then, at my expense and now I was standing on that exact spot. I gazed out over the blue water to an endless horizon and felt the cool sea breeze.
As I continued my trek round the corner of that dirt path the vista opened up to reveal the North Sea gently rolling along. It was a bit of heaven and I soaked it in.
I restarted my hike but to my surprise the dirt path had morphed into a sandy beach and gone were my shoes. My bare feet snuggled into the sand of a beach that was so familiar. Off to Dornoch Beach my daydream had taken me and the memory of my moments there were oh so real.
While spending some time golfing in Dornoch I headed up to the beach while my brother rested his weary legs. But there was no club in my hand for this trip to Dornoch, just my camera as I snapped a few pics as I strode out into the cool water of the Dornoch Firth. It was glorious then and it was once again in my daydream.
As I put one foot in front of the other I was transported from the Highlands down to the Home of Golf as so many call St. Andrews. But there would be no Old Course, no Jubilee, no New Course either. It was the West Sands beach were I landed, the beach that hugs the links that holds those dear St. Andrews Links.
St. Andrews is a busy place both on the courses and in the town but there were no visitors on the beach then. No, the beach was full of the thousands of gulls that call St. Andrews home. So many gulls that there seemed to be more bird than sand. But it was no less wonderful now then it had been back in the summer of 2018.
Links golf holds a special place in my heart and those links that are fortunate enough to border the sea are even more special. My brother and I make a concerted effort to visit those links no matter how grand or not so grand they may be.
My fairy tale daydream continued as I was whisked off the West Sands back to the Highlands on a little spit of land jutting into the Moray Firth. Fortrose and Rosemarkie is a wonderful links course that shares a small peninsula with a lighthouse and plenty of dolphin watchers. It’s a fabulous spot and I was there again, no golfing though just taking in the views of the firth, the dolphins and Fort George across the water.
My holiday daydream continued and soon I was up the road a bit walking alongside the fairway at Nairn Golf Club, a classic course that has a gorgeous first hole snuggled up against the beach. Many a ball had been struck from that beach during a low tide. It’s a fantastic spot and when we played there it was as bright and sunny a day that one could imagine. It was once again in my dream.
My head was spinning as I landed on another beach, a beach that hugged one of the biggest, baddest links courses in Scotland: Cruden Bay. Cruden Bay’s Championship course is links golf on steroids. With high dunes and deep valleys and burns and wind and weather to the max. It’s a great course and so is the beach. And I wandered along there basking in the sun and the wind as I tasted the sea. It gets no better for me.
Soon I was off again. Beam me up Scotty is apropos here as I was transported across Scotland to its west coast and the Kintyre Penisula. The Mull of Kintyre is famous for whiskey, Paul McCartney’s song and golf. And I stood atop a dune on the least famous of the links there, Dunaverty.
Dunaverty is a neat, little course that sits on the tip of the peninsula and takes you up and down and over and around dunes and burns an all that links golf could offer. The views there are as fine as anywhere in Scotland. The sun shone down on the beach and the rocks and warmed me in the sea breeze. It’s a feeling you don’t forget.
But my non-golfing golf daydream wasn’t over yet. Right up the road sits another gem of a course and beach…actually two of them. Machrihanish Golf Club claims to have the best opening hole in golf and I would vouch for that. But what I love about Machrihanish besides the great golf is the fact that you can stand on the course and watch the burn roll into the sea. It’s mesmerizing and I will never tire of that scene nor the course.
I didn’t need to travel too far for my next daydream adventure as Machrihanish Dunes sits right next to Machrihanish Old. The Dunes is a miracle of a course having been built without any powered equipment and its name is so very fitting. The dunes at Machrihanish Dunes are magnificent. They frame the course and offer spectacular views of the sea and the beach. And a spectacular beach it is.
In the bright sun the sand and the surf are brilliant and in pictures some could easily mistake this scene for Hawaii…no kidding. I revel in the time here, both the golf and the beach.
My daydream ended there at the beach at Machrihanish Dunes. A bittersweet moment. It had been a wild ride traipsing throughout Scotland while still physically on my old walking trail.
This is one of those dreams you hope to relive so you can bask in those special moments. All those times in Scotland I enjoyed so much, I think about them often and plan to add to them. But each time I head out to the trail for my walk I am searching for that daydream.
Searching for Scotland and all those memories.