Scotland has been synonymous with golf for so many years that you might imagine it would be difficult to make new discoveries about the sport.
After all, who hasn’t heard of St Andrews or Paul Lawrie, Gleneagles or Sam Torrance, while there can’t be many communities anywhere from Shetland to Selkirk which don’t have access to fairways to heaven for those with clubs and colleagues for company.
Yet, I’ve been fortunate enough to watch a preview episode of a new six-part TV series which has delved beneath the familiar and unearthed a plethora of truly life-affirming stories about how golf in its many guises has helped bring so many people together, regardless of whatever obstacles life might have put in their path.
The first programme on BBC Alba tonight features amputee Kenny Morrison, a member of Scottish Disability Golf and Curling, who has represented his country on the international stage with a mixture of dexterity, determination and, well, drive.
He is captain of the Isle of Harris Golf Club, which hosted the Disabled Open competition earlier this year, where 15 participants from the mainland joined him at one of Scotland’s most rugged and remote locales.
Midas Productions filmed the event and the redoubtable Morrison revealed how his right leg was amputated below the knee when he was just seven years old.
But he hasn’t let this hold him back and is clearly in love with the sport he has graced for decades. As indeed are the members of Blind Golf Scotland, an organisation which arranges coaching, playing and events for individuals with a range of visual issues.
Its members are graded from B1, comprising those who are totally blind, to a B4 category, for those with only slight impairments, and BGS relies on sighted guides to help participants from all ages and backgrounds enjoy the game across the country.
And when one listens to the likes of Lynsey Cormack-Roux, the secretary and development officer for BGS, Cameron McDiarmid, a B3 golfer who works full-time at Dalmahoy (and also coaches blind golfers), Sam Sloan, the captain and chairman of BGS, and Charlie Forbes who has played for Scotland internationally, it soon becomes obvious that these are trailblazing individuals.
The series features stunning views
The series is a veritable feast for those who relish life on the links and are passionate about green issues. It follows European Tour player Laura Murray through her training regime, catches up with the 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie, takes an aerial journey across the Highlands and the north east, providing truly spectacular vistas of many of Scotland’s most picturesque courses, and highlights many different historical stories which might otherwise have remained hidden in the archives.
For instance, Prestwick GC secretary Ken Goodwin reveals the background to the very first Open Championship, which was played at the Ayrshire club in October 1860.
At that stage, Prestwick was a 12-hole course and the tournament was contested across three rounds. But it was such a successful setting that it hosted the Open every year for the first dozen times before it started a rotation across other courses.
Old Tom Morris, a legend in golf whether as a player, mentor or masterful course designer, was working as greenkeeper at Prestwick at the time and the series brings characters such as him and his son, Young Tom, who followed in his dad’s illustrious footsteps, back to life and explains their significance in sporting history.
Patricia Macleod, who works with Aberdeen-based Midas Productions, has been involved in creating these programmes throughout the Covid restrictions and she told me about the challenges of bringing this ambitious project to fruition.
She said: “A lot of TV production became much more difficult during the pandemic but we were excited to work with BBC Alba to develop a golf series, because this was one of the activities which was allowed under certain tiers of lockdown.
“The production team was one ‘covid bubble’: myself as producer and my husband Scott Brown who is the cameraman and drone pilot, which made things a lot easier.
“I play golf myself and I’m conscious that those who don’t play often have unrealistic views of the sport. They may think it’s expensive or elitist, and most of the golf they see on television is at the highest level, so some people are left with an attitude to the game that just isn’t realistic. I wanted to break that myth.
“We have so much to be proud of in Scotland when it comes to golf, and you don’t have to be a great player to get enjoyment from the game. You can play nine holes in an hour and a half and the physical and mental benefits are fantastic.
“We wanted to produce a series that reflects golf as it is today in all its different forms. We filmed junior golfers as young as eight, women in their 70s and 80s, one-armed golfers, blind golfers and amputees as well as professionals.
“I hope that when people see the range of folk who enjoy playing, they will hopefully be motivated to give it a go themselves, and with more than 550 courses in Scotland, there is no shortage of choice!”
She’s right. And this series shines a glittering beacon on the game we gave the world.
The first episode is on BBC Alba tonight at 8.30pm.