The strength and popularity of Scottish golf lies, perhaps surprisingly, in the country's ordinary, mediocre courses. Restricting oneself to only the elite courses is similar to traveling to France only to see the Eiffel Tower. You owe it to yourself to test your game farther from the tourist traps, on the courses the locals play, week in and week out.
Perthshire is a smashing place to play, and if you have a partner who is not quite the golfer, there is plenty for him or her to do. It is best to buy a Green Card ticket, giving you access to five l8-hole rounds of golf on any of l8 courses for 82 pounds. Because it is nowhere near a seaside, there will be no risk of being blown away.
There are few courses in the scheme similar to that of Craigie Hill. There are no par fives, and the 5,400-yard track contains no hole over 400 yards. However, contrary to belief, it is not easy. The course is not flat, and you may think you need a relief map rather than a stroke saver. This course is one of the toughest in the region.
Crieff Ferntower is a pleasantly relaxing course and rated in the top 30 golfing facilities in the United Kingdom by readers of Golf World magazine. The bunkers are escapable, and forgiveness is indeed built into the entire course. At the 13th hole, the highest point, there are fantastic views over the Strathearn valley.
The Scottish PGA events and the junior championships are held at Murrayshall. At 6,400-plus yards, it isn't a monster and its rough is minimal. Numerous water hazards and large, white sand bunkers characterize the course.
Blairgowrie consists of two courses, the Rosemount and the Lansdowne, with fairways only 30-yards wide flanked by trees on both sides. The shorter holes can be attacked but require respect and precision. If you run out of golf balls, you can spend the rest of the day counting the deer in the woods. This course has something for all skill levels and is a great place for lunch.
Some Tips: Do try using the golf discount pass and avoid Fridays, which may be crowded. The weather is fair and the courses are best from April to October. Reservations are especially needed on weekends. Also, one must act like a Scot and carry a flask to truly golf. If your feet are warm, you will play better.
Maureen Jones is president of Los Altos-based All Horizons Travel. For more information, call 941-5810.