American Ex-Pat Experiences the ‘Honesty Box’ and other Scottish Golf Quirks
It was a reasonable request. If only the weather hadn’t been so unreasonable.
Please allow me to explain.
After six weeks camped out in the Scottish Borders, one would have thought that—certainly by now—I’d have ventured onto the Jedburgh Golf Club, just five miles south on the A68 from our self-catering cottage. But when the cottage’s owners asked if I’d familiarized myself with their pride and joy, I had to admit—rather sheepishly—that I hadn’t found the time.
Too much day job, I pleaded (there’s no escaping clients, not even with a buffer zone of 5,000 miles and eight time zones). Too many chores (foraging for food at the local Sainsbury’s, recycling my limited array of clothes through the wash and figuring out how to beam U.S. college football games onto our Scottish TV—not necessarily in that order). And, whenever the opportunity presented itself, too deep a need to return to the linksland (even if it meant driving past landlocked tracks like Jedburgh to get there).
Time flies when you’re on a mission.
But then the couple in question very graciously invited my wife, daughter and I to join them for dinner at their home. Suddenly, I had a deadline. After all, I wasn’t about to show up on their doorstep with only a bottle of cabernet in my possession.
So about six hours before the aforementioned engagement, I traded my laptop for a golf bag (the primary tools of my two trades) and braved the elements that—even to this American’s semi-trained eye—appeared decidedly dodgy. After the brief journey through Jedburgh’s town center and then up a steep hill past its historic jail, I was heartened to find a handful of vehicles in the club’s car park. If the locals were out frolicking about, then no reason why I shouldn’t be, too. Right?
The ‘Honesty!?’ Box
Actual sightings of humans, however, were another matter. The clubhouse was closed for the winter, save for a side door that led to the gents and a rather complicated version of the time-honored Scottish “honesty box,” a means of paying your green fee when no one is around to collect in person.
A sign above the slot offered step-by-step instructions:
Fill in the date, your name and your home club in the ledger book below
Grab a paper bag tag and remove the perforated end piece that contains a number
Check a chart on the wall to determine the fare due (just £10 on this late fall weekday), then write that onto the piece of paper with the number
Write the number next to your name in the ledger
Place the appropriate legal tender, along with the numbered tab, into an envelope
Write your name and number on the outside of the envelope
Drop the envelope into the slot
Attach the balance of the paper tag to your golf bag
Take two Tylenol to beat back the headache generated by all this stress
Proceed to the first tee
75 Year Old Plays 137 International Courses in 5 Years
Well, the story begins six years ago when my wife and I were on a three-week tour of Ireland – castles, gardens, birding, ancient places, hiking – getting to our destinations while driving on the left side of the road with a stick shift in my left hand! We stayed at a different B and B every night. We toured during the day and then I played golf in the evening every second or third day. Along the way, my wife of fifty-three years, Jill, said, “Why don’t you just come over by yourself and play as much golf as you want?” There is a golf God!
Since then, here is how my schedule has looked:
2010 – Eastern and Northeastern Scotland – 13 days, 23 courses
2011 – Wales and Southwest England – 13 days, 23 courses
2012 – Northwest England and Scotland – 15 days, 28 courses
2013 – Northwest England and Scotland – 16 days, 29 courses
2014 – Northwest England and Scotland – 18 days, 34 courses
Favorite courses (SO many great ones played):
x Open qualifier courses
Royal Dornoch (x)
Gullane 1and 2 (x)
West Links – North Berwick (x)
Royal Troon (*)
Old Prestwick (*)
Western Gailes (x)
Lundin Links (x)
Old and New Moray
Glen Golf Course
St. Andrews Old (*)
For these past five years, I have traveled with your Sun Mountain bag to all of the courses (137) on my journeys.
At 75 years old, I continue to walk and carry my bag and play to a 12 handicap. Last week, I bought a new Sun Mountain bag and sold the old one to a friend (it was still in great shape!)
Thanks for hearing of my adventures!
All the best,