Following in the footsteps of Old Tom Morris: Bonnie Wee Golf suggests five reasons why every golf enthusiast should experience the Askernish Open.
If it’s an authentic golfing experience you seek, look no further than The Askernish Open in South Uist. Askernish is a remote crofting community in the Outer Hebrides and is home to one of the most distinctive golf courses in the world. Founded in 1891 and designed by Old Tom Morris, the course sadly fell into decline in the 1920s and 9 of the 18 holes were lost.
In 2005, the history of Askernish Golf Club entered a new chapter. A group of local visionaries undertook a project to rediscover the lost course and restore Askernish to an 18-hole layout. With assistance from golf course designers Mackenzie & Ebert, the vision became a reality three years later.
Bonnie Wee Golf attended the 2015 Askernish Open to experience it first hand. Here are our five reasons why every golf enthusiast should experience the Askernish Open (at least once).
The great golf course
Askernish is a fantastic course. The rough is tough and the wind can blow, both of these provide an uncompromising defense of the course. The first 6 holes are quietly rugged, challenging and ease you nicely into the golf course, but it is from the 7th onward that this course reveals its true, mesmeric nature. Hole 7 through 12 can stake a strong claim to be one of the finest stretches of golf holes in Scotland. From the 7th the land becomes distinctly more links-like and the vast wild Atlantic, golden beaches and glistening turquoise shores spectacularly come into view. Additionally, Old Tom’s Pulpit (16th) is one of the most talked about holes in the clubhouse and requires an exhilarating approach shot to a green tucked behind a mound. Overall this is a course that more than warrants the journey to the exceptionally distinctive and charming Isle of South Uist.
It’s a three day golf trip
All golfers love a golf trip, right? This annual Askernish event is like no other with three rounds of golf served up to all participants over three days. This alone is reason enough to make the trip. Friday is stableford day, strokeplay is on Saturday followed by a scramble on the Sunday.
Getting to and visiting South Uist
Getting to South Uist requires planning, but don’t worry – it’s well worth it. Most visitors will board the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Oban on the West Coast of mainland Scotland. This crossing from Oban to Loichboisdale will take 5 hours and offers wonderful views of the Scottish Islands of Muck, Eigg, and Rum. The Thursday afternoon boat is bustling with golfers eagerly anticipating the days ahead. It is also possible to fly from Glasgow to Barra, where the plane lands on the beach!
South Uist itself is as beautiful as it is remote. This remoteness adds to the appeal and the growing cult status of the golf course. The beauty of the landscape of South Uist is breathtaking and this small Hebridean Island, home to fewer than 2,000 people, is surely one of the most peaceful and tranquil places you will ever visit.
The legendary 1-club challenge
You wont be disappointed to learn that the one-club challenge is exactly as it sounds. Following the Saturday strokeplay the commencement of the one-club challenge is announced. It tends to begin when its nearly dark and finishes when it IS dark – all part of the fun! Each participant, of which there are about 30-40, makes their way to the first tee armed with only a golf ball and a golf club of their choice (and a refreshment!). Each tee shot is greeted with jeers, cheers and laughter from fellow golfers – it’s a terrific atmosphere. The concept is simple: if you find your ball (easier said than done) you play it again! The player who completes the hole in the fewest number of shots is crowned champion. If there is a tie, play moves on to the second hole! Don’t be surprised if the challenge is completed on the second green under the lights of 30 camera phones!
The half-way house
Operated from the back of a Land Rover, the half-way house provides what is probably the best selection of drinks and food at any open competition. This welcome pit-stop allows golfers to refuel and sustain their golf through the back nine. The half way house offers a legendary range of locally sourced, generously portioned gourmet snacks, drinks, encouragement, and moral support. The Askernish half-way house is most definitely a highlight of the event.