• Buhai Column: Holed up in Scotland

    Ashley Buhai
    Ashley Buhai

    Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, I still managed to get my fortnight of links golf in, writes ASHLEY BUHAI.

    The two weeks I spend in Scotland are always among my highlights on the calendar. But, I must add that I couldn’t play links golf all year round. It’s really exhausting mentally and physically challenging.

    This year, though, we weren’t permitted to explore Scotland and our surrounds – another ramification of Covid-19 and the restrictions that have been put in place.

    In fact, I still haven’t got fully used to the new way of travelling internationally. Airports are usually a hive of activity but now they are eerie and it’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to. The one upside is that there aren’t long queues at the security checkpoints.

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    I love the history around links golf in Scotland and also enjoy the quaint villages that we get to stay in and experience. This time was different, though, as in order for us to play a fortnight in the UK we were required to spend it in the ‘bubble’. Players and caddies had to stay in the same hotel.

    As you would have read in Brandon Stone’s column in the last issue about the men’s protocol, the ladies’ is similar. For those two weeks we were scanned in and out of the hotel each day and travelling was restricted to and from the golf course. And that’s where you were holed up when not at the course. Some players cut costs by sharing rooms with their caddies.

    In the first week we played the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club, the venue where we have teed up for the past two years. The course is a more ‘modern links’ set-up, which, I have to admit, I’m not really fond of as I’m a traditionalist at heart. It lies between the village of Gullane and North Berwick and is five minutes from Muirfield.

    I played steady golf and finished 39th for the week. With each tournament I feel more things are starting to click and I’m getting to where I want to be with my game.

    The second week we played the AIG Women’s British Open at Royal Troon. I have been fortunate enough to play some of the best links courses in the world and Troon is probably my favourite.

    We had perfect weather for the practice rounds, but once Thursday arrived and the tournament started the weather turned foul. They were some of the worst playing conditions I’ve experienced. The course is a par 71 but the Thursday was a constant three-club wind with 50km/h gusts.

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    On Friday morning we teed off and played the first seven holes in heavy rain and 40km/h winds. I was happy to be in the clubhouse on five over, which was comfortably inside the cut made at nine over.

    Mother Nature was a little kinder on the weekend and I managed to shoot 72 and 68 to finish tie-11th. I was happy with my performance but admittedly a little disappointed to miss out on a top 10, because the top 10 are automatically exempt next year at Carnoustie.

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