South Uist is a small island off Scotland’s North Atlantic Coast, part of a chain of Scottish islands called the Outer Hebrides.
In South Uist resides one of golf’s earliest masterpieces, Askernish, a course originally designed by Old Tom Morris–a four-time British Open winner and the Tiger Woods of the 19th century. For about 75 years, Askernish was abandoned and left in disrepair. Very few people played the course, and it was all but forgotten. That is, until recently.
A major restoration project brought the forgotten Askernish back to its former glory. But Augusta National it is not. This is golf in the raw, as it was played way, way back in the day: brutal winds, minimum upkeep, and get this–sheep and cattle grazing on the course.
I heard about Askernish just the other day, while listening to Peter Kessler interview the course’s chairman on XM Radio. It’s truly fascinating how this little course came back to life, basically resurrected from the dead. Just a few weeks ago, August 22, the course reopened after decades of anonymity. The winning score in the Askernish Open on its opening day–a 77.
When you consider that many of the golfers playing in the tournament were low single digit and scratch handicaps, and also that the course is barely over 6,000 yards, the winning score should tell you a little about the elements, the terrain, and the difficulty of Askernish.
Getting there takes work. The island itself is remote, making it very hard to travel to. But if I ever get to take that Scottish golf trip I so desire, Askernish will hopefully be on my list of courses to play. This course is a must-play for the history alone.
Everyone knows about Muirfield and Carnoustie–two of Old Tom’s more notable course designs. But this little gem is hidden away hours north of St. Andrews, Turnberry, and many of golf’s great sanctuarys.
But, seriously, how can you not love the idea of playing on 120-year-old golf course, situated right along the South Uist coastline, with 30 mph winds (if not more) beating down on you during every shot, dodging goat and cattle, putting the ball from 50 yards away?
This is old-school golf, the way it all started. No dirt has been moved to create the course–it’s all designed around the island’s natural terrain. According to Askernish’s website, environmental experts have hailed Askernish as “the most natural links course in the world.”
And the funny thing is, hardly no one knows about it. I get the feeling, after this major restoration project and a bit of a publicity push, more tourists will be making the trip to Askernish. Count me in among those tourists whenever we get over to Scotland, the homeland, one day.
Check out more about Askernish at the course’s website. And be sure to watch the video on the homepage. If you have any appreciation for golf history, you’ll love reading about this course.