Catching Up: After a little too much real life, I’m happily back on the links

Catching Up: After a little too much real life, I’m happily back on the links

Looking West -- I snapped this panoramic pic during an especially stunning sunset during my annual reunion at Machrihanish.

Looking West -- I snapped this panoramic pic during an especially stunning sunset during my annual reunion at Machrihanish.

So, it’s been awhile.

My apologies for that. But I've had an action-packed month. And, unfortunately, not all of the festivities took place on a golf course. Real life has an annoying way of invading our little playground, even for a lucky bastard like me who now makes his home in the game's birthplace.

Time to get caught up, via what’s likely to be a wee bit of a rambling post.

Just prior to my last missive, I was preparing for my annual journey to Machrihanish to reunite with about 20 of my dearest friends who hail from both sides of the pond. That week did happen. And, for the 15th consecutive year, it was wonderful.

Playing Through -- The coos yield, begrudgingly, to our progress at Dunaverty, a one-off of a course in Southend -- not far from Machrihanish.

Playing Through -- The coos yield, begrudgingly, to our progress at Dunaverty, a one-off of a course in Southend -- not far from Machrihanish.

It’s just that, simultaneously, my wife—in Abu Dhabi for business—contracted a severe case of food poisoning. Eventually both of us found our way back home. But, after just one night together, she spent the next five in the local hospital. Very scary stuff, to put it mildly. For the most part, that darkness has now lifted—though she has a follow-up with a specialist next week that might lead to additional treatment.

Golfer of the Week -- American Craig Eisentrout, one of my cherished lifelong friends, claims the spoils in the individual competition at Machrihanish. To his left is the prestigious Ryder Spoon, retained once again by the US in its annual battle with the UK.

Golfer of the Week -- American Craig Eisentrout, one of my cherished lifelong friends, claims the spoils in the individual competition at Machrihanish. To his left is the prestigious Ryder Spoon, retained once again by the US in its annual battle with the UK.

In the midst of that crisis, our eldest daughter also spent time—29 days in all—in a hospital in Los Angeles for a series of planned surgeries that proved quite trying. So, with my wife stabilized, I traveled there to offer her my support before continuing on to Dallas to tend to the day job. My daughter will also be OK. But she still faces a few more weeks of recovery before she can get back to something resembling normal life.

Needless to say, golf took a backseat while I was strapped to this emotional roller coaster. Still, an addict can only go so long between fixes. The good news? My two weeks in the “Big D” happened to fall on either side of Memorial Day. The bad news? My clubs were back in Scotland. So when a friend offered to let me borrow his sticks over the long weekend, I happily accepted.

Low Tech -- Here's the bag o' sticks I borrowed while in Dallas. And, yes, that is a 2-iron you're seeing there.

Low Tech -- Here's the bag o' sticks I borrowed while in Dallas. And, yes, that is a 2-iron you're seeing there.

Check out the photo though. That very mixed bag is anchored by a set of Hogan Apex irons that, by my calculations, burst onto the scene when Jimmy Carter was president. Now, I know I used to play golf—and at a respectable level—with a set of similarly crude instruments during my pre-marriage and pre-fatherhood days. But it’s a mystery to me how I ever pulled off that trick. I sure as shootin’ don’t have the game for them now. Bottom line: That holiday round on an utterly forgettable non-links course in suburban Dallas didn’t quite fill the void.

Happily, I returned to the auld sod two weeks ago. And with my wife and daughter on the mend and my client relationships in good stead, I started to get back into the flow.

Last week, I logged one round at my home course, Goswick. And then this week, like a bolt out of the blue, I received an invitation to play a round at Muirfield, home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers whose origins date back to 1744. This is the same Muirfield that’s hosted the Open Championship 16 times, most recently in 2013 when Phil Michelson claimed his first Claret Jug. It’s also the same Muirfield that might fall out of the rota, unless it changes its mind about allowing women to become members. But that’s a debate for a different day.

Gray Day -- Externally, a persistent gloom hung over Muirfield the day we got to play it (in this particular moment on the par4 12th hole). But internally? We were as giddy as schoolboys.

Gray Day -- Externally, a persistent gloom hung over Muirfield the day we got to play it (in this particular moment on the par4 12th hole). But internally? We were as giddy as schoolboys.

In the here and now, the salient point is that when the gates to golf’s promised land open, you are compelled to drop everything and enter. I did just that, quickly rescheduling two conference calls and securing my wife’s blessing.

Reunited, And... -- ...it feels so good! I toured Muirfield, including the devilish par 3 13th hole, with my own custom-fitted clubs.

Reunited, And... -- ...it feels so good! I toured Muirfield, including the devilish par 3 13th hole, with my own custom-fitted clubs.

The terms of this deal preclude me from divulging too many details. But what I can say is that Muirfield is, by far, the best conditioned links course I’ve ever played. And it’s among the most difficult. Its bunkers, all 100-plus of them, are especially punishing. Still, even when your scorecard is taking a hit, how can you not be at peace? You’re walking on sacred ground. With all due respect to Jack Nicklaus and the club of the same name that he created in Ohio, this is the Muirfield, for heaven’s sake!

Iconic Finish -- Our joy ride ended much too quickly, with a walk toward the Muirfield clubhouse at the par 4 18th hole.

Iconic Finish -- Our joy ride ended much too quickly, with a walk toward the Muirfield clubhouse at the par 4 18th hole.

All of which brings me to the present moment. My loved ones are out of the hospital. I’m back in Scotland. And I’m walking the links, both the well known and the lesser so. This happy journey, after an unanticipated hiatus, has resumed.

Fore!

Blues on the Greens: Or how poor play is sapping the life force out of me

Eamonn Kennelly: My man in Ireland, the world’s other true links playground

Eamonn Kennelly: My man in Ireland, the world’s other true links playground