SCOTLAND is renowned for its quality golf courses, none of which cost an arm and a leg to play.
The North-east has more than its fair share of such, including the MacDonald in Ellon, Oldmeldrum and Newburgh, all providing different experiences on courses of varying difficulty in the East Gordon area of Aberdeenshire.
Many visitors are attracted to the three courses, some of them our American cousins who in the main are very fussy about where the play the ancient game, but generally keen to make their mark on our links courses.
In particular the venues for our Open are like magnets for them, though once you drag them away from Carnoustie, St Andrews, Muirfield, Turnberry and Troon to our ‘lesser’ courses they are pleasantly surprised by the quality available to them, and of course the price.
But while all the aforementioned clubs are great experiences, the same cannot be said of the marketing of them.
For genuinely good selling the Americans are kings, as I discovered on a recent trip to the USA where I played a gem of an inland course in Wilmington, North Carolina at a cost that truly astonished me.
Beau Rivage was in fact a golfing experience to cherish, and played in temperatures just made for enjoyment.
75 degrees in late November is just what the doctor ordered, especially if you have just flown in from the chills of the United Kingdom.
From the moment our foursome pulled into the spacious car park to confront the awesome frontage of the tastefully appointed clubhouse, I just new it was going to be a golfing memory to be stored away for the winter back home.
The next thought was what on earth is this going to cost.
I need not have worried, as after climbing up the wide attractive steps to the pro shop we were greeted by the friendly assistant golf pro Matt Heller who made us feel at home, as indeed would have been the case had Greg Pitts the head professional been on duty.
The beautifully laid out course looked in prime condition, leading me to believe it was a mature course which had been in existence for most of last century.
I was wrong as informed by Jake Walker one of the family who own and run Beau Rivage. The course has in fact been plucked from wasteland relatively near to the centre of the beautiful old Wilmington.
But more of Jake later, as he is a key figure in this short story of a golf outing to remember.
My older son Keith who lives in the suburbs of the town was one of the party and as is the way on holiday I paid for his round, fearing the worst as I presented my credit card for what I thought we be another battering.
In reality it was amazingly cheap, two rounds of golf, the hire of a near new set of clubs for myself, a dozen golf balls and a glove for a memento of the visit and of course the obligatory electric buggy, all for $110, or if you like around 70 pounds in sterling.
Already lifted by the good start to the day we drove to the first tee where we were politely greeted by Thurston Davis the club’s cart attendant who neatly lined us up for the ordeal ahead, or so I thought.
In truth I did struggle on the beautifully tree lined course which is also liberally laced with water hazards where a number of my newly acquired balls ended up.
But while the water was a problem for me, it was the pace of the manicured greens which beat us all, and three putting became the order of the day until late in the round when we started to come to terms with the Augusta like greens.
In fact I hit the ball quite well, considering I have put behind me the thought of turning professional.
Like every course Beau Rivage has its signature hole and for me it had to be the fifth hole, a par three, but 200 yards of carry across a lovely, but fearful stretch of water.
I will play the course again if only to attempt to conquer this magnificent hole, which as you can imagine claimed a ball or two from the Balfour Beatty plus one quartet who were just great company.
I could detail the day in very high numbers, but that’s just too long a story, suffice to say we had a wonderful experience and all under the startling blue skies of Carolina before repairing to the clubhouse for a well earned refreshment.
We were well received by part - time bartender Rachel Nagle a charming, articulate student of communication studies.
The time flew in her pleasant company, and while I’ll be back to beat the course, an hour or so in the presence of Rachel would also be nice.
Such was the quality of the foursome that I was never allowed to put my hand in my pocket, confirming all the stories about us Scots and our mean habits when abroad.
No occasion could be complete without a senior moment, mine coming when I left my reading glasses in the pocket of my hired back, resulting in me having to ask Jake to open up the pro shop, which he did with grace and charm, giving me the chance of a chat, leading to this epistle.
Thank you Jake. You and your mother Ellen have done golf and your country proud.
I promise to return to Beau Rivage, and recommend it to you all from this side of the pond.