The inaugural Arran Iron Man or Woman Golf Challenge 2017 tee’d off from Whiting Bay Golf Club at 04:00 on Saturday the 19th August 2017. Six teams entered with competitors coming from as far south as Guildford, Kent, Dulwich, Edinburgh and London to play a distance of over 13 miles (based on scorecard yardage), a competitor with a pedometer clocked it at 20 miles across all 7 courses the assumption being there were a few stray drives... and fairway shots... and putts.
On the evening of Friday the 18th of August we braved the Whiting Bay Golf Club pub quiz and the curry that accompanied. Shamefully coming second last there was no prize there for that position though we held firm the belief that respect would be given for the team name entered of 'Stephen Hawkins School of Dance', again we were wrong.
For future events that have an early start there is merit in the advice that if you do decide to pursue a curry on the evening before hand that a korma may well deliver a better nights sleep than a bhuna. At 03:30, the bhuna still fresh, the rain was bouncing off the roof of the cottage in Sandbreas and the assumption was that the day and event was literally a wash out. We dragged ourself into the Range Rover and drove along Whiting Bay village following the signs up to Whiting Bay Golf Club at the corner of The Coffee Pot. The rain had subsided by this point though expectations were low in terms of turnout, this was not the case. At 04:00 as planned, on entering the car park at Whiting Bay we were greeted by veteran golfer and all round good guy Wolfie who was directing traffic in with his torch to a car park that was filling up with competitors, and the sky was a carpet of stars!
On entering the clubhouse we were further greeted by Jenni who had been working in the bar at the clubhouse only hours before hand and had decided to sleep there rather than go home so she could open up early. Croissants, Pain au Chocolat, rolls with ham, cheese, jam, teas and coffees were waiting for the players courtesy of Whiting Bay Golf Club, what a great start to the day. Team sheets were handed out with course maps and schedules with a chance to meet all the teams and size up the opposition with James Taylor fielding any queries from players. There may well have been a carpet of stars illuminating the early morning sky but it was still too dark at 04:30 for the tee off... until Adam Cheesman and Greg Valente displayed ingenuity and planning by producing luminous orange golf balls. The game was afoot! This signalled the other teams to action with team 2's Donald Blackwood and associates appearing with head torches though it was light enough by now to start.
David Aitken, Willie Burns and Alastair Howseman the three individual entrants formed a three ball and were first to tee off to the applause and well wishes of there opposition, all clearing the brow of the 1st at Whiting Bay. The last team away was James Taylor, Stuart Cronin, Graham Cunningham and Steve who's tee off time was delayed by confusion of an abandoned car in the car park with lights on and engine running. Wet underfoot, the sunrise at Whiting Bay was spectacular and lasted long enough on the transit to Lamlash the next course on the schedule. Again, the weather was on side and with the two clubs with the most arduous terrain now dispatched and 36 holes played by 10:10 the remainder of the day looked promising. Teams took the decision to cut across the string road to Shiskine Golf Club where the pro Dougie Bell gave us a warmer reception than the cloud on the horizon. The first rain on course was felt coming off the third green and by the time tee off was finished on the forth driving rain had moved in. In this weather Shiskine is a course full of contradictions, high on exposed vantage points to tee off you face the full brunt of rain and yet when you get clear and walk in the sheltered hollows of it's fairways it's much milder.
The flatter 9 hole courses at Machrie and Lochranza with it's castle in the bay clearly suffered from the heavy down pours earlier and were very wet though the greens at Machrie were in incredible condition not conceding to the wet. Claire at the Corrie Tea Room supplied us with much needed substance remarking on our sanity to play all seven on the day, with a warm brew consumed we tee'd off the 126 yards driving the green at the first with renewed enthusiasm. Turning the corner to play the second into a stunning view of the mountains that cradled this charming course at Corrie. The rain had started again by the 6th and yet the scorecards revealed the golf was actually improving?!
The last course to be completed was the 18 holes at Brodick Golf Club. Although the light was fading and some had suggested Shiskine would have been better to finish on for the sunset, Brodick was deemed the correct choice as the course was completely clear and flat. Having completed 75 holes of golf prior, two of the courses being the mammoth Lamlash and Whiting Bay (not to mention some climbing at Corrie) a flat surface of play was welcomed.
On completion of the day, some went home, some went out, some went to the pub, others were welcomed to open arms of their families. All could regale stories of their experience of the day and none could deny that despite the doubters commenting on social media they had achieved a truly remarkable goal to play all 7 courses, 93 holes on Arran in under 16 hours.
The Douglas Hotel hosted the prize ceremony the following morning where over cappuccinos and applause Willie Burns was awarded first prize winning a stay at The Douglas Hotel. Sheila at Visit Arran supplied prizes for runners up Alistair Howseman, Greg Valente, Donald Blackwood and Colin Sommerville. The Iron Men who entered this unique challenging event that has raised thousands for charities MS Society, Beatson Cancer and Dementia Scotland proving they may well be Men of Iron but they have hearts of gold.
The Arran Golf Pass Group, Whiting Bay, Brodick, Lamlash, Shiskine, Lochranza, Corrie and Machrie golf clubs along with The Douglas Hotel and Visit Arran would like to extend their thanks, respect and congratulations to the players who ultimately made this event what it was.
We look forward to seeing you all next year... let's have holiday first.