I was invited to play in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open Pro Am with Ian Poulter, as part of the launch of Ballantines new online golf club presenting Ian as the new club Captain.
I spent the weekend before the Pro Am at the driving ranges at Hoebridge and Broadwater, two lovely little Surrey clubs and my golf was in pretty good shape. Mind you I was going to be playing on a tough course with one of the top 25 golfers in the world!
It was a short flight from London Heathrow to Aberdeen with British Airways and for the first time in ages and many trips I placed my bag in the hold expecting no problems. Massive error, British Airways instantly lost my bag. I was the last man waiting at the carousel whilst 3 bags forlornly circled around unclaimed, their owners clearly winging their way to Hong Kong alone with my bag!
Despite spending ages tracking my belongings till two am that morning amidst promises it would follow mere hours later, it did not turn up until the last day. British Airways was appalling, no explanation, no apology, no service. That should be their next campaign. “British Airways, we simply could not care less”.
Luckily I was staying somewhere that does value service, the Meldrum House Hotel and Golf which is only a few miles from Aberdeen and is breathtakingly beautiful. The valley behind the hotel is a manicured golf Shangri La, I have never seen a more beautiful British landscape anywhere. A more complete review can be found in the travel section of this site.
We rose early as the Scottish Pro Am started at 6.30 AM for some and drove over to the Royal Aberdeen Golf Course to buy some clothes as I was definitely not up to par fashion wise. Ten minutes later I was decked out in a Royal Aberdeen black golf shirt, Oscar Jacobson trousers and a de rigeur white golf glove with magnetic ball marker, looking every bit the colour blind golf pro with erratic fashion sense. Though the latest golf fashion for the Americans is skinny legged black trousers and black shirt, ninja assassin golf style.
The Royal Aberdeen Golf Club is quite the most arresting and challenging links course I have ever played. It instantly becomes a much loved fairway as it has so much character, combining the overgrown ball trapping rough with superbly smooth but narrow fairways that undulate along this coastal scene. Golf courses have their own personality and this has more than most and is definitely one of the greatest links courses in the world.
I was assigned my excellent and trusty Passepartout or caddy Chris who had just graduated the night before and was about to embark on a round the world tour and I must pass a fond thank you to his mother who was my greatest supporter throughout the morning. We then ambled over to meet Ian and start the Pro Am basking in the lovely sunshine and a good northerly wind that blew straight down the course.
We posed for a few media shots and Ian teed off with a lovely 250 yard drive that really set the pace. I was up next and must confess that after a bad start my golf did not improve, the loss of clothes and late night crushing all hope I had of setting a course record. Rory McIlroy did set the new course record the next day at 7 under par! My two colleagues played a cracking game and gave Ian a decent run for his money. Despite my poor performance or perhaps because of it I had plenty of time to chat with Ian about his love of golf, football, family, clothes and most of all fast cars. Ian’s expertise in the realm of sports cars, in particular Ferraris is detailed and passionate. I took part in the Mille Miglia a few years back and Ian is very keen to do the same in the right car. He owns many Ferraris and is currently restoring a recently purchased classic.
His ultimate car would be the Ferrari Enzo. He also owns a Bentley. Whilst the Continental GT Speed Convertible is still my favourite modern car, I found it impossible to pick amongst the classics for a top car as the field is so broad. Ian readily confesses that he works to buy more cars which is his over riding obsession. He admits to being a little OCD and sympathised with the loss of my bag and clothes, as he feels that if his bag was lost he would simply not be able to play golf without his own carefully chosen wardrobe. He dresses exclusively in his own fashion label which he started in 2008 and displays true British eccentric style and panache!
Ian Poulter is a celebrated golfer, he is also a rather old style gentleman, a characteristic he attributes to his father, whose first lesson to him as a youngster on the golf course was to force Ian to apologise to a group of players for driving his ball over their tee before they were finished. He is also clearly a very canny businessman who knows his brands and has successfully negotiated many great sponsorships. Lastly he is a great showman, entertaining the crowds with good humour and repartee. When a kindly Scottish lady commented on a shot that was a little off, “The hole’s that way Ian”, he responded with a broad smile, “Be my guest, you try it”, offering her the club, joking and laughing with sincere bonhomie. On the last tee a particularly hard shot required Ian to do the splits over a bunker whilst his caddy and the crowd chortled at his efforts to reach it without falling in. He made the shot with style and amused the crowds. This chap clearly feels no stress which is perhaps why he is so successful as golf is primarily a psychological game. Not to mention his millions of followers on twitter, only Tiger and McIlroy surpassing him in numbers if not in engagement. Amazingly Ian did not play a links course until he was 23 and yet he started playing at the age of 5, like most professional golfers, you have to start early.
We completed the 18 holes and ended up at the 19th for a few drinks and after game comments and then attended the lounge for the prize giving by George o’Grady the European Golf Tour chief executive followed by a spirited lunch with Ian and friends.
Ian Poulter was carefully chosen by Ballantines to captain this new online golf club and they could not have chosen better. Ian will post content on how to play, advice and interesting stories. A great golf club captain should be many things, highly skilled golfer, businessman, entertainer and gentleman. The Ballantines Golf Club is going to be a great success and International eXcellence Magazine will certainly be following the regular tips and tutorials. http://www.ballantinesgolfclub.com/en/