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November 09 , 2010

Blasted Heaths and Blessed Green

A Golfer's Pilgrimage to the Courses of Scotland


Every golfer alive knows that he or she has two ancestral homes: one's own, and Scotland. On her rolling shores the game of golf had its origins, and to walk the links of St. Andrews is to feel at one with the shepherd who decided one day to see how far he could whack a stone with his crook. Most serious golfers will make the pilgrimage to Scotland, to try to hit the Postage Stamp green at Troon, to trace the footsteps of Ben Hogan at Carnoustie, and to brave the challenge of the Road Hole at St. Andrews; all golfers dream of taking such a trip.
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For the tourist or the dreamer, there can be no better guide than James W. Finegan. A passionate advocate of the game that's played on the links between land and sea, Finegan combines a writer's eye, a historian's knowledge, and a golfer's sense of wonder and apprehension to provide an impossibly ambitious grand tour of golf's native land.

In a loop of a thousand miles that begins in Edinburgh and ends across the Firth of Forth in St. Andrews, Finegan covers some sixty courses, visiting the true shrines of the game, the courses that are well known and respected, and the little-known gems you might otherwise pass right by. He shares the history of the courses, both of their creation and of the most famous matches played there; he also writes marvelously about the scenic and strategic charms to be found as you play them yourself. And he provides all the information you need to make your arrangements to do just that – because, unlike most championship courses in the United States, the great courses of Scotland are available to the public.

In addition to his delightful descriptions of the golf to be found there, Finegan gives us his recommendations for places to stay, ranging from the most modest bed-and-breakfast to the most magnificent castle hotel. He describes the pleasures to be found off the beaten track: the spectacular views from a country road, or the ancient cathedral that's worth a stop on the way to the first tee. And because all the travel within the country is done by car, he spells out the actual routes from town to town and course to course.

Blasted Heaths and Blessed Greens is a book to be read, to be savored, and to be tucked away in your suitcase when you finally undertake the journey of your dreams.
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