Home from Olympics to Uist golf boom
Gary Young – who runs Hebridean Golf Tours from Askernish in South Uist – returned home on Monday after ten weeks of sporting action on the other side of the world.
A TV director with the beIN Sports Channel before moving to his wife’s native Uist, Gary was recalled to action just before the start of the Tokyo Olympics to produce background stories for the Olympic Broadcasting Service which fed them worldwide.
He told the Gazette: “I got the call just before the Games started when people were pulling out because of Covid. It was an amazing experience and just such a shame that there were no crowds there.
“There was a state of emergency throughout, on the basis of 800 cases a day in a city of 13 million. It was hardly a state of emergency by our standards – the numbers were far higher here”
A couple of Gary’s colleagues made the mistake of returning to Scotland between Olympics and Paralympics, only to be infected with Covid. “Thankfully, I stayed”.
There was, he says, “a huge take-up” of material they produced and he has now been hired to repeat the exercise at the Winter Olympics in China – in between the Hebridean golf tours, of course.
Meanwhile, after some time with his family, he might find his e-mail a little fuller after the New York Times “discovered” Askernish and billed it as one of the world’s “top-spots to live and play”.
In an article headed “Golfing Heaven in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides”, writer Mark Ellwood speaks to Gordon Irvine, the golf course architect behind re-opening the Old Tom Morris course in 2008.
“An isolated archipelago may seem an unlikely golf destination”, the New York Times tells its world-wide readers, “but location and history have made it just that”.
Mr Irvine was fishing in South Uist when he saw Askernish as it existed in 2005 – an “unremarkable” nine holes “carved out of the grass runways where planes once landed”. Then he picked up on local knowledge and mention of Tom Morris.
The NYT reports: “Mr Irvine assumed it must be folklore, or a hoax. But as soon as he hiked to the dunes and looked out, he was stunned by what he saw: the well-preserved remnants of a world-class 18-hole course … Mr Irvine resolved at that moment to bring Mr Morris’s masterpiece back to playable perfection”.
Askernish is “particularly precious because many of the other courses Mr Morris designed have been renovated or updated, often destroying his vision in the process. These greens though were abandoned by the 1920s, left almost in suspended animation”.
The article notes that Askernish “is far from the only course in the region. Other impressive playing grounds pepper the 130 mile long chain” with mention of Stornoway and Harris.
Hebridean Golf Tours could scarcely have asked for a more generous advertisement – as Gary’s in-box over the coming months is likely to confirm.
The company’s website tells prospective clients that they can expect to “experience stunning views, amazing hospitality, with fresh local produce a plenty”.
It adds: “We can promise you tours that will never be forgotten and have you wanting to come back again and again.”