Castle Stuart Director of Golf Jeremy Matte is spending much of January in his native US promoting the course and the wider Highlands to potential visitors and taking the best ideas from other clubs back to Scotland.
In this blog, Jeremy enjoys healthy eating and gets involved in a Dogfight
REMINDERS OF SCOTLAND ALL AROUND IN FLORIDA
It’s been about two years since I’ve been to the southern states of eastern America, so it’s been interesting to see how things have changed in that time. For one thing, there is more emphasis on health conscience options in restaurants, cafes and grocery stores. Numerous restaurants are now advertising that their menus consist of only ‘farm-to-table’ offerings, meaning everything is sourced locally. Cafes have added ‘juicing’ options to their normal coffee and deli offerings and grocery stores have more organic options than ever before. Imagine that in the USA, where eating habits and portion sizes are perceived to be far from healthy.
This trend has transferred to many golf clubs I’ve visited. Old Collier had ten different salad options on the lunch menu alone. When making the turn from the 9th green to 10th tee, trail mix and protein shakes were on offer, although a Snickers bar was also an option.
Golf is also changing. While driving in the Fort Lauderdale area, I noticed a massive screened-in driving range. Also in Orlando and in Jacksonville. So, when I arrived in Charlotte and my old high school buddy, Daniel Martelle, challenged me to a game of golf I was keen to break out the sticks. Only problem, the temperature for the two days was barely above freezing.
This is not a problem at TopGolf – three storeys of hitting bays, all of which are heated. TopGolf has found a niche in the golfing market. We all hear that participation is down, often due to the amount of time it takes to play. TopGolf helps, as you can book a hitting bay for as little as an hour. And you can have one to yourself, or share with friends, all at essentially the same fee. Each ball has an electronic tracker, and when you hit one of numerous targets, you accumulate points. With multiple game modes, and full-service catering to your bay, you and a few friends could stay for hours!
I’m sure that this may worry some golf club owners or managers, nervous that TopGolf may compete for their members. But I’d argue that many of the guests are novice golfers, and the more novice golfers we can get excited about golf and getting the ball airborne the better. Future members, and future golfers, coming to the Highlands of Scotland!
Ok, while the climate isn’t nearly the same in Fort Myers Florida as back home in Scotland, it’s amazing how Fiddlesticks Country Club has adapted a Scottish charm. I was very kindly hosted by Daniel Lockhart, the resident teaching professional, who was named by Golf Digest as one of the best young teachers in America last year. Dan and a few of his members participated in the 2017 Highland Golf Links Pro-Am, a wonderful event sponsored by Blue Group. http://www.highlandgolflinks.com/highland-golf-links-pro-am/
Dan, who I’ve known since 2004 and our Carnegie Abbey days in Rhode Island, introduced me to a great group of accommodating members that participate in the best golf game in the greater Fort Myers area – ‘The Dogfight’. Forty bucks per man gets you in, with individual prizes for best score and skins to be won. The rules of the dogfight generally follow the rules of golf, except for a few silly ones. On the 2nd green, to save par, I found myself looking at a 10-footer which broke about 3ft on these devilish greens. While reviewing the putt, I was told by my playing partner – and dogfight regular – “you can pat down as many spike marks as you like Jeremy. We mostly play by the rules, but also make up a few of our own!” Sounds kinda Scottish to me!
Speaking of Scottish, the two golf courses on the property are called the ‘Wee Friendly’ and ‘Long Mean.’ And, like most courses in Scotland, you need to know your way around the course to really be able to take advantage of the sloping greens and put together a score. This may be part of the reason the members were keen to have me join them, as my $40 donation would have been happily accepted.
The club’s logo is a piper, and large paintings of picturesque parts of Scotland can be found throughout the clubhouse. My personal favourite was on the way into the gents’ bathroom, a lovely painting of Eilean Donan Castle.
If you are ever to cross paths with a Fiddlesticks member, and get an invitation, don’t hesitate. It’s like home away from home. The only thing they are missing is Belhaven on tap.