Baked, brown, burnt ... and beautiful?
The summer in the British Isles has been one for the ages, filled with sunshine and no rain. No, this isn't a Visit Scotland or Discover Ireland marketing campaign. Nor is it urban legend. Much of Ireland hasn't seen but a few drops of rain in more than six weeks. Some have compared it to the unforgettably dry summer of 1976. Newspapers like the Irish Mirror are throwing the word "drought" around, and there is water rationing happening in Dublin.
I've been going overseas for 15 years, chasing down magical links on nearly 20 different trips to Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland, and only once have I been blessed with the kind of shorts-only, sun-block-wearing forecast that has become the norm in 2018.
The pictures I've seen on social media are simply astounding. Ballybunion like the Nairobi Desert.
Fairways at the Old course at St. Andrews looking brown and crispy, like the hillside near my California home before it was torched by a wildfire.
A baked-out Gullane in East Lothian almost relented the European Tour's first 59 during Sunday's final round at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open. Tiger Woods has already told media at The Open that his 180-yard 7-iron went 215 yards during a practice round at Carnoustie. Brandt Snedeker tweeted out his 427-yard drive.
All this had me wondering: Is this the summer of miserable links golf? Are the days too sunny? Are the links too overcooked to be enjoyed? When I reached out by e-mail to several tour operators currently overseas, they scoffed at my questions. R Samuel Baker II, the founder and chairman of Haversham & Baker Golfing Expeditions, said in 30 years of playing in Ireland, he's "never seen it so dry". Even so, he said no one is grumbling.
"I checked our post-trip evaluations and didn’t see a single complaint about the condition of the courses. What I did see was numerous positive comments about how good the weather has been. If you look at our company Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts, what you see is lots of photos of folks in shorts smiling broadly," Baker wrote in an e-mail.
John McLaughlin, the CEO of the North and West Coast Links Golf Ireland, echoed the sentiment. He said all the Irish links courses are "having a very busy year" because "the better the weather, the more rounds."
"We have not had one complaint, and why would we?" he asked. "The links are supposed to play like this during the summer and anyone who knows their golf knows this. This is perfect links weather. The links courses are playing fast and there is run on the ball - like it's supposed to be. All courses have good irrigation for the greens complexes but the art is landing it short in some cases and letting the bounce take the ball to the hole."
For the record, there is rain in the Friday forecast for this week's Open.
The truth is links courses in the United Kingdom face none of the backlash about browned-out fairways that haunt courses in America. Remember the Twitter shade thrown by Donald Trump at Pinehurst No. 2's brown fairways during the 2014 U.S. Open? A brownout caused by water rationing cost Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz, Calif., business during the California drought in 2014. The semiprivate club built a $9-million wastewater treatment plant in 2017 to ensure it never happens again.
Now we'd like to hear your thoughts: Have you ever had such dry and bouncy conditions on your links trips? If you went overseas today, would you be disappointed with sunshine and browned-out fairways that roll for days? Let us know in the comments below.
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