Mashies and Mash Tuns

Andrew Brown’s second book blending the subjects of golf and whisky is a must read as it is all about the running game and the most enjoyable courses, as well as being a mine of information about the Irish whiskey industry as well as that of England and Wales which has seen many new distilleries built since the millennium.

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It is noteworthy that the author has discovered the FineGolf website which has informed him and he says on p72: “FineGolf basically defines proper golf as the ability to play what is described as ‘the running game’. So whether it is true links or sandy soil or classic heathland, the key factor is that the ball runs as opposed to plugs in the ground.” He continues:”FineGolf is certainly an education and has opened my mind to a much broader understanding of what delivers a great golf course. I also like the website’s author’s maxim that a round of golf should deliver that ‘joy to be alive’ feeling.”

Andrew chooses to visit and talk about four courses from England: Silloth, Ganton, Royal Worlington and Royal North Devon (Westward Ho!), four from Ireland: The Island, Castlerock, Dingle and Narin & Portnoo and one from Wales: Pennard. All of these selections are members of FineGolf’s 200 finest running-golf courses in GB&I.

He likes the less manicured courses with a natural look that is in tune with their environments and indeed throughout the book his attitude to golf and whisky is instinctively similar to FineGolf’s.

It is a delight to find another author who is starting to realise the importance of the grass type that the game is played on is fundamental as to how they play and therefore the enjoyment given.

If only some of the golf television journalists would do some conservation greenkeeping research, they would also discover plenty of new stories that would captivate their audience and help golf get through to the sunny uplands.

Andrew would gain if he used the FineGolf grasses ID page to enlighten him quite simply as to which grasses are present at the courses he visits. This knowledge would give him further confidence as he describes courses, like Ceann Sibeal at Dingle for example. Though as he says it may not have a strong ‘wow!’ factor, nevertheless he thinks the course generates enormous pleasure from its natural subtlety which of course is much enhanced from having firm fescue turf. How much stronger would be his message if he was able to identify the five most prevalent golf grass types found on greens. Fine ones: Fescue, Browntop Bent. Weed ones: Meadow grass (Poa annua), Rye and Yorkshire fog.

Painting of Pennard’s 6th green by Andrew’s daughter Lara.

He recognises that Pennard is a great course, one which is, he says “both intellectually stimulating and emotionally rewarding”. This is a man who can really engage the golfing reader. It is a pity that, though it is mentioned, he has not caught up with Perranporth yet as this James Braid quirky Cornish links with 90% fescue/browntop bent firm running surfaces fits exactly his preferences.

He links a whisky (or whiskey distiller) to each of his nine courses geographically and describes its history and product.

He is well researched and while travelling to write his two books has become a learned expert on the history of the whisky market and with the recent explosion of gin making often carried out alongside, he covers this too.

Narin & Portnoo

He sees gin’s image as different. Gin is something of a young brash upstart to whisky’s serious mature personality. You drink gin but you sip whisky. Gin satisfies a thirst; whisky satisfies the mood and soul. He sees whisky as more than a humble drink just as golf is more than just another sport.

His first book was the work of an able amateur. His personal ideas and reminiscences are now connected to a story that one gets the feeling he now fully understands.

Fascinating information is provided about new whisky ventures as well as the traditional, recalling that for example Bushmills claims a 1608 licence and a 1784 brand registration but apparently it was not until 1823, with the English reducing the tax on Irish whiskey that the incentive to manufacture local illegal poteen was undermined. With this change, the famous names like Jameson, Middleton, Cooley and Bushmills really came through.

Apparently in 1860 more Irish whiskey was sold in Scotland than Scotch whisky. Indeed, Irish Pot Still Whiskey and Cognac, rather than Scotch, were considered the sophisticated drinks in society circles in late Victorian times. This easy to read book tells you why and how things have changed.

Inside RND’s museum clubhouse.

There is the odd surprise, such as the omission of any mention of the reeds at Royal North Devon though he does mention the Club’s issues with the policies of Natural England.

I finish with two quotes that I hope Andrew takes with him on his new travels outside GB&I for his next book:
“I have learned that good golf courses are not just ‘links’ courses but that they are courses which offer the strategic challenge of ‘the running game’ and that this is usually to do with the type of grasses and the consequent quality of the turf as well as a ‘naturalist’ approach to hole design.”

“Golf faces major challenges and I can’t help thinking that the answer lies in returning to many of its origins; more, faster, two-ball golf, more matchplay, less obsession with longer courses, more natural course designs, more use of fine grasses, more nine-hole courses and competitions. In one word, more ‘fun’.”

Amen to those words and his book, an excellent Christmas present, is available on Amazon or FineGolf readers can get a copy directly from the author at whiskyandgolf@gmail.com for a special discounted price of £17.50 including postage and packing within the UK’