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Divine intervention at Dornoch

 

Highlands club commissions one of the Queen’s Chaplain to give her ‘thoughts’ on each hole

 

Golfers at one of the world’s most prestigious courses are being given spiritual advice by a Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen.

Rev Susan Brown has written thought provoking reflections for each of the 18 holes at Royal Dornoch’s Championship Course to help inspire players and ‘exercise the body, mind and spirit’.

The 57-year-old walked the course at different times of the day to capture the unique feel of the stunning landscape to create the so-called ‘Holy Round’ as part of celebrations to mark 400 years of golf in the area.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club general manager Neil Hampton described the ‘inspiring and uplifting’ reflections in the Champion Course guidebook as a ‘tremendous asset’.

Mrs Brown, minister of 13th century Dornoch Cathedral, said the thoughts, which are part advice on how to best tackle the links course, were designed to help quieten the minds of golfers and give them a sense of perspective on life.

“Royal Dornoch is a stunning course and golf, for many people, is a spiritual experience,” said the Chapel Royal in Scotland member.

“As the local minister, I wondered how the Church could participate positively in the 400 year anniversary celebrations so I came up with the idea of creating a Holy Round.

EXCUSE

“I went out at different times of the day and walked the course to get a sense of the uniqueness of each hole and then from what I saw, created a simple ‘thought’ for all 18 holes – plus another for the obligatory 19th which is the clubhouse.

“The thoughts are not designed to provide people with the perfect excuse to go golfing instead of to worship, but offer an opportunity to help the game be a more complete experience that exercises body, mind and spirit.”

Mrs Brown, who has been a club member for nearly 20 years, said she believed that the Celtic notion of ‘thin’ places, where the gap between heaven and earth seems to narrow, applied to Dornoch, a community that has been shaped by the twin influences of the Church and golf.

The glossy course guide entry for the first hole states: “In the beginning… draw breath and enjoy the clean score sheet and all the possibilities that lie ahead.

EVIDENCE

“Choose now to take one step at a time and enjoy what that step holds.”

Royal Dornoch Golf Club, which attracts around 12,000 visitors a year, of which 50% are from North America, is one of 37 courses in the UK that has a Royal Charter. It was awarded the title in 1906 by King Edward VII.

The earliest concrete evidence of golf being played in the area can be traced back to 1616 but a journal written by St Andrews University student James Melville, dated 1574, recounts that Robert Stewart, Bishop of Caithness whose seat was at Dornoch Cathedral, was a keen golfer.

Hampton said Church of Scotland ministers had a very long association with the club. For example, the fomer Moderator of the General Assembly and minister at Dornoch Cathedral, Dr James Simpson, is a past captain.

“The Holy Round is a tremendous resource for the club and really helps to make people stop and think about golf, the wonderful place that is Dornoch and about life in general,” Hampton.

“People come to play at Royal Dornoch from across Britain, North America and Europe every season, so Susan’s inspiring and uplifting reflections have been distributed far and wide.”

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