Golf relaxed Alex Salmond during indyref campaign

Alex Salmond at Gleneagles for the Ryder Cup. Picture: Jane Barlow

Alex Salmond at Gleneagles for the Ryder Cup. Picture: Jane Barlow

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AWAY from the campaign trail, Alex Salmond liked to retreat to the golf course, where his obsession with the game extended to offering advice to an Open Champion.

On visits to the Castle Stuart course near Inverness, Mr Salmond was pleased to record scores of 88 and 82 around the links which had hosted the Scottish Open. On another occasion, playing in a pro-am with the American professional and 2013 Open winner Phil Mickelson, Mr Salmond recalled that the wind was “blowing a hooley”, making play difficult on the front nine. According to Mr Salmond, he and his playing partner “just about survive”, but “Phil and his caddy and friend Bones find the wind a real challenge.”

Later, tongue in cheek, Mr Salmond described partnering Mickelson before the Scottish Open. “Despite my coaching earlier this week, Phil’s not going to win the tournament – but he has become something of an enthusiast for Scottish independence.”

Clubhouse politics also occupied Mr Salmond when the Scottish Open went to Royal Aberdeen. After Mr Salmond made a point of not going to the 2013 Open because it was hosted at an all-male club at Muirfield, the then First Minister recognised that the issue was “a reasonably delicate one” at Royal Aberdeen “since both Royal Aberdeen and Aberdeen Ladies are effectively single sex clubs”.

In his book, he added: “However both have full playing rights over the links, they share facilities and are jointly organising the members’ substantial role in the tournament.”

Mr Salmond also happened to be on the golf course – the third hole at Castle Stuart – when news came through of the first poll putting the Yes side ahead in the referendum.

His drive had just missed the green, and he decided to try a “flop shot” he had seen Mickelson play. As he lined up, his phone rang with news that the poll was 51-49. Mr Salmond assumed that Yes was still behind, but was pleased because it suggested he was within striking distance.

“Couldn’t be better,” he remarked. “However I still manage to foozle the flop shot.”

After his round, he realised it was 51 per cent for Yes and expressed concern that the campaign had peaked too early.

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