Martin Dempster: Now I know why Dunaverty was The Doyen's golfing heaven

It was an early start on this particular Saturday morning, the reason being that a drive that would take more than four hours was on the cards to get from Dalgety Bay to Dunaverty.

Why? Well, I’d been invited by Dunaverty Golf Club to take part in the inaugural event in memory of Jock MacVicar, the long-time golf correspondent of the Scottish Daily Express and a dear friend of many people.

There are some days when lengthy journeys are not a hindrance and this was one of them, partly due to the sun being out but also because of this particular route.

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Over the years, I’ve heard lots of people ask ‘how do you actually get to Dunaverty?’ and it’s actually a fair question as it is located in the village of Southend at the end of the Kintyre Peninsula.

As was the case when the Scottish Open was held at Loch Lomond, the first part of my journey from Fife involved heading for Stirling and then across to Balloch, where I picked up fellow golf writer Nick Rodger.

It then seemed strange to find ourselves heading north on the west side of Loch Lomond when our destination was in the south of Scotland, but that’s the way to Dunaverty by car.

And what a fantastic journey it is as you turn left towards Arrochar then, after passing through the Rest and Be Thankful, wind your way down via Inveraray, Lochgilphead and Tarbert.

It’s only after you get through Tarbert that you leave the east side of the peninsula and head west, the magnificent sight of Jura and Islay awaiting you when you see water again and the next part of the journey is probably worth making the trip in itself.

Martin Dempster, left, at Dunaverty Golf Club with his wife Carol and fellow golf writer Nick Rodger.Martin Dempster, left, at Dunaverty Golf Club with his wife Carol and fellow golf writer Nick Rodger.
Martin Dempster, left, at Dunaverty Golf Club with his wife Carol and fellow golf writer Nick Rodger.

Southend sits beyond Campbeltown and is where MacVicar hailed from and returned on a regular basis from Glasgow before passing away just over a year ago.

Saturday would have been his 85th birthday and hats off to Dunaverty Golf Club for organising an event in his memory for ‘The Doyen Shield’, a magnificent wooden shield.

It was a pairs event, with Nick and myself finding ourselves playing with the other local legend, Belle Robertson, and club captain Donald Brown and, accompanied by my better half, it was one of the most enjoyable days of my life.

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Robertson, a seven-time Scottish Women’s champion, is a spritely 86 and spending around four hours in her company alone was something to cherish.

“Jock, are you looking down on us,” she said, peering up to the sky after a disaster on one green, with MacVicar having been widely known as a dreadful putter.

It was easy to see, though, why even poor putting didn’t spoil his games at Dunaverty because, for me anyway, it is now top of the list when it comes to ‘hidden’ gems in Scottish golf.

With the Mull of Kintyre, Dunaverty Rock, Sanda Island and also the north tip of Northern Ireland as a backdrop, it’s a stunning place to play golf. Yes, some of the holes are quirky, but, at the same time, I’ve come across quirkier.

Everything about Dunaverty Golf Club, including the homely clubhouse, is exactly how Jock always described it and, fittingly, his legacy is there. His local club has done him proud.

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