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‘Fairway to heaven’ – Queen’s Chaplain gives golfers spiritual advice

9.16am 3rd November 2016 - Course Development

Rev Susan Brown holding the course guidebook (Paul Campbell/Church of Scotland) Photo: Paul Campbell.
Rev Susan Brown holding the course guidebook (Paul Campbell/Church of Scotland)
Photo: Paul Campbell.

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 Championship Course holes at Royal Dornoch Golf Club in the Highlands 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.

Rev Susan Brown with General Manager Neil Hamptoi (Paul Campbell/Church of Scotland)
Rev Susan Brown with General Manager Neil Hamptoi (Paul Campbell/Church of Scotland)

Royal Dornoch Golf Club general manager Neil Hampton described the “inspiring and uplifting” reflections in the Champion Course guidebook as an “tremendous asset”.

The entry for the first hole, which uses the first words of the Bible, states “In the beginning… draw breath and enjoy the clean score sheet and all the possibilities that lie ahead. Choose now to take one step at a time and enjoy what that step holds.”

The entry for the sixth hole says: “Be warned! A bunker with a magnetic draw awaits you. Choose your club carefully and think of the choices you have made in life. You have to live with the consequences!!”

In regard to the 12th hole, Mrs Brown, a past LPGA Thistle Brooch and Grant Cup club champion, says: “A path crosses the fairway. Reminisce and share with your partner, how the path of your life crossed with a significant other in your life. Think of how wonderful is the gift of love.”

The entry for the 16th hole states: “Onwards and upwards! From sea level at the tee take yourself over to the bench at the left of the green and enjoy the panorama. It puts your golf into perspective and brings to mind Psalm 8 which talks of all God has made and asks the question – what is mankind, that you are mindful of them?”

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.

“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 club house.

“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 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.

Rev Susan Brown – teeing up to drive on the 7th hole (Paul Campbell/Church of Scotland)
Rev Susan Brown – teeing up to drive on the 7th hole (Paul Campbell/Church of Scotland)

Royal Dornoch Golf Club has two courses and the Par 70 Championship Course was ranked number five in the world and number one in Scotland by Golf Digest 2016.

Mrs Brown, who has been a club member for nearly 20 years, said the Holy Round had been favourably received by golfers.

One man wrote to her: “Thank you so much for making my visit to Dornoch so memorable as I was so pleasantly surprised by your comments in the golf course guide which are so apt to the extent that I could relate perfectly, making my round even more pleasurable.”

Royal Dornoch Golf Club, which attracts around 12,000 visitors a year of which 50% are from North America, is one of 37 golf 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.

Mr Hampton said Church of Scotland ministers had a very long association with the club and former Moderator of the General Assembly and minister at Dornoch Cathedral, Very Rev 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,” added the General Manager.

“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.”

Royal Dornoch Golf Club

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