Sometimes, golf can be a strength test. For instance, there are times when the arduous journey from tee to green, with all the constant bumping, hitting, and planning it requires, would have made Ernest Shackleton scream, “Screw it, guys, we’re just turning back,” as he looked out at a grisly, clogged bunker situation.
Jack Nicklaus used to say that “golfers are masochists,” so maybe we might conclude that in the adventures of the brave Susie Robertson, the Golden Bear will lift an eyebrow of curiosity.
The intrepid Robertson has finally ticked off all 556 courses listed in the official Golf in Scotland guide after 15 years, God knows how many miles and God knows how many strokes. She is thought to be the first woman to do such a strenuous endeavor.
The achievement of Robertson was an exercise of grudging stoicism, from Whalsay in the Shetland Islands down to St. Medans in the deep southwest and anywhere in between.
The 65-year-old has given herself a mountain to climb, considering where the seeds for her challenging adventure were sown, which is an appropriate turn of phrase.
“In 2005, my husband Brian decided to climb all the Munros, and I said I would climb them with him,” says Robertson. I had done around 14 or 15, but there was pea soup fog on the summit on one particular day, and I was utterly terrified. I couldn’t see my feet. I put my hands on the shoulders of Brian and we used his GPS to help us find our way down. I felt like I was dropping into an abyss. Instead of doing the Munros, I said that I would do all the golf courses. It was more of a joke and I did it.
Robertson should not have been blamed for carrying her backpack on, stocking up on Kendal mint cake slabs and tucking an Ordnance Survey map into her golf bag, considering the broad task ahead. She says of a rich and varied expedition that included everything from the renowned Championship Links courses to the more whimsical oddities hidden in the nooks and crannies of this fertile golf land, “There were obviously some far-flung places,”
“Tiree was difficult for me because I’m not very good on a boat. And Barra was a cliff face overgrown with cattle. There were some very different experiences and conditions. The day I played Ballachulish, the weather was terrible. I went into the clubhouse and a guy behind the bar asked if he could help me. I said ‘I want to play the course’ and he looked out the window and just said ‘really?'”
Golfers have always been a tough bunch, of course. Undaunted, during an odyssey that could have been a rewrite of Homer’s epic poem, Robertson plowed through meteorological hell and high water.
I had a big target in mind and I wasn’t getting any younger, let’s face it,”I had a huge goal in mind and, let’s face it, I wasn’t getting any younger,” “But eventually I reached 300, and that was in Peterhead. By that time I was over halfway and I saw this little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.”
Robertson already had one hell of a half to go, but she had only nine holes left to play by the time 2020 came around. And then the coronavirus entered the scene, throwing a wrench into her plans.
It was all scheduled, often I played seven days a week, and my last round was planned at Kingarrock, the only hickory club in the UK,”It was all planned, at times I was playing seven days a week and had my last round planned at Kingarrock, the only hickory club in the U.K.,” “We had invited all my friends, but then all the courses were closed because of the corona virus and there was a lot of uncertainty. I thought to myself ‘I don’t think I’ll go on’ even though I was so close. My friends had to really cheer me on to get me going again.”
In Renfrewshire, it was Gleddoch that became the last course on the list for Robertson. So, for a rousing final salvo, was it a towering iron into the green and a frantic birdie putt? Not entirely. She said with a wry laugh, “I didn’t play very well and there was no finishing touch, to put it that way,”
“It was a relief to just finish it. I think I overplayed my hand. My golf is nowhere near as good as it used to be. I’m not as competitive as I used to be. And I’m certainly done with challenges in my life.”