"Golf on the Rocks" by Gary Sutherland is a wonderful, joyous, book in which every chapter leaves the reader smiling. We've all read books before in which authors set themselves challenges and then produce outstanding stories from their accounts of tackling of those challenges. Who can forget Tony Hawks hitch-hiking "Round Ireland With A Fridge": or from a much earlier era Jerome K. Jerome travelling up the River Thames with two other men (and a dog) in a boat?
Gary Sutherland's account of the journeys he undertook to play 18 rounds of golf on 18 Scottish islands, almost always relying on public transport, and of the 17 rounds of golf he actually played (the golf course at Sollas on North Uist turned out to be "a ploughed up field with rusting pieces of farm machinery") is simply sublime. He embarks on his challenge as a tribute to his late dad, a ship's captain and enthusiastic golfer, and for most of the rounds he is accompanied by his dad's putter, which Gary won for a year in a family golf competition.
Much of the book has, inevitably, a strong focus on golf, and it will certainly appeal to anyone with any interest in the game: and especially golf in Scotland. But it is so much more as well. You don't have to be an enthusiast to enjoy Gary's rounds of golf. And because so much of this exceptionally well written book deals with his travels to and from, and on, the islands, and with the people he meets during his trips, it will enchant anyone looking for a gently humorous account of the Scottish islands today.
Gary's summing up of his round at the epic course at Askernish on South Uist illustrates his style very nicely: "I'd lost a lot of balls and my bag was lighter. My mood had lightened also, partly because we were done. I tried to tell myself that we had been fortunate to have such a morning. We'd pretty much had Askernish to ourselves. And it had had me for breakfast." Or at Stromness: "We'd had a stormy introduction to golf on Orkney, but the warmth of the welcome had meant everything. Conditions had been dreadful, the company terrific. They knew how to have fun up here. Golf's just a game when it comes down to it. It should be fun." You get the feeling that Gary's dad would enjoy reading this book, which is a fitting tribute to him: though perhaps not as much as he'd have enjoyed playing these courses with his son.