The Legend of Golf
Each year, my wife Floriana and I spend the last week in September in one of the world's most magical places. If you love golfing and hiking, you must take a trip to the Keltic Lodge and the Highlands Links Golf Course in Cape Breton Nova Scotia. This would be our 16th year of golfing and hiking around the island. But this was the year that would change our lives completely. Let me tell you the story and legend of "The Lucky Putt Marker and how it saved the Game of Golf". As I said, the Highlands are truly magical and the story is true, as far as I know.
Every year we hike to the top of Franey Mountain for a picnic lunch and an overview of the Highlands Links Golf Course. This year we decided to stop about three quarters of the way up and take a small side trip to find a new spot for lunch. We discovered a little used ledge and began to unpack our lunch, when we heard a rustling in the bushes and a very elderly gentleman stepped out of the woods. He was as startled as we were, but we all quickly recovered and introduced ourselves. His name was Ben Franey and he had lived all his life on the mountain that bears his name. We invited him to join us for lunch and he declined, but asked if he could have a drink of water. As we ate our lunch and he sipped his water, he gazed off in the distance and seemed to be distracted as he looked down at the golf course below. He asked if we had played the course and we replied, that yes we had, many times. He nodded his head and slyly smiled. Then he asked if we knew the legend of where golf had really started. Scotland, we told him. He smiled and sipped his water. Then he looked us in the eye and asked if we had an hour or so to learn the real story. Always in the mood for a good golf story, we said of course we would, since dinner wasn't 'til 8:00.
This is his story, each must believe or doubt for themselves.
Many years before Scots had kilts, there was a highland boy by the name of Lochan. He was a large boy with many physical talents and was the strongest in his village of Corbie's Nest. He could throw a stone with the eye of an eagle and the strength of a bear. One day as he was rambling through the highlands he picked up a branch and started hitting stones off the ground. They went high and they went far. But it served no purpose. Then one of his stones bounced into a hole and came to rest with a very distinct sound. He liked that sound. He took the stone and tried again and again and again. He really, really liked that sound. But, he discovered he could only do it after two or three tries. If he tried to make that sound from a short distance, two or three tries, long distance, sometimes three or even four tries. Not good, not good at all. So everyday he would practice and practice until he could do it in two tries from a short distance. As hard as he tried, he could never do it in one. But still, it was fun.
One day as he was practicing, three of his friends, Cleugh, Laird and Haugh came by and asked if they could try. Soon enough the betting began and Cleugh lost his best knife, Laird lost his sandals and Haugh lost his lunch. This went on for many years and the game spread all over the highlands. They now had special areas laid out with tee boxes, fairways and greens and a ball had replaced the stones. The equipment evolved into much as we see today and regular tournaments were played each year with very heavy betting between the players and villagers. Through it all Lochan was always the winner. No one could match his skills and he soon owned much of his village and the other villages sent him payments for the tournaments that they lost. Life was good. Except for one small problem. It still took everyone two strokes to finish each hole, no matter how much they practiced, changed equipment or changed their swing. Life was semi-good.
Now, the largest and most important tournament of the year came after the harvest and it was always played between Corbie's Nest and Caber's Toss on the most difficult course in the highlands: The Killliecrankie. The prize, along with the Killiecranke Trophy, gave the winners the right to play any time they wished, not repair divots or ball marks and take as long as they wished to play a round. The losers on the other hand, must follow behind and repair the divots, ball marks, rake the sand traps and bring the winners cold drinks to refresh themselves. And they were only allowed to play after one in the afternoon and never never on week ends. Don't even think about a Sunday tee-time. This rivalry had existed since the start of the game and Corbie's Nest with Lochan, Cleugh, Laird and Haught always won. But this year the outcome would be different. For the foursome of Caber's Toss with Tam O'Shanter, Heich O'Fash, Tattie Bogle and Sair Fecht were determined to use any means to win. And I mean ANY means.
Now in the hills behind Caber's Toss lived an old dragon named Hame Noo that would occasionally grant wishes if you could hold his attention long enough. He was very old and slept a great deal, so a little difficult to work wish deals, when he kept dozing off. Now to see to his needs and to accept requests from those wanting a wish granted were four sisters that were witches named Canny Slap, Mucklemouth Meg, Cuddy Lugs and Dowie Den. These young ladies were pretty good golfers themselves. Two were scratch players and the other two were single digits. But, unfortunately, they could only play at night, something to do with complexion problems, so could not compete in the tournaments. They each were very, very good at specific parts of the game. Canny Slap could hit a ball out of site, Dowie Den could not be beat on the fairway, Cuddy Lugs, what a wedge player, but Mucklemouth Meg could not miss a putt.
Now when the foursome from Caber's Toss came to request a wish, Mugglemouth Meg was away tending to a family emergency, so was not involved in the negotiations. After much bargaining they finally reached an agreement. In exchange for seven sheep, six pigs and a cart of wool, they received a driver, fairway wood and sand wedge all magically tempered by Hame Noo. These were magnificent clubs. The driver went 325 and straight as an arrow, the fairway wood 275 and the wedge would always lift and drop smoothly on the green. The four from Caber's Toss were ecstatic and knew that this year the tournament would be theirs.
Now, living in the foot hills of the highlands were a colony of Gnomes that made their living by trading anything that could be traded and playing and betting on tournaments. The greatest and most canny trader of all was Bonnie Burn. She was a gorgeous little Gnome and she had a mad passionate crush on Lochan. Now through her many trades she heard about the trade between the four from Caber's Toss and the three witches and she was very upset, not just because she lost her share of the trade, but also because of the coming tournament and what it would do to Lochan and her wagers on the outcome. She always bet on Corbie's Nest. Ah, she loved him and her wagers dearly. So, she packed a lunch and began the climb to the highlands to correct this wrong. When she arrived at the dragon's lair, only Mucklemouth Meg was awake, her sisters were taking a nap and she invited Bonnie in for tea. While they shared the tea and scones, Bonnie told her tale of woe and asked what Mucklemouth could do to help Lochan. Now, Mucklemouth was a little bit miffed that her sisters had helped grant wishes with out her knowledge, told Bonnie to find the flattest smooth stone that she could and bring it to her. When Bonnie had done this, she took the stone and went into the bedroom and pressed each of her sisters' fingers to the stone and then added her own. She then went to Hame Noo and woke him from one of his many naps to ask him to temper the stone with magic. Now waking Hame Noo can sometimes have some very dire consequences. This was one of those times. He awoke all sixes and sevens. With a roar, he said that he was tired of being disturbed about this silly game. First you want new clubs, now you want Lucky Markers and the sound of that ball in the cup was giving him a head ache. Very Cranky. He would do as Mucklemouth asked, but if Corbie's Nest lost to Caber's Toss, he would erase all knowledge of this game from everyone. He then tempered the stone to metal and cast it in silver, changing the four finger prints to a magical four leaf clover. Giving the Lucky Marker to Bonnie, Mucklemouth told her of the warning from Hame Noo. Being very worried, because she enjoyed the game and wanted to continue playing, she stressed that Lochan must use the Lucky Marker correctly. He must engrave his name on the back of the Lucky Marker and when on the green, he must place the Lucky Marker to mark his ball, but in a very specific way. If he wanted the ball to go straight, the Lucky Marker must be placed so the hole was between the top two leaves, if he wanted it to curve right, the top two leaves must point right etc. This would allow him to sink the ball from anywhere on the green in one stroke. Bonnie was euphoric and asked what Mucklemouth wanted in return. Mucklemouth thought for a minute and replied, one sheep each for me and my sisters and one pig for Hame, but it must be given as a gift to Lochan. Bonnie agreed, thanked her again and started out to locate Lochan. Now, as she walked, she started thinking about the four sheep and one pig that she had paid Mucklemouth and her trading instincts began to get the best of her. By the time she found Lochan and told the story of the four from Caber's Toss, she ended up selling the special Lucky Marker to Lochan for five sheep. Love is love, but business is business.
Lochan took the Lucky Marker and practiced aligning it with the hole and the more he practiced the more he one stroked. From the left, from the right, straight in, it made no difference. One stroke, again and again and again. He was beside himself with joy. He decided to thank Mucklemouth in person only to discover Bonnie had made a profit from him. Sad and bewildered and then angry, he went to retrieve his sheep. Alas, they were already traded to some one else and Bonnie said she would give him the sheep only if he won the tournament. Lochan agreed, but said no Gnome will play until the debt was paid.
As the tournament started, the boys from Cabor's Toss were magnificent, They drove the ball straight as an arrow, fairway shots to the greens and those that were short, the wedge shots right at the flag. But, alas, they lost the tournament on the greens. Two stroke, two stroke two stroke. Where as, no matter where Lochan found his ball on the green, he aligned the Lucky Marker as instructed and one stroked the ball in. Corbie's Nest won by one. Again. This time, thanks to the Lucky Putt Marker.
As for how the name of GOLF originated? Read on.
Now, after the celebrating, Lochan picked up the Killiecrankie Trophy and went to collect his sheep from Bonnie, only to discover that she was short of sheep this week. She offered Lochan a receipt for the five sheep, but having nothing to write on, he pulled out the trophy and inscribed under Killiecrankie, the initials G.O.L.F. for Gnomes Owe Lochan Five.
Oh, and have you ever seen a Gnome at the course? No, because they still owe five sheep.
As he finished his story, we both groaned and laughed. We could not believe that we had listened to such a wild tale. He shook his head and told us that it was all true. He slowly raised himself from the fallen tree he had used as a seat and said he needed to be going, that his wife Bonnie would be home from the store shortly. He thanked us for the water and wandered off into the woods. We now noticed it was getting late and began to pack up our left overs and prepared to leave. That was when I noticed the sun reflecting off something by the fallen tree and picked it up. It was a silver marker and on the front was a four leave clover and on the reverse was, Lochan. Placing it in my pocket, I said nothing to my wife. She has beat me one too many times, now was my chance to even the score. Love is love, but golf is everything.
I finally told Floriana of what I had found and after she forgave me, we decided to share the magic of the Lucky Putt Marker with all golfers. Believe or not believe, each must choose.
This is the true story as told to us of the creation of the game of Golf and how it was saved by a Lucky Marker. Visit the Highlands Links and read the names on each hole and gaze up at Franey Mountain and feel the magic of Cape Breton and the history of Golf.
Read the unsolicited testimonials of those below that have purchased and benefited from a Lucky Putt Marker and decide if you can continue to play golf without one.
B. Franey, Ingonish............."Couldn't win without one, lost mine and I am ordering a new one".
M. Mouth, Sydney..............."Low price for such great magic".
H. Noo, Dundee..................."Hottest new golf product on the market".
B. Burn, Cheticamp..............."Would trade anything for one of these".
S. Fecht, Baddeck.................." Played with a friend that had one, beat me silly. Ordering mine today".
T. Bogle, Neil's Harbor............"You must have one". "Can't golf without it!"
S. Thompson, Highlands..........."Damn, the secret is out".
T. O'Shanter, Cape North........."Will not play with anyone that owns one".
L., Aspy Bay........................"Feels good to win".
H. O'Fash, Dingwall..............."They should be outlawed".
C. Slap, Cape Smokey............."Every golfer should have one".
D. Den, Pleasant Bay.............."Greatest tool in my bag".
C. Lugs, St. Margaret.............."Small, but deadly. Big bang, little package".
C., Effies Brook....................." Don't putter around. Order today".
L., Middle Head....................."To win, you must putt" "To putt, you must have a Lucky Putt Marker" "Therefore: Lucky Putt Marker = Win"
H., Belle Marche....................."Don't golf Highlands Links without one"