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Long way round: Golfer celebrates playing every Scottish course

When Phil Booth realised one of the privileges of his student card was discounted access to Edinburgh’s golf courses, he could never have imagined it would tee up a lifelong obsession.

But as the retired paediatrician holed his final putt at Tiree’s Vaul club on Sunday, he joined an elite band of players to complete a round on every one of Scotland’s 572 registered courses.

The 69-year-old, who lives in Aberdeen, has come a long way from the £1 fee he paid to play at the capital’s Craigmillar course while studying at the University of Edinburgh in the early 1970s.

He celebrated the feat with a glass of champagne alongside his family almost 20 years on from starting his official challenge.

Mr Booth, originally from Stockton-on-Tees, said it was his wife Anne’s idea to play all of Scotland’s courses following a holiday to Arisaig in September 2004.

He said: "She came with me to the nine hole course at Traigh and we walked up the hill to be greeted with this amazing view of Rum, Eigg and Mull.

"She said we never would have seen that if I had not been golfing. We basically used it as an excuse to see parts of Scotland we might have otherwise missed.

"Anne even got me a big map of Scotland to stick pins in at all the courses I hadn’t played, so I could choose my entire route."

Mr Booth, who is a member at Cruden Bay and Royal Aberdeen, retrospectively counted that he had played about 90 courses following his round at Traigh.

He later found an old VisitScotland golf guide which listed all of its registered clubs across the country.

He began ticking off clubs on work trips to Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as drives home to visit his family in Teesside, often breaking up the trip with rounds on the way.

They have spanned 159 nine-hole courses, 412 18-holes and one 12-hole round.

And the challenges range from an "absolute mudbath" on the Isle of Shiel to the iconic Old Course at St Andrews.

Mr Booth said Carnoustie, which hosted the last of its eight Open championships in 2018, and Loch Lomond stood out among his favourite courses to play.

But it was Kingussie, nestled in the shadow of the Cairngorms, that gave him one of the most striking memories.

"I got there quite early one morning and the steward was the only person at the course," he recalled.

"He gave me a coffee and took me round the course before I went out and played.

"He asked me what I wanted when I got back to the clubhouse and I said a pint of Best.

"I remember finishing the ninth and turning round and seeing just the most spectacular view of the mountains.

"I got back to the clubhouse and there was a pint sitting on the bar waiting for me.

"It was perfect, the people that you meet through golf, their generosity is amazing.”

However, it is unclear whether Mr Booth’s achievement is out of the ordinary or par for the course.

The exact number of courses in Scotland is up for debate, with estimates putting it anywhere between 550 and 585.

BBC Scotland contacted both VisitScotland and Scottish Golf, but neither could provide an official register of all the country’s courses.

The European Golf Association lists 560 active courses in its 2023 participation report.

In 2006, amateur golfer Ernie Payne completed what he believed to be the full set of 578.

Back then, VisitScotland put the total at 563, though some had been lost to closures in between Mr Payne beginning and ending his challenge.

Mr Booth lowered his handicap to 12 during the peak of his challenge, but admitted it has gradually crept up to 16 over the years.

But the attempt has been less about the quality of the play and more about the trips surrounding the round.

"I have played a few of the courses with my son Jonathan and my daughter, Katy, was there on Tiree for the final one,” he said.

"They have grown up around it. We have had these trips to the islands, but we have be there for three or four days around that.

"It has been worth it for all of those trips."