A Season in Dornoch

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Among its devoted fans, it is an article of faith that golf originated in Scotland over four hundred years ago, with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews being its most famous course. However, true aficionados of the game regard the Royal Dornach as the supreme example of links golf, that strange landscape of coarse grass and shifting sand dunes lying close to the sea. Award-winning golf writer Lorne Rubenstein spent the summer of 2000 in this small village and compiled his reflections and observations in A Season in Dornach: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands.

What sets him apart from other golf writers is the twofold nature of his sojourn: he is both a keen observer and a participant. As a visitor, Rubenstein effectively conveys the fact that, for Scotland, golf is more than just a national sport. In Dornach, the course is on public land, a peculiar circumstance that makes it both a park and a site for major tournaments. It is hallowed ground for the inhabitants, but Royal Dornach is also a part of daily existence. Rubenstein demonstrates considerable skill as he interweaves descriptions of contemporary village life with Scotland's painful history, particularly as it relates to land use.

What ultimately drives Rubenstein's narrative, though, is his own experience as a golfer on the course. He comes to this isolated community attempting to win the Carnegie Shield in Dornach's annual tournament, and it becomes for him a kind of Holy Grail. Though Rubenstein fails in his bid for the title, golf lovers everywhere will appreciate this celebration of Scotland's national pastime.