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We found my ball after a brief search. Pat stayed behind to guard it, while I walked ahead to find a green. I had gone some 150 yards when I noticed a subtle elevation of the turf, perhaps a foot high and 30 feet in diameter. I walked onto this terrace and searched among the daisies until I found what I was seeking: a crude burrow. You might call it a hole.
I dropped my tweed cap on the spot and strolled back.
"Maybe we should come back when those men are finished," Pat said.
I was having none of that. I said, "We'll never have a better opportunity to play golf as it was played a hundred years ago on genuine linksland." I took a seven-iron and turned to face my target. Or what I thought was my target.
"Where's my hat?"
Pat put her hand to her mouth and began to laugh.
I was between a snort and a chortle myself. I was tempted to go back to the hotel, get out the letter and read it again.
Every time I got the letter out, heather and mist spilled from the envelope. "Here's a story idea for your book," the letter, written to my editor, began. "What I envision is a pilgrimage to the last remaining links course in its original form in Scotland. It would be about an area that is true Scottish beauty—isolated, glacier-torn mountains and not the postcard-puff hillocks you see in Wales. The story would be about downing a few stiff ones with the local crofters, their sheepdogs parked diligently between their feet at the bar; about the salmon fishing that goes on in those parts, a subject that has left the locals little more than poachers on estates owned by huge tobacco [magnates] and guarded by thugs-for-hire from London's vicious East End. There is no shortage of stuff to write about on a trip to this early outpost of Scottish golf."
And then, a nice note of caution: "I would not expect the golf course per se to be a pristine links."
Poised with my seven-iron on the machair—the sandy land or "sea meadow" that comprises the west coast of South Uist—I had to agree. The only structure in sight, a ruin, really, was a glorified shed that had been battered into disuse by winter gales.