My eye was drawn to the wreckage of the pavilion, a few yards away. The sign was weathered, but still readable: ASKERNISH GOLF CLUB, EST. 1891. HONESTY BOX IN CLUBHOUSE DOOR.
The honesty box was long gone; the door itself, I saw upon closer inspection, dangled from broken hinges. Tentatively, because I didn't know what constituted trespass, I nudged the door open. The floor of the entry was mostly rotted away; what remained was covered with bird droppings. Beyond, in a room the size of a small house trailer, pieces of guano-splattered furniture were strewn about. On the near wall, a framed photograph of two old-time golfers caught my attention. There was a typed caption: "Two Founder Members of Askernish Golf Club: The Late Alec Macdonald & Alec Macintosh, Captain and Secretary."
To cross the treacherous floor I had to balance on the floor joists. I poked my head into a room no bigger than a closet. Light leaked through holes in the roof. I could make out a few rusty golf clubs propped against the wall. On the floor, in bird poop, lay a tarnished plaque: ASKERNISH CLUB CHAMPIONS. The champions were listed for 1980 through 1985, and no further. Also on the floor, and even more pitiable because it looked older, was a trophy engraved, THE WOODEN CLUB—NORTH V SOUTH, ASKERNISH GOLF CLUB.
I reflected on the words of Peter Voy: "They're doing a holding operation until some messiah comes along."
To restore my spirits, I withdrew from the pavilion and played a hole or two, stopping now and again to catalog the sweet smells and sights of Hebridean spring. The sun seemed hardly to have moved. (There is a saying in the Hebrides: "When God made time, he made plenty of it.") When I spotted two figures back on the 1st hole, walking toward me with bags slung over their shoulders, I went to meet them. I needed reassurance that Askernish was not haunted.
How do I describe Michael MacPhee? I remember him in jeans and sweater, in his 20's, a slightly built crofter with dark stubble and eyes shaded by a white tennis hat.
I watched him swing: a smooth and easy pass with the arms, but with insufficient weight shift and leg drive. The sort of swing one might take at a rock if one had only a shepherd's crook.
"Myself and Donald Macinnes there"—MacPhee nodded to his bespectacled companion, an insurance salesman—"we're about the only regulars now. The holidaymakers come out still, but the old members have lost interest because the course is in such a state. It's not been right since Dr. Robertson moved away to Edinburgh."
I learned more about Ken Robertson as I followed MacPhee and Macinnes around. The great man was MacPhee's doctor when he was young and needed a kidney transplant, and years later Robertson infected him with the golf bacillus. MacPhee painted Robertson as something of a Renaissance man, a dabbler in photography, painting and book illustrating. Robertson had adopted Askernish as his own—nurturing the greens, mending the pavilion, staging tournaments and introducing schoolchildren to the ancient game.
"He had this course beautiful," said MacPhee wistfully. "He had it really looking like a golf course should look."