For Bob and Anne Jones, their casual retirement plans morphed into a love of finding the hidden gems of Scotland and Ireland
by Steve Mims
After Bob and Anne Jones completed their first two rounds of golf in Scotland in 2000, they found a local pub for dinner.
“We should write about this,” Anne remarked to her husband during the meal.
Five years later, the couple did just that by completing “Scotland’s Hidden Gems: Golf Courses and Pubs,” which has since seen four editions, including an update this past February.
They have self-published two other books, one on golf in Scotland and Wales and the other on golf in England.
The two 75-year-olds, high school sweethearts at South Salem High School in Oregon who have been married for 51 years, have left their home in Canby to make 34 trips to Scotland during the past 20 years. They have played 245 of the nearly 600 courses in that country.
“I don’t think we will make them all, not at our age, but we gave it a good try,” joked Anne.
The pair usually takes two trips per year to Scotland, one in the spring and one in fall to avoid busy seasons. This year’s first scheduled trip was cancelled due to COVID-19, but they hope to be able to travel in the fall.
No more books are planned, but the Jones will keep returning to Scotland for as long as possible.
“I’m playing now at a 22 or 24 handicap so I can’t get a good enough feel of the course any more to write about it,” said Bob, who is also the photographer for the books. “When I was a 14, I could challenge some of the courses, but not now. We will go back and play for fun because we have some favorites that we wouldn’t want to leave out.”
In addition to Bob’s course reports, Anne wrote reviews from the ladies’ tees that she notes are often farther back than the men’s tees used by visitors.
The two educators – Bob taught speech and debate in high schools while Anne worked in special education at the elementary school level – retired in 2000 and took eight trips to Scotland before completing the first book in 2005.
“On the first trip, we went for the golf, castles, and whiskey and not necessarily in that order,” Bob said. “We did not want to be around town when school started again so we took a September trip. As we went around, we started talking about what we could put in a book.”
Bob has also written five books on public speaking and four on travel.
Golf travel is just the latest passion for the two who raced sled dogs around the Northwest for 12 years. They moved on to Autocross racing before Bob crashed his Volkswagen GTI.
“Then we decided golf was a lot safer,” he joked.
The couple joined Arrowhead Golf Club in Molalla, Ore. in 1990 where Bob was a 10 handicap and still played to a 14 a few years ago. Anne carries a 28, but her husband notes that “in Scotland she’s known as a bandit because in competitive play, she plays under her handicap, although it is a fair one.”
In addition to the hundreds of rounds in Scotland, the Jones’ have played 89 in Ireland, 27 in Wales and two in England. Their trips last between four to six weeks and typically include at least 20 rounds, although they once played 28 days in a row.
They have various housing options, including trade in a time-share. They often stay with a family in Crieff, Scotland that they met on their first trip and also look for Bed and Breakfasts as well as smaller hotels.
The Jones try to seek out lesser-known courses and regularly give travel tips to members at Arrowhead who are planning a trip to Scotland.
“When we first went there, we were amazed to find out that every village in Scotland has a course,” Anne said. “The Internet was not used as much then, so there was not much information about golf over there except for the famous courses that everyone knows. We fell in love with the little courses because they are playable for the average golfer. You also get to play with the locals and we’ve met all kinds of wonderful people over there. Most people in Scotland will tell you that we know more about golf in their country than they do because they have a local village course and that is where they play so they don’t travel all over.”
(This article previously appeared in Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, published by the PNGA.)
Steve Mims spent the past 21 years as a sportswriter at The Eugene Register-Guard. He was a finalist for Oregon Sportswriter of the Year in 2017.