AS Dickens didn’t quite say, ‘it was the best of times, it was, well, the best of times’.

“I was very lucky that I came along at just the right time,” reflected Renton Laidlaw of a glorious age of golf reporting and broadcasting that was so golden, his career reflections should be housed next to the bullion in Fort Knox.

Readers of a certain vintage, and possibly not so vintage, will no doubt fondly recall Laidlaw’s work across a variety of mediums that led to him spinning more plates than Erich Brenn.

Whether he was penning newspaper reports, stirring the imaginations on the radio or calling the shots on the television, Laidlaw was a true voice of golf.

The old wireless became his real passion and, as BBC radio’s golf correspondent for many years, his warm, amiable style was as comforting as a congenial blether by the wood-burning stove.


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“I always tried to be myself and come across as if it was just you and I talking in a room,” said the 81-year-old. “I used to be on the world service for years and folk would recognise my voice around the globe. I would be talking on a plane and someone would say ‘it’s Renton Laidlaw isn’t it?’. I’d be thinking ‘is this some long lost cousin I don’t know?’ and they would tell me they knew my voice from the radio.

“Live radio is such a wonderfully exciting medium and I always preferred it. You had to paint the pictures and I always found that very enjoyable.”

In a globetrotting career of great longevity, and even greater expenses in the halcyon days, Laidlaw covered all the showpieces. There was the odd flight on Concorde – “I was in the US and had New Year there and got back for New year in the UK too” – and even breathless sprints to make airport connections had more civilised, spontaneous conclusions. “The pilot once put me in a seat in the cockpit to get me back from Belgium to do a TV show; it was much easier to get on flights in those days,” he noted.

Laidlaw’s first Open was back in 1959 while he would become the first non-American reporter to reach the milestone of 40 Masters tournaments in 2013. For Laidlaw, it was The Opens that would really rouse the senses. 

“Arnold Palmer coming down the last at Troon in 1962 was like watching the Pied Piper,” he said of Arnie’s victory parade. “Doing radio as Seve won at St Andrews in 1984 was exceptionally exciting and, as a Scot, so was Sandy Lyle winning at St George’s. When he fluffed his chip on the last I was thinking ‘God sake he’s going to throw it away here’ while trying to remain impartial.”


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Golf’s oldest major championship would also ignite a personal reverence for Jack Nicklaus which still endures to this day.

“Jack and I are a similar age and he came along just as I was starting,” added Laidlaw. “It was his magnanimity in victory and his grace in defeat that captured me. If I was commentating and he was coming up the 18th, I had to stand up. I couldn’t sit down. He was like royalty to me. Seve was similar.”

While majors, Ryder Cups and other marquee occasions provided shimmering highlights, the domestic scene would also throw up some memorable moments. For a man who had more strings to his bow than the Royal Company of Archers, the juggling act of print, radio and TV occasionally led to the odd mishap.

“I was doing a Northern Open at Cruden Bay and had a few outlets on the go,” he recalled. “Sandy Pirie had posted an exceptional score and Grampian TV wanted a piece to camera. 

"I’d filed my copy to the newspapers then went on the TV and said, ‘it’s been a wonderful day for Sandy Pirie with a course record here at Cruden Bay … point, new paragraph’. I still thought I was dictating my copy to the paper. The cameraman said, ‘no son, you don’t have to say that, you’re on the tele’.


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Along with the celebrated voice of golf, Peter Alliss, Laidlaw’s television work would bring global acclaim. The late Alliss, of course, was a one off. “Peter had the wonderful ability to say instantly what you knew you would’ve wanted to say,” said Laidlaw. “I could sometimes think of something that was quite clever but it was 20 seconds after Peter would’ve said it. That was his great gift.”

For Laidlaw, golf was the gift that kept on giving. “I was in it for 60 years, it was my life,” he said. 

It was, indeed, the best of times.