If there’s one thing the internet has taught us to be, it’s lazy. Go on, paw “one thing the internet has taught us to be?” into a Google search as you lie slumped on the couch and in 0.27 seconds you’ll probably get hundreds of results for “lazy”. Well, possibly.

Before the entire world used the phrase “ach, just Google it”, finding things out about this, that and the other required a hefty degree of research as you waded through dusty volumes, pored over dog-eared man-uscripts or dug things up with a trowel.

In these scroll, swipe and click times of easy access and instant grat-ification, though, it was heartening to hear a tale of some good, old-fashioned donkey work on the fact-finding front.

Harry Ward’s unbridled passion is golf. And for over two decades, this particular passion has led to him being immersed in the kind of histor-ical explorations that would get him honorary membership of the British Archaeological Association.

In his fascinating book, “Forgotten Greens”, Ward documents the now abandoned golf courses that were once dotted around the landscape of the game’s cradle. And, yes, he has done it the hard way. So, no nonchalant tapping into Google.

“There was no internet when I started looking into this, it was a different ball game,” said Ward of a book which traces over 500 defunct courses which were spread throughout the wide and varied nooks and crannies of Scotia’s splendour.

“I compiled the Biggar Golf Club centenary book and got bitten by the historical bug. The only way you’d know about these courses was from little snippets from newspapers of the day. So I went right through the papers looking for any mention of golf, even if it was Lord such and such entertaining his guests on a course on his private estate.

“That was okay for some of the weekly papers, like the Oban Times. You only had 50 odd a year. But I would start with, for example, The Herald archives from January 1, 1890, and would say ‘right, I’m not coming out until I’ve done every day or every week’. I looked through a hell of a lot of newspapers all over Scotland. That’s why the project has taken so long.

“The database I have is phenom-enal now. There are around 25,000 files in it. I was gobsmacked by the number of courses that there were.”

In the golf boom of the Victorian era and beyond, a huge number of courses of varying shapes and sizes sprang up in cities, towns, villages and unlikely outposts. Ward’s book, and the newspaper cuttings therein, catalogues the proposed plans and subsequent development of these courses before their ultimate demise.

The sprightly opening paragraph from the Stirling Advertiser in 1923 at the opening of the Buchlyvie course portrays a poignant sense of optimism as “the vicinity of the first tee and the last green wore a gay aspect on Saturday afternoon”. It sounds just like The Herald sports desk’s spring Texas Scramble.

Private estates, psychiatric instit-utions and military establishments all had their own courses. The Roan Head facility at Scapa Flow, for instance, satisfied the growing enthusiasm for this stick and ba’ game among members of the Grand Fleet.

A report from the time featuring quotes from Rear Admiral Victor Stanley stated that “golf had taken a very great hold on the Navy” while noting that what the men “lacked in quality, they made up for in quantity”. Perhaps it was a case of o’ hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the tee?

Extending the maritime theme further, Ward illuminates the courses that were fashioned near lighthouses. Largely located on rocky headlands, there was still enough ground to lay down a few holes.

At Hyskier, however, the keeper of the lighthouse designed one hole for recreational purposes. We don’t know if he ever made an ace.

On the Isle of May, there was ample terrain for nine holes and the custod-ians of the lighthouse ran a tourn-ament there from 1899 to 1924. One can almost picture the scene of a keeper sizing up a tricky six-footer as a ship’s captain frantically seeks nautical guidance amid a billowing tempest in the Firth of Forth.

“It’s been quite an eye-opener,” added Ward of his determined delve into the history of the game in its homeland. “Some places are at the absolute back of beyond and you think ‘what the hell was a golf course doing here?’ The book has doc-umented around 500 of these courses … and there are another 300 or so to go.”

Gone but perhaps not forgotten?