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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Golf

Tee to Green: Nice try, but Olympic golf has failed

July 5 2016

Sometimes, you’ve just got to suck it up - as our American friends indelicately put it - and admit defeat. This week is the cut-off point for qualification for the golf competition at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. I’m sure that the International Golf Federation (IGF), the prime movers behind restoring golf to the Games for the first time since 1904, imagined frenzied excitement as players strived for the final world ranking points which would allow them to be one of their nation’s two candidates for the prized gold medal. Instead, we’re braced this week for more withdrawls. Already Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, two of the world’s top four, have pulled out. Ireland’s top three players have declined the invitation to Rio, leaving Padraig Harrington and Seamus Power, who is 283rd in the world and hasn’t played an event on either of the top two tours for two years. Pressure is intense on the new World No 2, Dustin Johnson, and the No 3 Jordan Spieth, to go to the Games, but both are clearly wavering. The Zika virus, as we’ve detailed before in T2G, is the primary reason given for the spate of withdrawls by (almost exclusively) male golfers. Whether this is simply a convenient excuse or not is still a debate; the chances of contracting Zika by mosquito bite seem to be minimal. Yet the new Olympic course has been built on swampland which apparently is rife with the wee blighters specifically accenuating the risk for the golfers. Supposedly. You’ll probably detect my cynicism on this point; Zika is already found in Mexico and the Caribbean and I don’t see any players worried about the WGC event next year or their lads’ holiday in the Bahamas broadcast live on social media. But it’s almost besides the point. If Zika is the excuse it’s just to cover up a series of other reasons for missing Rio that are reasonable but more difficult to explain for golfers. The first is that the nationalistic, flag-waving element of the Games which is supposed to be a major attraction - `why wouldn’t you want to represent your country?’ - means little to these individual operators. The Ryder Cup is different; it’s been a fan-driven phenomenon which the players - Europeans mostly - have bought into. Plus, although they’re not directly paid to participate, most European players have large bonuses tied into their sponsor deals for making the team. Part of the issue with America’s recent failures in the Cup, surely, is that they don’t subscribe to the national team ethic. Tiger Woods’ clear antipathy towards the Ryder Cup throughout his career is a good example of this. Getting beaten so regularly of late has maybe lifted the patriotic fervour a tad for many, but there’s no such incentive to rally round the flag at the Olympics. Secondly, the Olympics is bloody awkward. There was a decent point made in Ireland after Rory’s withdrawl on the insistence of the Irish Olympic Committee that he’d have to wear their official gear, which of course is not Nike. It seems a small thing, but if you were getting paid $1 million a month to wear one manufacturer and were then ordered to wear a rival for nothing, you might be a little annoyed. But to me, the biggest reason to miss Rio is that it has been crow-barred into golf’s already crowded schedule. Looking down the calendar, it’s the obvious week to miss if a player is out of form or just seeking a break to avoid burn-out. This is where the IGF, in their understandable haste to get golf into the Games, have blundered. Golf is already full up; there’s simply no room for this competition and as it lies outside the comfort zone of top players, they’re more than tempted to ignore it. I was supportive of Olympic golf for one main reason; golf only promotes itself to the already converted and here was a rare chance to grow the game outside those narrow confines. Participation levels are low enough that we should really care very much about this, but golf is in a very comfortable bubble, and a lucrative one (for now). The game thinks it doesn’t have to care about worldwide markets it doesn’t presently penetrate. To me the Olympics is another example - along with distance control - which shows that elite players are driving golf’s direction. If they don’t care about the Games, even for selfish reasons, it’s just not going to be a success. The IGF bent over backwards to make it work for them. They - stupidly - let top stars like Tiger and Phil Mickelson insist it be a 72-hole strokeplay format, even though that duo won’t ever play in it. And having made that and other concessions, what happens? The players snub it anyway. The IOC are also complicit. Their first insistence in allowing golf back into the Games was that the superstars had to play; no compromise. The sad conclusion is that it was a good try, with the best intentions, but it’s failed. Golf is a sport that doesn’t sit well in the Olympics. Wrestling, squash and karate desperately want in. They’ll all appreciate it far more than our self-obsessed, insular game.

Angus & The Mearns

Angus economic delegation putting Carnoustie Country to the fore at The Open

July 22 2017

A marketing drive is under way at Royal Birkdale to ensure Angus is the real winner at this week’s Open golf championship. Angus Council’s economic development team, in partnership with Carnoustie Golf Links and Visit Scotland, are putting Carnoustie Country to the fore ahead of welcoming The Open to Carnoustie in 2018. More than 225,000 people are expected at the global sporting event at Royal Birkdale in Liverpool where the team has been raising awareness of Carnoustie Country and the attractions of Angus. The week is being seen as a prime opportunity to capitalise on the tourism and economic benefits offered by The Open which could generate as much as £80m for Tayside. Alison Smith, Head of Economic Development at Angus Council said: “It’s been a fantastic first couple of days speaking with visitors to our stand at The Royal Birkdale. “With the R&A expecting record spectator numbers, this week is a prime opportunity to showcase the wealth of golf courses across Carnoustie Country and promote the wonderful local produce which we have brought with us for visitors to sample." Golf is a vital part of the visitor economy with the ripple effect felt in shops, hotels, restaurants and a wide variety of other businesses. Angus Council will also raise concerns about the possible introduction of a ‘no re-admissions’ policy at next year’s tournament in Carnoustie with The R&A. The golf authority will not allow people to leave the course and gain re-entry at this year’s championship as a result of security concerns. However, Carnoustie councillors and businesses are anxious that the Angus town sees a tourism boost from the thousands of visitors at next year’s tournament. Ms Smith added: “In addition to exhibiting at the event, we’ve scheduled a number of meetings to maximise the opportunities that hosting The Open brings. “We’re meeting with The R&A to align our digital marketing plans, explore legacy projects such as making the Carnoustie Open more ‘green’ and discuss the no re-admissions policy. “We’ve arranged meetings with Sefton Council’s head of tourism and England’s Golf Coast to inform our three-year marketing plan for pre, during and post event to maximise the increased global profile that The Open brings to the area." Carnoustie Country is home to 34 courses including many which were designed by the men who are now considered golf’s greatest architects – Old Tom Morris, Willie Park Jnr and James Braid.

Motoring news

Audi showcases raft of new cars

June 29 2016

Audi threw everything it had at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend, with no fewer than nine upcoming models making their UK debuts. One of the most interesting – and affordable – was the new Q2. Audi’s smallest crossover yet, it’ll sit underneath the Q3, Q5 and big ole Q7. It will be available as a front wheel drive or with Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system. Under the skin there’s a choice of three TFSI petrol and three TDI diesels, with Audi’s 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol offering 114bhp, the 1.4 litre four-cylinder sitting below the 187bhp 2,.0 litre TFSI. Diesel options are the 1.6 litre TDI with 114bhp and a pair of 2.0 litre TDIs with 148bhp or 187bhp. It goes on sale later this summer with a starting price expected to be in the region of £20,000. At the other end of the price scale is the R8 V10 Spyder. The 553bhp supercar comes a year after the second generation coupe R8 was released. Audi reckons the new Spyder is 50 per cent stiffer than the last Spyder, and its canvas roof stows beneath a massive rear deck, able to open or close at speeds up to 31mph in 20 seconds. Fuel economy “improves” to just over 24mpg thanks to a new coasting function that idles the engine when it’s not needed. Expect it to cost around £130,000. In between those two extremes are a plethora of other upcoming Audis, including the new S5 Coupe, and the Audi TT RS which first revealed a year ago is hardly new but apparently it had never been seen in the UK before. A couple of Q7s were also at Goodwood, including the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which returns a claimed 156mpg, and the SQ7 – a diesel with 429bhp. There was also the refreshed A3 range. Audi’s upmarket Golf rival has been given a styling refresh along with a few new engine options. Following a trend for downsizing, there’s a 1.0 litre three -cylinder petrol unit, while a powerful 2.0 petrol engine also joins the range.

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Perth & Kinross

Culinary dimension added to Perth Show

July 28 2016

For more than 150 years Perth Show has been a popular, once a year meeting point for the people of the city and the farming community. The show - now the third largest of its type in Scotland – remains as always a showcase for champion livestock but this year holds a much wider appeal for visitors. To be held on Friday and Saturday August 5 and 6 on the South Inch, throughout the two days, trade stands, sideshows, entertainment, activities, music and parades all add to the vibrancy of the show along with a new culinary direction. “For the first time, Perth Show is set to feature a cookery theatre and food and drink marquee,” said show secretary Neil Forbes. “This will bring a new and popular dimension to the visitor attraction. “Perth Show 2016 is also delighted to welcome Perthshire On A Plate (POAP) - a major food festival, celebrating the very best in local produce and culinary talent. “Organised by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, the two-day festival will run as part of the show and feature celebrity and local chefs, demonstrations and tastings, book signings, food and drink related trade stands, fun-filled activities for ‘kitchen kids’ and a large dining area and pop-up restaurants in a double celebration of food and farming.” Heading the celebrity chef line-up are television favourite Rosemary Shrager (Friday) and spice king Tony Singh (Saturday), backed by a host of talented local chefs including Graeme Pallister (63 Tay Street) and Grant MacNicol (Fonab Castle). The cookery theatre, supported by Quality Meat Scotland, will also stage a fun cookery challenge between students from Perth College and the ladies of the SWI. A range of pop-up restaurants featuring taster dishes from some of the area’s best known eating places will allow visitors to sample local produce as they relax in the show’s new POAP dining area. “We’re trying to create a wide and varied programme of entertainment,” said Mr Forbes. “Late afternoon on Friday will see the It’s A Knockout  challenge with teams from businesses throughout Perth and Perthshire competing against each other. “And the first day’s programme will end with a beer, wine and spirit festival where teams can celebrate their achievements and visitors can sample a wide range of locally produced drinks.” This year will also see the reintroduction of showjumping at Perth Show on the Saturday afternoon.

Dundee

Goggle into Scotland’s past with new list of old objects

July 21 2017

Snow goggles used by Captain Scott on his ill-fated voyage to Antarctica have been named as one of the objects which helped shape Scottish history. Scott's goggles, a simple design by today's standards which protected his eyes from snow glare and howling winds, have been named in the list of 25 objects which shaped Scotland by an expert panel. Other Courier Country antiquities made the list, with the Carpow Logboat and the Tom Morris Junior Medal also featuring. The Tom Morris medal sits in place at the British Golf Museum in St Andrews, and was awarded in place of the now-famous Claret Jug, which was still awaiting commission in 1872. The Carpow Logboat — which dates back to around 1000BC — was unearthed from the sand of the Tay Estuary in 2001 and now sits proudly in the Perth Museum and Art Gallery. The objects have been compiled into a new e-book, which details artefacts from across the country as part of Scotland's year of history, heritage and archaeology. Paul Jennings, RRS Discovery executive director, said: "It is brilliant that Captain Scott’s goggles have made this list. "The British National Geographical Antarctic Expedition in 1901-04 was ground-breaking and the equipment used during this epic adventure was designed to last. "RRS Discovery was built in Dundee, designed specifically for Antarctic research, the ship itself is of international significance, and a visit gives an insight into how these brave men coped in the harshest of conditions in one of the most inhospitable places on earth." Visit Scotland, who have curated the list, hopes museums and destinations where the objects are held will notice an increase in visitor numbers over the next 12 months, thanks to the e-book. Judy Chance, museum manager at the British Golf Museum in St Andrews, said they were delighted to have the Tom Morris Jr medal included. She said: "Tom Morris Jr was presented with this gold medal when he became Champion Golfer of the Year for the fourth time in 1872. "The Open is golf’s oldest championship. Played since 1860 on iconic links golf courses, it is the sport’s most international Major Championship. "The inclusion of the medal in the top 25 reflects the importance of golf in the fabric of Scotland’s rich culture. We are delighted to be able to present it for the public to view in the British Golf Museum." Other curiosities which made the list include Dolly the Sheep, the Robert the Bruce equestrian statue and Scotland's oldest football.

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Golf

Tee to Green: Has the penny finally dropped…both ways?

December 4 2017

Even if you hadn’t been there before, it was quite simple to find your way to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Saturday morning. All you had to do was look for people over 50 carrying folders. It was short odds they weren’t Christmas shopping but headed to Scottish Golf’s Future of Golf Conference. Once inside the EICC, it took me a while to find a delegate under 30 - Ross Kellett, the Challenge Tour pro, filled the gap, however, and then there was Rachel McQueen, the young pro from Troon. But not many more. So we even had an illustration of Scottish golf’s frankly insane age demographic before Stewart Darling, the tech-head on the Scottish Golf board, put it on screen in a stark graph for the 500 delegates a couple of hours later. Barely 10,000 golf club members under 25. More than 100,000 over 55. I’ve made constant - almost weekly - reference to this in T2G for months now, and the equally crazy gender demographic which shows barely over 13 per cent of club members are women. But given the reaction to Darling’s hour and a half treatise on the calamitous potential of doing nothing, this seemed to be news to a lot of people. Has the penny dropped at last on this? Surely for the delegates in the EICC it has. Armed with Darling’s figures (if not his convincing eloquence) they’ll take it back to their clubs and associations and hopefully convince a few more. Because if Scottish Golf is to have a future and at least arrest the alarming slide in club membership and participation, it’s obvious that getting more women, families and younger people involved is the absolute key. The conference, for the most part, was an attempt by Scottish Golf’s board to explain the rationale behind the ambitious plan they’d tabled two months ago that got such a hostile reception from most of the game’s stakeholders. While that plan was now “off the table” according to SGL chair Eleanor Cannon, it seemed at times as if they were still agitating for specific elements of it. And delegates seemed convinced. One of the more eyebrow-raising moments for me was during a Q and A session after finance director Malcolm Kpedekpo’s contribution when a delegate from Fife asked that the proposed rise in the annual affiliation from £11.25 to £24 be taken off the table because, he concluded with a flourish, “enough is enough is ENOUGH”. But instead of the burst of applause the delegate probably anticipated, there was just a few embarrassed claps. As Darling pointed out later, a £12 rise in the levy will be nothing compared to skyrocketing subs if 5000 club members a year continue to lapse. Kpedekpo, quite correctly, pointed out that if remedial measures agreed by the SGL boards and approved by the stakeholders required such an increase, it would be wrong not to recommend it. But of course, the penny needs to drop both ways in this discussion. While everyone needs a clear picture of the realities facing Scottish Golf, the SGL board themselves need to understand what is acceptable to stakeholders and what is not. There’s been a disconnect between SGL and the membership lasting two decades; really since the collapse of the Scottish National Golf Centre 18 years ago, clubs and associations have pretty much distrusted everything the governing body has done. That’s a bit like blaming the current government for a mistake by John Major - as Cannon pointed out, SGL in its new, amalgamated form is just two years old. But nonetheless the disconnect and the lack of communication was pretty much standard old SGU style when it came to the restructuring plan two months ago - a few presentations, an SGM and railroad the whole thing through. Cannon admitted with hindsight, she’d have had a public conference like Saturday’s two years ago. It’s impossible to imagine the old SGU or SLGA holding such a thing or taking views from the floor and then promising to go away and study them in detail. The proof of the pudding on that is what the SGL board do with the blizzard of ideas that came their way from delegates. It’ll be interesting to see what the new chief executive (when appointed, and I saw more than one candidate in the room) does with it all. But at least there are clear signs that the new board, in stark contrast to previous regimes, want a consensus view, as much as that is possible for a bunch of golf administrators. I’m an arch-pessimist - 30 years of covering the Scotland rugby team does that to you - and I left the EICC fairly optimistic that something is going to be done about hauling our game into the 21st century. One more point: every time there’s a discussion about SGL these days it’s pointed out that the old SGU was run by three people from a cottage at the Royal Burgess “and things were better”. No, they weren’t. That was in the last century. Golf was hostile to women, children and anyone who wasn’t 50 and over. It still is in some places. Stop looking back, that’s why we’re in this mess. Time to move forward.

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