Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland

1st Tee and 18th green behind
When I stepped on to the first tee at the Old Course I was legitimately shaking.  I’d like to say it was the ghost of Old Tom Morris or even the decade of anticipation I was feeling at the moment, but the truth is that I had been waiting in line with my brother since 4am to get a tee time, and yes, I was a wee bit hungry.  In addition to my delirious, yet alert, state of exhaustion I was also experiencing first tee jitters in my hands and butterflies in my stomach.  It wouldn't have been hard to guess, but I nearly missed the 100 yard wide fairway to the slicers right, bounced my second shot in the burn short of the green and scampered off with a cool double bogey.  Just as I had imagined...I actually played quite well, but score is the last thing to focus on when visiting such a special course. 

Mysterious, incredible, unique, unpredictable, natural, beautiful, astounding.  These are some superlatives which streamed through my mind as I walked in the kingdom of golf.  There have been many attempts by the best architects in the world to reproduce the elements of the Old Course and I have seen some.  But as I walked the course, happily chasing my golf ball, I kept saying, “wow, I have never seen that before.”  
11th and 7th green

The Old Course has 11 massive double greens, with some holes crossing each other to navigate the "out and in" routing pioneered in St. Andrews by Old Tom Morris.  Have you ever seen that on a "modern" golf course?  The variety of mounds, swales and hollows will also make you scratch your head when negotiating the many tricky approaches to the greens.   Make sure you take a caddy to fully appreciate the nuances of the Old, especially if you only have one round to play, you may hit towards the wrong flag stick once or twice.

An incredible fact to consider is that the Old Course has hosted the British Open 28 times in the 144 year history of the tournament.  This is a testament to the quality and integrity of the course as it sits today, challenging professionals and amateurs alike.  Scotland's wet and windy conditions also play a role in keeping the game interesting, on a golf course which demands an inventive short game.

I can think of no other place in the world where golf feels so much at home as it does in St. Andrews.  The geography of the town literally embraces it, coming right up to the 18th green warmly awaiting intrepid golfers returning from their adventure on the links.
The home hole, 18
If you have a passion for golf, go to St. Andrews, I believe it will fulfill your golfing soul as it has for 
Proudly standing in the Strath Bunker!

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