The Home of Golf, the St Andrews Old Course is the pinnacle for any amateur golfer – it is a pilgrimage to the course that many have longed to play and brings with it an experience second to none.
It is only visiting Augusta National which can probably compare for most and that obviously does not typically include the playing opportunity for the mere mortal. The town of St Andrews is a student town, but more importantly is a golfing town. St Andrews eats, lives and breathes golf. The local Starbucks – where Bossco is known by name – opens at 5.45am to accommodate early tee off times. Enough said.
We had our opportunity to tee off bright and early with The Good Doctor so eager he pulled the trigger before the formalities were over from the official starter – fortunately no damage was done! All players were safely aboard the fairway on number 1 and did not follow some notable professional golfers into the out-of-bounds areas. A true relief! The first hole, “Burn” should be straight-forward but nerves are a challenging thing. Scores on the hole 5, 5, 6 and 6. How did that just happen?
Our caddies calmed us down and as we warmed up with the rising sun the games improved. The Old Course is not particularly long from the club tees, but bunkers lie in wait in the middle of each fairway. That’s right – keep it left or right on the way out and in was the general advise depending on the hole.
The opportunity to play the famous holes of Open Championship golf is very special. Avoiding the bunkers is essentially the most important part of the round. Keep well away from the hell bunker, road hole bunker and the multitude of others that lie in wait. The double greens are also very impressive and daunting. It is possible to have a putt in excess of 50m as experienced by The Good Doctor.
The road hole is probably one of the most memorable holes on the course for a number of reasons, not least of all the tee shot which requires a leap of faith and high ball flight to clear the buildings set right in front of the tee.
Our four ball all shuddered to think what it would be like to play the hole into a howling gale. It was a highlights hole as we all walked away with good numbers and The Wess hit it to inside 12 feet with a terrific 9 iron. The Good Doctor hung one on the right edge of the hole – so an all-round success. We all tried the road hole bunker with varied success – but it was possible to get it out while under no pressure. If we were playing for the Claret Jug it would probably have been a different story.
The pairs match was competitive, but it became increasingly difficult to hang with The Wess. The form player of the tour set about constructing a solid round and turned in 39.
The Wess and Smiley then pressed the accelerator to win again on the Open Venues Tour. The scores for the day were helped by the very kind conditions and we were spoilt to play this famous track with virtually no breeze. The Wess and the Good Doctor came home with scores of 77 and were like kids in a candy store after the round. Smiley and Bossco finished with respectable scores of 82 and 89.
The Old Course lives up to the hype and provides a true test of golf. Even in benign conditions it is a challenge as you can’t actually just open the shoulders and have a full go with the best that modern equipment manufacturers have to offer. The greens also provide a test that most will really find enjoyable with slopes and changes of direction that mean being off the green is as likely to bring a good score as being on in regulation. The Old Course is links golf at its finest and tradition which cannot be replicated. You can understand why golfers will fly from around the world to test themselves. It will give you something and take something away from you on the same hole. Your personal bucket list has to include a round on the Old Course. You have to find a way to get yourself to Scotland and test yourself on this famous layout. No golfing CV can be complete without ticking this box and when you are done have a drink of any description to celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The boys will be at Kingsbarns next and then play the most challenging of them all in the year of the 147th Open on this layout. Carnoustie for #5 of the Open Venues Tour – what a test that will be…