The Old Course—St. Andrews, Scotland
Rankings as of 5/15/2011
-4th best course in the world (Golf Magazine)
-2nd best International Course (Golf Digest)
-2nd best Classic course in Great Britain and Ireland (Golfweek)
For me there is no golf course, which I have played to date, that even comes close to The Old Course. I love golf. I
find it endlessly interesting and fascinating, but the interest and fascination that The Old Course brings to the table
is simply something I could not have imagined prior to playing it. Given that there are 76 books written with the
course as one of the main subjects, I would surmise that I am not alone in my love of it.
I find it a bit hard to put into words what is so amazing about the course. But I’ll try to do so and add some picture to
highlight a few points. For starters, teeing your ball up on the first tee brings different emotions upon different
people. I’ve heard people say they shed a tear and I’ve heard people say they felt the spirit of Old Tom Morris or
Bobby Jones as they stepped up to that first tee. But for me it really wasn’t emotional at all. Rather I was compelled
to play the game with all my heart, compete, give it my all and truly play golf.
This came to a head and opened my caddy’s eyes on the 2nd hole. He told me hit my tee shot left, but I spanked it
HARD right on a rope. He thought it might be OB in the gorse. But we found it just off to the right of the green 337
yards away from the tee box. Essentially, I drove the green (and, yes, it was windy like a beast)…but missed the
green right. My ball lay in a divot and I had a God-awful lie. He told me to move it and improve my lie. I responded,
“But that is cheating.” He said, “Yeah, but it isn’t like you’re playing in The Open.” To which I responded, “This is
my Open.” From there it was game on and he was with me in playing the game with all my heart. I ended up scoring
quite well for my handicap and played hard, but I had almost no emotion. It wasn’t about the history of the golf
course for me at that time…it was about paying homage and giving respect to the course by truly playing golf on it.
Another moment of uniqueness on the course came about when on one of the first few holes my caddy was giving
me instructions off the tee. He said, “Do you see that pin?” I said, “Yep. Take dead aim?” To which he responded,
“Hell no. Aim forty yards left of it and hit it hard.” Never in my golfing career have I taken an aim that far off line to
have the best angle of attack into the green; that is strategic golf right there. Here is a photo to give you an idea of
what some of the tee shots are like at St. Andrews. Now mind you, this isn’t the hole in question. But you get the
sense of what was going on out there with it.
Perhaps the best summation of a round at The Old Course can be put forward with my experience on the 16th hole.
I got the instructions from my caddy, “Hit it left of the center line bunkers.” I did. I hit a screamer into the wind
maybe 5 yards left of the bunkers. “Will that be okay?” I asked. “Nope. There is another bunker just beyond that
one and right in line with your shot.” Obviously, he meant much farther left of the centerline bunker as this was the
Principal’s Nose nest of bunkers. If I had engaged my brain on that shot, I would have known that. Oh well, if I was
going to get caught in a bunker…this one was pretty cool to be in.
Anyway, I hit a great drive dead center fairway and I was in a bunker. Straight down the middle was obviously not
the play. Upon getting to the bunker I found my ball was right on the front face of the bunker and I had to come out
sideways. Again, unique.
After a successful escape, I hit a solid 4 iron into that wind and landed on the front edge of the green. However due
to a ridge line between my ball and the hole, I couldn’t aim at the hole. I had to take it way right of the hole, run the
ball along the ridge, and drop the ball in from the side. I hit a great putt and left about 6 inches for my bogey.
Bottom line for this hole (and perhaps the course)…don’t drive it down the middle, hit sideways out of the bunker,
and don’t putt at the hole. Cool stuff!!
I need to play The Old Course many, many more times before I truly “get it” but the aura of St. Andrews, the interest
of the course, and the experience of Scotland make these added trips very likely!!