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A postcard from the OId Course

Interlude: We explore the Old Course and St. Andrews.

Our exploration of St. Andrews occurred over two days, Friday evening, after the five-hour drive from Machrihanish, and Sunday morning, when we walked every hole of the Old Course, closed for golf every Sunday, and saw the ruins of the castle and the cathedral and the graves of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris.

Our bed-and-breakfast was Cleveden House, a 10-minute walk from the Old Course, that has been recently purchased by the Dunvegan Hotel, which has a pub that is famous in the golf world. Our innkeepers were Lucy and Betsy, who are wonderful, and we would stay there again if we go back, and maybe we will.

When we planned our trip, we tried the lottery to play the Old Course, and didn’t get lucky. We could have arranged our schedule to try to show up early one morning, but that would have not been a sure thing, and we likely wouldn’t have played in the same group. Hence, we experienced the course by watching and walking.

The Old Course is in the heart of the Auld Grey Toon of St. Andrews.

On the night we arrived the weather was mild, and we walked to the Old Course, where a group of college kids, in fancy dress were posing on the steps just behind the 18th green. Quite the audience for the group on the green, and when one golfer made a long putt, the students roared with cheers, and he raised his arms in triumph.

We then walked on the road toward the 18th tee, and then followed the 17th fairway along the Old Course Hotel. This is the Road Hole, where the golfer can drive his tee shot over the corner of the hotel. As we passed, a caddie came our way, followed by his golfer, and the caddie immediately began looking in the garden of the hotel.  Uh oh, not a good shot.

The famous No. 17 at the Old Course, the Road Hole, invites a shot over the edge of the hotel.

We walked out for a while, then back, and the same golfer was faced with a difficult shot hard against the stone well behind the 17th green; he succeeded only in dribbling the ball a few yards. And finally, as we walked back toward the 18th green, we turned in time to look back down the road, where our aforementioned golfer was on the 18th tee, and hear cries of “fore right,” and see pedestrians scatter as the ball hit the road, near some very expensive parked cars.

“It’s official,” I told Jason. “I am not the worst golfer in Scotland.”

Sunday morning, early, we walked the course. Took photos on the Swilken Bridge, where Jack Nicklaus waved farewell in his last Open Championship. Saw the many deep bunkers and marveled again that when Tiger Woods won the Open there, he didn’t find a single one. Saw the famous double greens, which are huge.

The Old Course at St. Andrews features many double greens.

It wasn’t windy that day, so the course seemed, well, playable, not as visibly challenging as Royal Dornoch or Machrihanish Dunes, certainly not as stunning in terms of view; the course is flat, the best views are back toward the town.

But, yeah, I want to go back and play it, and as I told Jason, my agility and ability aren’t like to improve after 70, so it ought to be sooner than later.

Pops and son on the Swilken Bridge.

Next: An unexpected pleasure at Craighead Links in Crail.


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