I left West Kilbride early Sunday morning and drove to Edinburgh, dumped my gear at my accommodation and gunned it up to St Andrews.
I had spoken with Gordon Moir, Director of Greenskeeping and had arranged to meet with him Sunday afternoon. I arrived at the Links Clubhouse and a ranger took me out on the Old Course to meet Gordon.
He was with a film crew from Toro and had been since 4.30am. They let me tag along as they shot their promotional video. I had a great chat to Gordon and found out a lot about the preparation for the Open Championship.
It was fascinating to learn about impact and moisture testing of the greens and the technology used for this purpose.
I spent four hours with the crew filming my own bits and pieces on my little hand held camera.
After chatting with Gordon I couldn’t believe he took a phone call from a random aussie and agreed to meet me and have me interview him. I thought he might have been at Fraserburgh recently not thirty odd years ago. He did his apprenticeship there and has been working at St Andrews for twenty three years.
What an experience for me. The film crew engaged a piper to play while standing on the bridge. I suggested he play Scotland The Brave – it couldn’t be anything else – and they didn’t have to pay for the use of it.
Now I have to be honest being new to golf (ten months in) I had to ask why everyone was getting a photo on the wee stone bridge and had a laugh with some of the crew at my naivety.
I readily admit that this time last year I would have preferred to poke my eyes out with sticks than watch golf and yet now I can’t get enough of it, so no, I had not seen the bridge before I saw it in person and stood on it.
I was here to learn and learn I did.
And of course got a photo of myself on the bridge.
I quite liked the story Gordon told me about Hamilton, who was rejected for membership by R&A in the 1890’s and built Hamilton Hall, a bigger building next door, just to spite them.
I can’t believe the fun I had at St Andrews and didn’t even hit one ball.
When I got back to my accommodation instead of uploading all my videos I got on youtube and watched Seve clips again. I wanted to have a hit and practice on a range and chipping and putting green but instead I was off to play at Crail on Balcomie Links.
I drove the coastal road meandering across the country back up to the Kingdom of Fife enjoying the stunning scenery.
I stopped off at Kellie Castle on the way for a spot of lunch and a quick tour. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I loved the walled garden – all the produce growing made me lament my current lack of kitchen access.
As I got back in the car I noted that I was driving towards a great big blue sky with fluffy white clouds yet when I looked in the rear vision mirror it was a wall of dark grey chasing me towards Crail.
When I arrived at Crail it was windy and the rain was coming in pretty fast. The sky was a swirl of grey but I wanted to golf regardless.
I noticed numerous flags flying and was happy to see the Australian flag amongst them. Apparently they do this when they know particular people are coming and I would like to think the Australian flag was there for me. I have no idea if this is correct but this is what I am going to run with.
I had a cup of tea with the ladies and as we waited for the rain to pass, I interviewed them.
We wrapped ourselves in our wet weather gear and headed out as it was starting to clear up.
I played with Brenda, Susan and Kathy and what a crazy day. My wet weathers came on and off four times.
It was sunny and rainy and windy and torrential and back to a wonderful sunny day to finish off.
As I mostly play with men, I enjoyed playing a round with some wonderful women.
I had some awesome shots mixed around good, mediocre and terrible. Susan and Kathy took off to choir practice after the 10th and by the time we got to the 13th, Brenda and I had put the wet weathers on again for the torrential rain that was imminent.
Brenda advised that most ladies lay up to the left on the 13th but I was going to go for it – of course I was, I’ll give everything a go and I gave it a good whack.
I nailed it, as the rains poured forth and Brenda and I decided to play this hole then take cover and wait until the pouring rain passed.
By the time we had both birdied the hole and were about to get undercover the rain stopped and a double rainbow was lighting the way to the club house.
The holes Brenda referred to as “score wreckers” I birdied, bogied and parred. I was quite happy and by the 16th remarked I was stoked to still be playing with the ball I started with.
Yes I spoke too soon.
The course giveth and the course taketh away.
On the 18th I lost my Mizuno ball, found eleven others and was gorsed in the process.
My hands were itchy and stingy from the sharp spikes the gorse are coated in. I kept getting prickled and yet I had to pick up all the balls I found.
It is like an easter egg hunt and kind of exciting finding them but I don’t need them or the weight in my luggage.
Balcomie Links is a fantastic course and I loved the golf experience.
Next day I was off to play at Kilspindie with Danny (Hipjoint Golfer who I met on twitter) and Neil, on the windiest day I have ever golfed in – in my ten month career.
I thought it had been windy at Inverallochy when my bag blew over twice. At Kilspindie it spent more time lying down that upright. There were bags dropping all over the course and I shared smiles with many a golf enthusiast playing in that wind marvelling at some of the shots we were managing.
It was hard going even walking in the wind but I loved it.
As I teed off the first, my ball ran into the bunker on the left and that set the theme of the day. I spent more time in the sand at Kilspindie than I do at a day on the beach.
While it took me three attempts to get out of the first bunker the following eleven I landed in (yes eleven) I got out in one although in one bunker I watched the ball blow back in and land at my feet.
I have to say I was so good getting out of the sand, Danny asked my to show him how I do it.
I take a really wide stance and get low. Regardless of how this looks it works for me and the I love the satisfaction I get whacking the ball and watching it pop out and trickle towards the hole.
On the back nine (can’t remember which hole) the wind was behind me and I nailed a drive down the centre of the fairway. I watched in amusement as the wind blew it across and into a fairway bunker.
By then I had been in nine bunkers. I smacked it out with a seven iron smiling in satisfaction as it shot (and was blown) down towards the green and burst out laughing as it blew into a bunker hugging the green.
My ball surely had been fitted with a sand magnet.
Not to worry – I was wanting to practice everything I had watched Seve do with his bunker shots and I was certainly getting to do this at Kilspindie.
On the 17th into the strong wind, I was very happy to have a bogie and I must say the 18th was fantastic. My best drive of the day was helped by the wind and I was ecstatic to watch it roll nicely onto the centre of the green.
I have never driven a green on a par four before and actually had a reasonable attempt for an eagle.
I didn’t get my first eagle but birdied my last hole on a wonderfully wind filled round with a couple of great guys.
I couldn’t stay too long – long enough to eat another cheese platter. I do believe I may have eaten my body weight in cheese since I have been in Scotland but it is just so good.
As an aside, why do you always get big hunks of delicious cheese yet only get five oatcakes to enjoy them with. I am constantly asking for more crackers.
Anyway, after a quick snack and cuppa with Danny and Neil, Danny then led me into the city as I was off to interview author Andrew Greig.
I spent a lovely afternoon in his company talking all things golf and the fact that golf is kind of like my religion (don’t mean to be blasphemous but that is how I feel). Andrew showed me the hickory shafted putter with a ridged bottom his father had cut down and taught him to putt with.
After a good couple hours chatting, Andrew showed me the sign adorning his writing shed in the garden. And yes I had writing shed envy.
I have had the pleasure of making so many new golfing friends across Scotland, played at eleven amazing courses, stopped in at Gleneagles, spent an afternoon with Gordon at St Andrews and interviewed a fantastic Scottish author.
What a way to finish my Scottish golf tour.
Ach Scotland, I am not sure when (as I have many other places I need to golf) but I will return.