St Andrews – The New Course – April 2017 Another year sees me return to The Home of Golf. I have visited St Andrews every year since I started golfing. This year I had the pleasure (somewhat chilly pleasure) of teeing it up on The New Course – that is 120 years old but new just the same.
I was playing with Gordon Moir and Tracey Maddison, who works for BIGGA. Gordon has been stuck with me since I came and visited two years ago and spent four hours with him and a film crew from Toro but I was meeting Tracey for the first time.
I arrived at 4pm and although I stopped in at the Jubilee Greenkeeping Centre, Gordon had already left so I caught up with him at The Links Clubhouse.
It was cold. I mean blustery, biting wind that numbed your face and hands.
I met Tracey briefly at her car, which was a couple down from mine and we chatted as we rugged up. Never have I been so thankful for the neck warmer thing I bought in Northern Ireland last year.
I put on a second pair of socks, pulled up over my trousers, then did up my knitted cardigan, popped on my neck warmer, knitted cap and wet weathers over the top of everything. I also pulled out a pair of knitted gloves I had bought in Bolivia to ride down the Ruta de la Muerte but hadn’t used them.
I had thrown them in my luggage as an afterthought and boy was I happy about this today.
Suitably rugged up, we met up with Gordon and discussed which course to play. It was between The Jubilee and The New. I had only played The Eden Course so I didn’t mind and Gordon decided that The New Course may give us a little more shelter from the biting wind.
As much as it can on a links track next to the ocean.
Snow was predicted and as we headed off down the first some snow swirled around sticking to my jacket but melting pretty quickly. I looked down and smiled. Here I was in St Andrews playing on The New Course in the Scottish snow.
Another “how did I get here moment” for sure.
I was pulling on my gloves between shots as having my hand jammed in my pocket helped but I needed one hand to push the cart. Gordon had said we could play a few holes and see how the weather was and whether we wanted to continue.
We played all 18.
My ball had a bit of a sand magnet and while last year I popped out of two (I was only in two) deep bunkers, yesterday the bunkers owned me. I was in six or seven and while two I got out of well, others I went out backwards (doesn’t matter how you get it out) and one I hit three balls into the wall (I could have rock climbed up) and fell backwards giggling. I picked up my ball raked the bunker threw my ball down the fairway and continued playing.
I wasn’t out here to break records, I was here to enjoy and that is exactly what we did.
Tracey hadn’t played at St Andrews before so it was quite a treat for us, while Gordon (these being his home courses) was throwing darts and parring or birdieing most things making the four or so club wind seem nonexistent.
I used my driver on a par 3 into the wind and still didn’t make the green.
Gordon’s balls cut through the wind like it wasn’t there while my ball does a little hang time in the air, thinks about it for a bit and blows back towards me. That said I did hit some great balls and while no birdies for me (Tracey birdied the 14th) I did get a few pars.
After three holes the biting wind slowed somewhat and we were a bit sheltered. Then the sun even came out and even warmed us a little.
We watched groups on the old with their caddies cheering at some great shot one of their group made and I looked around smiling, taking it all in.
Tracey, Gordon and I had a great golf chat and I filled Gordon in with my last 12 months as when I visited last year I had told him that I was starting a nonprofit called Fairways.
We have done quite a bit in 12 months and I chatted about the trials and tribulations of starting a nonprofit from scratch but then I told him about the kids in Canada, India, Nepal and Bolivia and knew that the effort is worth it.
As I picked up random balls left by golfers, I spoke about the lack of balls and equipment in Bolivia and how the kids cherish even the tees that I had told them they could keep.
It is funny what we take for granted.
The views over the ocean and the rolling fairways are gorgeous in the late afternoon sun and my photos do not do it justice.
When we had the wind to our back, our balls were going a mile with the run on the fairway – mostly we were in the middle of the fairway.
I haven’t quite been able to get on to my long clubs of late – it is more rubbish than good and usually it is more good than rubbish. So I started doing half swings and kept the ball low and in the wind mostly they turned out quite well, always moving closer to the hole.
I think after someone (Kevin and Darren I am looking at you) told me my back swing is too big – which I was well aware of and my golf coach was going to work on that with me this summer. I am now conscious of my back swing and I try and pull back on it mid swing which never works.
You can’t try and fix anything during a round. You need time on the range to grind it out and get used to the changes.
Today I will be happy with half swings that I will continue punching forward as we are off soon to play in the BIGGA spring event with Course Managers and Superintendents from the Kingdom of Fife.
It was snowing overnight and there was a blanket of snow on the ground when I got up this morning. Gordon tells me it only snows when I am in town. Last week was beautiful and this week still beautiful but cold, crisp and snowy.
It was a lovely afternoon in the setting sun but by the time we teed off the 18th the biting wind had picked up and my face was numb. I nailed my drive – the best of the day – and Gordon turns to me and says “that will bring you back”.
Nothing would stop me golfing. I don’t care about the rubbish that comes off my club, I am just happy to be out with a fairway under my feet.
Three proper golf shots in a row followed by a nice long putt and I finished the day with a par.
How can I be anything but happy????