The Castle Course – April 2018 – Last week I returned to Scotland. It seems to be an annual pilgrimage – one I think we will have to continue.
I was presenting Fairways to the Rotary Club of Kilrymont St Andrews and was visiting with Gordon Moir and attending the BIGGA Central Section Spring Outing. Dave was with me and we had a whirlwind week.
I love the town of St Andrews and was excited to show Dave the bits I had seen, golf courses and Gordon’s office – the Jubilee Greenkeeping Centre and of course the hallowed ground of The Old.
First we were off to The Castle Course. It was a gorgeous sunny spring day but windy. More wind than we would have liked but here we were in St Andrews about to challenge ourselves on The Castle Course, look down over the town and across the North Sea.
How could a little wind put us off?
It might have blown Dave’s bag over and some our drives wayward, perhaps even assisting that final plunge into the sea but it didn’t put me off. I don’t think either of us holed out completely due to vanishing balls but it didn’t stop me smiling all day.
We were playing with Chris, who was on a sabbatical from Spyglass Hill and had borrowed Gordon’s clubs as he hadn’t planned on playing.
When In St Andrews One Must Play Golf. It is a rule. One of mine anyway.
Upon arrival we were introduced before we headed out to the range and hit a few balls. I hate hitting off astro turf but warmed up just the same. We then headed up to the putting green and laughed as our balls slid well past the hole or cut in a way we were not expecting.
This would prove true for all the greens we were about to challenge.
We watched the group in front tee off then got a spiel from the starter. A 2-3 club wind he said and I thought I would do my usual, whack well and hope for the best. I always tried to hit the ball well but I have no delusions that there are going to be wayward shots and that one club I can’t seem to work that day. As long as I have moments of greatness in any round and I can pray to the golf gods, I am happy.
We smiled in amusement as our balls hit the wall of wind and dropped (not very far for my ball). There were a couple of tees that I got a nice little shunt forward and was able to land around the same place as the men but usually I was hitting my second shot first.
I didn’t have a perfect round but I got a lovely par on the 8th and only donated about 6 balls to the course. I needed to lighten my bag for the way home anyway.
The group in front was slow and by the 5th we had the ranger tell us he would ask them for us to play through as we were pushing along but had a group right behind us that didn’t quite hit into us but were impatient.
The ranger came back to let us know that the group in front had picked up speed and all was good. We played the 6th but had to wait on the 7th tee as the group in front were hillwalking in the fescue. I wasn’t bothering to look too long in the grass but would drop a ball and continue on my merry way, these gentlemen wanted to find their balls.
They waved us through so the Dave and Chris teed off. I was already at my tee waiting so as the boys shouldered their bag, I teed up and looked down to see the group in front back on the course. I questioned the boys and they shrugged. One of the group in front waved so I waved back and swung away. Perhaps he was waving to say “stop my friend is hitting out of the bunker” I took it as a “we are ready for you to tee off” and as I smiled watching may ball soar down the fairway, the man in the bunker looked shocked as it whizzed by his shoulders and bounced down the short grass. I grabbed my clubs and shuffled down the fairway. Hurrying to play through.
Dave hit a ball on my left and as I watched it roll towards the green one of the group in front popped up – Dave told me later he had been lying on the green. Why? Who knows but that is why I didn’t see him. We rushed our putts and headed to the 8th. Did I mention I got a nice par here? It was my only par of the day so I was a little excited.
I played mostly bogey / double bogey golf with a snowman thrown in for good measure. I donated two balls to the water and didn’t finish the tricky 17th – I even have video footage of my 1st ball curving straight into the water. My second ball did the same thing.
Dave had also donated balls here and as Chris went off to play his ball, Dave and I chatted about the similarities of Scotland and Cape Breton and the 17th at the Castle Course to the 16th at Cabot Cliffs. We decided Cabot is scarier to look at yet we both have played that hole well.
This links course has many hazards; from the thick gorse, the fescue that sucks a ball in never to be seen again (not by your group anyway) and then there is always the risk of a great drive catching a bad spot and shooting off. The greens were my score wreckers. It was a misread green that caused most issues and my putter is usually one of the best clubs in my bag.
I wasn’t the only one struggling on the greens and getting your ball to sit or roll just right was always challenging – then there was the wind added to that.
The sun was out most of the day, although it was quite a crisp wind so I wore my beanie all day. It was only after I looked at all the photos that I asked Dave why he didn’t tell me my knit cap sat up like that of a garden gnome.
He laughed as we headed inside.
Post round, we sat in the clubhouse overlooking the shared 9th and 18th green. I am quite happy sipping whiskey watching people putt while the skin on your cheeks tingle in the warmth.
We bench raced for a bit talking about our golf game in this hallowed place as groups around us did the same.
What an amazing experience! The views are stunning.
It was a lovely way to see St Andrews and the whiskey helped settle my stomach before we headed off for my presentation at the Rotary Club down the road.
My presentation was at The Scores Hotel so when we stepped outside as the dusk rolled in and we said our goodbyes to Rotary President, John Spittle , we decided to pop down to the Swilcan Bridge and snap a quick photo.
The evening was perfect. Cool and clear and we bumped into Gordon who was coming out of his golf club. He asked if we were lost and we laughed and I said we were off to take a photo on the bridge. He offered to be our photographer so as he went to move his car and drive down the edge of the 18th, we stepped over the fence and walked down the 18th fairway towards the bridge.
Two American couples were asking each other if they were allowed to walk down the fairway back to their hotel and I turned and told them sure there is no one playing golf right now.
They then spoke in hushed whispers and I overheard “we are walking down the old”.
I may be relatively new to golf and I have been to a few places where golf is played, but St Andrews is special, a golf utopia.