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Day 5

This is the one. This is The Old Course at St. Andrews. It's also the only course that I couldn't get a tee time for. Those of you who know me know what that means. I'll be sleeping in front of the starter's shack when they open. I WILL play The Old Course today.

Actually, I don't think I'll have any trouble getting on the course, they just don't reserve tee times for singles as a matter of policy. I will take no chances however.

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Scottish Weather

I don't want to sound too corny, but today was a day I'll remember for the rest of my life. I can't wipe the smile off my face. Since I was 11 years old, I have dreamed of playing the Old Course at St. Andrews - and today I did.

It's about 200 yards from my bed to the first tee. It was eerie walking through the early-morning streets carrying my clubs.



The Old Course at St. Andrews

I got to the starter shack at 04:50. I was the first one there by about 20 minutes. It was dark and very eerie. The wind was howling and the surf sounded like jet aircraft. The encouraging news was that I could see stars. This meant for now at least there were no clouds. The next guy to show up was Bob from Ontario. Following him by just a few minutes were Roger from Chicago and his son, Tom. Crazy golfers continued to show up, and by the time Hamish arrived at 06:00, there were probably 30 men (and two women) waiting.

Locals in St. Andrews can pay 90 pounds a year for unlimited play. What a deal. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club leaves several tee times "black" for their use. Included among these black times is the first tee time for the day at 07:30. At 07:10, Hamish walked over to me and asked if I'd "like to play the first ball in the lead match at the Old Course." I did (duh). What was really cool was that Bob, Roger and Tom got to play with me. Seems that it was too cold for the locals. Heck it was 52 degrees - I regularly played in those temps in Michigan.

When the sun came up (yes, I said sun), the winds died (yes, I said died), Hamish announced my name - and I hit the first ball of the first game at the Old Course at St. Andrews. That was the memorable part. What was completely forgettable was that after standing in the cold for more than 2 and a half hours, I was so stiff I could hardly turn and as a result I shanked my drive at about a 45 degree angle left. In fact, everyone in the group hit poorly, but we were off.

If you ever play here, take a caddy. They're not cheap (30 pounds plus tip) but heck, it's not like you're doing it every day, and they really are a trip. It's like having a private tour guide. Most of them are scratch golfers who have caddied for some big name pros in the US and in Europe. Just do it, they'll help you "find yer geem oot there laddie" not to mention your ball. They take it as a personal challenge for their player not to lose their ball - and they will not quit looking unless you make them.

My caddie Dave was a great guy. He's a freelancer and was the best caddie in the group, and was obviously senior, as he was constantly directing and correcting the other caddies. If you ever play here, be sure to hire a caddy. Dave saved me at least 15 strokes. You stand on the tee and you can see 3 or 4 pins. Dave would tell me where to aim - and It was NEVER at the pin. After the first hole, I drove really well all day. My approach shots were suspect (as usual), but thanks to Dave's reads on the greens, I putted well.

On the 8th, a 166 yard par 3 with a 1.7 acre green, Dave clubbed me with a 7-iron. I pushed it with the wind and ended up on the green ... about 160 feet from the hole. Dave said "youurre onn the greeeen Danne, but youurre guoing to havve the laangest puut uuf youurre lieefe." He was right. I had no idea what to do, but Dave gave me the line and I hit it as hard as I've ever hit a put. It took the break (about 30 feet) perfectly and at about 10 feet, it looked like it was headed into the hole. In the last 3 feet, it began to turn left, but right at the hole it straightened up and fell into the edge of the cup. That may have been the happiest moment of my life (I know how sad that is, but I don't care). Dave looked up at me with a perfectly straight face (at least that's how I imagined it looked - I was 55 yards away from him) and said "Danne, you missed my line, but the wind saaved yeer arse."

I played better than I thought I would and ended up with a 90 - including double-bogeys on 17 (the road hole) and 18. I had two pars, the miracle birdie and only hit one bunker. All in all - a dream come true.

The weather was great! The sun shone for the entire round. I approached 60 degrees. The wind was 20-25 mph for most of the day, but it was manageable with Dave to club me. If you've played with me in the wind you know I always outthink myself. I'm thinking of asking Dave to marry me.

The green area on the left is the Old Course. This is the view I would have seen walking from my B&B to the course - except that it was pitch black at 04:50.
View from the 17th tee (the road hole). You have to hit your drive right over the shed on the right. I actually had a great drive (I drove well all day), but it took me 3 more shots to get to the green.
View from the 18th tee.
The 18th green.
One happy guy!

 

Score Card

The British Golf Museum is closed. The sign in the window speaks volumes for small town Scotland. It said: "IN ORDER TO ALLOW FOR THE REFINISHING OF SEVERAL DISPLAYS THE MUSEUM WILL BE CLOSED FOR A FEW MONTHS."

Aslar Guest House This is supposed to be a very cool B&B right in the heart of downtown St. Andrews.

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