For those who live under a rock, do not like golf, or additionally have no clue, St. Andrews is arguably the most famous golf course in the world; Augusta has an strong argument in my opinion for that distinction. Regardless, it is easily the most iconic, with the Swilken Bridge, the clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the Road Hole, Old Tom Morris’ shed, and the double greens. It was an absolutely wonderful trip.
Getting on the Old Course is easier than one might think. All you have to do is put your name in a lottery the day before you want to play and you get decent odds of getting on; our understanding is that we had about a 1/3 chance because it was a holiday weekend. I entered our name on Friday for us to play on Saturday, and sure enough, I got Katherine to look online for us, and our names came up at 11:40. I almost couldn’t believe we were that lucky on our first try.
The next morning, we woke up early from a miserable night’s sleep in Edinburgh in quite possibly the worst hostel I have ever seen, and headed an hour north to St. Andrews. It was an important round on several fronts. Firstly, it was an elimination round in the British Cup; with me leading 1-0, William needed to answer. Secondly, we were on the most famous course in the world, so you always want to go out there and play your best.
I didn’t play my very best, but I sure had a chance to. I was very nervous on the first tee; with the R&A clubhouse in the background, the grandstands, the Swilken bridge in the distance, and a decent sized gallery, I did not hit my best shot. I however shot a pretty good 40 on the front; I even had a 3 footer for 39 (which would have been great), but of course I choked. I shot 45 on the back, which included a 50 yard (yes yard) putt holed for birdie and also a quadruple bogey 7 on a par 3 (which crippled my chances at 79), for a decently solid and respectable score of 85.
I hit a few of the best shots I have ever hit in my life on Saturday. The first one, the 50 yard put, is easily the longest I have ever holed, and to that point probably the longest I had ever attempted. Another hole that I will remember is #17, the road hole, the most famous in the world. For those who don’t know, the road hole has a blind tee shot, OB on the right, hence the road, and is additionally very long hole (500+ from the tips). It is one of the hardest holes in championship golf, and no doubt many a pro will make a mess of it come the Open. The drive is one of the most intimidating in the world, and my caddy asked me if I was going for the girly line, which would be a shot off to the left, or the manly line, which is straight over the shed, flirting with the OB right. I took the manly line, and striped a beautiful 300 yard+ drive down the middle; it was the best drive I have ever hit (Willy got a great photo of it, which can be seen below). The second shot on 17 is equally intimidating. I pulled a 4 iron and again took an aggressive line, flirting the famous road, and stuck it to 15 feet. My first putt, which was sharply uphill, was a choke, left 7 or so feet short, but I drained the next one for a par on what many believe to be one of the hardest holes in the world. I won’t be forgetting that one any time soon. It was probably the best golfing day of my life. I additionally captured the British Cup, my second major cup victory, the first being the Knoxville Cup.
On Sunday, we headed an hour north to play the Carnoustie golf links, which has the reputation as the hardest golf course in the world. After the 1999 Open there, it was dubbed Carnastie, because the winner that year was 9 over par; in that Open, Sergio Garcia was 30 over and famously collapsed crying into his mothers arms after shooting 89 on Friday of the tournament. Carnoustie was home to some very famous moments in golf, like Ben Hogan’s only open championship, but no moment, maybe in the history of sports, is more infamous than Jean Van de Velde’s epic melt down on #18 in 1999. It is one of the biggest choke jobs in all of sports history. It, additionally, was home to Padraig Harrington’s 2008 Open Championship. The place has some history to say the least.
Up until Carnoustie, I had been very lucky with the weather, other than the wind at Royal St. Georges. Well at Carnoustie, we got the full Scottish experience. 30 mph wind + rain + the hardest course in the world = some bad scores by William and myself. William got the better of me on Sunday, but it was still a greatly enjoyable day.
We took the day off on Monday to head down to Edinburgh, as we had already gotten done with our golfing goals by Sunday, and we hit all the touristy sights there, but the entire day, the only thing on my mind was trying to get out and play the Old Course one more time. I will most likely never go back there, and the thought of that nagged at me all day until finally, around midnight, I decided I would wake up early and try and get on the course again, this time alone because William is not as stupid/crazy as I am.
So, I woke up at 3:45 and took a shower and headed down to the road to the Old Course as the sun was coming up. It was a pretty awesome moment for someone who loves golf; it was just me sitting there alone for a few hours watching the sun rise over the old course. After waiting for several hours, my name was finally called at 7:45, and I was once more on the most famous course in golf. On the front, I again carded a 40, but on the back, a 9 on a par 4 and a triple on 17 (I had that one coming), where I took a club too much on my approach and flew the green onto the road and OB, killed my chances at bettering Saturday’s 85. Still, 88 was not too bad, and getting up early and playing again was something I will remember for the rest of my life. It was a once in a lifetime trip, and I played what is now my favorite course in the world twice. Hopefully next time, if there is a next time, my Dad and brother will be able to be out there with me.
Ps. If you are still reading this, I am thoroughly impressed