The wind here she blows, a steady pass, now straight and low, and learn the rule before you go, its better short beneath the hole, then long and deep in heathers hole. Play quick and smart along the way, and live to play another day.
In Scotland the home of golf the wind is as much a part of the game as your clubs in the bag. It is always here sometimes soft , sometimes firm and fast.
You learn quickly that the only difference between a 350 yard drive and a 200 yard drive is which way the wind is blowing. All of this means far less than the majesty of the moment and is more about the game itself and how it endures in time.
Our day begins as we are greeted by John Grant, Director of Golf at The St. Andrews Links Trust at the Castle Course, one of 7 golf courses the trust operates here in town. Over 250,000 rounds of golf are played by golfer from all over the world each year. The R& A is in session this week as they play their annual match against the town of St. Andrews, over 600 will compete in the event. John has the job of a lifetime for golf course management at a place that just seems like golf heaven. After a walk though the Castle Course clubhouse with 180 degree views of the sea and the town of St. Andrews we are ready for our first round in Scotland.
The Castle Course is St. Andrews Links Trust newest course designed by Scottish course Architect David McLay Kidd. Its sits on 220 acres of land high on a cliff overlooking the North Sea and the Town. The land was part of a hunting ground for Pictish kings and dates back to 1100 AD and was know as cursus apri, or Boar’s Chace. A boar is still featured in the towns crest.
From the white tees Castle plays a full 6759 yards par 71 which has 4 par fives and 5 par threes. The dramatic layout over gorges and seaside farmland is stunning to say the least. On a sign in the lew these words ring true.”The wind will own your game if you let it, look ahead and not behind and move at a players pace in this special place”. Never could this be more true and the locals know it well. We go out as a two-some but after 6 holes we are caught easily by two 75 plus year old Scottish players who walk like 20 year olds. The 18 at the Castle proves to be a strong test walking for both John and I. Our two playing partners John Riley and friend Graham heading out for a hill and cliff climb together after the round, hearty souls they are!
The course may be the newest and just a baby as far as St Andrews other links but it truly a wonderful layout and great test of golf. In Scotland it almost does not matter how far you hit it off the tee, it is more about the second and third shots in to undulating greens where long is almost always trouble. It is invariably less important less important how you got there as long as you keep it online. We play is just over 4 hours walking which is much faster than most rounds stateside and for this course that is a bit slow they say. It is a grand experience to put it mildly and the final scores become less important than the great walk. No one ask about your final score, you endured.
After 18 at the Castle course we visited the Old Course Hotel in town which sits majestically along the Old Course on the 16th and 17th holes. It is a five star red hotel facility, the hotel is a very big part of every Open here at St. Andrews. We venture out some 5 miles up into the hills to meet David Scott manager of the Dukes Course for lunch and a review of the course which is totally different from the seaside links. This course is long playing over 7500 yards from the back tees and built on fertile land with over 100 bunkers. At the seaside links your ball rolls forever but here there is almost no roll making the course play even longer. Huge Sycamore trees line rich green fairways framed by deep rough and yes once again lots of heather. It is truly a very different experience than most of the golf we have played in both Ireland and here in Scotland. The Dukes hotel and the Dukes course are now owned by Kohler out of Wisconsin and are sister properties to Whistling Straights and Blackwolf Run. The Kohler Experience will go one step further in ST. Andrews as they have recently purchase the Hamilton Grand property overlooking the 18 hole at the Old Course and plan over 20 private executive residences at this historic site.
Our first day out golfing in St. Andrews proves to be even more than we expected and the wind and challenge of the walk leaves us a bit weathered but feeling great. We wind up our day aside the Old Course at the Dunvegan Hotel and Pub the best place in town. Songs and dancing fill the air with a great steak and few Guinness pints. We live to play another day.[nggallery id=31] WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?