I left Part I off with our group of 4 walk-ons finally getting a tee time after waiting for about 8 hours, starting at 4am. We made it. We found ourselves standing on the first tee of the Old Course staring at the enormous double fairway of the 1st and 18th holes. I have to admit, it felt good. As cheesey as it sounds, you can feel the tradition and it does feel special.
Then, a little pressure sets in. There are a fair amount of people standing around the tee area. Tourists, golfers waiting to play, etc. Plus, it’s the Old Course. Plus, it’s the widest fairway you will ever play. You can’t miss that, can you? Especially not in front of all these people…Sadly, we went 2 for 4. Happy to say, I kept the ball in the fairway, but, my nerves got the best of me and I put a pretty good hook on the ball. Not too many fairways it would have stayed in.
Admittedly, I was pretty nervous most of the first hole. It’s a big moment for a golfer. I did manage to scramble for a par. I settled down after the first hole. That is also when the reality of St. Andrews started to set in. Things like:
- This is very much a public course and has many of the characteristics that define one (starting with waiting in line to play). This isn’t a bad thing, it’s meant to be descriptive.
- It’s part of a big multi-course operation with holes from different courses side-by-side. Different courses everywhere.
- It’s not like what you see on TV. You see industrial buildings next to the holes and…
- There are people EVERYWHERE and so are their golf balls.
We managed to find some classic Scottish bunkers, of course (look for the ball).
Much of the front 9 just isn’t impressive, especially after playing courses like Troon and Turnberry. You can’t help feeling a little disappointed. People tell you before you leave that the course isn’t as good as others, but, I guess I didn’t want to believe it. Other than the first hole, the rest of the front nine isn’t that memorable. On one par 4, you are asked to wait as another group played a par 3 on the back 9 over your fairway.
You do get to experience the shared greens that are simply enormous. Just make sure you aim at the correct flag. They are color coded for the front and back. Yes, I made the mistake of aiming at the wrong flag once on the back 9. I wasn’t the only one. Here is a putt one of our guys had. That’s him in the far distance. He is still on the green.
Things get better as you make the turn and start heading home. You get away from seeing people and buildings all over and start to feel like you are back in Scotland. Then, you get to the really good stuff. First, you get to the Hell bunker. It’s bigger than I thought. Luckily, we all stayed out of it. It’s somewhat out of play from the “members” tees. It’s still cool to see though.
Then, of course, there is the Road Hole. We got to hit over the corner of the hotel. Good stuff. I hit it into the left rough even taking it over the hotel. We did have one guy put it into the hotel. I bet most groups do. It also turns out that more than one of us took a selfie with the road in the background while on the green. Again, that probably happens a lot.
Then, we got to the 18th tee. What an amazing view. You have the Swilcan Bridge, the town of St. Andrews, the Royal & Ancient Club, and one of the most iconic holes in all of golf. This was special. Again, 2 of 4 kept it in the enormous fairway (I was one of them again).
We took our mandatory picture on the Swilcan Bridge.
Then, we got to stroll the 18th fairway. It’s just a special moment in an golfer’s career, so to speak, to be able to walk this fairway. I will never forget it. I do want to forget my approach shot though. Chunked a lob web from 60 yards and ended up in the Valley of Death.
To some degree, it was fun to be in the VOD, but, I didn’t get up and down and ended up with an 80 for the round. Not bad for 25-30 mph winds. Would have been nice to get the 79 though.
Overall, much of the course was disappointing. But, the special moments were extra special and will not soon be forgotten. It’s a must play for anyone who loves the game. Cross it off the bucket list.