Last year when I played at North Berwick we were successful in the ballot you can enter 2 days before, but the tee time they offered was 4pm the following evening and that meant extending our trip another night and work was pressing. So we declined and wasn't't sure when our chance would come along again to be honest. We therefore entered the ballot when it opened up in the Autumn and were lucky to get a 'package' with Old Course and Castle Course.
We played the Old Course on Mon 3rd June this year and in all honesty I did not know what to expect. I'd been to the town many years before when I wasn't a golfer and of course had watched the Open there in 2015 on TV but until you arrive in town and make your way down to the first tee and starter it's impossible to really 'get it'. The sense that all the greats have trod this hallowed turf, the imposing clubhouse behind you and the sheer number of people milling around really does get the adrenalin going. Everything about St Andrews the town oozes golf out of every pore. There is simply nothing like and nowhere I had played before prepares you for it.
Taking the home of golf to one side, is it the best golf course you will ever play, probably not, but that's the point. You can't measure the golf course in isolation, it's everything about it - history, setting, the town, what has been etc etc
The 1st tee box in a way is rather underwhelming, 2 tee markers in the middle of a rather large grassy area, but in a way that's good as it settles your nerves (and I can't remember the last time I was nervous on a tee shot - there again I'd never teed off in the centre of a town before either!) the wind was blowing c40 mph but the sun was shining and nothing was going to spoil my round or drive. I aimed way left of centre but the wind still got hold of the ball and dragged it over 100 yards back to the right and it rolled out of bounds. Not to worry - hit another and away.
And what a place this is. Double greens abundant, criss crossing holes, such a narrow tract of land but oh what fun. Despite the wind, with the sun getting lower through the evening, this was such goof fun golf. I found 6 bunkers but got out of each 1st time every time so that was good, and just tried to keep most shots down so the wind had less impact. A solid score of 34 points and I was a happy man.
The 17th tee was great. The hotel nearby had people on the roof and whilst i didn't go over the corner, choosing to play safe out to the left, two of my friends did to great applause which really added to the occasion
And the on the 18th, whilst one of my friends sent there tee shot right, off the side of a hotel wall and bouncing back into play, whilst nearly hitting a tourist, I managed a straight shot down, a 2nd onto the greens and a 2 putt par was a wonderful end to the round.
Even at 8.30pm there were still people milling around and clapping when you holed your putt.
We ate in the clubhouse afterwards and then a few beers in town, chatting to a few American golfers who were there and this really adds to the occasion. people from all over the World in one place at the same time with one focus in mind - golf and the Home Of Golf.
Not the best course, but certainly the most memorable experience and one which I will do again, and would recommend everyone who loves our game to make that one effort to go and play.
Date: July 13, 2019