The opening day of the Open Championship and we were up bright and early to have a hit around the former Open qualifying course just down the road from St Andrews that goes by the name of Lundin Links.¬†
Lundin was where Mike Patton, Jamie‚??s father, used to play his golf and today we were hosted by two friends of the Pattons and fellow doctors in Kirkaldy, Graeme Duncan and Graeme Brown.¬†
We‚??ve actually been staying with Graeme and Trina Duncan in Kirkaldy just around the road from where JP grew up.¬† Think the Duncans and the Pattons go quite a long way back, and we were definitely made to feel 100% at home at their place the last couple of nights!¬† Graeme Duncan and Mike Patton used to play in an Irish tournament called the Bushmills where there is a little irish whiskey consumed, some good golf played and everyone generally has far too much fun.¬† Whenever the Bushmills tournament has been mentioned on this journey people seem to get all dreamy eyed as they reminisce about the debauchery of the week.
Anyway, the Duncan‚??s have been fantastic at helping us to acclimatise to Scotland with their warm house and even warmer hospitality.¬† If I‚??m being honest there has been some adjustment coming from the US and it has been drearier than I had imagined. ¬†I‚??m thinking a second set of wet weather gear might be a necessity. Definitely my Westhampton jumper is already coming in handy..
Although this morning at Lundin Links the weather was very calm which I am told is extremely uncharacteristic for these parts.¬† Accordingly golf this morning was without the natural hazard of the wind and the course played far easier than it ought to.¬† The same can be said about the Old Course down the road which the pro‚??s absolutely tore to shreds in these conditions.
You see after we played golf we headed down to the Open Championship where we met up with Steve Williams, the caddy for Mr Tiger Woods. We yarned about NZ, the Open Championship and Tigers chances for the week.¬† Seemed like team Tiger were pretty gutted at only shooting 67 today in the calm, 4 shots back from that young buck McIlroy from Northern Ireland who could have shot 62 but missed a tiddler on the road hole. Tomorrow is another day.. ¬†Steve generously hooked JP and I up with season passes for the Open so in the afternoon we had a brief look around the course. By brief I mean we got as far along the course as the 17th tee¬†‚?? the road hole where the players launch it over the corner of the Hotel and hope it lands on the tiny slither of the fairway somewhere over the other side.¬† Steve reckoned that if you had two 5‚??s and two 4‚??s on this par four this week you wouldn‚??t lose any ground against the field. And he said that when the wind blows from right to left (as it did with gusto in the practice round) the players actually have to launch it right up high over the hotel, as opposed to the sheds on the corner, something he wasn‚??t a huge fan of. ¬† Of course we also checked out the road hole green which I could write a short book about it is that good. Genius design.¬† Walking across the fairway it actually looks visually easier than it does from the stands from where you can see exactly how close the road is to the extremely narrow green. If you miss it right or long you‚??re on the road and/or out of bounds.¬† Most of the players were sensibly playing short and then trying their luck putting from the front edge. Sensible stuff.¬† And of course the first look at the 18th hole, the R&A clubhouse and the spectacular architecture around this corner of the golf course. Fields of dreams really. Should be a magic week ahead.
OK, so rewind to Lundin Links on a foggy morning with more than a few drops of rain for the first few holes. ¬†The course was in great nick and the greens rolling well again fresh from hosting the world boys championships (under 16) where a kiwi lad by the name of Cho did very well and was in the top 5 or so.. I was teamed up with Graeme Duncan (GD) against the baddies aka JP and Graeme Brown.¬† Both the locals are clearly accustomed to playing in the wind as off the first tee they smoothly knocked a low runner down the fairway 230 yards or so.¬† Simple but effective, particularly GB who is a pretty fine golfer off about a 6 handicap.
My man GD though, well he could clearly play a little, and with a swing that flowed like Tom Watson‚??s I had found the right partner. Helped too when he drained a few long putts on the first three holes to have us up a couple in no time. ¬†Also taught me a few scottish sayings and after only three or four days I am starting to find myself saying 'aighye' every now and then.. It's about as catchy and well used as y'all was in the South of the US.
The first four holes at Lundy go out along the coastline towards Leven golf club (they have a composite day at some stage during the year where the courses combine for a huge ‚??out and back‚?? links test), and from there the course meanders to and fro parallel with the coastline of the Firth of Forth.¬†
A couple of burns roll through the links which are good solid hazards ‚?? they are combined with significant swales into them from both sides which make the burn of 2 yards wide, effectively about 15 yards wide.¬† See the photograph below looking back down the toughest hole on the course ‚?? the par 4 4th.
Two par threes border the farthest tip of the course, the 5th and 11th¬†(can see photograph two below from the 6th tee) which play alongside a wall separating Lundin Links from Leven.¬† The 5th¬†(below) is a green you don‚??t want to miss ‚?? more easily said than done I‚??d suspect in the wind.
We‚??re getting used to a few blind shots around here and the 6th was no exception. To take the photo below Jamie jumped up on the spotters tower to keep an eye out and take a few snaps.¬† One interesting part about Lundin Links is that a railway line used to run through the course and now, whilst the railway tracks have gone, the land still plays as an internal out of bounds. So along the 6th, 7th and 8th holes you have a 10 yard slither of out of bounds along the right of the fairway ‚?? that caught a couple of the ‚??baddies‚?? out over this stretch and before we knew it we were 3 up.¬†
The 7th is a 270 yard par four which is a unique distance for a hole.¬† The play is definitely an iron from the blind tee shot but, not knowing the full story about the depth of the gully around the burn short of the green I knocked it up with a driver and fluked it to land on the green 15 feet away.¬† A 15 footer for Eagle and a 10 pound donation to the First Tee from Toddy (see our Scottish Birdie Challenge video and if anyone else wants to get involved let us know!). But I left it right in the jaws on the lip so you‚??re cash is safe for now pal!
Some critics of the course say it isn‚??t a pure links track because of the holes along the top, in particular the par five 10th which plays through a few pines.¬† As GB pointed out this is actually a really good driving hole, where if you hit a good one the green in 2 is easily reachable, but if you hit it left you‚??re down in the hay and right blocked out by trees. Of course there are a couple of pots as well to navigate around. ¬†We've quickly learnt that getting in a pot bunker adds one shot to your score. So whatever you do, don't flirt with them as you may with the flat bunkers in the US (Steve was proudly telling us about how he has kept Tiger out of the bunkers here so far in 2000, 2005 and through one round in 2010). ¬†On the 10th at LL, GD hit it sneaky long and knocked it on with a 4 iron and just missed his eagle putt. We were combining very nicely and had the baddies on the ropes.
Few holes later the clouds had lifted and it was game set match. So then JP started to play with his second birdie in a few holes and GB also knocked in a birdie on the blind 17th (pictured below)‚?¶
18 is some finishing hole with a hugely wide fairway but then the road borders the green leaving a terrifying final swing where anything left and you can add a couple of shots to your score.
Fast forwarding to the end of the day, we were back at the Duncan‚??s for a dinner party joined by the younger members of the Duncan clan, Graeme‚??s brother Stuart Duncan and his wife Karen, GB and the Sheddens (who own a wee course around these parts that we‚??re going to play tomorrow). ¬†The Scottish chat was flowing along with fine food and drinks and before we knew it the clock was pushing midnight and it was time to hit the hay and try and catch up on the odd blog... ¬†¬†
Posting comments has been disabled.