Royal Troon is among the most famous of the Great Scottish Links‚??, and therefore among the most famous courses in the world. ¬†It was founded in 1878 and held 8 Open Championships between 1923 and 2004 ‚?? won by Giants of the Game such as Locke, Palmer, Weiskopf, Watson, Calcavecchia, Leonard and, er, Todd Hamilton. ¬†Troon became Royal Troon in its centenary year ‚?? 1978 ‚?? when it received the Royal Decree. ¬†Now the members drive Aston Martins instead of BMWs and use silk handkerchiefs instead of linen.
The Old Course is sandwiched between Prestwick to the south and the Gailes courses (Western and Glasgow) and Dundonald to the north. ¬†On not a bad piece of golfing terra firma. ¬†In fact you‚??d be hard pushed to find a better agglomeration of links tracks anywhere on these Isles, or anywhere in the world for that matter. ¬†Royal Troon‚??s in good company.
How they let 3 Kiwi punters (and a Kiwi caddy) on for a game I‚??ll never know. ¬†But when the email came through suffice to say I was somewhat elated. ¬†Pete delayed his flight by a couple of days so he could experience a day or two of life as part of the puregolf2010 machine, with a game at Troon as a sweetener (as if he needed one...?!); and Doug came along for the ride too. ¬†Four excited Kiwis, yes Sir. ¬†Pete very kindly sponsored us to stay at The Anchorage Hotel in Troon last night, which was like going back in time. ¬†On Troon Eve we took in the sights of the local town, taking in a quiz at the local Inn and a spot of Bingo (we weren‚??t in time to take part, but observed with interest)! ¬†¬†A very confusing discussion with the Head Chef at the local curry joint was also a highlight. ¬†As was sitting up until the wee hours ‚?? rather unwisely ‚?? playing cards in our room.
Anyway. ¬†In the morning we waded through a sea of cholesterol / chowed down a cooked ‚??breakfast‚?Ě at the Anchorage (the lads hadn‚??t experienced black pudding before!), then made our way around the corner to the course. ¬†Rookie mistake: I‚??d forgotten that in the email were instructions not to wear shorts. ¬†So when we turned up in the clubhouse to meet the Caddiemaster we were politely advised of our error. ¬†Peter himself was a very gracious man indeed, and didn‚??t bat any eyelid. ¬†The rather officious chap running around in a blue jacket though was not quite as patient. ¬†Trousers on, quick smart. ¬†Right.
With an hour to kill before we were off, quite a few practice putts were hit. ¬†Not enough, as it turned out. ¬†I got talking to the starter, a very affable gentleman who used to be a footballer in his day. ¬†He shared with me his regrets about not giving it a go down south and overseas. ¬†Sadly his mother had kept from him an opportunity to go down at the age of 15 to Brighton to try out for a team down there, probably with his best interests at heart. ¬†He however didn‚??t see it that way and looks back on What Might Have Been. ¬†That‚??s not a sensation I enjoy.
The first 3 or 4 holes on The Old Course at RT are bonnie but not intimidating. ¬†As long as the wind‚??s not howling you can fire a few easy swing 2 irons down there and a mid to short iron onto the deck, without much trouble. ¬†Things start to hot up a bit on the par 5 6th, which I recognised from the 2004 Open. ¬†Then on the 7th you begin to realise you‚??re playing Royal Troon: a 380 yard dogleg right par 4 with more bunkers than I‚??ve had hot dinners and a well guarded green tucked between the dunes. ¬†On that hole Goldy rolled in his 3rd birdie of the day, and given Doug was perched up on the dune behind the hole I thought he might‚??ve captured it on film ‚?? but no such luck. ¬†At this point I made by 7th straight par and was beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. ¬†Ha ‚?? famous last words!
The postage stamp 8th hole is infamous. ¬†Many a postage stamp hole has been designed around the world with the 8th at RT in mind, some of which we‚??ve experienced this year. ¬†The only one I can remember that comes close is 16 at Paraparaumu Beach, which is equally as straightforward / tormenting, depending on how you play it. ¬†I pulled my sand wedge into the coffin bunker, which is not a nice place to be; Goldy pulled it onto the other side of the dune; and Pete stuck it was an easy swing (the secret) to 6 feet! ¬†I‚??m pleased to say Mr. Borren rolled it in for a memorable birdie too. ¬†And with an 8 footer sliding past the left edge I carded my first bogey of the round. ¬†Dammit.
On the 10th we had a bit of a mozza. ¬†The tees are set amongst the gorse in what really is the middle of nowhere. ¬†Were it not for the narrow path cut up into the dunes ahead you‚??d have no idea whatsoever which way to go. ¬†Doug strided up ahead to give us a line and to keep an eye on where our tee shots ended up. ¬†He picked his spot and waved us on. ¬†I took aim and thrashed a high draw with my driver, precisely down the line he indicated was the correct one. ¬†Problem is, when the ball left the clubface, Doug turned 180 degrees and yelled FORE. ¬†The 2 ball ahead were about to play their approaches and my ball flew straight over their heads! ¬†Doug neglected to shout back that this was the case, and so we found ourselves in a slightly embarrassing (but thankfully not lethal) situation. ¬†I marched up to the next tee and apologised; the two Englishmen were good humoured about the whole thing, but I was red faced nonetheless. ¬†What a kafuffle.
Yesterday at Dundonald we‚??d been laughing about the inevitable 3 off the tee that follows a 3 putt. ¬†It‚??s uncanny how a 3 putt or a missed 3 footer always precedes a block or hook into the gorse. ¬†Unfortunately it was my turn, when I 3 putted from just off the edge of the stroke 1 11th hole, then put the nail into the coffin on What Might Have Been A Good Round by blocking the wee white thing into the gorse on 12. ¬†Curtains. ¬†Next time I think, as an experiment, I‚??m going to hit a 9 iron off the tee ‚?? regardless of how long the hole is. ¬†Reckon I‚??ll score better...
The sun came out along the stretch and ‚?? though the pace of play slowed a little ‚?? we were in our element, marvelling at Troon in its full splendour. ¬†The brilliant red sandstone of The Marine Hotel glowed handsomely. ¬†And the contours of the course were revealed more acutely, as shadows grew longer by the second. ¬†The understated yet majestic clubhouse was a beacon of comfort ‚?? i.e. a sign that food wasn‚??t too far away ‚?? and an impressive sight in its own right. ¬†I wonder whether those 8 Open champions that walked down the 18th were as hungry as we were? ¬†Probably.
Off then we went to Morrison‚??s supermarket to pull together a feast to end all feasts. ¬†Goldy was particularly pleased with the 8 donuts for 59 pence deal he found. ¬†I was more taken with my 4 nectarines for a pound find. ¬†Yum.
The 2001 St. Andrews College golf team then packed into the car once more and set sail for Edinburgh, where we were to meet an old friend of Pete‚??s for dinner on George Street. ¬†I had forgotten how beautiful the centre of town is on a summer‚??s evening ‚?? the likes of India Street, Charlotte Square and George Street itself were buzzing with action and caked In sun. ¬†‚??Twas a long day, Day 203, but a good one. ¬†¬†A very good one.
JP ¬† ¬†
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