It‚??s not every day that you get to watch Sunday of The Open at St. Andrews then head out to Kingsbarns in the evening for a hack. ¬†As far as ‚??Golf Days‚?Ě go, today‚??s gotta be right up there. ¬†The Championship itself may have been something of an anti-climax, but fair play to y‚??er man Louis, and the atmosphere at The Home of Golf really is what it‚??s all about. ¬†Electric. ¬†The thing I love most about Open crowds is that they‚??re so heterogeneous. ¬†That‚??s a big word. ¬†Everyone from the landed gentleman to the street sweeper is there. ¬†They say that golf is the great leveller ‚?? usually by reference to the actual playing of the game ‚?? and it is, but in a broader sense; in the sense that everyone can enjoy it, appreciate it and share it. ¬†The boys in their Sunningdale and Pine Valley ties certainly look smart walking the links, but inside the ropes they‚??re just patrons like y‚??er man who plays at his local 9 holer and turns out in tracksuit trousers and a raincoat.
Kingsbarns is about 10 minutes outside St. Andrews, along towards Crail and the East Neuk. ¬†It was designed by Kyle Phillips and built about 10 years ago on leased farmland. ¬†And it‚??s now world famous. ¬†Nearly all of the Americans we met across The Pond who‚??d been across ‚??ere for a trip picked Kingsbarns as one of their favourites. ¬†Having now played the course this doesn‚??t surprise me, on two counts (I‚??ll get to them shortly). ¬†So the anticipation was high when we jumped into The Tank and boosted through St. Andrews, past the Abbey and up the hill to meet our pal Chris.
Chris is the Assistant Greenkeeper at Kingsbarns and an all round Good Lad. ¬†Like Marc he contacted us through the website some months ago, in this case with an email going something like: ‚??I‚??m a greenkeeper at Kingsbarns... If you fancy at game when you‚??re over here let me know and we‚??ll get out for a hit.‚?Ě ¬†YUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. ¬†It‚??s fair to say I fired an email back more or less while his cursor was still on the ‚??Send‚?Ě icon. ¬†Yes, please. ¬†Chris also has ties to New Zealand ‚?? having worked this past summer at the spectacular Jack‚??s Point (see Day 31) near Queenstown ‚?? and in fact is in the process of getting a visa to go back and work there ‚?? this time at The Spiritual Home of Golf, my home club, Paraparaumu Beach! ¬†So he‚??ll be there when I get back, as long as those immigration folks play ball. ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†
When we arrived at the clubhouse there was hardly a soul there. ¬†Just a Japanese tourist or two that had made the pilgrimage for a souveneir. ¬†We had the course to ourselves, quite literally. ¬†Chris furnished us with the little welcome packs patrons receive as a consolation for forking out 165 quid ‚?? tees, a yardage book, scorecard and a pitch mark repairer, encased within a wee tartan pouch ‚?? and then it was down to business. ¬†¬†¬†
I found out the hard way on the 1st that there are places on the course you just don‚??t want to be. ¬†Namely, in the jungle like thuck stuff. ¬†A pathetic feather of a block with a 7 iron landed me in Hell, yielding a disconcerting double bogey to open my account. ¬†At this point it looked like we (or at least I) might be in for a long evening. ¬†
Chris was a font of knowledge of all things Kingsbarns, given he‚??s been here since it opened. ¬†I was interested to hear from him that nearly every mound you see has come to be not because of nature but thanks to JCB diggers. ¬†And that none of the gorse was there before; it was all planted. ¬†What sadistic piece of work would go out of their way to plant gorse? ¬†Kyle Phillips, that‚??s who. ¬†(Well, Kyle and his mates anyway).
Not many putts dropped but some proper golf shots were being played ‚?? encouraging after a big day and an even longer week (sounds like an Irish thing to say...). ¬†We found the fairways to be wider than expected, and hit driver more often than not. ¬†The fact that there was no wind helped too I suspect. ¬†Given its location, Kingsbarns could turn into a real nightmare if a gale got its tail up. ¬†On this muggy Sunday evening it was benign, despite us making life hard for ourselves by playing from the tips. ¬†The usual advice is that 9+ handicappers play from the green tees; 4 to 9 from the whites; and sub 4s from the blacks, if they‚??re game. ¬†Probably sound advice.
There are some quite spectacular vistas from the course, looking out to the North Sea. ¬†Equally impressive are the views back up the hill from the rocky beaches to the stately but understated clubhouse and adjacent Saltire Cross flag. ¬†Just a wonderful place to look around you really. ¬†I can just picture the Americans glowing with enthusiasm here, because it‚??s a setting so removed from the golf most of them are used to playing. ¬†To be sure Kingsbarns isn‚??t the wildest of places in Scotland ‚?? there is even a deciduous forest to the right of the 11th hole, home to a population of vicious midges ‚?? but it‚??s certainly confronting enough to merit quiet reflection. ¬†¬†
Holes like 12 and 15 are Cypress Point-like in their wow factor. ¬†Actually 12‚??s more like Pebble, the 18th to be precise ‚?? a par 5 with the beach running the entire length of the left hand side. ¬†And 15‚??s like 16 at Cypress, a long par 3 where you play over the water to a green guarded on all sides by salt water, other than short left. ¬†The back tee on 16‚??s something special too ‚?? a knee knocking carry over the beach once more to a fairway largely hidden by dunes. ¬†Hit and hope stuff.
This evening‚??s round was as relaxing as it gets. ¬†Playing Kingsbarns at any time is a special experience, but when you have it to yourself on a Sunday evening ‚?? and you‚??ve got a fantastically laid back greenkeeper as your host ‚?? it‚??s one in a million stuff. ¬†Walking the links in such circumstances, it would be impossible to have a care in the world. ¬†As therapeutic as it gets, for me. ¬†
Thanks Chris, you‚??re a legend. ¬†Look forward to having a hit out at Paraparam‚?? in the new year, where hopefully I‚??ll have some local knowledge on you before you‚??ve had a chance to sneak ahead!
Posting comments has been disabled.