Montrose is one of those places that seem familiar even if you‚??ve never in fact been there. ¬†In many ways its a typical wee Scottish coastal town, with lovely architecture and an equally lovely links. ¬†Golf‚??s been played here for a Long Time; approaching the 1st tee there‚??s an information board with a few morsels of history for the curious punter. ¬†I forget when the first blows were struck (maybe 1592?), but remember that an ancient Duke or Earl played here on the eve of his wedding night many moons ago. ¬†Wonder if he was allowed out on Saturday mornings after that?
3 clubs play on the links, one of them being (rather confusingly) named The Royal Montrose Golf Club. ¬†All the Royal clubs I‚??ve been to have the place to themselves ‚?? here they obviously share with the Riff Raff. ¬†Either that, or the club‚??s Royal title was decreed upon its centenary. ¬†Or something like that. ¬†Nothing is certain in this life.
Our pal Gents, whose lovely mother Agnes kindly put us up last night at her epic little B&B Gramarcy House (the name is a hybrid of the names of her two sons, Marc & Gary), came up from St. Andrews to join us. ¬†Or, rather, to show us how to hit a golf ball. ¬†The lad used to play for Scotland in his younger days, and appears to be rediscovering a bit of form after travelling for the past year or three. ¬†Now, as I‚??ve mentioned in previous posts, he plies his trade as a greenkeeper on The Old Course. ¬†One of Gents‚?? mates ‚?? Andy Weir, a Montrose local ‚?? happened to be in town so he was dragged down to make a 4. ¬†Andy‚??s in the middle of studying in South Carolina on a golf scholarship. ¬†And he can play. ¬†Quite well. ¬†
Thus there were 2 mortals and 2 immortals in our group (I don‚??t need to point out which camp Mike and I fall in). ¬†We split up and did a bit of horse trading on who was getting what; then got under way. ¬†The thing with Montrose is that you need to score well on the first 7 holes, because It Gets Much Harder. ¬†When you‚??re told something like that, it‚??s very rare that you do in fact take advantage of the ‚??easy holes‚?Ě - either because one tries too hard or gets nonchalant, I can‚??t quite figure out which. ¬†Needless to say I took advantage of the first 7 like Scotland takes advantage of an early lead against the All Blacks.
On the 3rd we were privileged to witness something quite impressive indeed. ¬†Gents drove it 400 yards. ¬†Granted, slightly down hill and with a little wind helping ‚?? but I challenge anyone else to hit it 400 yards in any conditions. ¬†He smashed it. ¬†Our man Andy‚??s ball might‚??ve even crept past Gents‚?? pill had it not caught a sliver of rough on the edge of the fairway. ¬†At this point I felt very humbled indeed.
The views across the bay would, I suspect, be quite gorgeous when there‚??s no clouds about. ¬†I wouldn‚??t know though, because the clouds were out in Spades. ¬†At least it focused the mind on the task at hand, and what was right in front of us. ¬†On the back the town‚??s steeples towered above the gorse in the distance, often providing the ideal line for a shot, as steeples tend to do.
The greenkeeper, his son and his dog emerged at one point from the gorse ‚?? not to inspect the course but to swap the ‚??good flags‚?Ě for the overnight ones. ¬†Apparently the good ones would get nicked. ¬†What would anyone do with a golf flag? ¬†Maybe collecting them is part of a long standing local tradition of hijinx. ¬†Andy was very non-commital on the subject, so maybe he‚??s got a few at home...(absolute fabrication).
There are some magnificent holes on the back 9. ¬†The 16th and 17th stick out as two very strong tests of golf indeed ‚?? the former being a long par 3 with a Prestwick-like green; the latter being a long par 4 often playing into the prevailing wind to a raised green cut very intimately within close range of the gorse. ¬†Two bogeys. ¬†I must say too that the greens were pretty special. ¬†We were lucky to be playing only an hour or two behind a crowd playing the final match of a big tournament (won by an Aussie from Bankstown, as it turned out) - so the greenkeepers no doubt would‚??ve been putting their best foot forward. ¬†Well done to them.
The haggle came down to the very last stroke on 18 green. ¬†After 3 of us had made pars on what really is a birdie hole (the crowd gathered for the presentation by the 1st tee might‚??ve added a little extra pressure), Andy had an 8 footer for Glory ‚?? to win the hole with a 3 and halve the match. ¬†Sadly the sharpshooter couldn‚??t convert, giving Gents and I (well, really just Gents) the honours. ¬†A hard fought match on a testing course. ¬†It was like being 12 again, playing those ‚??very serious‚?Ě matches with your mates on a Sunday afternoon. ¬†
Thanks to Montrose for hosting us, it was a real pleasure; and to The Proper Golfers for showing us how the game can be played. ¬†Pure.
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