The Scotland Diaries
By Dave Horstman
It's been a dream of mine since I first saw it on television some thirty years ago .The British Open (the Open), and the chance to play golf in Scotland. As fate would have it, my dream is about to become reality. As a PGA professional, the opportunity to visit the birthplace of golf ,St. Andrews, is just short of a religious experience.
17, July 2002:
The big day has finally arrived, and I will be accompanied by three good friends of mine; Jeff Virsik from Cocoa Beach, Florida; Dan Kanaan from Canton, Michigan and Tom Pagels from Chicago, Illinois. Our flight itinerary is Detroit Metro to Amsterdam, Netherlands to Manchester, England , about ten hours of time.
After a four hour drive in a rental car, we arrive at our home for the next nine days, The Lundin Links Inn, a quaint, old Scottish hotel located near Leven, Scotland (about 12 miles from St. Andrews). Although exhausted from the travel, we unloaded the luggage and make the short trip to St. Andrews. It' s hard to believe that I'm standing on the hallowed grounds of the Old Course at St. Andrews. The pictures in magazines and television do no justice. The old buildings, the North Sea and the golf courses are breathtaking. The Old Course at St. Andrews was built more than 600 years ago and is the first golf course in the world. After the brief tour and some pictures, we put our name in the lottery to play the Old Course on Saturday (to play the Old Course, you have to put your name in a lottery and hope that you are drawn , if not, you don't play). We then went off to play our first round of golf at the Dukes course. The Dukes is an inland course, (there are two types of course in Scotland; inland courses, similar to courses in America, and links courses, built along the sea) and one of the few courses in Scotland that has riding carts or buggies as they are known by the locals. By the time we finished the round, the thought of a hotel bed has never seemed so inviting, it has been thirty hours since we left Detroit.
19, July 2002:
(No, I didn't miss a day due to the time change, we left on the 17 arrived on the 18 ). Today, we are meeting up with two of Dan's friends who live in the U.K.-and playing an inland course called the ,Kings Course, at Gleneagles located in Perth. As I had said earlier, few courses have "buggies" Gleneagles was no exception. You can carry your own bag, or hire a caddie for the day. My caddie for the day was a lad in his mid seventies who has been looping (carrying bags) for 25 years. He has 3 European Tour victories while carrying for tour professional Mark James. The Kings was a tough golf course with spectacular views overlooking the rolling terrain. After the round, we enjoyed a few pints at the pub, and then made the phone call to see if we had been drawn in the lottery. Lady luck must have been watching over us as we were the second group drawn , our tee time for Saturday on the Old Course was for 6:40am. It' s time to head back to the Inn as we want to be well rested for the golf tomorrow. The hour trip back was completed in a little more than two hours as Jeff and myself were the navigators and the maps are not the most detailed. We finally arrive around 12:30am so much for the good nights sleep as the alarm is set for 5:00am.,
20, July 2002
This is the day I have dreamed of playing the Old Course at St. Andrews a links course. We arrive at 6:00am. After some coffee and bagels, we head to the starter to check in. It doesn't get any better than this, never mind the fact that the temperature is 50, the wind is blowing, and it's raining! I come out of the gates like a man on a mission. Driver, sand wedge to one foot for a tap in birdie on the first hole. What a way to start. It's hard to believe that a course built more than 600 years ago is one of five courses to host the Open Championship. Words cannot begin to describe the day an experience. I shall never forget it as long as I live. After the round at the Old Course, we travel down the road to the Golf Club, a links course, for the afternoon round. The weather is abominable cold, rain, and winds gusts to 40 mph (little did we know that Tiger was having his worst round as a professional (81) in the third round of the Open just 8 miles across the North Sea). We were having a difficult time deciding if we should play because of the weather, however, when the young kids began walking by with their bags on their shoulders wearing shorts and tee shirts, we knew we didn't have a choice. Without question, the most difficult conditions I've ever played golf, yet the golf course was full. The Scots love the game and play no matter what the weather might bring. Back home, the courses would have been closed for the day. This is the most scenic course we have played, located on the shores of the North Sea.
21, July 2002
The British Open !! Muirfield Golf Club !! Wow is this a trip or what! The atmosphere is electric as we arrive around noon. Unlike the tournaments in the States, the tickets are sold at the gate, unlimited, and the cost to enter is only 35 pounds (approximately $50.00 U.S.) The Scots are educated golf fans and put on a first class event. They are friendly people and make you feel the history of the event while you walk the course. As horrendous as the weather was yesterday, today is perfect for the final round , sunny, warm, and no wind. The first thing you notice is the rough it's waist high!! Add to that the narrow fairways, pot bunkers so deep that you have to play out sideways, and lightning fast greens, it's no wonder that the best in the world struggle to break par. The tournament finished with four golfers tied for first, Ernie Els, Stuart Appleby, Thomas Leget, and Steve Elkington. Ernie Els won the four hole playoff to become the 2002 Open champion. On the way from the Open, we stopped in Edinburgh for dinner, and a look at the famous Edinburgh castle. After a few pints at a local pub, we decided to call it a night and head for the Inn. I won't mention the fact that we were a little late in returning, and had to break into our rooms as the Inn was closed for the night!
22, July 2002
Today we will be playing Carnoustie, another one of the Open rotation courses. Carnoustie is known as the hardest golf course in the world (the 18, hole is where Jean- VanDevelde made triple bogey to lose the 99 Open). The course definitely lives up to it billing. It's tough! An interesting collection at the halfway house, bag tags on the walls from all over the world. The bag tags are given by golfers playing the course, and then placed on the walls. Pheasant Run is now represented on the walls. A short drive back south finds Jeff and I on the first tee of the New Course (built 1895) at St. Andrews. Dan and Tom opted for the local pub while we played. The New Course is a challenging yet fair test of golf. This is the first time we tote our own bags, and we're a little worn out by the time we're done. After dinner, it's to the room for some much needed rest.
23, July 2002
Typical weather for Scotland as we awake to grey skies and rain. Today's test of golf will be the Lundin Links Golf Club circa 1895. A traditional links course with some history. The original course was nine out and nine in (the standard for links courses) until the neighboring town of Leven claimed a portion of the course built on their property. Each town then had to add new holes thus creating two 18 hole courses. There is a '_ Three, foot high stone wall separating the two courses. Once a year, the original 18 hole course is played. The course plays alongside the Firth of Forth and has spectacular views.
24, July 2002
A slight change of plans as we decide to pack the van and leave the Lundin Links Hotel. We are playing the Turnberry Golf Club today and then we will head to the country of Wales to play tomorrow. Turnberry is another of the Open rotation courses, and I must say my favorite. Located in Ayshire, Scotland, the course plays along the North Channel of the Irish Sea. The Aisla Craig (a volcanic island) and the lighthouse are two of the more famous landmarks. Today' s weather is once again typical for the trip , rain !!! My caddie treated me to a rare occurrence, on the 9th hole, he took me back to the championship tees that are only- played in the Open championship. I did not disappoint him as my drive split the middle of the fairway, another memory that will last a lifetime. This golf course is not quite as old, built in 1902!! After lunch in the clubhouse we depart for Wales -- a short hour ride down the road, or so we thought. Six hours later after winding roads through the mountains, the end of the trip from hell is in sight, the bed and breakfast we have so desperately been searching is within an hour. I would sleep on the floor at this point, just get me out of this van.
25, July 2002
After driving in the dark, I'm interested to what the countryside looks like in daylight. The course we are playing today is The Royal St. David's Golf Club located in the town of Harlech in northern Wales. OK, so maybe it was worth the drive -- the area is mountainous, and the links course is located just off of the Irish Sea. The Harlech castle is visible from all of the holes on the course. The course also hosts the European senior open. After golf, we head back to Manchester, England for a night on the town before we depart for the States tomorrow. We stay at a hotel close to the airport, and as all responsible adults do, we stay out way to late on our last night of the trip.
26, July 2002
It's hard to believe we're heading home -- time goes by so fast when you're having fun. After the short one hour flight to Amsterdam, we board the DC 10 for the ten hour flight back to Detroit. As I step off of the plane, it feels great to be home!! Well, there you have it. In a nutshell, my dream vacation fulfilled; ten days, nine courses, the Open and friends. It was everything I had hoped for and then some. If you are a golfer, you owe it to yourself to make the trip to the birthplace of golf. I promise you won't be disappointed.
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