George, The Jigger Challenge and The Road Hole

I was out again on The Old yesterday and I must admit to really enjoying caddying there. It has a sense of theatre and energy lacking in the other courses, not least for the sense of history and the perpetual flow of onlookers watching the first drives and the incoming few holes. It is really a part of the town and it puts an edge onto the players who are usually fulfilling a once in a lifetime ambition in playing here. It’s just a pity some of our more weathered caddies don’t always appreciate the significance of this moment to them.
We had a lovely group, two young lads Jason and Fraser up from Edinburgh, who were bustling with enthusiasm about playing the Old and a couple of nice gents from North Yorkshire, George and Ben. They were bemoaning the fact that their B and B in Murray Park had not welcomed them and they didn’t get breakfast before their early tee off on The Eden. I won’t say the number of the said Murray Park guesthouse but it wasn’t a full dozen and it rhymed with Srixon.
In addition they were lured into eating at the Dunvegan and were none too impressed by their ‘culinary experience’, which I sympathised with. Again it makes me wonder at the astonishing universal pull this establishment appears to have. Amazingly, it seems to have become as much of the St Andrews experience as playing The Old.
Anyway I had George’s bag who reminded me of George out of Three Men in a Boat. I don’t know how but I had bagged Jerome K Jerome’s creation. He looked wonderfully and affably English with genial eyes and smile and cap to boot. Eccentric looking and a caricature of good old fashioned Englishness.
He and Ben were into pet food and I’m thinking you could be into a lot worse things. However this doesn’t mean that you should eat at any old establishment in town. Reading into it I think they had a pretty impressive business going on.
The guys had a great match which went all the way to the 17th where George hit a shot which altered received wisdom and my opinion of the driving line down the iconic hole.
They had been joking about the ‘Jigger challenge’ whereby you have to quickly drop by the famous Jigger bar (adjacent to the fairway) off a good drive. The idea is to jump the wall and quickly order four pints and down them, before negotiating the hardest shot in golf into the notorious 17th green.
The guys decided to forgo the challenge and George’s said drive just missed the outside balcony to the bar on the top floor of the Old Course Hotel. It travelled parallel to it and went closely past every 3rd floor bedroom window looking onto the course. I suggested that he hit a provisional ball which he knocked into the hotel car park. Another provisional was hit well up into the rough on the left. However, George confidently walked up the side of the hotel for his first ball and indeed found it just in bounds, and well positioned I thought for a quick Jigger challenge, next to the beer garden. It was a massively impressive golf shot.
It rounded off a fun game with four really decent blokes who had a hugely enjoyable game of golf and showed there was a lot of mileage in The Auld Alliance yet.
However, I will now be very unsure in giving advice off the seventeenth tee on The Old. The line used to be the first ‘O’ in The Old Course Hotel sign but now I’m not sure.
Maybe the ‘aar’ inspired by a fine man called George.

Jiggers, hickories and flippery

I was out on The Old yesterday and thought I’d gone back in time as I caught sight of four gentlemen causing a bit of a stir on the first tee. They were all magnificently attired in Harris Tweed plus twos, donning waistcoats and bow ties and caps. And indeed they all had old style golf bags full of entire sets of hickory shafted clubs.
They made quite a spectacle and one chap looked marvellously like Sir Edward Elgar. Indeed they wouldn’t have looked out of place at high table at one of your more distinguished Oxbridge colleges.
It turns out there’s a party of eighteen of them from some quirky wee club in Austria. But unfortunately only four of them got ballot times for The Old. And that’s a shame after making that sort of effort.
Anyway with much aplomb the first three hit excellent drives with their hickory woods up the middle of the fairway. However the last chap, who looked rather splendid in a deep blue shooting jacket and pristine starched white breeks, hit a truly miserable shot. There was a lull and then Cologne Tom (yes it had to be), declared from the side of the tee, ‘bad luck but if it’s any consolation you’re the best dressed of the group’.
It caused great amusement to us and a fair group of onlookers. And of course it was classic Tom who will often refer to someone’s sartorial style after a bad shot.
And this was without doubt stylishly worthy of comment.

Four caddying

I had the luck yesterday to be out with lovely Gerry and Morag from mid Cape Cod. Morag had an interesting accent which turns out to be a cross between Cape Cod and Dumfries as she had emigrated in her twenties. While Gerry was pure Cape Cod.
They asked if I didn’t mind ‘four caddying’ and I said ‘fine but there are only two of you?’. However, it transpires that’s a technical term for just being a sort of course guide. We kind of laughed but I could see Matt my caddie master half grimacing in the background. I don’t think he quite realises what a wayward cannon I can be at times.
Anyway we got to the 4th and Gerry asked me why the hazard posts were painted yellow and I had to say I didn’t know. I mean I wasn’t going to lie to a top lawyer. My immediate instinct was that it could be a greenkeeper whim thing or maybe a colour blindness issue. Gerry said he wasn’t sure either but knew there was a significance between red and yellow hazard posts. And I suppose I should know about this.
You get quite a lot of questions out on the course which can often stump you. But on the whole they’re quite easy and most of us know that there’s barley grown in the fields across the road and that’s what whisky is made from, and the tracks in the field are made by tractors, the Cathedral is the building in town that is half in ruins, and the rocks off the 17th are volcanic. And we have the oldest University in Scotland and the orange things floating in the sea are buoys for lobster creels. And we export a lot of our lobsters to France because you can’t get one for love nor money in town. And Carnoustie is across the water and so is Dundee. And the sea is called The North Sea and it is very cold. And that white thing out there miles away (fiftyish) is the Bell Rock Lighthouse built by Robert Stevenson. And that is one of the seven wonders of the industrial world. A bit like the game of golf but we’re no longer taking credit for that.
However Gerry was more for asking golfing technicalities and on the next hole he floored me by asking what the slope index of the course was. My immediate reaction was to say I wasn’t quite sure but it was really quite hilly for a Links course. But I thought better and had to admit my ignorance of slope indices. It turns out to be an American-inspired course rating system which assesses courses, and so equates handicaps, globally. Gerry seemed quite informed about all this and said that it all came down to the GIN Index. And I thought that sounded promising.
I felt a bit better a few holes later though when Gerry asked what sort of grass we had here and I confidently, and quickly, replied that it was rye. And I was glad that he thought it might be that too.
Gerry loved the Castle Course but I’m not sure of his estimation of the savvy of its local caddies.
Well, of this particular four caddie.

Priceless Cologne Tom

I was out with Calum and Cologne Tom yesterday and we had three guys from The Eden Club, which usually means that they are fairly successful in one way or another. For The Eden Club is not cheap where clients reside at the wonderful Pittormie Castle and are waited on hand and foot, I would expect.
However, you have to imagine the situation yesterday when our three clients John, Steve and Arnold teed off at the fourth. Now it’s been established that these chaps are pretty well heeled to say the least, owning their own companies in the leisure and corporate investment fields, so I expect they are used to a fair bit of obsequiousness.
However this was not to be with John, who Tom was caddying for. Unfortunately he hit an awful shot about 50 yards off the tee into deep rough. There were a few moments of quiet as normally follows a poor shot. But then Tom exclaimed loudly ‘That was pathetic!’
John didn’t say anything, Arnold broke down in laughter, Calum and I smiled knowingly at each other and Steve looked around at us with a look of astonishment on his face and laughed and joked that Tom wasn’t gunning on the tip front.
But Tom with his considerable charm gets away with this. And I tell you one thing is that it is an amazing ice breaker, for by the middle of that fairway the spirit of our group was lifted markedly and our guys were all relaxed and out with their best jokes and repartees.
Yes, Tom had set a lovely tone and we all knew that this playing field was indeed level.
Well apart from the hills that is.

Out with 88 year old Walter

What a fun and lovely day Cologne Tom and I had yesterday. We were out with four Brazilians who had just arrived for a ten day trip.
Tom caddied for petite Yvonne and got on like a house on fire from the start, and I had the bag of Walter who was a lithe and vigorous 88 year old. His grandson Rafael and Yvonne’s husband, another Walter, made up the group.
Now The Castle is one of the hardest, hilliest and longest courses in the area so I kind of thought my Walter would just play nine and call it a day. However I couldn’t have been more wrong. He demolished a hot dog at the turn, lit another cigar and jaunted up the path to the tenth and bashed a drive onto the green. And he carried on sprightly the rest of the round and didn’t seem to tire.
I asked of his grandson what his secret was and he inferred it was cigars, red wine and playing golf five days a week. He is seemingly called Tiger back at his home club in Brazil. And I think that is excellent and can’t help but feeling that I won’t be being called Tiger when I am 88. In fact more a large mammal marooned on a sand bank comes to mind.

Dunhill Days

What a week we’ve had so far for the marvellous Dunhill Championship. The skies are diamond blue and the light is extraordinary in the Auld Toon where spectators can get in for free and professionals and celebrities combine to play over Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and the Old Course.
The kilted caddie is not working this week and strolled down to the 18th of the Old yesterday only to see his old work colleague (yes he once had a proper job!) Richard Muckart hit a splendid pitch into the last. His professional playing partner Mark Otto had an interesting last hole, to say the least. His drive on eighteen hit the road, ten metres from me, and took one massive bounce towards the window of the Rusacks Hotel. It narrowly missed the glass and rebounded off the wood and back on to the fairway in a rather good position. Anyway he then hit a brilliant pitch to five feet and holed it for a birdie.
Even more impressively wayward was the amateur Phipps who hit his first drive down eighteen on to the road but without any fortuitous bounce back into play. He then hit an even more outlandish ball which looked like it was heading half way up Grannie Clark’s Wynd but somehow hit the top of the roof of number 12 Golf Links and rebounded back on to the fairway. All great stuff the Dunhill.
It reminds me of a certain character, Mr Currie, whom I have the pleasure of knowing, who played here a few years ago with Constantina Rocca. He seemingly hit a wonderful drive down the 17th of the Old and was in two minds with his caddie over whether to play safe or go for the green in front of a sizeable crowd. Of course Alistair pulled out his 3 wood and hit a remarkable duck hook which travelled towards the poor chap manning the scoreboard on the left, who took a lifesaving dive and the ball clattered off the scoreboard. The crowd were seemingly rather amused by this shot and by all accounts Constantina and Currie got on famously and were indeed still appreciating the finer merits of Amarone in the Fairmount at 4am the following morning.
The Dunhill is what golf should be all about of course and that is great fun and comradeship.
However beware of a ‘fore right’ down the last !