It is always an experience playing the Old and particularly the tee shot off the first. I was out yesterday in my second game of the year, in the St Andrews Club Autumn Prizes competition. My first ever competition as a member.
As I stood on the medal tee of the first I did admit to feeling slightly nervous and being rather under the spotlight, as the sun was out and there were a good fifty onlookers behind us. Moreover, we were off back medal tees right under the nose of the R&A clubhouse. Anyway, I took out my driver as we were into a wee breeze. However, I hit an almighty, careering hook which headed with great velocity towards the upper balcony of the white house next to the New Club. I felt obliged to shout a rather loud ‘fore!’ as the ball crashed into the cars and some startled looking tourists on the street. Oops! There was a stunned silence and a sense from the crowd that this old game of golf has the potential for entertainment after all. Worst still I was wearing my cerise pink shorts and bright, striped orange Tom Morris socks, which were doing nothing to help me blend away into the background.
I let my partners hit their balls up the middle and then teed up my provisional. I had suddenly become a major focus of attention to everyone in the local vicinity and of particular interest to resident Links householders, curious Asian tourists and people having left their cars parked next to the course. A keen silence prevailed as I proceeded to hit an almost identical shot. I could not bring myself to shout another fore as I figured that everyone in their right minds would have had their eyes peeled on my ball, as it headed dangerously and ominously towards the houses and cars, still parked on the road. I was mortified. However, on the upside there was no sound of breaking glass, screams, or indeed angry shouts. There was just this uncanny and unsettling calm, a kind of amazed and amused silence as if people hadn’t quite registered what was happening or simply felt that laughing was not apt for the gravity of this scene, apart from the sole voice of a young boy behind who I think wished me luck.
I have never been more relieved to get off a golf tee before and was very lucky to have two very understanding, supportive and easy going playing partners. I did quickly explain that I was just playing for a handicap and that it was only my second round in three years. However this fact was not greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm.
And so I didn’t make the most auspicious start in relaunching my golfing career and managed to find myself nine over par after two holes. I had hit my tee shot off the second very close to the restaurant window of the new Links Clubhouse, adjoining the New Course and then slammed a 3 iron into a gorse bush. I am not sure how many diners witnessed that shot, but I must say at this stage of my game I was certainly giving entertainment all round. In fact to five packed clubhouses in two holes of golf. Now that is an achievement. And I would venture, a unique one at that.
However there were glimpses of the old magic and I did go 3,3,4,3 around the loop, hit the par 5, 14th in two shots and managed to go one under from the ninth to the fifteenth. And indeed my drive up eighteen went handsomely high above the rooftops of the houses on The Links, but straight as a die and just short of the green.
However, I don’t think the gallery who had been there four hours earlier would have quite believed that.