It’s past midsummer already

And that’s a fact. It’s the 30th of June today. What’s going on with time? This is far too fast folks.

It’s maybe down to the fact that I am so busy and having a bit of a blast but let’s slow this down a bit please. The peonies have already come and gone, the club championships have been played, Glastonbury is in full swing, the chaff is on the wheat, Wimbledon lawns are being mown and people are pitching up in Troon for the 152nd.

I am enjoying watching some of the Euros except I can’t really get what football is all about. Obviously I know it’s about trying to get the ball in the other team’s net as many times as possible and all that. But it all seems that most of the time it’s an incredibly dull game to watch and there seems to be an awful lot of foul play going on and commentator’s using the word ‘quality’ which is most tiresome. Anyway, I fancy underdogs Georgia because they play with a lot of flair and a bit of panache. I am all for a lot of flair and a bit of panache.

I suppose this was typified in golf by the late Severiano Ballesteros who really brought a lot of life to an ostensibly dull spectator’s game. Not helped on the box nowadays by having the likes of Nick Faldo as one of the major commentators in the game. Goodness that man is awfully dull. Painfully dull.

I am loving my wee club back home in Edinburgh the MCBA (Mortonhall Casual Barmy Army) made up of about 20 characters at Mortonhall Golf Club who have been playing together for about the last 40 years. Goodness we have fun. There is of course a competitive side to our golf but the main thing is the entertainment of it all, the crack, the highly amusing WhatsApp chat and all that. It’s quite wonderful. And good, good people too. I am very lucky to be a part of it all. Not quite sure that they feel the same in the quid quo pro though?

And quite a few of us golfers have similar clubs and golf groups who all become great friends and love the game of golf. It’s a wonderful thing. I see this all the time with my tour guiding in St Andrews.

My Mexican tour client last week told me about his group at his club back home. They are all retired and play about 3 times a week and enjoy a few cold beers and tequilas afterwards. Why not? In moderation of course. I think he said they only have 3. Perfect!

So I will raise a glass to golfing fraternity and brotherhood and cold beer and tequila!

Quality beer and quality tequila of course. Nuevo!

Whey hey oh!

A Perfect Day

Woke to a beautifully sunny St Andrews morning and walked down early (6.30am) to the Castle Sands which was idyllic. No one there but just the lapping of gentle waves upon this stunning wee beach.

I headed then to Taste for a coffee and chat with Scotty and Lucy. We sat outside in the sun and shot the breeze for a bit.

I then headed to the Fairmont for a little bit of practice (I can luckily use the facility for free as I work there a bit as a caddie and they are most relaxed).

I had an incredible session on the range and something clicked shall I say. It was something to do with the light and the angle of the sun. But I saw my shadow at the top of a practice swing and as I say something clicked big time. I will enlarge upon this Damascene moment at the end but can I just say that I was drilling 4 irons like I’d never drilled 4 irons before. The golf ball doesn’t lie (ancient East Neuk proverb)

I then strolled back along the coastal path back into town in the sweltering heat. I found a little rock pool and undressed and sank into the wonderfully cold but refreshing sea water. First time in the sea this year.

Back then towards home I picked up a few lovely stones to finish my path off in the garden. I passed by the harbour and met John who owns The Spindle B&B and had a chat and we got talking about the Harbour Cafe and he informed me that they do a very good fish and chips there and lobster too! I was most curious and had a chat with the two lovely girls who were serving and they said yes £9 sit-in for fish and chips and £8 takeaway and the lobster has to be ordered with 24 hours notice, but it’s £20! (with chips!)

Wow! And it will be straight from the boat too!!

I’m in.

Anyway I then sauntered back to the flat and put the lamb on for dinner on a slow cook and now I am presently slow cooking in a deck chair in our back garden.

Rather bliss all said.

Now for the very curious golf afficiandos the Damascene moment is just about getting the feel of the right hand at the top of the swing. Now I have been getting hugely out of plane here for ages and I just need to feel the my right palm is kind of pointing towards the sky and then the club is parallel at the top and I can then drive from the inside and not come over the top.

But what a transformation in my strike and the ball flight, which was low! My ball flight has never been low!

This is huge guys.

My 3 tour day

It was my first Edinburgh New Town and Dean Village tour as well. I woke up at an unearthly time, 2.50 am as far as I recall (it was a big day ahead. I don’t sleep on big days ahead unfortunately), and got up at 4am.

I was on the first train from Leuchars at 5.40 and arrived in Edinburgh at 7am to just allow me time to grab my bacon baguette (with extra bacon, no sauce) and tea from Greggs before meeting my clients at the Virgin Hotel in Victoria Street.

The tour went swimmingly and I left Mark and Marilyn in Stockbridge at 11 to make my way back to Haymarket for my train to Leuchars and to get to St Andrews to meet my clients for a wee walk around the Old Course, arranged by the Old Course hotel.

I met Fernandez and crew from Puerto Rico who were just off the Castle Course and seemed in great spirits. We whisked around the Old and I showed them the important sites in town ie the Dunvegan and Auchterlonie’s and the St Andrews Golf Club and the Jigger Inn.

I then piled back to the flat for a quick coffee and went down to the Rusacks at 5pm to meet my golf tour clients for their food tour. This went equally well. Again lovely folk. I meet incredible people on my tours. Some are most inspiring.

What a day. I finished off at about 8pm and wandered back with great memories again from my new career which I am kind of loving. This beats work all day.

I had a wonderful tour the day after when I took a great fun American family of 17 from Garvock House in Dunfermline to St Andrews and Crail and then fish and chips in the Wee Chippy in Anstruther. Again a wonderful day out with some amazing people.

So this is not a bad gig altogether if I may say. Long may it continue and let’s just see how it goes. I am a go-with-the-flow kind of bloke (probably more flow than the go if the truth be known).

I am wanting to develop the food tour business for sure as this is such fun. I have been pretty inspired by Phil Rosenthal’s and Netflix’s ‘Somebody Feed Phil’ and am wondering if I can push a golf/food tour around Ireland or something like that.

This would be a no-brainer for Netflix for sure. And of course it would indulge me in my two passions, food and golf. It would also allow me to get one back on Tom Coyne for beating me to the line in writing and accomplishing ‘A Course Called Ireland’ in which he walked and played golf around Ireland.

But well done Tom for this massive achievement.

Of course I wouldn’t be walking as Tom did and indeed as I had originally intended, because that is entirely bonkers. An electric bike would do the job fine.

It’s just getting my head round this one and freeing up a bit of time for it I suppose. Simple really.

Anyway, any Netflix execs reading this please give me a call and we can grab a coffee, talk it over and all that.

Now, also wish me luck tomorrow guys in the St Andrews Golf Club Spring Prizes. I am off on the Old at 11.50. It’s one of our clubs majors to be honest and let’s say I am much happier with my golf now. My new swing is very much curtailed let’s say and stops me looping around like a Jim Furyk demented octopus at the top where it can all go badly wrong. Strange it’s taken me 40 years to sort this out though!

Well let’s face it, it’s taken me 40 years to sort my career out! (my life out?!)

Stop Press: Phil Rosenthal just liked my post on Instagram about his Kyoto visit on ‘Somebody Feed Phil’.

There is a God in heaven.

Fare forward passengers.

Woeful and most woeful

Yes it’s been a disaster on the golf front the last week. It started off with an absolute collapse in the Seniors Championship qualifying at Mortonhall where I hit the turn in 41 and was well within the final qualifying score and then I just had a swing failure of the most epic dimension.

Further, I had to concede my Jock Hutchinson match to Andy on the 12th (albeit he was 1 up and playing better) as I had stupidly accepted a tour booking from the Old Course Hotel at 11.30am and I just thought that I could squeeze in the game. But no. So that’s the Jock for another year.

I also got emphatically beaten by Alan Hogg in the Seniors knockout. But I met a lovely gentleman as a result. Golf is wonderful for this. As I met Fraser Walker also this week who turns out to be an alumni of the uni here. Small world what?

The only saving grace of my golf this week is that I scraped through in my Mortonhall singles tie but again I played some highly erratic golf.

My swing like my life is a long-term work in progress and highly unstable. It’s been a huge journey with my swing to be honest and indeed my life come to mention it!

But as the title of Beef Johnstons book rightly declares ‘Golf is hard’. Yes it is. As is life. But golf brings comraderie and that is very important in life. Very.

Anyway, on a very positive note the old tours are going most swimmingly and I got a lovely mention on Kevin Fogarty’s Scottish Golf Experience review as ‘HIGHLY recommended’. The kilted caddie food tour is up and running. Capital.

So there is life in the old dog yet. Albeit I am 62 on Saturday! Ouch. 62!? Surely not? I feel 42, 22 even on a good day with the right wind, going downhill.

Not-out too.

But I am also feeling it sometimes these days. Albeit I can still hit it as long as most folks out there, when I hit it.

I am loving this chap Phil Rosenthal and his ‘Somebody Feed Phil’ adventure. He has cracked it for sure. I am thinking about approaching some cool dude who must want to sponsor me eating and golfing my way around the world. #philrosenthal#tomcoyne#anyonereallywithloadsofmoney

That is surely a no-brainer. What fun. Finding the best courses and the best courses. This could be a lot of fun. Just email me folks with your proposition.

Anyhow it’s been lovely in St Andrews today and I have sat lingering in the garden, had a coffee in Taste, bumped into a few friends, got my bread from Mellis’s, I also popped up town in the early evening and there sat outside the Cross Keys luxuriating in the evening sun, was Andy with his wife, having a quiet beer before heading up to their pad past the East Sands. Altogether living the dream.

It’s really pretty special here.

I mean Edinburgh is lovely too but in a very different way and I am now loving getting back to the bubble that is St Andrews.

Fare forward passengers.

Upcoming Golf Fest

I have a deluge of golf matches over the next 5 days which will involve 3 matchplay games and 2 medal competitions here in St Andrews and at my course Mortonhall in Edinburgh. I am excited and if the form can continue from the session I had with my old pal Alan at the Braids Golf Range yesterday then I will be more than happy.

My tours have being going uncannily well recently and I have been lucky to have met the most wonderful people. We have had many laughs along the way and it’s all been rather tip-top.

I have been corresponding with Oliver Horowitz, the chap who wrote ‘An American Caddie in St Andrews’, and reminiscing about fudge doughnuts and yum-yums and the ‘playing-in’ ceremony of the Royal and Ancient captain and other important topics. He really is a rum chap and I am glad to see his career is going well.

I caddied with Oliver once (and indeed with the inimitable Tom Stevenson in the same group!) but unfortunately never had the opportunity to have a game of golf with him. Maybe another time. Although I expect I would be rather up against it as he is hot.

The sun is out this morning in the Auld Toon and I think I will have a wee wonder. Pop into Mellis’s for some of their lovely bread, maybe a chin-wag with Jo-Lee in the Newport Bakery, a wee long black in Taste and a breeze along Lade Braes into South Street, drop by the club maybe. I love the West Port end of South Street now. It’s so leafy and filled with interesting wee independents. It’s kind of our Latin Quarter or West Village. It’s pretty, bohemian, dreamy even.

St Andrews really is heavenly, just like the Braid Hills in Edinburgh where I was lucky enough to have been brought up. Do check out the Braids Hills golf course by the way guys. It’s well worth it. In fact one of my clients was playing there last week. Not only is it iconic but you get some of the best views of Edinburgh from some of the holes (as you do from Mortonhall which adjoins it).

I really do have the best of both worlds with Auld Reekie and the Auld Grey Toun to stumble in between. Well except not quite so much the stumbling these days! Thankfully.

Golf and friends and work now anchor me between these two incredible cities.

Now this could be a whole lot worse a situation.

Fare forward passengers.

Kelty has sold! (and on meeting Old Tom’s great, great granddaughter)

Yes I probably did the worst property deal ever when I sold my wee cottage on the outskirts of Edinburgh and a flat in the up and coming London area of Borough to buy a 4-bed Wimpey new-build in West Fife. Kelty to be exact.

Yesterday I sold my share in this aforesaid 4-bed property in Kelty having suffered 16 years of angst and regret pondering over the insanity of my move. What indeed was I up to? This was crazy in the extreme.

But alas people who know me, would tell you that this is pretty much par for the course and nothing new. I unfortunately have that Burnsian (I will make poetical reference here) turn of whimsy in my make-up that is often referred to as being a bit of a loose cannon.

However, I suppose each and everyone of us has something and I am just a bit of an erratic Mons Meg (to frame this in tour-guiding parlance) Anyway whey-hey it’s finally gone and good riddance to that particular fit of madness.

Now, what a blast of a week I have had with some great fun tours of Edinburgh and Dundee. I had the irrepressible Robert Campbell from Indiana on Tuesday who I flew around Edinburgh with and couldn’t get a word in edgeways with but who was a most endearing chap. And then Innes and Katherine Mackillop from Chicago who were staying at the new W Hotel at St James Quarter. We had such fun on our tour and talked food and restaurants and books and life and everything else really. Innes was as English sounding as they come but has been a lawyer in Houston for the last 40 years and what an amusing character. He and Katherine were wonderful company. We hugely struck it off somewhat.

And then I had my Dundee tour on Friday morning with 11 ladies all connected to a lady called Samantha from somewhere in the States who wasn’t actually there in the end as she had gotten ill. Nevertheless the 11 ladies and me were blessed with a stunning silvery sun glancing off the waterfront and we basked in a rare, warm and fresh breeze that was coming off the Tay at the V&A and I recited William McGonigal’s poetry to them. And they seemed amused. William McGonigal’s poetry can be a bit of a massive ice breaker to be honest, just like the RRS Discovery floating nearby.

But again what a lovely day.

And it must have been ok as I got 5-star reviews from all of these tours. Indeed Innes and Katherine said that it was their best tour ever.

And I must admit that I am more than happy about that one. In fact I would say that I am very happy indeed about that one.

Thank you Innes and Katherine, Bob Campbell and of course the 11 ladies in Dundee!

Fare forward passengers.

As an interesting wee postscript, I had the pleasure of a day tour with lovely Fred and Anne yesterday who were across from Philadelphia. They were delightful. We struck it off immediately and we strolled leisurely around town.

As golfers I took them to see Old and Young Tom Morris’s graves in the Cathedral cemetery and it so happened that Old Tom’s great, great granddaughter was attending the graves and laying some flowers. We struck up a wee conversation and she told us a bit about the family lineage which was very interesting. Not a bad coup for a tour.

Anyway, today is my Jock Hutchinson 1st round match on the old lady at 5.20pm folks. The forecast is not too great but I’m well focused and going to give it my best shot (or shots).

A Wonderful Week

I really have had an amazing week. It started off with my first food tour for Kevin at Scottish Golf Experience and it couldn’t have gone any better to be honest. Eight wonderful guys from North Carolina were across for a week’s golf and had just pitched up in town. They were excellent company and we had a superb night of it. Thank you guys for making that such a fun experience for me too.

Now, I was playing the Old Course on Thursday evening and practicing my putting before teeing off. I heard some very familiar voices at the side of the green and it was the North Carolina lads who had just finished playing. We had a wee chat and it turned out they had all managed to get a game on the Old through the ballot system apart from Jeff. So I said that he could join me and Isaac as we were just about to tee off. The guys looked a bit incredulous in the least at this offer, but sure enough Jeff was able to play with us and we had a great game in the evening sun on the old lady.

His friend Joe walked out to caddie for him last few holes and the rest of his mates walked out to see him play the last hole in the fading St Andrews light, which was lovely. A fine end to their week in the auld toon.

I was so glad to help here as it would have been real tough on Jeff missing out on playing the Old. And what a bit of a player he is, having just started the game about ten years back, he has an incredible swing and touch.

A lovely man as well, as were all the group. I really do have so much time for nearly all the Americans I meet. They are impressive.

Now, I played in the first round of the Jock Hutchinson on the New Course on Saturday and got off to a flying start. However the wheels came off on the par 5, third hole, where left with only a five iron second shot in, I walked off with an 8 and then proceeded to drop a further 7 shots over the next three holes! 10 over after six! Consistency is not in my golf bag! Nor my life bag for that matter.

I did pretty well to finish at plus 12 and give myself a wee chance to qualify for the match play on the Old Course and one of the most coveted trophies in the club.

So must go for now folks as I am due out on the Eden for the second round in an hour, the rain is coming down a bit but I’m feeling bullish. But I always feel bullish before a game of golf mind!

Have a good one folks.

postscript on Jock Hutchinson:

2nd round: I had another disaster on the Eden with a 9 on the 3rd hole again. I won’t talk you through it though. It appears now that I am very borderline to qualify. Tant pis !

C’est la vie.

Post postscript: I did qualify for the match play over the Old Course in the Jock Hutchinson!

There manifestly is a golf god.

Fare forward passengers.

JB’s Golf Classic

I have had a fun two days taking around some lovely folk who are on Jack Buchholz’s incredible 17 day tour of Scotland and England. We strolled Edinburgh Old Town on Monday and then St Andrews yesterday.

Jack and his wife Deborah have really cracked it with their Classic golf tour, in making it a sightseeing and general interest tour alongside of course the golf. They run a competition for the golfers throughout the trip for some quite serious monetary prizes I believe.

And they have run some pretty interesting trips by all accounts, down the Danube on a river boat par example. I think that’s the first golf tour of that kind out there. This is really quite a refreshing take in the old golf tour game and I’m well impressed guys.

So many of our operators are rather too set in their ways and serving up the same bog-standard agenda. There is no real spark nor anyone really doing what Jack and Deborah are doing. The one exception maybe is my fellow caddie, Kevin Fogarty, who has set up the Scottish Golf Experience and is trying to add a bit more colour. He has kindly asked me to do a Food Tour for his guests during their stays.

I suppose I tried to do things a bit differently a few years back with my friend Ricey (Ambroggio McLintock to be exact! Yes you got it; Ambroggio ergo Ambrosio, ergo Ricey!) when we did whacky weekend ski trips up north with The Big Fun Company. We certainly had fun. Ah those were the days! Shame we let go of that domain name mind! Careless.

Anyway we are now in the present and I will be following and harking on about JB Golf Classics from now on. In fact you could say that I’m a JB Golf Classic fan. They certainly attract a fine bunch of people on their tours which says a lot for Jack and Deborah. In fact I believe they have waiting lists for some of them.

And they are certainly getting 5 stars from this auld Scottish tour guide. That’s for sure.

Fare forward passengers.

Reaching Out

I have had a blast and a half of a start to my tour season with the luck to have met some wonderful people on my first few tours of the year. How lucky I am to be able to do this. I am indebted to Alan Chalmers, who has now sadly passed, who gave me an opening here. What a very decent chap Alan was.

Now I have been doing a wee bit of browsing on the web to see what’s out there in the food tour world and stumbled across Arva Ahmed who set up ‘Frying Pan Adventures’. She was a a Dubai based food blogger who got a bit bored I believe in having to dish up reviews to order and so set up a food tour company with her sister, the first in Dubai.

It seems like she has absolutely killed the food tour scene there and has made a bit of a name for herself. She got invited onto that Netflix series ‘Somebody Feed Phil’ with that chap Mr Rosenthal who in my opinion has one of the best gigs in the universe, wandering the globe and trying out the best and most individual cuisine each region has to offer. I see they got Tony Singh in the Edinburgh one. Sound choice.

Now the weather here in St Andrews has been miserable. I managed to get my American client Phil onto the Old Course last week but the heavens opened and the wind blew and it was cold and dreek and we got utterly soaked to the skin. But Phil and I navigated our way around with the help of Brian Erskine, my friend who was roped in to caddie and did a sterling job. Brian is a sterling bloke though.

There are things afoot on the restaurant scene folks but I can’t divulge more than that at the moment. I will keep you all in the utmost suspense!

I see PIGGS have now opened up in Bruntsfield. It is run by my friend Iggy Campus’s sons and will kill it there. Iggy really knows what he is up to and his sons have the looks and the style and indeed the food to pull this off big time. It should make a nice change for people who frequent the monstrously overcharging Montpelliers. But let’s not hark on about that crowd. They are not my flavour of the decade, albeit they can turn a bob or two.

But it’s not all about money. I would rather treat people fairly in life.

Outwith that, I see Dine Murrayfield are now 4th on Trip Advisor! I knew it was a super location there when I opened my cafe 10 years back and it’s a bit of a shame that we didn’t make that work as a bistro. We really failed badly there. Ho hum. I take a lot of the blame of course for not addressing things quicker. It was a truly learning experience. The guys now doing it are pretty on the ball even though I’m not bowled over by their food if I’m honest.

I was bowled over this week in Dollar though as we slipped into Cafe at No 44 on the main drag and I had the best bacon roll I have ever had tasted. And what a charming little place too with lovely attentive staff. This really is spot on folks.

Anyway as I said exciting times are ahead now for me on the food scene and as I said watch this space.

Fare forward passengers.

Days like these

It’s rather pouring today and I am well invested in the window seat at Luvians, sipping my hot chocolate and having a wee bit of time-out.

I had a great time yesterday in Edinburgh visiting the Morningside library which is a really tip-top place with many interesting books on local history. Of course I am biased as it’s my patch, Morningside. I feel at home walking around here and still see the old ken’t faces wandering around, doing their stuff, going to Waitrose’s to pick up their weekly shop, dropping by the Merlin or Canny Mans (if they can afford it), popping into Hills (Ladbrokes has now gone alas), or just frequenting one of the many coffee shops which now adorn the main drag. I think there are about a dozen now. Long ago there was only the Coffee Stop, except I never ever stopped there to my recollection. Coffee stopping was not the art form that it is nowadays.

Looks like we have finally sold our property in Kelty which is a relief. Crazily we bought there 15 years back when we did work for Wimpey Homes with the flower business. I probably did the worst property deal ever as I sold my flat in the heart of London to enable it. This still hurts to be honest. But as a businessman I don’t cut it and I know it. My talents lie elsewhere I think. I am still trying to unravel that one though.

Anyway I suppose the beginning of wisdom starts with knowing which road we shouldn’t be travelling down. It’s taken me a bit to grasp this mind.

Anyway I am all set for the summer now. I have made some good progress on the golf course this week, added to a few more tour bookings coming in (one with 10 ladies coming to see Dundee and me!)

Am looking forward to watch Scotland play Ireland tomorrow at the rugger. I do hope they don’t revert to cheating though and give an honest show.

Last day of Cheltenham chaps and I have not had one bet.

Now that is progress.

Mind you I do hanker after a pint one day down at that cosy little snug of a pub in Hollow Bottom, I think that’s what it’s called?! Take me back to bygone days wandering around the Cotswolds and slipping by the Woolpack and all that.

Now who could desire much more than that?

God get me a train and get me to Slad once again.