First published on the Golf Monthly website on Monday 10th September 2007
Every golfer relishes the opportunity to visit the home of golf. But this trip is missing a potentially crucial ingredient.
Yesterday morning I loaded up the car and headed for a potentially traumatic trip to St Andrews. What? How could a trip to the home of golf be traumatic? I’ll explain. Yes the car was packed to the gunnels but the cargo was: a wife, a baby, a buggy, a changing bag, a picnic basket and a bucket and spade. There wasn’t a Pro V1 or a spin milled Vokey in sight. I was going for a family day out rather than a four ball on the New.
Needless to say I was apprehensive on the drive south. How would I cope visiting mine, and golf’s, spiritual home with no game lined up? It seemed sacrilegious travelling to the “Auld Grey Toon” without my golf clubs. Like Claude Monet going on a haystack and water lily spotting holiday without his paint brushes. Not that I’m comparing my ability with that of the great impressionist. I can do a decent impression of an old boy with a reverse pivot but that’s about it.
Anyway, as we approached the town I got the usual tingle running up my spine. I had to work fast to curtail those feelings of excitement so I parked well away from the golf, up behind the bus station. I thought with some clever manipulation I wouldn’t have to get too close to the hallowed turf at all.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to stroll around the town of St Andrews and I’d forgotten what a special place it is: Beautiful historic buildings, elegant terraces and bustling shopping streets pulsing with activity. Jessie and I took Flora to see some our old university haunts (mainly pubs and curry houses.) But, we also went to the occasional class so we checked out St Salvator’s Quad and the departments of History and Classics. We even caught a fleeting glimpse of the library. Ah, so that’s where it was.
I managed to squeeze in some golf-based sight seeing with the obligatory visit to Old and Young Tom Morris’s graves. I feel it’s an important part of any child’s upbringing. Although, at just eight months old, Flora wont remember the experience perhaps Old Tom will and, as King of the Golfing Gods, he might do her a favour one day. After a tasty picnic in the grounds of the ruined Cathedral the request I’d been dreading came in. “Let’s go to West Sands.” Not surprising, it’s one of the most amazing stretches of beach in Scotland, but it’s horribly close to the golf courses.
I consoled myself with the fact the Old is closed on a Sunday so nobody would be enjoying that experience. I summoned the courage and headed down the Scores.
We met up with an old golfing buddy of mine who also happened to be visiting and we all sauntered off down the sand. After twenty minutes looking at the waves, watching dogs chasing balls and just soaking up the sea air, golf had drifted completely out of my mind. I was totally relaxed and actually quite glad I wasn’t playing. I even felt strong enough to go up and watch people playing the Jubilee. It was fairly chilly and pretty windy and when I saw someone slice a drive straight into a gorse bush I was completely purged of any desire to play golf that day.
The whole experience was rather cathartic. Upon leaving I felt great having remembered that, although golf is a highly significant part of my life, there are far more important things. Ultimately family and friends make me happy, not golf. Even I wouldn’t want to play off scratch if it meant a lifetime of loneliness. I could handle maybe six months of loneliness but not a lifetime.
Right I think I’ve got all that soppy nonsense out of my system. I need to get my focus back. The Alliance kicks off on Wednesday and I’m struggling with my short pitches (again). So it’s off to the practice ground to concentrate on keeping my hands forward through the strike.