For my last day of golf I wanted something special. On the advice of David Joy, the playwright-actor who plays Old Tom Morris in videos, I set out for Cupar (pronounced with three r's at the end) to play another of Fife's venerable layouts, a nine-holer built on the side of a big hill. "Oh, it's torture," Joy said. "You wind up with one leg longer than the other."
I parked outside the Cupar Cemetery and walked uphill past stone walls and headstones to the clubhouse, where I gave £12 to a lonely barmaid. She looked out the window and said, "Are you sure?" The great hill was shrouded in clouds and mist.
The 1st hole is a flat par-3. Then the climb begins: a 259-yard uphill par-4, three more par-4s back and forth like ramps on the sidehill, a wooded par-3, still climbing, and then the final scamper up to the 7th tee. How can I describe the view? The rain had fled on a freshening breeze, leaving deep blue holes in the clouds. Far below, sunlight fell on the rooftops and steeples of the Eden River valley.
After my round I shared my satisfaction with the greenkeeper, Trevor Harris, who was cleaning equipment in his shed behind the 9th green. I told him I had played nine courses in 10 days with no itinerary, no tee times, no pulling of strings and no asking of favors. I told him I had never waited to tee off. I told him I had mingled with hospitable Scots and tasted the fruit of poets. I told him I had enjoyed wondrous scenery and saved enough money to start a college fund for my grandchildren. Harris smiled knowingly. "It's our wee secret," he said.
So there you have it. Granted, only a head case like me could enjoy 10 unhurried days of golf on quaint layouts like these. You folks know what sells, and it's not Town Courses of Scotland.
Funny thing, though. After my round at Cupar, I drove back to St. Andrews, made a U-turn by the Old Course Hotel and pulled into the golf parking lot. The sun was still high in the sky and the wind was starting to whistle. I fancied a few more holes before dinner.
The Old Course was out, and the New, Jubilee and Eden Courses didn't suit my mood. I grabbed my bag and walked instead to the par-30 Balgove Course, a flat piece of grassland enclosed by an old stone wall. "This course," my guidebook told me, "appeals to the beginner, the schoolboy, the happy family and the golfer when in a lazy mood."
I plunked down £7—"You can go 'round twice for that," the cheerful clerk told me—and went out to play a short, featureless track with nothing to recommend it but golden sunshine, a bracing wind and the feel of genuine linksland underfoot. Even so, I barely looked up when a motor coach full of tourists rumbled by on its way out of town.
Best wishes, John Garrity
P.S. Almost forgot why I wrote! Please take me off your mailing list.