- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The Old Course at St. Andrews, the justly cherished cradle of golf, is located on a thumb of undulating, gorse-strewn linksland which juts into the sea below the gray heights of the old Scottish town. Like no other course in the world in its layout, St. Andrews' holes march, single file, the length of the thumb, perform a loop and march back again toward town. As the photograph above illustrates, one tremendous double-green serves both an outgoing and an incoming hole
Without doubt, the right way to approach St. Andrews is by train; and the right way to approach the Old Course is on foot by a route I shall prescribe. This is necessary because there are two moments of magic that any golfer of sensibility may savor at St. Andrews if he takes the wise precaution. Other wonderful moments there will be, too—as when he gets his first 4 at the Road Hole, or sends a second shot triumphantly over Hell Bunker, or is taken into the holy of holies, the back room of Laurie Auchterlonie's little shop, and sees one of the few remaining craftsmen fashioning with his enormous hands a wooden club head that may be destined for the bag of an Amateur champion or for a British proconsul in some remote pink area on the map of the world.
Those later moments may be the result of luck or skillful contriving. The two that may be captured by every new visitor to the old gray town, which is the heart and head of golf, are these: his first sight of St. Andrews hanging on its cliff top over the sea and the links, and his first sight of the Old Course lying at his feet.
To begin with, the intelligent visitor must go by train, any train that drops him at Leuchars Junction, where he picks up a little local train that will take him the few miles to St. Andrews. It is a brief, unremarkable journey until, of a sudden, the train rounds the corner of a wood and begins to run between flattish fields with odd bumps and bunkers and richly green, irregularly curved patches that can only be putting greens.
"If this," he thinks, "is the Old Course, there's nothing remarkable about it." Nor is there, for it is not the Old Course, not yet. It is part of the Eden Course, one of the four 18-hole courses lying in the narrow strip of linksland between the sea and the rich fields of Fife. The fussy little train puffs on in a wide curve, and there, lying straight ahead, is one of the most beautiful skylines in the golfer's world—an old castle, lofty towers of a medieval cathedral, tall tenements, the St. Andrews University buildings and an isolated block of red sandstone in the otherwise uniform gray, what is still known as the Grand Hotel though it is now a students' hostel.
The golfer may have had just time to notice that the course alongside the railway has taken on a new look—the greens are bigger, the bunkers wider and deeper with here and there a tiny one big enough only for an angry man and his niblick—when the train swoops through a coalyard and past some gardens and halts amid cries of "S'n Androos."
Now comes the second moment of decision. The golfer may do with his gear as he wishes, but I insist that he now take a walk of a few hundred yards and have a look at the course he has come to play. He will find himself in a pleasant town with many trees. A few minutes' walk will bring him to Pilmuir Links and, passing Laurie Auchterlonie's shop on his left hand, he will come to a narrow street called Golf Place, which runs off to the left.
In the distance he will catch a glimpse of the sea. Let him walk a bare 50 yards and there, virtually at his feet, lies the Tom Morris green, the 18th on the Old Course, right under the shadow of the hotels, golf shops and golf clubhouses that line the last fairway for three-quarters of its length.
Inevitably someone will be playing the last hole, be the hour midmorning or late evening; equally inevitably, a group of onlookers will be lining the fence at the back of the green, nodding sagely as some player fails, again inevitably, to judge the borrow on his putt. Someone, too, will be driving from the first tee, and someone will certainly be standing at the window of the Great Room of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse, keeping one eye on the drive, the other on the players on the last green.