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The Home of Golf (in winter)

The locals are telling me that this is the worst winter in many years. That would be the “locals” who stay here and don’t go to South Africa, Palm Springs, Australia or Orlando. During the month of January I did get to play 6 rounds, Turnberry, The Old Course three times, The Devlin and Carnoustie. Good rota – basically all were played in double layered rain suits (I’ve found my Foot Joy rainsuit overtop of my Sun Ice suit is a nice combo). Two things difficult to sell in our shop – sun screen and umbrellas. Neither are of use here. The gust-buster umbrella lasts five minutes.

Turnberry, Sunday January 6th. Played with my boss and two other executive team members from Fairmont. We were the only players on the course until a few of the members heard that “some Canadians are the only ones brave enough to play” and they couldn’t allow that. This course is hosting the Open in 2009 and in normal conditions is a fun course. Freezing rain and 50 mph winds make it unplayable, but unfortunately we had “to finish”. Turnberry to me is one course where I normally enjoy all 18 holes, on Jan 6th the 18th became my new favourite. Lots of new bunkering works underway. I had heard that the 16th had a new fairway which it does, now it plays as a slightly left to right hole with a superb green right past a creek. Starwood is trying to sell the resort and courses (Ailsa and Kintyre), or rather they want to take on some new financial partners. Hope this happens as they need some new money and the Open can’t do it all. Interesting rumour I heard this week was the R&A are looking at moving the 2009 Open to Troon – I really doubt that is possible, I hope not because there is no comparison between the two courses.

The following Sunday my wife Carolyn and I took visiting son Mark to play Carnoustie where Padraig Harrington stole the Open from Sergio and young Romero (all three would be great winners). Our t-time was 12:20 and with it getting dark around 4:00 I thought we might not finish. No problem, we followed a fourball round in 3 hours. Carnoustie is different in the winter – the starter gave us the regular card and Course Guide and then a small card with a map on a piece of paper. “This is our winter circuit – same holes but in different order”. When I asked why his answer was “don’t know, always do this in the winter”. The difference is you play the first two holes then go to the 6th (Hogan’s Alley) and play through to the the 14th, then play the 5th, 3rd and 4th, then play in the regular 15th,16th, 17th, 18th. A nice walk, and the only reason I can see for doing this is “we always have”. As with all Open courses it is best not to go in any bunkers at Carnoustie – every one adds a stroke. There seems to be trouble with the hotel there, when we stayed in it three years ago it was great. Now it seems they keep the doors locked to/from the golf course which is annoying when you finish something warm (Beer). Great course though, another with 18 good holes.

Three rounds on the Old Course requires a separate page (later).

We are “season ticket holders” on all the St Andrews Links Courses. For 125 GBP ($250 cdn) we can play unlimited golf on our choice of the 6 courses, including the Old. The hitch is you have to live in the town, pay council taxes, and register to vote. The voting thing is interesting, Canadians can vote here (Yanks can’t, can you see why they have that rule!). The town courses are enjoyed by the public, and many of the public are members of golf clubs around the Old Course 18th hole. The most obvious is the Royal & Ancient Club with their 2000 exclusive male members, then there is the St. Rule Club (a women’s club that has golfers), the St. Regulus Club (a womens golf club), the New Club (men), the St. Andrews Club (men – on Thursday I played with their Thursday Club and in the clubhouse later I met a gent who has been a member there for 70 years!), there is a XIX Hole Club (social), A University of St Andrews Club, The Ladies Putting Club of St.Andrews, The Thistle Golf Club, the Children’s Golf Club, the Madras College Golf Club and RAF Leuchars Golf Club. With the exception of the Ladies Putting Club none of these private clubs have a course, they all use the Links of St Andrews. At Carnoustie it’s quite similar, across the road there are several clubhouses and their members play on the Carnoustie links. Great idea, I wonder why it never caught on in the new world.
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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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