Madeleine Winnett on St Andrews
I had thought about the years of history, the Chariots of Fire athletes running barefoot across the sands, and even teeing off alongside Melissa Reid (it was the Ricoh WBO press day). But what hadn’t crossed my mind was the prospect of teeing it up drunk. ‘Drunk’ may be an exaggeration but I definitely felt light-headed and decidedly odd – and through no fault of my own.
I don’t drink. This isn’t because of any previous unfortunate encounters, or even any pious convictions. I just don’t like the taste of alcohol. Therefore, when I opted for what I thought was tomato soup at 11am before my historic tee off approached, I thought it was a fairly safe choice. However, I didn’t spot that it was Bloody Mary soup laced with vodka! Seriously, who puts vodka in soup? I merely remarked that it was only just warm, had a very strong aftertaste and I didn’t like it.
Once I had been enlightened, I then downed some very tasty Danish pastries to help absorb the effects of the soup and headed for the 1st tee clutching a tortilla wrap. (It’s my belief that you can never have too much food with you on a course.) At this point, I noted it was a tad breezy. And it got breezier.
In fact, not only did it blow my cap off on one green – which was then heroically pursued by the editor of Golf Monthly – and not only did it blow my trolley over twice, it also blew the filling out of my tortilla!
I am not exaggerating. I was standing watching Mel about to tee off on one hole, and my cheese and pickle filling flew past her. I’m just grateful it passed her. Splattering one of Europe’s finest with half a Ploughman’s on her backswing wouldn’t have gone down as one of my finer moments!
However, even that wasn’t the end of my food dramas. Taking my own advice about never having too much food on a golf course, I availed myself of the food station by the 9th green and stocked up. It was only when I heard the others sniggering as I stood over my ball on the 10th tee that I saw two crows and a seagull on my golf bag trying to wrest my sandwiches out of the pocket. I may not have attempted to chase my runaway cap, but there was no way I was giving up my sandwiches without a fight. Unfortunately, winning the battle to prevent me from starving then ensured I hit my only abysmal drive of the day and lost my ball!
It really is an experience playing St Andrews for the first time. If I hadn’t been playing with someone else who knew where they were going, I would have been absolutely lost. Food issues aside, it really is an experience playing St Andrews for the first time. If I hadn’t been playing with someone else who knew where they were going, I would have been absolutely lost. Fortunately, Melissa’s caddy, Olly (modesty prevents me from using his nickname!), knew all the lines and pointed out where the greens and fairways were.
The fairways are so closely mown, there really isn’t any definition between them, the tees and the greens, and I can’t remember seeing any rough. There are also lots of other fairways from adjacent courses alongside, so I could have hit to any number of flags if I hadn’t been warned.
Staying on the Old Course wasn’t the only problem. Even when I was on the right hole – such as the par-5 14th – after I had nailed my drive to what I thought was Position A, Olly told me to aim my second shot at a gorse bush in the middle of the 5th fairway in order to avoid the infamous ‘Hell Bunker’. Dubiously, I followed his advice, leaving myself with a short pitch from the perfect position, and watched everyone else get their sand wedges out! Any time you fall out with Mel, you can caddy for me, Olly, though undoubtedly with a different nickname!
The 15th provides its own entertainment, by telling you to ‘Drive on the church steeple between the two prominent humps’ which are also named on the course planner as Miss Grainger’s bosoms! I have no idea who the infamous Miss Grainger was, but clearly she made an impression on somebody!
After the golf, I was privileged to be allowed into the R&A clubhouse for a reception. The surroundings were impressive and I was fascinated by a room encased by cabinets dedicated to memorabilia such as original Tom Morris clubs and balls, silvercoated balls from captains’ drive ins… and kangaroo legs and beaver skins!
It was presented by the Australian Golf Union in 1950 for the lowest net score in the spring medal, but seriously, who would want that on their mantlepiece? The silver beaver (plus its fur) was similarly a lowestnett trophy from Canadian R&A members, which I can understand, but also think the R&A must have been grateful the Greenlanders haven’t offered to donate a trophy yet.
“Look what I have just won darling” as you drag a polar bear into the house would certainly take some beating!
So, did I enjoy my visit to St Andrews? Yes, I certainly did. The quirkiness of the outrageous humps and hollows, the lack of awareness of where to go, the fact lots of golfers seem to be playing the same fairway as you at the same time – albeit in different directions – hitting over hotels and ladies’ bosoms, and learning to putt from 40 yards off a green, seem to be utter madness at times, and yet simultaneously comfortingly, eccentrically British – and something all golfers should do once.
St Andrews will stage the Women’s Open in August. Read Mickey Walker’s thoughts HERE.
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