Friday, June 25, 2010
(Just a heads up, if you'd like to read my post about Scotland from last year, click right here. Or just Google, "Best Article Ever Written" and it'll be right up near the top.)
I'm a lucky kid. Unlike most people that love the game of golf, I've been blessed with a family that, for some reason, loves taking golf vacations. My sister doesn't mind it, my mom enjoys it and my dad is obsessed with it. For a man that doesn't travel much outside of work, a few days on the links in Scotland is his getaway. It's the place that brings out the big smiles.
The last few years I've spent more time in Scotland than most Scots. I worked at St. Andrews for a summer, have been over twice more and was able to swing up when I studied abroad in London. I'm on a first name basis with the lady that runs the Dunvegan. I can spit out holes at Turnberry by memory. I can probably tell you which hotels on the east side of Scotland have air conditioning and which don't. (Note: That is a joke. None do.)
Last week, my family and I again loaded up the sticks and the raincoats for a trip to Men's Paradise.
Right after we landed in Edinburgh, the drive was directly west, towards the home of the first 12 British Opens. Prestwick is a golf course that everyone should play once, just because it takes a normal game of golf, sprinkles some Tabasco on it and serves it deep fried. No other place do you have blind par-3s, tee shots with no clue if the hole goes east or west, and a pretty darn good golf course all wrapped up in one.
To start your golf vacation at Prestwick would be similar to starting your mall experience in Louis Vuitton. "Welcome serious shoppers, you're in for a ride."
Tired, weary and a little sore from the countless hours of travel, the journey began. Ironically enough, when my dad got to the first tee to greet his caddie, my memory started blinking. "I've seen this guy before," I thought. Turns out, he caddied for my father four years ago when we made our way to Prestwick. That's Scotland for you.
After Prestwick (74, not bad to start), we drove down to the Turnberry hotel, site of the 2009 British Open. Our tee time was 9:00 AM the next day, so sleep was essential. The problem is, summers in Scotland is sunlight heavy. You're not getting dark skies until 11:00 PM, so be prepared to have your sleep schedule picked up, bodyslammed and kicked in the teeth.
People always talk about the undulations at Augusta National, and how you don't really get it until you're there. That was something I noticed on the 18th hole at Turnberry. It was simple to say after Tom Watson hit his shot over the green on the 72nd hole that he should have played it short, and avoided any chance of that happening, but being at Turnberry, you see the knob he had to avoid. You can't play that shot short of the green, or you risk getting a nasty kick and finding yourself bunkered, or in high grass.
After Turnberry (71, with an eagle on 17!), we made our way up to Royal Troon.
Now, caddies talk a lot in Scotland, so you have to take most with a grain of salt (or a shaker, depending on the tale), but the east coast guys have always dogged Royal Troon. I never played it, so teeing off that afternoon was exciting. After playing 18 holes there, I can say without a doubt, Troon is my favorite links course in Scotland. The holes are incredible, the layout fantastic and the holes tough but fair. The Postage Stamp (my dad birdied it!) is as interesting a par-3 as there is in golf, and some of the holes coming in can play so tough with a big wind.
Leaving Troon was when our plans died, and we headed to St. Andrews to see what we could find for tee times. While the Old Course was closing on Friday to prepare for the British, we figured we could find some golf around town, and that consisted of Kingsbarns and the Castle Course.
Both are set on the ocean, and both make the word "beautiful" seem like you're talking about gum on your shoe. I've never been to Monterey, but it is hard to believe that place is any more majestic than the courses east of St. Andrews.
All in all, the trip was a success. We had some fun, made some birdies and had some laughs. We have decided that will be the last Scotland trip for a few years, but it is still one of my favorite places on this wonderful Earth.