Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Guest Post: St. Andrews, The Most Overrated Course In The World?
My buddy Will Froelich, a mega-golfer in his own right, traveled with me to St. Andrews in 2006 to caddie at the Old Course for the summer. We shared a rented room in a house about a mile from the first tee, and spent every waking moment together (The above photo was our crew for the summer; Will, Tom, Myself and Matt). Before our experience, however, Will had the opportunity to play the Old. Here is his take on the Old Beast for the first time.
It was a rainy summer night in 2005. A bank holiday for the UK, and as always, St. Andrews had not an empty room anywhere in or near the city limits. As a completely naive college kid I thought I could waltz in at 11 PM and find a warm bed. To my surprise, and only my surprise, I was not successful. To make a long story short, soaking wet and two hours of searching for naught, I found myself at The Scores hotel. After helping clean the dining room I was allowed to sleep on the floor, under a table, for a few hours.
The next morning the weather was horrific. A single piece of toast for breakfast, my feet wet, rented clubs, and borrowed clothes I teed off on the first tee of the most famous course in the world. Every shot hurt. The ball went right, left, short long, and the list went on. With no caddie it was nearly impossible to find your way around the golf course. Luckily for me I couldn’t have been paired up with two nicer locals who were happy to direct my shots.
There’s an interesting fact about that story. If you would have followed me around with a camera, you would have seen a smile pasted on my face for 18 holes. It was two of the best days of my life and I wouldn’t have traded them for anything. I was at the home of golf, playing the most historic 18 holes in the world, and I couldn’t have been happier. In fact, having such a crazy night and wild round just made it more memorable!
I’ll give you another interesting fact, the exact same golf course, holes, condition, etc. in Kansas would host green fees of about $30. That amount might even be conservative; $20 wouldn’t be an unreasonable guess. Seriously!
Then why is it so many golfers would go to any means, pay any price, or sleep under any table just for a shot at the famed links? Especially considering some of the most scenic, beautiful, and simply perfect courses are more than within reasonable driving distance, not to mention cheaper and much less of a hassle to play. It does beg the question, is St. Andrew’s Old Course the most overrated course in the world?
As a fellow caddy, I’m sure you know my answer. You’re probably waiting to hear me say it’s the history of the course. I could say that, as you’d expect me to, but it’s not true. It’s so much more than the history. If history made it worth it museums would be a lot more crowed on Saturday mornings.
Yes, the historic nature of the course makes it famous, but it’s the memories that make the round worth it. Five years later I can remember that round like it was yesterday. Since then I’ve been around the course over 70 times and I never recall walking off the course thinking the round was unmemorable.
It’s the far from ordinary caddies, peculiar holes, constantly changing weather, and most beautiful views of a historic town. Seriously, the view of the town from the 14th hole is breathtaking! How about watching your best friend drive number 9 with a ripped two iron? Yes, Mr. Bacon plays well! For me it was my Dad shooting 37 on the front nine highlighted with a birdie from Shell bunker on 7. That round was the highlight of both our golfing careers!
My wife will never think St. Andrew’s is a prettier course than Sandpiper in Santa Barbara, CA. Although, even she knows Sandpiper doesn’t even begin to compare to the Old Course in her husband’s mind. My wife’s not a golfer though; maybe we golfers are just simple people.
This all sums up in a simple analogy. Son sits down next to his father to drink his first beer. No one likes the way their first beer tastes, but it’s not the taste that makes the beer enjoyable. It’s the experience. Even more than my first beer, I’ll never forget walking up 18 next to my Dad (Mom there too!) with the R&A in the background and in all its glory glistening in the late evening sun. To me it’s a memory worth all the green fees in the world!