The Old Course. The Big Show. The Grand Daddy. The Birthplace. The R&A. The Mecca. The Old Course. What can I say. I will start by saying that standing around the first tee at the old course is very interesting. There are people milling around the starters shack, some golfers, some onlookers. Caddies are 20 yards away telling stories, doing what caddies do. There are players walking to the clubhouse along the first. There are construction workers building the tents and mini village between the first the Sea. If you sit, you are adjacent to the R&A building, looming over you in all its stone glory.
The neat thing about the round is they allowed my wife to walk with me. Awesome. We get to experience the Old Course together. Further, as part of the trip, they booked the tee time for two. As it happened, a friend of mine from home was in Carnoustie for the Tassie Amateur tournament. Do to an unfortunate situation after his round on the Championship course in qualifying (always sign your card!!) he didn't make the match play. He would have with the 73 in the first round, but it worked out that he was free for Thursday. He met us for the round, which made it even more special getting to play with someone that I knew, and that was a good golfer also. We get ready, and step up to the starter shack and meet our caddie, Mitch. He's a Kiwi, and his buddy is carrying one of the bags for the couple we are playing with. Hamish Ireland, from New Zealand, caddying in Scotland. Cheers!
Once you get to the tee, a camera man takes a group shot and then snaps away as you tee off. Quite honestly, I'm not sure I noticed him while hitting the shot. I was too worried about finding the fairway. Yes, it's a 100 yard wide fairway, but its the first tee shot on the Old Course! With probably 50-60 people watching you. I've had some interesting and nervous shots, but this one is up there. The best part that makes the shot a little easier is the fact that they mow the 1st and 18th in different directions, so they are different colors. There's a straight line stripe right down the middle to aim for. I managed a 3 wood 15 yards left of center, safe off the first!
The next shot didn't go quite as well. I was actually not far from the Swilken Bridge. I had 115 to the pin, but chunked a wedged, just bad enough to stay short of the burn. A chip up to 25 feet and two putts later, I walk off with an opening bogey. A flared approach on the second short right led to a second bogey. Come on, get it together!
The first handful or so of holes were playing into a club wind from the north west; nearly straight into it on 2-6. I managed a pair of pars on 3 and 4, with about 40 feet of putts made between them. I noticed that the greens had some subtle slopes to them, but it was more about the speed than anything else. When I took a peak at the lines, Mitch was giving me a line within half a ball of where I was thinking. That is a tremendous confidence boost standing over a putt hitting it where you believe it should be instead of just where you are told. Knowing that the flat stick was warm for the round also gave me the interior green light.
During the opening holes, I started to feel a twinge in my lower back on the right side. If I pulled the club back on the correct path there wasn't much pain. If I took it outside, it was a shooting pain right at the bottom of the ribs. I shortened my swing a little, and with the wind, hit little jab shots...a shot that I'm familiar with in the wind.
The 5th is the only par 5 on the front. After a drive up the left side of the fairway, I hit a 6 iron just past the spectacles short right. A little pitch up to 15 feet and a drained putt later, I have my birdie on the Old Course!!! One over! Parred the 6th, 3-putted the 7th for bogey, and made pars on 8 and 9. 38 on the front.
10 heads in a similar direction as 2-6. However, by this point, the wind had turned nearly 180 on us, so it was playing nearly directly downwind. At 340, it can be reached if you catch the driver, and my buddy made it up there, all be it 40 yards right of the pin. I finished just 10 yards short of the putting surface, with the pin tucked all the way on the left side. My birdie lipped out, so it's on to 11. The shell bunker on 11 is HUGE. Also in play on 7, it sticks out because of the enormity of it. Despite the visual noise, I made it over and slid the birdie just a few inches past the left edge. Another par. 1 over thru 11.
On 12 I manged to find my worst lie on the Old Course. Nestled on the right side between two mounds, the ball settled to the bottom of 12" wispy grass. Take your medicine and chunk a wedge back to the fairway. My wedge to the green was not my best effort...the back was signing to me after the chunk from the rough, and two putts later I'm back to 2 over.
After par save on 13 with a 20 footer (after avoiding the coffins,) it's off to 14, the only par 5 on the back. From the edge of the Elysian Fields, I had 3 wood in my hands. Here it goes! And I straight topped it. Please stay out of Hell bunker!! Please. Mitch is yelling sit. I'm yelling get right. It dives over the hill in the tall stuff...time to chase and find out. I manage to just miss Hell Bunker, leaving me approximately 90 yards to the pin. I hit the false front short left, got up and down for a solid par, and keep rolling along. A routine par on 15 sends me to 16 at 3 over for the round.
The 16th is lined along the right with a stone wall. There is no reason to be near it. And, honestly, I wasn't...I was WAY over it. Tee up another to hit this one solidly down the fairway. While walking down the fairway, Hamish asked me about the first ball, and I told him "it's in the next toon doon!" Both he and Mitch cracked up, at least easing the pain of hitting one OB a little bit. Well, a wee bit... Mark me down for a double, heading to the Road Hole.
to be continued!