St Andrews -The Old Course – The one true test or Ringo Starr?

I have been fortunate enough to play The Old Course many times. It runs, like a the logo on a stick of rock, through my golfing life. Not with the same importance or emotional attachment as some other courses – Carluke -North Berwick -Fulford Heath – Muirfield but still an important marker.

First time was as a cocky teenager, well into single figures, and the last time was August last year. The most special occasion was in July 2005 on the Monday after that year’s championship finished there. Tigers second open and tenth major. We were allowed to play from the same tees and with the same pin positions as the last round. Extraordinary. Lucky to be invited and a fantastic treat. But, and it sounds ungrateful somehow, I have never been totally sure how I rate it as a golf course.

In the ranking section of the blog it is no 1 of all the courses I have played since I began this Odyssey. Above Loch Lomond, Turnberry and Silloth on Solway. I haven’t done the detailed review on the Old Course yet as I want to see how the best players in the world (ex Rory) play it this week before I finally opine. But! But! I have a few questions.

  1. If The Old Course is the one true test does that means that all the other Open venues are lesser examinations – a bit like a GCSE in media studies. Can that be right?
  2. Is the Old Course the best golf course in the world?  I am tempted to paraphrase John Lennon when he was asked if Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world. The Old Course is probably not the best golf course in St Andrews as a golf course.  The New is a better track in my opinion.  But what the Old Course has is history.  Layers and layers of history.  It has history in the same quantities as Glastonbury has mud or rock festivals in Scotland have midges.  And that weight of history brushes aside any doubts about how good a course it is. The history trumps every other consideration I guess.So I will leave my final analysis until next week and content myself with trying to pick some good value bets for this week in consultation with my sons.  So far we have discussed Coetzee Willet Fisher Fleetwood Warren Donaldson Olesen All can start well and can be birdie machines before fading!!!  So bet and lay if they start like sprinters in the St Ledger.

Chambers Bay and the Tiger that Wasn’t

My cabin fever is getting worse as I count down the days to my op. I am nowhere near being able to play golf, or even go for a long walk. Never in the field of human moaning has so much been said by me about so little.   I need outlets for my frustrations and a series of sporting events has provided that and also demonstrated the evolutionary need to create patterns where none really exist.  (Diversion – the ability of the brain to create patterns is an evolutionary plus. The example generally given is looking at sunlight through long grass.  The different shades can seem like the stripes on a tiger. In the vast majority of cases it isn’t a tiger. But in evolutionary terms seeing it as one and therefore avoiding that part of the Savannah pays off because the alternative strategy of ignoring the pattern loses badly when it is a tiger.)

So it wasn’t too difficult to create one to link the SPFL plays offs , Royal Ascot and the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. In this case it was the number 6 – actually lots of 6s.  



Motherwell v Rangers -The SPFL play offs  

Unbelievable!! We should never have found ourselves in that situation and I suppose neither should Rangers.   The tension, the real prospect of dropping down to the Championship after 31 years in the Premier League and our complete capitulation against Rangers over the last 10 years didn’t bode well.   But!  But! Our greatest displays since the cup win in 1991.  3 nil up at Ibrox.  Missing an open goal to go 4 ahead.   Rangers getting a late goal.   Our fans singing throughout and silencing the Huns. Twist and shout in our section of the ground.   The build up to the second leg at Fir Park.   Restricting the Rangers allocation so for the first time I can remember we outnumbered them at Fir Park by about 4 to 1. My boy Wills excitement at the game.  But most of all the complete hush that settled over the ground when Marvin Johnston’s deflected shot spun towards their goal. Every Motherwell supporter on their feet watching, willing it in. Then the exhalation as their goalie pushed it into his own net and the sound was switched back on!!!! Unforgettable. One of the best moments in my football life. And the triumphal ramping up to 3-0 making the aggregate 6-1.  The first of the 6s



Royal Ascot

I hadn’t been at Royal Ascot since I moved back to Scotland.   Too far away?  Too busy to go? But Amanda and I had a standing invitation from her two oldest friends, Carolyn and Peter.   School pals and married for ever.  Peter has a very successful business refurbishing offices and has a box at Ascot which he uses to entertain customers.  This year we said yes to their kind offer and went down – hobbled down – for the Friday.  It was nostalgic, in the slowest way possible, to crawl by car from Heathrow to the racecourse and pass golf courses I had played in the 80/90s.  Wentworth, The Berkshire and Sunningdale.   It was also interesting to observe a new social approach to a day out at the Royal week.   As we sat in the traffic we saw a large number of other travellers leave their transport to attend to their ablutions. Men I have seen do this. But women??!!  Into the bushes or running to the pub just outside the town.   Then sprint again in high heels and tight dresses to catch up with their cars or buses.  


But eventually we got through the toilet traffic and were deposited in car park 3 -just across from the Grandstand.  And never has a word been so appropriate.  Very, very grand indeed.  Spacious with fantastic views from our box which is just along from the Royal enclosure.  A full description of the day would take up far too much space but

1- we did see the Royal family at close quarters.   The Duke of Edinburgh looking particularly grumpy.   Very much in Victor Meldrew mode

2- the atmosphere on a bright warm day straight out of a modern day Merchant / Ivory movie

3- the singing at the end led by the Band of the.  … Out of a musical. So patriotic. So British so English. )

But the most incredible aspect was that we had 6 straight winners.   We went through the card!!!

Unbelievable given my family’s betting history.   My father and two uncles, Jack and Archie, had a cumulative 150 of betting between them and together never had 6 winners in all that time!!  In fact I doubt very much if they had 3 between them.  

For some reason however the curse of the McMahons was lifted that day and as I went back to the Tote win for a sixth consecutive time I was only thinking of them and how proud / amazed they would have been.  

The second 6.


Chambers Bay – the third 6

Watching another major without having played this year was strangely disorientating but not as disorientating as my first look at the course.   Certainly unusual.   My first thought – it’s a set from Mad Max Fury Road but stripped of extras (ie spectators) but unlike some / most of the competitors I warmed to it.  However I don’t think I will be flying to Seattle anytime soon to take it on.   Looks far too dangerous - literally dangerous Made for interesting viewing though and gave me the thread for the blog.  The tiger that wasn’t.  In this case Tiger Woods.  It was sad to see such a talented player putting from some distance out on a number of holes instead of chipping.   The man with perhaps the greatest short game ever reduced to sort of shot I might play.  That’s not Tiger.  It’s only an illusion caused by the sunlight and terrain.  


I couldn’t find a bet I really fancied at the start of the event so left it alone but my older boy Jim nearly had the mother of all golf bets.   Like me he tries to find long odds value and decided to bet Louis Oosthuizen after his first round 77!!  At 350 to 1 Two 66 later the bet looked less insane.   If Oosthuizen had shot one lower in his last round ie another 66 he would have forced a play off with Speith and Jim would have had the betting story of this millennium.   So more 6s than you could shake a stick at.   Is that part of an overall cosmic design or random?  Vote now at ‘Numerology tells us how the world’


On to St Andrews – my next subject.