Carnoustie Golf Links

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Carnoustie_logoCarnoustie has had it’s share of critics over the last century, most of them said it was too boring, too penal, or had too many weak holes to hold a place in the Open Championship Rota. But in the late 1990s, under the direction of their green superintendent John Philip, an astonishing renovation/restoration of the course was done and the result is a very difficult links golf experience. Of the resultant course changes James Finegan says “A sow’s ear had metamorphosed into a silk purse. This eighteen is the ultimate golfing challenge.”

This is not a course you can play gripping it and ripping it, you have to play almost every shot with proper forethought and flawless execution. There are no breather holes out here-play with absolute resolve on every hole or your scorecard will be punished. Sound of report of shooting range gunfire from the nearby military installation early in the round should remind you that you are in a full contact skirmish out there.

Famous people have left their mark in over 85 years as a championship venue

Carn Hogan SignBuilt on about as flat a piece of land as any links layout you will ever see the excitement had to be made in the strategic layout of fairway landing areas, green complexes, and the extensive use of burns and OB to cordon off reckless shot execution. As you experience in Florida they incorporated heavy dosages of burns (water) and Barbasol bunkering to make this place very punitive-especially when the wind is present.

A proper Scottish burn….not much water but significant scorecard pain

Jockies BurnThe closely shaven surrounds to the burns and bunkers give the hazards an especially strong magnetic attraction to a ball hit without sufficient resolve. There are many times when you think you hit the perfect approach and you are scratching your head in disbelief at where it ends up.

Greens that pitch and yaw even without the ever present wind

Carn 5 Green

 

To add more intrigue the greens are sprawling, oddly shaped with tiers and elevation transitions that make getting the ball close to the day’s pin a big challenge. Without any topography to block the breeze the putting is very wind affected which makes downwind, downhill putting particularly treacherous.

The typical hurdles you must negotiate on the way to the greens

Carn 3The scorecard reveals much of the difficulty of this course in the yardage alone. Close to 7000 yards from the white tees with a par of 72 with only three par fives on the shortish side there are a bevy of brutish par 4s that add up to that yardage total. From the yellow tee at 6600 yards two of those five pars on the inward nine become punitive par 4s as well.

Crossing the Spectacles Bunkers on the 14th takes extra focus

SpectaclesThe last four holes are the most difficult finish you have ever encountered with a manly par three close over 235 yards and the three par four holes all approaching 450 with serious diversionary hazards everywhere you look. The result is a slope rating of 144 and 142 respectively off the white and yellow markers which tells you all you need to know about the challenge at hand.

I will leave the details of this trek to the hole-by-hole description below but suffice it to say that this is the most excruciating test of recreational golf you will ever play. It needs to be experienced once simply because of it’s place in Open Championship lore where the likes of Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Tom Watson, and Padraig Harrington have claimed the Claret Jug.

Simpsons Golf Shop…one of the kitchy treasures in town

Simpsons Golf ShopTell the women and the kids to enjoy the day walking the quaint fishing town of Carnoustie and make sure they visit Simpsons Golf Shop across the street, they will have a much more delightful day than you have had.

The Frenchman’s epitaph etched over his watery grave

John V Carn 18The place is infamously known as the graveyard of Jean van de Velde’s Open Championship dreams. His nightmare finish on the 18th is commemorated by an inscription of his name on the top of the burn wall where he arrogantly tried to play one of the silliest recovery shots in major championship history. I don’t see you rolling up your pants legs and playing anything standing in the water on the last hole but I am pretty sure that once you are sitting in Calder’s Bar with an Irn-Bru in your hand there will be many wounds to salve from your walk around these links.

Carnoustie, Scotland

Architect: Allan Robertson, Old Tom Morris, James Braid (1840)

Tee        Par      Rating      Slope     Yardage
White     72         75          144        6948
Yellow    70         74          142        6595
Red       72         72          132        6144

(Click here to review the complete Carnoustie Links hole-by-hole descriptions)

For more pictures click to review Northern Scotland-Day 7: Carnoustie Golf Links

The President’s Putter

A perfect English January day for golf at Rye Golf Club (photo from http://www.GolfClubAtlas.com)

This is not what you think-The Donald has nothing to do with this.

Actually this is probably one of the most authentic golf competitions in history.  It is  an eccentric annual affair between alumni of Cambridge and Oxford that has been going on since 1920 at The Rye Golf Club in Rye, East Sussex every January.  Those eligible to play are current and former alumni of the universities thus the golfers are usually amateurs and ages may vary between 20 and 70 years. It is as much a reunion as a golf competition.

The tournament is played by scratch match play and the winner receives a silver medal in exchange for their winning ball.  Over it’s storied 90 years, this event has attracted some of the greatest amateur golfers in Britain.  Past winners include five time tournament winner Roger Wethered, Cyril Tolley and Charlie Rotheroe.   The famous golf writer Bernard Darwin won the fifth Putter in 1924 and was a regular in this event into the late 1950’s.  Donald Steel, a famous British golf course architect and writer, is one of only three guys who have won the President’s Putter three times since World War II.

You are probably wondering why anyone would hold such a championship in the balmy weather of January in England.  Donald Steel says, “The tournament is probably best known for defying the elements but that is overdone. It is a genuine match play competition in which no effort is spared. My successes were based on a love of Rye, a good blood circulation and the ability to improvise. Otherwise, the playing attributes are no different to those in any other form of competitive golf. Good driving and a nifty short game were certainly no hindrance.”

A rarity occurred in 2010 and that was that the playing of President’s Putter was delayed a few weeks due to weather. (Photo from http://www.GolfClubAtlas.com)

They did manage to get the tournament played in 2010, albeit the third week in February, but they got it in.

This competition is “serious fun” and it adheres to the true spirit of the game says Steel, “You play hard. You play fast. But above all, you play to have fun”.

If you own a copy of “Following Through-Herbert Warren Wind on Golf” you can read his wonderful essay “An Entirely Different World: The President’s Putter” which he wrote after witnessing the event for the first time in 1971.  Typical Herbert Wind genius, he captures the unique flavor of the event and the hearty character of those who make this such an interesting tradition.  He says of their determination to play this event in the coldest, most inhospitable time of the year, “Because they are English, by and large, born eccentrics……..In no other people do you find that streak of masochism which sneers at the uncomfortable and revels in the hazardous”.

For more on this incredible annual event click to check out this GolfClubAtlas article about The Presidents Putter by David Normoyle.

July, 2018

It’s About Time!!

The European Tour has finally stepped out of the box and made the bold move that the PGA Tour should have made ten years ago-they have instituted a Shot Clock…..at least for this week.

Father time is looking over their shoulders….

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At the European Shot Clock Masters each player has 40 seconds to play his shot or it is going to cost them.  Simple system….immediate results.  The rounds over the first two days were close to 30 minutes faster on average.  There has been only one penalty assessed so far.   And the scoring average for the event has dropped significantly.

Nothing like empirical evidence.  Case closed.  Make it permanent!!!

We were chiming about slow play on tour since 2014 on this site in our piece “Slow Play-Throw A Flag” and I still like the drama of tossing the rag and pacing off the penalty.  But let’s take what we can get.

If all the tours adopted a similar system the accumulated tedium in the broadcasts from tortoise play would be disappear overnight.  The effect would flow to the recreational arena in no time.  Return of the sub four hour round!!  What a welcome sight that would be.

Hopefully the interest lobby for long broadcasts-the advertising community-will not continue to hold sway and the PGA Tour will put one of these experimental events in their rota.  We can finally move closer to a universal acceptance that slow play is one of the real disincentives to playing the game and there is something we can do about it!!

 

The Wrong Culprit

We have an old saying on Tour that when we’re putting poorly, we go get another putter, but it doesn’t take that putter long to know who has it.

Once it gets to know you, it will start putting just like the one you threw away.

Lee Trevino

Be The Ball (2000)

Charles Jones/Kim Doren

The New Rage-Approach and Putt Courses

There is a seminal trend building in the world of golf course construction to build short courses at destination golf resorts.  The trickle has now developed into what looks like a steady stream and I believe it is now starting to spread to high end private clubs as well.  For those who are looking at initiatives to “grow the game” this is very good news indeed.

For those of us with long memories, we can recall in the days of poodle skirts and weejuns when date night often meant a visit to a skating rink, bowling alley, miniature golf, or pitch n’ putt golf course with our honey.  Who did not look forward to putting an arm around her as you skated to carousel tunes or gently instructing her on proper grip of the bowling ball or the putter.  Unfortunately these fun “family” entertainment venues effectively went the way of the hoola-hoop and got wiped as the value of real estate in the exploding urban suburbs saw them replaced by more lucrative strip shopping centers, motels, and garden apartment complexes.

Fast forward about 50 years and Mike Keiser gets the notion that at a destination golf resort like Bandon Dunes would be a perfect place to bring back the fun and high jinx of a short Approach and Putt Course (I prefer this traditional name from the Golden Age to the more crass Pitch n’ Putt moniker of later years).  From the beginning Keiser had the Par 3 “Shorty’s Course” just off the driving range at Bandon Dunes.  It was opened on alternate days when range balls were not flying in that direction.

Availability indication for Shorty’s-Green Flag it is open/Red Flag it is closed

But this was not good enough for Mike Keiser.  In 2012 the resort opened a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design-Bandon Preserve-a fully functional approach and putt course with real tees (and lots of them), real green complexes, and a fully stocked adult beverage dispensary in the middle.  The draw was instantaneous as folks found 13 real golf holes could be played in an hour and a half with a couple of clubs, a drink in hand, and a festive attitude.  There were no rules-play with as many people in your group as could corral, make as much noise as you like, and play the holes from any distance that met your fancy.

Four patrons at the Preserve….light carry bags…a bet…and some libations coming soon..

What was never discussed was that, with serious elevation changes, real green complexes, and a endless teeing grounds to choose from, this was a perfect place to hone your links approach game for the next day’s round.  It was a D.I.Y. Approach and Putt golf experience that became the delight of all the “retail golfers” who came to the resort.

The second hole at Bandon Preserve…that is a real serious bunker!!

Truth was this was not really a new idea at all.  Back in the 1930’s Bobby Jones asked Alister Mackenzie, the designer of Augusta National, to design the Augusta Approach and Putt Course for the members.   The innovative approach MacKenzie took was to have 9 double greens so the front nine could be played in one direction and replayed in reverse as a unique back nine.  Unfortunately with the pressures of the depression weighing on the operation of the club , it never saw the light of day.

Proposed Augusta National Approach and Putt Course (courtesy of National Park Service)

With the success of Bandon Preserve others started to take notice and various iterations starting popping up at resorts and high end private facilities across the country.   It is safe to say that these things are becoming standard fare as high end resorts are looking at them as combined family playgrounds and happy hour entertainment centers.  It is just another way to engage their patrons of all ages with new and different entertainment options.

New offerings include Tiger Woods putting his name on “The Playgrounds”,  a 10-hole short track at the new Bluejack National in Texas. Tom Doak did a short course in 2017 at Ballyneal Golf Club in Colorado.  Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner just finished “The Cradle” a playful addition to the PInehurst Resort.  Most recently, Jordan Speith had a hand in creating a 6-hole Par 3 Course called “The Lower 40′ next to the campus of  his alma mater,  the University of Texas, Austin.

The next wave of these approach and putt courses is likely to happen at a high end country club near you.  Since it can be done on a small parcel of land they already own at a fraction of the cost of a full blown 18-hole course, private country clubs will see these as a way of engaging new players, kids, and their older members.   These facilities are a great way to enhance an outside event or create a unique multi-generational club competition.

The best part is that players need only a couple of clubs and an hour to get a pretty robust golf experience.  Talk about a great vehicle for growing the game.

As they saw at the Preserve, these tracks also serves as an full-fledged short game practice facility which is much more interesting than a single practice green and a couple of bunkers.  Private clubs struggling to attract and retain membership will begin to look upon an approach and putt course as essential as the health club and the lap pool in meeting the needs of it’s membership.

The Maddening Difficulty Of It

It is not the love of something easy which has drawn men like a magnet for hundreds of years to this royal and ancient pastime; on the contrary, it is the maddening difficulty of it.

….But that is what fascinates man and leads him to leave business, home, wife, and children to pursue this hard mistress in the foolish hope of conquering her.

….Golf beats us all, and that is the chief reason we shall never cease loving her, nor ever give up our attempt to subdue her.

Robert Hunter

The LInks (1926)

 

Postcard From Streamsong

On a recent buddies trip we had 16 guys spend four invigorating days at Streamsong, the destination golf resort in central Florida.  Streamsong has it all, three supreme golf courses, a couple of happy hour extras in a 6-hole approach and putt course as well as a massive recreational putting green,  a wonderful upscale hotel with all the accommodation elements you would expect, and food that far surpassed our buddy trip standards.

Built on the site of an old mining operation the presentation of the course and the architecture of the clubhouse has an appropriate industrial feel to it

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Streamsong sits in the middle of nowhere on thousands of acres of what used to be a major phosphate mining operation.  The owners realized that, with the insight of the game’s top design teams,  the sandy soil along with the topographical remains of the mining operation could be made into a bunch of very unique walking golf courses that are anything but Florida typical.

Typical vista from the the Black Course…..Dorothy can you believe this is Florida?

In 2012 the placed opened with the first two courses, the Blue Course by Tom Doak and the Red Course by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw making an immediate splash to rave reviews.  Having clocked over 30,000 rounds each of these two layouts, the owners opened the Gil Hanse Black Course in the fall of 2017 and it may just be the best of the three of them.

The hotel has everything you want in a destination resort-fine restaurants, health club, spa, swimming pool, clay shooting, fishing, hiking, and some pretty good golf.  The added bonus, a very casual atmosphere where you don’t need much more than golf casual to do anything you want during your stay.

Howard with the catch of the day…..there is a big story to go with this of course!

This wide mouth greets you at the end of the hall near the Health Club and Spa

The dining covers all genres with great aptitude-supporting libations as well

The golf is what you come for and there is plenty of it.  Set up for walking you better come with your golf legs fit for action because these are not your typical flat Florida tracks riddled with man-made water hazards.  The caddies are a must because all three of these tracks have a wide, tactical character, similar to what you would encounter in Bandon Dunes or across the pond.  It is way more than just knowing how far it is to the pin.

World Wide Weber, The Mish, A.I. Minkie, and The Koach strike the pose on #1

More kulprits-Chop Stix, Billy B, Pete The Grass Maven, and Sol The Hunter

The rugged natural look the architects reclaimed from the mining remains

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Doak swore they were anywhere but Florida when the copter landed at this mine-made dune and basin that became the signature Blue 7th and Red 16th Par 3’s

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Doak framed the back of the industrial style clubhouse in the last look of the day

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are known for the minimalist approach of designing golf courses.  They really did not need to move lots of earth here to get a wild and natural look for the Red Course.

The Red Course opens up with a stunning look at the dunes and the waterways created in the old mining crevices

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The sprawling cape style Par 4 5th hass the water down the right and a massive dune behind the green complex

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Wildlife on a stroll….not an indication of pace of play issues……

Delectable provisions available at BBQ Shack at the turn…….

The postcard hole of the Red features this dramatic forced carry to the 16th

What you don’t see from the tee is the Biarratz dip in the middle of this 72-yard green which makes for an even steeper challenge with the pin in the back section

They opened the Gil Hanse/Jim Wagner Black Course in the fall of 2017 which added another dimension to what was already a fabulous selection of links-like courses.

As we have seen at other resorts they added a couple of Golf Happy Hour facilities to occupy the masses apres round.  At the Black you will find a 6-hole Approach and Putt Course as well as a massive recreational putting green called the Gauntlet.  It is not the Ladies Putting Course at St. Andrews but, with an adult beverage in hand, it does provide great entertainment possibilities.

Acres and acres of extreme putting challenges….with beverage holders

The Black is a long walk, almost seven miles, because of considerably more distance between greens and tees.  The caddies will tell you, it is actually an easier walk because the terrain is much more tempered then it’s Red and Blue Cousins.  The bunkering and sandy fairway surrounds on the Black have a very natural feel and, with a wee bit of wind, you could swear the Atlantic is just over the next rise.

Uphill approach to the short Par 4 second has full sand features

Devil’s orifice is the lone bunker in front of the 6th green…it is a doozie!!

As you come up the Par 4 9th, the signature windmill behind the green, which was reclaimed from the mining days, becomes your aiming point off the tee as well as into the blind punch bowl green.  It can be seen throughout the front nine and can be very helpful for ascertaining wind direction, which can be enigmatic considering there are very few trees along the way.

Driveable 14th….don’t go long of this extreme green or a 5 will be a difficult score to make…..

A meditative moment for The Mish before pulling the club on the 15th…..

The #1 Handicap Hole 16th presents multiple challenges…not the least of which is the carry over this mini Sahara to a sharply tilted green from the left

The finish on the Black is a stunning cape hole with all the fixins…..

Equally spectacular looking back up once you are done……

The Streamsong experience is one that all golf addicts should experience.  The quality of the courses makes it well worth the effort of getting there.

28 Shades of Cute

The Keepers held our 8th Annual First Tee Mentoring Outing at Woodmont Country Club with 28 delightful kids from every background you can imagine who participate in the programs of the First Tee of Greater Washington D.C.   We had 17 volunteers from our club along with the professional golf staff as our guides doing golf clinics, a picnic lunch, and a couple of hours of course time with the kids.

These kids come every type of background you can imagine and they have gleaned from their First Tee experiences self-confidence, poise, and grace as well as being introduced to the game of golf.  It is a wonder to witness the etiquette, course awareness, and basic skills of these 7 to 14 year-olds who attend this event each year.

The almost 50 staff, volunteers, and kids that made this day so special.

Our volunteers provide the smiles, reassurance, and support to help these kids understand how much this game has to offer.

These guys and gals get as much out of this outing as the kids.

To download any photos to your PC just right click on the image and pick “Save Image As” to save it to your computer.

Sometimes the mentoring is as simple as a hug or a pat on the shoulder.

Kommander Keller mugging with Quinn

Marlyn with Sophie and Amanda

Marlene with Nahyun and Hannah

Amanda, Avery, and Hannah with Dale watching over

The mentors share their knowledge and experience of how they have earned their crack handicaps.

Arthur helping Amra with her grip

Andy and Daniel discuss proper takeaway

Jackie gives Carina a little thought on direction

Eddie shares with Dhira the importance of face alignment

Best part is just kickin’ back and watching these amazing kids do their golf thing.

Gail and Bonnie chillin’ on the range

All the kids went through the rotation of three clinics-range, short game, and putting-led by our professional staff.

Konnor and his guys explain the program for the day

Proper technique is proper technique…even if it is on the wrong side

Konnor explains some of the do’s and don’ts of exceptional putting

Some of it was group drills……

….and group observation as well

Then the kids get to show their stuff….as well as their individuality and style.

Akil has no breakdown of the wrist..nice extension in his pitching

Quinn and Isabella observe each other’s technique

Peter is looking for a little clarification or is it reassurance

Skyler has it down as Delana, Iris, Yaphet, and Peter get ready to launch

Hannah, Nahyun, and Sumi are in a high level conversation

Delana, Iris, Yaphet, and Peter are grinding away at proper technique

Obviously satisfied, Daniel is working on this celebration dance

Marlyn and Konnor are appraising the work of Eugene, Sean, Hannah, Nahyun, and Sumin

Anticipation across the line as the balls are off in the lag putt drill

You can work up an appetite at these clinics so they are followed by a break for a picnic lunch where we got to just sit and chat…..healthy sandwiches, real chips, fresh fruit, and some chocolate chip cookies for the big kids.  We were all single digit eaters.

Starts with an orderly line….followed by a choice….Tuna or Turkey…..

Circling the wagons….lots of mouths to feed both kid and adult

Amra and Isabella just hanging out and having fun

Quinn and Jayden with the old tomato sandwich trick

Carina, Sophie, and Avery….are these kids cute or what?

Then it was out to the big course to put what they learned to work.  It is amazing how these kids handle themselves on the course.  Fixing ball marks, raking bunkers, marking their ball properly, and respecting the efforts of their playing partners.

Amanda and Evalyn head out with Kaptin Keith

Dale with Sumin and Hannah are not far behind

Amanda, Evalyn, Sumi, and Hannah setting up approach shots with Keith and Dale

Randy is helping Nahyun and Hannah plot some course strategy

Arthur, Jayden, and Quinn are all smiles on the way out to their designated hole

Akil, Skyler, and Iris on the 11th Green with John and Moe

One last bit of business to thank the volunteers, the golf staff, and the organizers for putting this together.  And most important, thanking these adorable and talented kids for being part of this beautiful day, sending them away with a participation certificate and a few goodies to commemorate the event.

Special thanks to Connor Farrell, Steve Keller, John Friedson, Moe Dweck, and Alexandra Uduk and the professional golf staff for all the hard work in assembling this event.  Thanks to Woodmont Country Club for graciously hosting this and the First Tee of Greater Washington D.C. for hooking us up with these awesome kids.

First Tee Greater Wash LogoRespect-Perserverance-Honesty-Integrity-Courtesy-Responsibility-Sportsmanship-Confidence-Judgement

August, 2017

(Photos provided by Steve Keller, Arthur Blitz, and Melanie Padgett Powers)

If you have any corrections to the captioning please email them to moedweck@comcast.net

Kingsbarns Golf Links

The heritage of the Kingsbarns Golfing Society dates back to 1793 but the availability of golf under their name was interrupted twice over the centuries. Most recently during World War II when ground was taken by the military for defensive war purposes.

In 2000 Kingsbarns was revived under the watchful eye of a couple of Americans, Mark Parsinen and Art Dunkley, who hired Kyle Phillips to manufacture this stunning links course on 190 acres of farmland in the current location.  Kyle gave it the full high-end treatment complete with grand scale dunes, crumpled fairways, bumps and hollows galore, revetted bunkers, and sprawling green complexes with character.

They spared no expense in creating this place, tapping into the knowledge of Robert Price the author of Scotland’s Golf Courses for advice on design features and Walter Wood the retired greens superintendent at St. Andrews for guidance on local turf issues.  They created a bit of Whistling Straits in St. Andrews……to even the experienced eye it looks like it is nature’s work.  This stiff links experience is not for the faint of heart, it was built for hosting professional championships like the annual Dunhill Links and Ricoh Women’s British Open.

Click to see the panoramic shoreline view of the finishing holes

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The course plays hard and fast with generous run ups from as far out as 100 yards to accommodate play along the ground.   By no means is this a target golf course, it will punch and counter punch you during the round so you have to be ready to respond.  Plenty of swerve in the fairways so don’t be surprised if your ball is not as obedient to your commands as you expect.  Bunkering is not overdone but it can be severe around the greens where the revetted faces are quite steep.  Further sculpted ground contours can gather balls without sufficient intent into the bother.  The greens have robust engineered undulations so a sharp short game and focused putting are very important to success out here.

Appreciate the severity of the greenside bunkering and green surface undulation

The day begins temperately enough off the side of the clubhouse to a high fairway overlooking the sea.  The approach into a green complex with deep face bunkers and the steeply undulating green set the tone for the day.  The story continues to unfold as you look down the short downhill Par 3 2nd where the North Sea crashing into the shore behind is a breathtaking sight to behold.  A little out with a long par 5 at sea level followed by a pair of difficult par 4s turning back just above will get your game to full throttle.

The backdrop of the North Sea seems to be everywhere

Stepping on the high tee on the wondrous short Par 4 6th you get a stunning panoramic view of all the holes along the sea.  This is a little downhill 300 yard shot that tempts your mischievous side but it will take a perfect strike with the right curve to get the reward they are dangling in front of you.  From the teeing round, if your eyes are 20 x 15, you can just make out the clubhouse at the Crail links down the coast.

#1 handicap 7th presents a stiff challenge, especially if the breeze is in your face

What follows is the challenge of the #1 Handicap hole on the course which, to add insult to injury, often plays into the wind. You get a bit of a breather on the 8th with a very technical short pitch Par 3 that looks like it tumbles right into the surf.

Another stunning Par 3 against the sea at the 8th

It is a long trek back up the 9th to the clubhouse and a chance to catch some replenishment at the Halfway Hut before taking on the very difficult inward half.

The second nine begins with a pair of tumbling par 4s that bring you back down to the sea next to the 8th green.  Both of these holes have severe downward elevation change and lots of side contours as well.  A couple of pars would be good for the scorecard storehouse before getting to the technical part of the course ahead.

The sequence of the 12th through the 15th will leave you breathless

Now you venture around the corner to a spur of land that holds four breathtaking holes that will challenge your full skill set.  As Malcolm Campbell says in his descriptive of the course, “It is a gentle walk to the 12th through a woodland…..where the ocean is stolen from our gaze.  When it is given back at the top of the incline at the tee, the assault on the senses is often difficult to believe.  The spectacular view ….is the one instantly recalled by many long after they leave Kingsbarns.  Here we find not only one of the most memorable …three-shot holes but one that cunningly conceals iron within the velvet glove”.    Hitch up you pants, aim at focused targets, and play away with abandon.

The 13th proves that three-par challenges your skill set in a different way

The Par 3 13th is a lovely short pitch down to a well guarded green complex wedged into a hill with a harsh stone wall covered with foliage.  Sorting out the wind effect and the elevation change makes this an elusive target.

After a scoring opportunity on the 14th, you meet face another windblown postcard Par 3 that completes this section of the course.  This requires a difficult uphill shot into a precipice green sitting on a jetty overlooking the raging sea.  Aim at the pot bunker nestled in the left third of this green in that the forced carry over the rocks gets much longer as the breeze blows the ball out to sea.

Managing the approach to the Par 5 16th is about lay-up positioning

If you got through this section with minimal scorecard damage what comes next are three strong finishing holes where, with strong execution, good scores are there to be had.  The first of which is the 16th, an ambling five par along the shore.  Long hitters can try to cut the corner but if the wind direction is off the left you are bringing a high score into play with anything wayward right.  Aiming at the corner of the clubhouse will leave you with a layup from the left center of the fairway to a safe space between the bunkers about 75 yards from the green. Worth noting on your approach, there is a pesky burn that runs right and behind the green.

Wending one’s way on the last march up to the high ground to the 17th green

One last one along the coastline, the penultimate hole is a punishing dogleg right par four if you do not hold you intended shot lines.  The drive is into the dogleg elbow well left and what remains is a daunting uphill approach into a perched green with three tiers.  Make sure you embrace the extra club required to get up into the middle of the putting surface.

The approach shot into the 18th green is a doozy…..or could make you woozy

The day finishes with an inland par four that plays across a high ridge adjacent to the first fairway.  With a strong drive you are left with a approach carry to a very difficult green shelved into a hill below the clubhouse.  The green complex really affords no safe lay up area so if you choose not to go for it over the burn you are probably laying up outside of 125 yards to an area on level to the green.  Try to ignore all the noses pressed up against the windows of the clubhouse grill room who are soaking their bruised egos having already failed to negotiate what you are currently trying to pull off.

Once the last putts fall, I do recommend you visit the members grill for some adult refreshment.  It is a beautiful vantage point from which to appreciate the vast beauty of what they created at Kingsbarns Golf Links.

St. Andrews, Scotland

 

Architect:  Kyle Phillips and Mark Parsinen   ( 2000)

Tee                 Par       Rating   Slope   Yardage

Medal              72         73.2       136       6807

Regular           72         70.7       132       6351

Ladies             72         70.7       126       5238

(Click to view a downloadable hole-by-hole description of Kingsbarns Golf Links)

Oooo’s, Ahhh’s, and Oy’s

It is pretty standard fare to hear the winner at the Open Championship remark how cool it was to play in front of the most knowledgeable golf fans in the world.

For anyone who has played links golf in the British Isles they know that this is true. In any of these small hamlets or large towns associated with the famous links venues the level of golfspeak is off the charts, no matter gender or age of the person you are talking to. Golf is just part of the fabric of everyday life for the golfing public in these communities.

This was driven home to me as I was riding in my car attentively listening to the streaming broadcast of the Open Championship from Royal Birkdale. It was like trying to follow a Senator baseball games on the radio on a sultry summer night back in the late sixties on my way to the Hot Shoppes to meet high school buddies. I admit sorting out the accents and some of the expressions of the British announcers were a challenge.

Truthfully, listening to these broadcasts, I did not need the play-by-play to discern how the shot just hit had turned out. Reading the nuances of the murmurs of the British fans picked up on the field microphones I knew whether Bubba’s big curve had avoided mounds in front and trundled up next to the flag for an eagle opportunity (an Oooo) or Kootch’s ball had failed by two feet to carry the mound’s edge and had been sucked back into the collection bunker (an Ahhh) or whether Jordan had actually driven it off the planet on #13 down the stretch on Sunday (an Oy).

The collective groans were discordant when the crowd witnessed this tee shot
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Listening to the broadcasts from the Open there are no awkward “Go In The Hole” or “Baba Booey” shouts interrupting the sound track as we witness in every PGA Tour broadcast. To me this is the signature of the pervasive ignorance of far too many American golf fans who spend way too much time drinking beer whether watching or playing golf.

The fans at these events across the pond are sophisticated, they all play the links game regularly. They know how hard it is for the players to manage the trajectory of a tight approach into a 30 m.p.h. cross wind out of the wispy grass or how to use the ground as their friend on an intentionally mis-directed pitch into a back pin location. They even get the adjustments required to line and speed by the effect of the winds on the putting.

Rory has to manage the environmental parameters on this approach in the 18th
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On Saturday walking up the 18th hole Spieth was getting ready to do his green research as he pulled out one of the many reference manuals he carries in his back pocket. Kootch walked over to him and said of the cacophony of applause they were walking into, “It doesn’t get any better than this”. Being mature beyond his years Jordan recognized that Kootch was right and put the topo book back in his pocket. The two of them then just basked in the crowd adoration walking up to the green.

Saturday’s memorable shared walk up to the 18th Green….
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Then there was the incredible finish on Sunday. That wayward right tee shot of Jordan on #13 on Sunday was partially intentional. In an interview he said on that hole you cannot drive your ball into the fairway or the hard ground will feed it into an halacious fairway pot bunker through the fairway. You have to aim this blind tee shot at the right rough. He just overdid it a wee bit.

It took a while but Jordan found a way back into the hole from the driving range

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But for all the post game pushback for the time it took for him to sort out his options and take his drop, I am sure all the fans on that hole fully appreciated the mental machinations Jordan was going through to optimize his chance to make that magnificent bogey. These fans understood they were watching golf history as he responded to the emotions of the crowd and played the next four holes five-under par to claim the Claret Jug in a display of links golf aptitude becoming of a British native.

Emotion and respect of two friends and competitors when the game was done…
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The humility and emotion shown by both Jordan and Kootch in presentation ceremony on Sunday afternoon speaks to their appreciation of the sophistication of these British golf fans. Jordan even did the Hale Irwin high-five run around with the Claret Jug in his hand to let these masses touch the gravity of this moment. It seemed like a spontaneous reaction to the engaging pulse of the crowd.

Jordan shares the moment with the adoring masses….

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It is not just platitude when the Open Championship winners say it is special to play in front of the most knowledgeable golf fans in the world. Jordan’s actions speak to this and, much like Young Tom Watson or Arnie before him, I am sure he is destined to be a favorite son of these folks every time he tees it up in an Open Championship over the next two decades.

Reflecting on what it means to add his name to all those other names

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