By George Christopher Thomas, Travel Writer
At least one time in every golfer’s life, they must make a trip to the Holy Land of Golf. Scotland is the Mecca of golf, and playing the hallowed grounds of the Old Course is every golfer’s dream.
Although this trip sounds like something you would do after winning the lottery, with careful planning and saving a little gold, any average Joe can make the trip.
The key is pre-planning and making necessary arrangements beforehand. As it turns out, the people of Scotland do speak a version of English, and are some of the nicest folks you will ever meet.
In fact, on the 5 pound note, up in Scotland, one can find Jack Nicklaus on the front. Imagine, an American on the British currency. Next you are going to tell me Bob Hope was born in England!
So here is the deal, buying the plane ticket early will save you quite a bit of money. Once that is done, and your mental mindset is “I am going to GOLF HEAVEN!” – stage one is done.
Next is the tee time, and making sure you have a certified handicap is very important. An official handicap can be obtained thrrough the United States Golf Association (USGA) as well as the Southern California Golf Association (SGCA). Although I am a member of a little 9 hole Par 3 executive course and could have obtained my official handicap through the club, one of the fastest ways to establish a handicap is through www.myscorecard.com.
They are pretty official about their golf over there in Scotland, and the starter will absolutely verify your handicap.
Here is another kicker, it has to be under 24 for men, and 36 for women. So get your lady a range key and a new putter for her birthday, because it is time to hit the practice tee and work on that knockdown shot.
When my girlfriend Joanne and I arrived in the town of St. Andrews, it has a historic feel and a very Scotish flavour. We were driving up from Lower Largo, which was was once a busy port and home of Alexander Selkirk, the real- life character whose adventures at sea inspired the story of Robinson Crusoe. Be careful how you pronounce Crusoe around the Brits and Scots, it can get a bit touchy. After we visited every round-about and turn-about in the town of St. Andrews, we made our way to the Golf Courses. Now I say courses, because St. Andrews has about 6 golf courses right there, and I think they are building another one. They have the world famous Old Course, the New Course (which is really old too), and another 5 courses. When you come to St. Andrews, you really are going to GOLF HEAVEN!
We were here, and as we turned the corner in the car, I saw the golf courses ,… the sun broke through the clouds, and rays of light made the blades of grass glisten in the breeze. Golf Paradise!
We were ACTUALLY here, the place you hear about on TV and in the movies, the oldest golf course in the world and the place where golf was invented. I shed a tear.
And then it was time to play. We were in Scotland in the winter time, which is traditionally cold. But for some reason, the stars were shining for me, and it was the most beautiful crisp day — a great day to play golf.
And as I went to the starter and gave him my printout from www.myscorecard.com, he looked at me like I was taking the piss out of him. My official golf club was The Southern California Duffers Association, and my name with the club is EL HACKER. He wasn’t having any of it. He asked me for my GIN #, I must have left it at home. He asked me if I was playing a joke on him. After a few seconds, he tells my girlfriend and myself to go have “a wee bit of swings” over by the first tee. I guess he could gage if we were worthy by how we swung the club. I have always thought my practice swing is one of the best looking golf swings out there. Well, the starter thought so as well, and was won over by my practice swings. They are things of beauty. My girlfriend’s practice swings did not cut the mustard. (No follow through) So she was only allowed to come along as I played the Old Course and take pictures. I was going to let her carry my bag, but she didn’t see the honor in it. I told her I would give her 10% of whatever I make, but that joke was greeted with a blank stare.
And to top it all off, I got to play the Old Course all by myself. Me and my photographer, what luck. The greens fees were 59 British Pounds, which is about $120. Quite a deal, especially if it is your Christmas present, and don’t forget to eat as much Haggis as you can. Really good stuff, I could have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and ocassional snacks.
We stayed at a really nice Bed and Breakfast, and had a nice dinner of crisps, peanuts and beer. (In fact, I recommend Anderson House, and they have an ad below this article.) So at the very least, do some research on traveling to Scotland, because with the proper planning, the trip of a lifetime can be inexpensive and absolutely fantastic. For more information visit http://www.standrews.org.uk/ or http://www.stayinstandrews.co.uk/