Blackie’s Scottish golf odyssey

Trip Start Aug 16, 2010
Trip End Jan 02, 2011

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blacklie here

Scotland……Day 1

We arrive at Edinburgh airport and catch a cab to the bus station. We cart the bags into the station and I ask this official looking bloke where can we catch a bus to St Andrews and he looks at me like I've a couple of heads and says, "What did ya say laddie?” So I repeat it to him sloooowly and he tells me Stand No5. What ever the fuck that is. I might add here that this will not be the first time that I will get looked at strangely when I say something to a wee Scottish person. So we wait at Stand No5 for the X59 bus that doesn’t turn up so I ask the same bloke what’s going on with the bus and he says, ”what did ya say laddie?” Back to the sloooowly bit again and we catch the next X60 bus to St Andrews, it takes about an hour longer but it’s a lovely drive up the coast and we meet a nice young bloke called Steven who when we got to St Andrews showed us where Vardon House was.

We lobbed into St Andrews at about 3pm on Wednesday the 22nd of Sept after leaving the Victoria Falls on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe the morning before. What a contrast! Needless to say we were a wee bit tired and weary as we knocked on the door at 22 Market Place, St Andrews. Vardon House was to be our home for the 12 days.

As we had not contacted Tony for a few months he was a bit surprised when he opened the door and I said "G’day mate”. No more surprised than us because he was wearing nothing more than a towel. He was getting ready to go out for a quick 9 holes.

Introductions made, room allocated and keys handed over. “Don’t wear your shoes in the house as they wear on the carpet, help yourself to tea and coffee and I’ll catch up with you later”.

Cally and I got settled in and then a walk to sample my first whisky in Scotland. A walk past the first tee on the Old Course of course….What a thrill, the Old Course was open and people were teeing off. We stood there for about an hour ….I didn’t want to leave but my lovely bride was getting wet and whisky was awaitin’.

Off we go with Jock’s medals in my pocket looking for a bar. Cally spots a bar with a 2 for 1 offer on a meal at the start of South St in town, you little beauty; we’re a bit hungry and in we go. I should add here that St Andrews is not only famous for golf, it is also a university town and it was the first week back for most of the students. The place was packed with one of the soccer teams at one end and a rugby team at the other, but undaunted, we continued to the bar. With the promise of cheap food and a whisky, I was not moving. We ordered our food and then thought “where are we going to eat it”? None the less it was whisky time and I ordered a single malt….ol mate behind the bar said “which one”?…..I said “the best one you’ve got”…..he said “they’re all good”….I said “Islay”….he said “got one”…I said thanks and then rang the bank for another mortgage to pay for it. So we had a wee whisky and the food was good and then off for a walk around St Andrews….read this as a walk back to the 1st tee at the Old Course!

Cally getting wet again was just the excuse I needed to go to the local No1 Golf Place pub which they will tell you is only a 9 iron from the 18th green. Met a lovely young barman called Danny who gave me a tour, one by one, through the whiskies from the highlands and then the lowlands and the from Islay. Great afternoon.

Day 2

Little bit ordinary in the morning but a good Scottish breakfast helped out. Spent the morning looking all over St Andrews and a bit of window shopping at the golf shops. It’s a beautiful little town with a mob of history.

We end up in the No1 Golf Place pub for lunch and I renew my whisky history tour with Danny and 4 wee little Scottish blokes who liked to call me’ Big Man’. Off down to the 1st tee again and Cally needs to go to the loo and Vardon house is literally around the corner so I tell her I’ll watch a few more groups play off and I’ll be right along. So about an hour later I need to go, so on the way home there is a little bar and in I go to use the loo….”Hallo Big Man would ye like a wee dram”? My 4 wee little newest best mates. I’ll let you fill in the blanks but when I got back to the B and B I think I was pretty convincing with my thoroughly true description of how I was kidnapped and forced to drink single malts by these 4 wild, pissed Scottish dwarves. Honesty is always the best policy.

Day 3.

Up early and out the front of Vardon House and on the St Andrews Trust shuttle bus that cruises around the town and will drop you off at any of the courses around the area. Tried at the Eden course and couldn’t get a start, so on the next shuttle to the New Course and got a run with some blokes from Norway. The first thing I did before I teed off was go up to the pro shop and by a long sleeved jumper….I was bloody freezing.

My first game at the home of golf…not the Old Course but I was out on the links at St Andrews and I don’t mind saying I was a little bit nervous standing over that first shot. I melted it…take that you white maggot…even Athol had a smile on his face. Good front nine and an average back nine but I got my first game under my belt.

Feeling pretty good with myself I set off back to home base to see what Cally had been up to. Not only had she explored most of the town she had discovered that about 100 meters up around the corner there was a moving picture house and 'Eat Pray Love’ with Julia Roberts was on at 6.30. Oh how I tried not to show the excitement that was building up in me as Cally told me. Just call me poker face. Immediate cure for that much excitement in one day….large whisky on ice, then on with the party frock and a little bit of lippy and off to watch Julia. It just doesn’t get any better than this!

Day 4

Tony invited me out to play at Crail just down the coast….beautiful weather and a stunning course. Sadly I left the camera back at the B&B so I’ll say that photos would not have done it justice anyway. We played with two of Tony’s mates Jim, and his wife Linley. Lovely people and Jim is a member of the Scottish Malt Whisky Society, so after the golf it was off to Jim’s place to sit in the garden and taste some of Scotland’s finest. Another great day in heaven.

Day 5.

St Andrews is wet and windy and I mean windy….We spent the day in Dundee. Caught the bus over there and wandered around looking at fat miserable looking people.

Day 6.

Another pretty miserable day weather wise, but we had fun wandering around the place taking in the history. Some of the places date back to the 14 and 15 hundreds.

DAY 7.

Up early to get to the starters’ box at the Old Course to see if I can get in. Tony gives me his links trust card and tells me to tell the starter that we want an evening tee time at 3.10pm. Righty oh, off I go and there are about 30 blokes, all with different accents, all with the same idea. I waltz up to the window and introduce myself to George the starter and pull out Tony’s card and ask for a tee time. George looks at me and asks, “Where’s Tony?”  I tell George that Tony is back at the B&B making breakfast. He tells me to tell Tony to come done in person and not to send messages. So a little bit deflated I wander back to the B&B thinking I’ve upset the starter for the R&A at St Andrews and I’ll never get on now. Tony asks what time did we get to tee off and I told him what George said. He never even bothered to put his cup of coffee down as he headed for the front door and off down the street to the starter’s box. He’s back in a couple of minutes and with a big smile on his face tells me that we are off at 3.10pm. George was just being a little cautious because I could have been anyone. I could have murdered Tony for his card.

OK I’m going to play the Old Course at 3.10; no big deal....spent the rest of the day trying to control the butterflies as big as wedgies banging around in my guts.  So to fill in a bit of time I go shopping for all the gear that any respectable tourist who comes to the home of golf needs. Shirts and hats, bag tags, ball marks and pitch repairers, you can never have too much of that sort of stuff. Bonehead will be ever so pleased.

Right it’s now 2pm and we are getting ready to go…Tony has lent me one of his carry golf bags with fold out legs on it because as he told me the caddies are a bunch of wankers and if I hired one I could walk around on my own. All the gear is ok and I told Athol to get the worried look off his face because he was making me nervous.

We go down to the 1st tee and George looks at me with a smile and says,”See there’s Tony there.” Tony pulls out his card and tells George to use all of his points towards my green fees, which drops the cost from 139 pounds to 41pounds. A big thank you Tony.  We meet our playing partners for the day: two young blokes out for a practice round because they are playing in the Dunhill next week. Matt is from Canada and Phillip is from Germany.

Then I hear the announcement over the speaker… The 3.10 group may tee off. Now I look around and there is only about 50 people hanging around so if I completely stuff it up only 50 will think I’m a goose…Two days earlier it would have been 200.

Right I’m standing on the 1st tee on the famous Old Course at St Andrews with Jock’s medal on the tee marker and Raymond’s 1 iron in my hand and all that’s going through my head is PAST THE LADIES TEE…PAST THE LADIES TEE. Wouldn’t you think it would be something like how good is this or I’m king of the world, no it was …PAST THE LADIES TEE PLEASE FUCK JUST GET PAST THE LADIES!

Never been so nervous in my life as I took my backswing and luckily enough I put a pretty good swing on it with Ray’s old 1 iron and got good contact even if I did push it a bit out onto the 18th fairway. Not in Swilken’s Burn and not out of bounds on the right and definitely past the ladies….GOLD….except for Cally saying as we walked out towards my ball, “Should you be out here, isn’t the fairway over there?” Another reason why you are not allowed to take firearms onto a golf course. A 7 iron over the Burn to pin high right, chip on and a 2 putt for a bogie. We are on our way.

I’ll not bore you with a stroke by stroke description of the round but Athol got a run on the 2nd and he did himself proud most of the day. I realized my ambition of paring at least one hole with four pars on the front and breaking 100 on the Old Course at St Andrews. Even if it was dark, and I mean dark, as we came up the 18th it was worth every minute just to be out there. I might add here that I beat Tony 3 & 2 which meant he bought the first round back at the 1 Golf Place pub, and it tasted sweet. Also the two young men that we played with could really play. Matt shot 74 and Phillip shot 69 off the stick. Impressive to watch.

Back at the B&B Tony had and I will emphasise the word had, a large collection of whiskies that people have left there. Now Cally doesn’t believe this, but he said that I could help myself and help myself I did. I was not alone as there were 4 Swedish guys staying there and the young one, Tommy liked to drink whisky. When I finished with him about 2 in the morning he was looking pretty ordinary. Even though I tripped over and went head first into the 125 year old wall in the back yard I still pulled up better than him in the morning. What a day!

Day 7

Up at 7am and I'm off with the Swedes to Carnoustie for the day. They’re teeing off at 10.45 and I can only get on the second course but that’s cool because I feel like crap and I didn’t want to waste 135 pound on a game and not enjoy it. Started out a bit slow but after a couple of pints in the clubhouse I started to come good. Young Tommy was a bit horrified when I offered to buy him a beer but his mates said something to him in Swedish that I could not understand but I’m pretty shore it was along the lines of “HARDEN UP PRINCESS! The pride of Sweden is riding on your back here, you can’t let the old Aussie bloke show us up here”. It was an absolute joy to watch him choke that first one down and even more fun when I got him the second. Needless to say it was still a good day out and I met back up with Swedes after the round, had a few more beers and we drove back to St Andrews. Aussie  Aussie  Aussie!

Day 8.

A little bit of a recovery day and me and my beautiful bride go out for a bit of a wander around for the morning and I go out to get some more of those things that you can never have too many of. You know…shirts, hats, golf towels, ball markers etc etc. Lots of fun and got some bargains because I’m an international golfing wizard and we wizards need all this stuff to weave our spells when we are out on the course. If only our wives knew how vital this stuff is all would be good in the world and global warming would end.

We have decided to leave St Andrews a couple of days early so we can catch up with our nephew Luke in Edinburgh, so we get to packing up our gear that night and having a couple of drinks with Tony in the kitchen. Did I mention that he is an absolute cracking bloke with a great sense of humour and a ready smile?

Day 9

I take a quick trip down to the British Golf Museum for a look and then it’s off to the train for the trip to Edinburgh. I could have stayed there for the rest of the trip but I think that Cally really doesn’t like sitting around the first tee watching strangers tee off.

She didn’t say it but we’ve been together for awhile now and you get to know things, those little signs and signals that let you know.  Maybe it was the way she pretended to stick her fingers down her throat and then pretended to vomit or it might have been the backwards two fingered peace sign that gave it away, I’m not quite sure, but we were nearly half way to Edinburgh when she spoke to me again and I knew I’d made the right decision and all was good in Blackie land once again.

Good bye St Andrews, till we meet again.   
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