Tom Irwin, like so many of us, has barely put wood on balata as the stubborn winter drags on. But some rare sunshine and one of the finest links in the land was all he needed to rediscover his first love
It’s been a busy period. Short winter days. Weekends spent on freezing touchlines. Work. Too much work. Too many drinks. Little or no golf. I am out of the golf habit.
Winters past have been spent at empty driving ranges, weekends in Portugal, trips to the coast, obsessing over data. This year, though, nothing.
I almost cancelled at the last minute. I haven’t played. I will be rubbish. I don’t have a pitching wedge. I can find a work excuse.
Then the forecast was good. And the journey, an away day, is appealing. So I went.
I love the journey to the North East. Big roads, no jams. The moors of North Yorkshire abruptly end and, with no warning, industrial Teesside begins.
The golf is in among those factories.
Coffee, a catch up, an oddly intense conversation about football hooligans, then we meet the secretary. He is pleased to see us, and glad we came. I feel guilty that I almost didn’t.
Golf, then. I am sheepish and uncertain. It is cold. My body is old and slow.
But Seaton Carew is benevolent. Space. So much space. Little or no rough. The spirit of St Andrews. No prospect of losing a ball. Big, wide, flat fairways. Firm, the ball is moving on the ground, but there is give in the turf. No blind shots to worry you. The breeze is at our backs and the chat is easy.
For the first time in a long time my head is lifted, my phone is away, and I am in the moment. We can reach par-5s in two, we can try and drive par-4s. The surfaces are exceptional.
The course is bringing me back to golf. Back to life. Reminding me that both are to be enjoyed.
Seaton should not be patronised, though. It is not a hit and giggle by the sea. It is not a romantic, wistful, quirky links. It is a proper championship proposition. All in front of you. Monolithic greens that stretch and stretch from front to back. Ground as good as anywhere. It is properly bunkered. It is an Alister MacKenzie, and Martin Ebert is coming to improve it further.
I birdie MacKenzie’s masterpiece – the 17th, Snag. The green is an elusive target that rises in gentle steps to a place high on the dunes. My tee shot flatters. I take on the flag, hole a velodrome right-to-lefter. We go ahead.
So here I am, engaged with the course, with the match, with the company.
Afterwards there are chips, discussion on the correct way to say “scone”, and some arrangements for our next game. We have a WhatsApp group. We all need somewhere to belong.
Today, here, by the sea at Seaton, I have been reminded again, that this is where I belong.
Have you played Seaton Carew? What did you think? Tweet me and let me know!