My week in golf: A round fit for a King

The Scoop

There are special days in your life. And then there is a round at Kingsbarns...

There are some days in your life you never forget.

That first kiss. Your wedding day. The birth of a child.

And, if you will allow me the use of just a little hyperbole, a round at Kingsbarns.

In a previous life, when a day’s excitement involved inputting the angling results, I looked on with envious eyes at those who got to live their dreams.

Now, standing on the 3rd tee and watching the North Sea waves crashing in, I find I’m pinching myself to make sure I am not in one.

mercedes

I’ve always been infatuated with Pebble Beach and those images of the sea smashing in against the perfect greens on the Monterey Peninsula.

Little did I realise I could have all that just a couple of hours up the road in Fife.

I’m at Kingsbarns thanks to Mercedes-Benz.

It’s the MercedesTrophy National Final and a bunch of club golfers, who’ve fought their way through local and regional qualifying rounds, are walking around similarly wide-eyed as they traverse this glorious links.

Mercedes

Today, I’m a golfing groupie – hanging on to their coat-tails and wielding a keyboard as justification.

I’ve seen Kingsbarns before, of course. It’s beamed into our screens every year at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

What can I tell you? TV doesn’t reveal the half of it. This is a course that must be seen to be believed.

When I par the 2nd, a lovely little par 3 with the raging seas as a background, and drop a nice little putt in at the 4th for a 4, my heart soars.

The pulse is racing. I think I’m in love.

Not even a heavy downpour, the kind that makes your ‘waterproof’ top utterly useless, can dampen my mood.

I fear it can’t get any better. Then I step up onto the tee at the 12th.

They call the hole ‘Orrdeal’ and it is one. It’s 606 yards off the tips, I’m hitting into a strong headwind, and my tee shot barely gets a third of the way to the flag.

But that view! The craggy rocks and the shore jut in from the left, hugging tight to the fairway all the way to the green, and the merest mistake is bound to end in disaster.

I make two – my drive finding a particularly deep trap and my second only narrowly avoiding a monstrous gorse bush as I sink to a 7. The number is utterly irrelevant. I’m still bouncing from tee to tee.

Kingsbarns

If I’m transfixed by the 12th, I’m left breathless by the 15th.

The green sits on the Rocky Ness and the course planner implores me not to chase the sucker right hole.

The heart can’t resist but the mind has other ideas, pulling my hands left. The ball flies low. It’s going to be claimed by the sea.

My hands are now together, pleading for mercy. The ball bounces high off a massive rock.

I’m straining to see it. Where has it gone? It comes to rest.

On the green.

“A glorious, sailing, bounding drive. That made me glad I was alive.”

In his classic poem Seaside Golf, the Poet Laureate John Betjeman expressed the absolute exultation of a birdie 3 at St Enodoc, the gorgeous Cornwall course where he had a house close to the 12th.

“How straight it flew, how long it flew, It clear’d the rutty track,” he expressed of the feeling of hitting the elusive, perfect drive.

Mercedes

Only when I face down the 18th do I truly understand how he feels.

The last at Kingsbarns, Cundie Brig, is a beast. 444 yards from the very back, not only must you steer your drive just left of the clubhouse but then display courage and nerve if your scorecard is to survive intact.

For lurking just in front of the sloping green is a water hazard that will swallow any shot that’s marginally short.

I save my best drive of the day for right now. It stirs my soul to watch the ball move in a perfect line against this glorious backdrop.

I’m in the middle of the fairway. I’m not laying up. It’s into the wind, playing about 185 yards and I’m going to have to hit all of a hybrid to get there.

I swing hard and fast and up it goes. It seems to stay in the air forever. The wind is pulling it back.

But I’ve beaten the elements. It lands 15 feet from the pin, safely on the green, and crowns the greatest golfing experience I have ever had.

What a course. What a day to be alive…

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