We've all drunkenly planned a golf trip to St Andrews that has never materialised. Alex Perry finally did it and, thanks to an unlikely source, found out it was perfect timing
It’s one of the great questions every golfer must ask themselves when teeing up on the Old Course at St Andrews.
Which club should I hit off the 1st tee?
It is, after all, one of golf’s most daunting tee shots. There are usually dozens of people watching and everyone, without fail, will tell you not to hit driver. The fairway that incorporates the iconic first and 18th holes of golf’s most famous course looks massive when you’re standing on the tee. How can you possibly miss?
With a late-afternoon tee time, my friend James and I sat and watched a few groups tee off. What was most interesting was that the players who had opted to use the local St Andrews caddies – highly recommended, by the way – were hitting irons. Presumably this is the chosen advice of the bagman.
All morning sat by the tee, and even as we ate lunch in the splendid Old Tom Morris Bar & Grill, we weighed up the pros and cons of almost every club in the bag before settling. Me? Driver. I just wanted the biggest head behind the ball. James, an actual good player, would hit hybrid.
“What if you reach the burn?” he asked. A possibility, sure. But a better outcome than topping a long iron off the tee.
Your opening tee shot dilemma is just one of the many things that make this tiny, historic corner of Fife so special. You never forget the first time you walk through the Auld Grey Toun, turn onto Golf Place and see the R&A Clubhouse for the first time. Take a few more steps and the course opens up in front of you with the North Sea crashing just behind it.
For any golfer, or golf fan, it’s an emotional moment. I’m not embarrassed to say I welled up a bit. Fine. A lot.
And once you’re underway the experience is every bit as magical. I don’t need to tell you about the golf course. You already know all about it. And it certainly doesn’t matter how you’re playing. I flicked a wedge to six feet on the 1st, then inexplicably five-putted the 2nd after trying to get too cute from a valley at the front of the green. I couldn’t have cared less. I was in heaven.
Everything you read about the Old Course – those fabulous double greens, the bunkers (oh, the bunkers!), that tee shot at 17, tipping your hat to the ”galleries” as you walk up 18, the post-round debrief in the Jigger Inn – it’s all how you’ve imagined it in your head and more.
How many times, let’s say per year, do you and your golfing pals say to each other: “We should go to St Andrews and play the Old Course one day.”
It’s not a sacred ground us lowly commoners can’t get near. It’s about as public as it gets. And in the coming months, with a severe shortage of tourists in the area, you will not have a better chance to tee up at golf’s spiritual home.
So just do it. Book that dream holiday. You’ll not regret it for a single minute.
For information on anything from green fees to the Tom Morris Bar & Grill, visit the St Andrews Links website.