St. Andrews: Disneyland For Golfers

By

Leonard Zwelling

There are several destination rounds of golf that every golfer wants to play. Pebble Beach is on everyone’s list and well, it should be. It is a unique experience in one of the most beautiful parts of North America, the Monterey Peninsula. Like most golf destinations, the weather there can be iffy. That’s part of the allure. The first time I played Pebble Beach, I couldn’t even see the large tree in the center of the 18th fairway. Fog!

After Pebble Beach, the most named destination by any golfer is The Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, supposedly where golf began. There are still stones in the middle of the fairways that designate one side for play and the other for sheep. It is rumored that the bunkers on The Old Course were originally dug by the sheep. Their haphazard placement suggests that the rumor may be a fact.

To play The Old Course takes some arranging and, like Pebble Beach, a fair amount of money. But you pay a lot at Disneyland, too and this is Disneyland for golfers. There is a lottery to gain access to some tee times, but most Americans plan their trips a year in advance and pay travel agencies or golf trip planners to get them access to the course. That’s what we did.

Usually, you also have to play one of the other St. Andrews courses first, then you get access to The Old Course the next day. They say around here (Scotland) that the Jubilee Course we played Thursday is the hardest. Don’t believe it. It is a traditional links golf course (no trees, on the ocean, number nine does not come back to the clubhouse). The bunkers are clear to see and the layout fair, but challenging.

The Old Course is another matter.

You can easily stand on a tee of the Old Course and wonder in which direction you should hit your drive. And with good reason. In the old days, the course could be played in both directions and many of the greens are double-sized with a flag for the out-going hole near one for the in-coming hole. When putting you may have to wait for another foursome to clear the green your ball is already on.

The greens are huge and undulating. I had a putt of over 40 yards today. I know, I should have hit it closer. Easier said than done. The balls tend to roll around like pinballs, resting often in strategically placed bunkers put there by a fiend or a shepherd. Probably a little of both. Getting out of the bunkers is a story all its own as they tend to be small with steep walls. It takes great skill to extricate a ball from a trap here and you may well have to hit it backwards to get back to the fairway. This is not American golf and it is easy to understand why the pros used to avoid the British Open until Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus started to come over and to win.

But the real story of St. Andrews is the lure and the lore of history. These are the roots of golf. It began here when a shepherd hit a rock in a gopher hole with his crook and the four-letter word, golf, was invented. (This is the story by Robin Williams. It’s credible).

There is not all that much in the town of St. Andrews other than the golf courses and the university. It has three main streets and no crime at all, I’ve been told. It’s a small, sleepy sort of place, somewhat out of the way and really famous for just one thing. Golf. It is where the game was born and where every golfer aspires to come. I have played The Old Course three times now and have never played it very well. It is a brutal test of excellent golf which is something with which I am unacquainted. But I have walked the hallowed ground and that’s enough.

I could never pitch at Yankee Stadium or catch a pass at Soldier Field. I have played pick-up basketball where the Duke Blue Devils play, but that was years ago and my basketball days are behind me. No one would allow me to shoot hoops in Madison Square Garden or play tennis at Wimbledon. But, I can play on the same course that Tiger does. And I have. And I have done it with my son, twice and with the same good friend twice.

Surely, that’s enough.

Follow-Up:

On April 12, 2017, this blog raised the issue of why an allegation of research misconduct was not being examined at MD Anderson. It involved data from the Chair of Cancer Biology, Raghu Kalluri and the integrity of the data had been originally questioned in an on-line publication by Leonid Schneider on February 10, 2016. In the comments section of the Schneider publication, my blog was cited as also raising the issue of why an inquiry had not been started at MD Anderson.

It turns out an inquiry was started and Dr. Kalluri has been exonerated of any wrong- doing in this matter. This blog wants to set the record straight on this.

Leonard Zwelling