The Mecca of Golf

Is there a Mecca for golf?  A place where, if you’ve studied, practiced, applied yourself and achieved even a modicum of proficiency, you can access the holiest of holies?  I’ve been there.

But how can I, an infrequent player, a duffer with the sticks, a guy whose swing is 70% luck and 30% skill even dream of setting foot in such a place, in a hadj to the birthplace of modern golf?  And where is this hallowed place?

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Tee Box at the First Hole

Although a golf-like game called colf existed in the Netherlands of  1297, Scotland claims it’s the birthplace of the modern 18 hole form.   History suggests golf was introduced to Scotland in the 1420’s.  It was periodically banned, as guys would rather play than do their militia’s archery practice, or because it caused problems when they played it in the streets.

But where is this so-called Mecca?  It’s the Old Course at St. Andrews, on the southeast coast of Scotland, about 40 miles from Edinburgh.  The course has existed for at least 470 years – in 1552 Archbishop Hamilton’s Charter recognized the right of the people of St Andrews to play golf at the Links. Nobility may have played there for over 100 years before that.

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Green and Flag on the 18th hole

You dang near have to be nobility to play there now.  Green fees even in the winter season start at $120, and are double that in the summer months.   Getting on the course is another challenge, reservations fill up fast.   2019 is already fully booked, March through November.  You can try doing a walk-on, hoping to fill out a foursome, but there’s no guarantee.

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Some guy trying his luck

If you really have to justify hauling a bag full of clubs through the airport, there are six more golf courses around St. Andrews if the Old Course isn’t available. You can still say you played golf at St. Andrews…

Looking down the fairways of the Old Course and noting a complete lack of trees, it seems like this would be an easy course to play.  Or at least a less likely place to lose golf balls.  But I hear rumors about how treacherous the wind can become.  Some would say it’s the offshore breezes. Personally, I think it’s the breezes swirling in from certain streets in town…

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Um, that’s as in, archery butts…

Of course, there are standards.  They don’t let just any riff-raff play.  If you’re a guy, you need no worse than a 24 handicap to play the Old Course, for women, 36.   That rules me out.

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Practice Green – more my speed

Even so, I was there.  These pictures (and my souvenir golf towel) prove it.  But even if I had time (and I didn’t) I am not worthy to walk the full path of the Mecca of golf.

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First hole’s tee and 18th green, with the town of St. Andrews in the background

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St. Andrews is more than just a place for golf fanatics to achieve nirvana.  (Note: achieving nirvana in golf is usually a transient phase, it often disappears when you see the results of your next shot.)  It’s also the home of Scotland’s oldest university (Est 1413).  Our tour guide tells us that in addition to its long history of academia, it’s the place where England’s Prince William became besotted with his future wife Kate.  For us, it was a place to hunt down lunch and scope out the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral.

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St. Andrews Cathedral

Building on the cathedral started in 1160, but it took over 150 years of construction and setbacks before they consecrated it in 1318.  But in 1561 the Protestant Reformation kicked in in full force.  The Cathedral was stripped of its valuables, abandoned, and left to collapse.

So say a prayer for the ruins of the cathedral, and its uncommon resemblance to the way I ruin a golf swing.  For both of us, bad timing seems to be an issue.

But worthy golf swing or not, for golf there is a Mecca, and I have performed my Hadj.

26 thoughts on “The Mecca of Golf

  1. They blame the Reformation, but I bet it was all those maniac golfers, slicing or shanking, or whatever they call foul balls, that knocked it down.
    Where can I get a replica of that street sign? That’s classic!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well this will probably surprise you, as I am even surprised, that I DO know of this mecca of golf in Scotland. Surprising because I do not know the first thing about golf! However, I once had a client commission me to do a painting of her husband playing golf on this course, as a birthday present for him. So I feel a certain familiarity with the colors and hues of the area from studing photographs before I began.

    I have heard about how hard and fleeting golf nirvana is. Maybe many athletic achievements at that high a level and which are considered competitive sports, are fleeting?

    Keep at it Dave and maybe next time you will qualify to play there (insert wink here).

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Golfer look? Ah, you must mean older, slightly pudgy white guy with questionable fashion choices. That’s does describe a lot of the demographic. Unfortunately, it also describes the duffers. Guess that’s why they have all those other courses.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I would never golf there. Imagine the damage I would do to historical sites.

    This is what my golf game sounds like:

    WHAP!
    My son: That would be a house shot.
    BAMM!

    WHAP!
    My son: Two F50’s and a Silvardo. That’s the first of your parking lot shots to hit only pickups.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose that’s the advantage of the courses out here being tree heavy. They tend to screen the houses and pickup trucks.

      One of the guys I played with seems to be a tree whisperer. When he hits one in their direction it seems like it always hits the trunk and bounces back into the fairway. For me, the trees are, “let’s hide his ball under a stack of leaves, or behind a root or main trunk, or in a place where a backswing is improbable.” As if it’s not challenging enough to hit a ball sitting pretty on the fairway.

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  4. Let me noter here for the record, Dave, the only C I ever got in PE was golf. Who knows what was dancing around in my head when I decided to sign up for the course on the course. Peggy, on the other hand was messing around in college when she hit a hole in one. The golf coach just happened to see her and immediately signed her up for the team. Fortunately, she didn’t take my golf playing skills into consideration when it came time to say “I do.” –Curt

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      1. I probably should have given golf another try. 🙂 But you are right. Much of my life has been devoted to just walking, albeit over rough terrain. Could you imagine playing golf where a mis-hit ball might go bouncing down a couple of thousand feet? –Curt

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  5. I’ve actually been there! Such a cool place – in my mind mostly for the history as I found all of the Scottish courses to be rather dry and scrubby-looking. (I know they like them that way.) I did not golf there, of course, but I did appreciate seeing all these famous courses. One of the things my dad did when I was growing was build a golf community, so I can appreciate all the work that goes into all those fairways and roughs and greens!

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    1. I can relate, I’m much more proficient with the camera gear than with the golf gear. In fact, I haven’t picked up the clubs for almost 3 years – I took a break after herniating a disk and never got back to them.

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  6. Being a peasant I went to St Andrews on St Andrew’s day and ignored that anything related to golf existed there! In fact all I remember was a massive piss-up and a concert by the Red Hot Chilli Pipers (yes) under a snowstorm…

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  7. As a lifelong golfer, playing St. Andrews is on my bucket short-list. I feel like playing it on a windy rainy day would ensure the full effect, despite the lost balls and higher scores. For me, I’m sure the experience alone would be nirvana.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Imagine the nerves, teeing off on the first hole. You’ve finally made it to Mecca, and all are watching. You take a good swing and a fair shot begins – then the wind hits. We find out if nirvana can overcome “golf” being a four letter word… 😉

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  8. Pingback: The Mecca of Golf — Plying Through Life – Truth Troubles

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