By Charlie Hanger On Monday after the British Open, I drove to Heathrow with three colleagues. As they took flights back to the States, I headed to Edinburgh on a noon flight. My friend Brad Reagan, who had flown in earlier to play North Berwick and watch the Open with the locals, met me at the airport, and from there it was an easy and scenic drive to St. Andrews for the start of a four-day golf trip. Here is the first of a four-part diary. Monday We checked in at the Old Course Hotel, so close to No. 17, the Road Hole, that sliced drives bang onto the metal roof on the first floor and guests enjoying the view from their balconies are wise to keep an eye out for incoming shots. This is the place made famous by, among other things, years of British Open broadcasts in which pros use the hotel's sign as an aiming point for their tee shots, which carry a corner of the structure.
After dropping our bags, we headed to Kingsbarns for a 5 p.m. tee time and our first round of the trip.
It stays light until about 10 p.m. here this time of year, so we had plenty of daylight. On the way to the course, about 20 minutes southeast of St. Andrews, we considered stopping at one of the many golf shops in town to pick up a rain jacket. I'd failed to get one before leaving the states and had balked at the prices for the British Open-logoed models at Royal St. George's. The forecast was good, and the tee time was fast approaching, so we drove on. (We would regret that decision 24 hours later, but we'll get to that in Tuesday's post.)
Kingsbarns, a Kyle Phillips design that opened in July 2000, is a truly spectacular place, with prices to prove it. At £185 (about $300), it’s a splurge, but the views alone are worth the price. With five oceanfront holes and countless stunning views of the North Sea, it's a rolling links that's challenging without being punitive. My favorite holes were No. 3, a par 5 with the ocean running the length of the right side; No. 12, another oceanfront beauty that's reminiscent of the 18th at Pebble Beach; No. 15, a 185-yard par 3 that requires a shot over beach and water; and No. 18, a par 4 fronted by a severe slope that feeds any short shots back into the "cundie," a stream that was originally built to drain water from the surrounding fields. (After steeling my nerves and getting a 6-iron on the green, I three-putted for bogey, choking a short putt. This would become a theme of the week.) The weather was spectacular, low 60s with skies that fluctuated between bright sunshine and ominous clouds, but we stayed dry and even got to see a rainbow right out of a Scottish golf brochure (photo right). We were back at the hotel in time to have a late dinner and beer in the Road Hole Bar, which provides sweeping views of No. 17 and the Old Course. That helped ease our disappointment about failing to win Monday's ballot, the daily lottery-style drawing for open tee times on the Old Course. We'd have to try our luck again on Tuesday for a Wednesday time. Up Next: Tuesday A round at The Duke's, an inland course, in which we were passed by two fast-playing 60-something women and their dog, Gatsby; an afternoon round at the New Course, which borders the Old Course; and a massive downpour. (Photos: Charlie Hanger)