It’s been a tough old golfing week for some of us. On Easter Monday there was the long drive up to St Andrews to stay at the Old Course Hotel, meet up with friends old and new, have dinner in the R&A clubhouse and play at Kingsbarns Golf Links the following day. Then it was off to Gleneagles, to stay overnight at one of world golf’s great hotels and play the PGA Centenary Course before heading home. Don’t know how I managed it really.
Kingsbarns, one of the most scenic courses you’ll find anywhere, is only a few miles out of St Andrews, heading towards Crail and Anstruther along what must be one of the worst stretches of road anywhere. It’s narrowish, busy and bendy, which is not the real problem – unless you’re late for work and get stuck behind a tractor or a caravan or a tourist – but the surface is dire, worse even than the little, pot-holed stretch near my house in Staffordshire. I think I’d like to be in the tyre business in Fife, you’d never be short of work. There was no sign of any roadworks but the highways people’ll be saving those for the summer, when things are really busy. They always do.
So factor traffic delays and a bit of calming meditation at (temporary) red lights into your plans when you’re up for the Ricoh Women’s British Open at the beginning of August. Nae bother. When you think about it, what’s not to like about a trip to St Andrews to watch the best women golfers in the world tackle a lovely links? On a bright, benign day last Tuesday, Charley Hull, an inland animal, nursing a wrist injury so long-term that it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem (not that Charley seems to do problems of any sort), had five birdies and an eagle.
I, on the other hand, played like an eejit, managing only a couple of those par things despite the best efforts of my caddy Jimmy, whose reading of the greens was nothing short of awesome. If I thought it was uphill, it was downhill; left, it was right; slow, it was fast; and vice versa; and versa vice. Caddies are usually good people to listen to, especially on the greens. Admittedly there are exceptions: Dale Reid’s Archie, bless him, was always an advocate of “left lip”; and sometimes he was right. The rest of the time, well, Dale had a half decent eye in her heyday.
While my partners did the hard work of hitting good shots (some more than others), I took some happy snaps but since the maestro, master photographer Dave Cannon was there, I’ll save them for another day. I did take the one of Charley hitting off the 1st (which won’t be the 1st in August) and Dave did a bit of tinkering with it for me, on Snapseed, one of those mysterious, magical app things. Watch out for his own, proper photos. Technical inexpertise notwithstanding, I’m one of those snappers who invariably arrives seconds, or minutes, too late. You can always write about something you haven’t seen; photographers don’t have that luxury, they really do have to be there with batteries fully charged.
You’ll see that Charley was wearing her shorts, which goes down as a bit of youthful, poster girl bravado considering that there was a light frost in the morning but if she’d been at Gleneagles the next day, well, even the postie’s legs were covered. We were playing in carts – I still clocked up 13,000 steps, according to my phone’s irritatingly irremovable heart-shaped app – and a Florida-based visitor couldn’t cope with the chill at all. Even Catriona Matthew, Scottish born and bred, was well wrapped up early on.
Catriona, who’s now a VisitScotland ambassador, was on hand for the announcement that the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in 2019 will be on the 13th-15th of September. Catriona, who’s a vice-captain to Annika Sorenstam for this year’s match at Des Moines in Iowa, has not yet been announced as captain for 2019 but I’m not betting against it. And, of course, Europe always win(s) in Scotland: see Dalmahoy in 1992 and Loch Lomond (an under-water competition) in 2000. The downside is that the wetter the weather the better!
Anyway, get booked in. It’s great fun whatever the result (unless you’re a member of the losing side) and Gleneagles know(s) how to stage an event, having got into training with the Ryder Cup.