Fairway Notebook: Fond Memories of a Family Trip
Some good came out of being “snowed in” over Christmas.
As my children and grandchildren gathered together in the evenings, it didn’t take long for the remembrances to bring joy, laughter and a second, or even third, look at the old videos that shaped our lives so many years ago.
Fond memories returned to me as the trip to England, Ireland and Scotland made it to the screen. It was in August 1986 when my late husband, Stan, and I and our youngest son, Owen, then 15, began the golfing trip of a lifetime. It sent me searching through my old columns to really remember all the courses we played.
Here are a few excerpts of a column I wrote so many years ago:
We landed in Prestwick, Scotland, and having gathered our clubs and luggage, and gotten our rental car, we headed for the Prestwick Golf Course. We discovered it was just a few fairway lengths from the airport, right in the center of town. We were given an early afternoon tee time. First we enjoyed a pub lunch and then headed for the first tee to begin our golfing holiday in Scotland.
The design of the Prestwick links certainly prepared us for the courses we were to play in the weeks to come. The course was very narrow, with high and tough rough. If your shot strayed at all it was very difficult to return to the fairway. The bunkers were deep. Each hole is named on your card and in just one, two or three words; you knew what you were facing. Sea heading for No. 13 and Alps for No. 17 told it all.
Our B-and-B sent us on our way the next morning, fortified with a hearty breakfast. Just what we needed as we headed for Turnberry, the site of this year’s British Open won by Greg Norman.
Sunshine and a light ocean breeze greeted us as we reached the first tee of the Ailsa Course. Turnberry is just beautiful. The hotel on the hill gives you a dramatic view of both courses, Ailsa and Arran, the long beach, the Ailsa Craig, and the lighthouse, which is the signature of this beautiful links resort.
We headed that evening to the north of Scotland to find the town of Dornoch, a trip of 300 miles. Donald Ross, who designed our home course, The Orchards, in South Hadley, Mass., in 1922, was born in Dornoch. His home course, Royal Dornoch, was one we were very anxious to play.
In driving up and back from Royal Dornoch we enjoyed the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, as well as the beautiful lakes of Loch Lomond and the mysterious Loch Ness.
Once again, sunshine and an easy sea breeze greeted our appearance on the first tee. This course is just a charming, delightful, picturesque seaside course, with miles of beach, caravan parks, and signs that tell pedestrians that the center of town is just an easy walk away as you cross the first fairway.
When you look back on the course from the path that leads to the seventh tee, it looks like a Grandma Moses painting. In spite of the warm and comfortable feeling this course gives you, it is just as difficult to play as Prestwick or the courses at Turnberry.
We bid farewell to Dornoch and headed south with St. Andrews as our destination, sightseeing all the way. When we entered the city we discovered an annual festival was under way, that the golf courses — all four of them — were found in the center of the city, and that at any given time 100 to 200 people watch you tee off down the first fairway of the Old Course.
We were lucky enough to play the Old Course twice, once by being in the right place on that first evening. We were able to fill a cancellation that came up at 5 p.m.
To be on the first tee at St. Andrews’ Old Course on a beautiful sunny evening, surrounded by the seashore, the R and A Clubhouse, the rows of shops and hundreds of people is a feeling beyond description.
All three of us hit tee shots that were long and straight, and having accomplished that, we strode off, golf bags on our shoulders, for a very nostalgic round of golf. Stan and Owen continued to handle the rough and bunkers better than I did. Keeping the ball in play is essential on this very testing, many bunkered course, where the gorse and the rough are ever ready to capture your errant shots.
As we played the 18th hole — the evening sun still with us at 9 p.m. — we hit our drives over the Swilcan Burn Bridge to the center of the fairway.
Owen proceeded to hit his second shot just 12 feet past the pin. His putt stopped six inches past the hole and a graceful tap-in gave him a par. The spectators, once again looking on at the finish, greeted this accomplishment with quiet applause and comments of “well done.”
Three very happy O’Connells left the green with scores of one par and two bogeys. Great memories from a course that lives up to all that has been written about it as the cradle of golf.
Our second round the next morning was a little more exciting with Stan scoring 82, with a birdie on 18, and Owen carding a 92 and receiving a certificate from the club stewart signifying that accomplishment at 15 years old.
St. Andrews abounds in history. We toured the university, walked the ruins of the cathedral and castle, and enjoyed the festival and the shopping before we headed into England and to Wales, where we would catch the ferry at Holyhead, Wales; for a three-hour crossing of the Irish Sea to Dun Laogharie, Ireland.
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