Golfing at St Andrews – by Ken Erdmann
I’ve been a golfer since I was 11 years old. And like all avid golfers I’ve had my golfing “Bucket List”. I’m 67 now and have completed most (if not all) of my list.
Being from Michigan, I’ve been able to play some fabulous golf courses. Northern Michigan is a golfer’s mecca if you’ve never been there. Every summer since the mid 90’s I’ve taken a group of 12-24 golfers on a 4-5 day golf trip. As my son grew older, he joined in the trip. Mike Fitzgerald, from Golf Exclusives set these trips up and has never let us down in the quality of the courses or the lodgings we had.
In 2010, I retired and moved to a golfing community NW of Phoenix where I can golf as much as I’d like all year long. My son’s business career took him to the Houston Texas area. Going back to Michigan became too expensive. So my son said to me about 3 years ago, lets travel and do your bucket list while we’re both in good health and financially able.
Our first trip was in 2013 when we both went to The Master’s. Couldn’t play the course, but it was fabulous to walk it. Next we decided to do Pebble Beach. So last year Mike set us up for a 3 day trip staying at Spanish Bay and playing Pebble and Spanish Bay, great trip, not disappointed.
Let’s fast forward to this year’s trip, St Andrew’s. Mike helped us set up the trip walking us through the registration process for getting tee times and dates. We picked July because we wanted optimal weather conditions. Mike set us up with a vehicle and hotel accommodations (we were literally steps away from the first tee). We were all set.
We played the New Course first. It’s called the New Course, but it’s over 100 years old itself. We hired caddies to walk the course with us. In case you didn’t know, when golfing in Great Britain, there are no electric or gas carts, everyone walks. You can rent a push cart (trolley), but that’s it. The layout for the New Course is similar to the Old Course, maybe a touch harder. A couple of things you realize quickly is most of your shots you don’t see land, you just trust the caddie’s advice on direction. The other is the ball travels further. The caddies were worth every penny (or in this case, pence).
The second day, we played the Old Course. The weather was perfect (like the first day), 75 and sunny, with light winds. It was like a religious experience. You check in with the starter, get a goodie bag and wait in The Old Pavilion for your tee time. The practice green, 1st tee, and 18th green are all right there. The 1st hole and the 18th hole share a fairway. Right behind you is a main street so there is a lot of on lookers. Your caddies show up just prior to tee time. The starter takes a few pictures with your camera and tells you, “You’re ready to go”. As you’re standing over the ball with maybe 50 people watching, you just say to yourself, “Don’t mess this up”. We didn’t. As we’re walking down the fairway, my son says to me, “it seems surreal, we’re walking on the same course where it all began and the greatest players in history have played” (by the way, my son sunk a 15 foot putt to birdie the 1st hole).
I can’t imagine playing the Old Course for the first time without a caddie. There are holes that have double greens, plus there are shots that you are not even aiming at the hole because of the trouble ahead, just trust the caddie. The caddies were actually a hoot. They were funny and informational. They joked with us and gave us some good advice on pubs to eat at (they told us to stay out of the hotel restaurants, too expensive and not enough food).
I could talk about each hole but you need to see them for yourself. I will say that we played to Road Hole (17th) like it should be played. We both drove it over the corner of the hotel. We had our pictures taken on the Swilcan Bridge, and the ultimate thrill for me was to watch my son hit his approach shot to within 1 inch of the hole on the 18th with about 100 people watching (and applauding).
This trip was everything we thought and then some. I don’t know what’s in store for next year’s trip as my son and I have now been to the Ryder Cup, PGA Championship, The Masters, played Pebble Beach and St Andrews. Where ever we do go, I do know Mike will be involved in making it possible.