Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Great Golfer Series - Windell Humphries

I first met Windell in the late 1990’s in Auburn, Alabama while playing in a local scramble tournament. Windell walked out onto the course to visit with a close friend, Steve Autrey, who was playing in our group. At that time, Windell was around sixty years old. Later I would become a member of the Auburn Links Golf Club where Windell was a member. It didn’t take long for me to discover just how accomplished a golfer Windell was. On Saturdays, a large group of low to mid handicap golfers would assemble for an 8:30 A.M. dogfight. The first hole at Auburn Links is a medium distance par four hole which requires a golfer to twice pass over a bending Parkerson’s Mill Creek. One Saturday morning, Windell drove his ball from the member’s tee onto the green on this par four hole rolling his ball amongst a group of golfers that were putting on the green. Windell claimed he didn’t know he could hit the ball this far, but we all accused him of trying to shake up the group on the green. Extraordinary shots seemed to come often for Windell after that day. He duplicated this same feat on the same hole playing with the Secretary at a Hooters tournament at Auburn Links a couple of years ago. He hit his ball onto this same green in one and proceeded to make a fifty foot eagle putt.

In 1999, Windell made his first trip with our group of six Dal Riadans to play the links courses of Northern Ireland and the northwest courses of the Republic. When we arrived at Royal County Down, we encountered a group of Japanese men and women who were teeing off just before us. We were playing in two groups of three with Windell playing in the group behind us. It was immediately apparent that the members of this Japanese group had either never played golf or were not nearly accomplished enough to be playing a course as difficult as Royal County Down. After interminable waits on the first two holes due to the flailing of this Japanese group, their caddies apparently convinced them to wave our first group through on hole three. This left Windell’s group stuck behind the beginners, but not for long. After we finished putting out on the signature par three fourth hole, our group climbed the long series of steps that lead to the fifth tee box. The Japanese party had reached the area of the green on hole four as we were preparing to hit our tee shots on hole five. As the fourth green cannot be seen from the fifth tee ground area, we were startled when suddenly we heard a cacophony of squeals and shouts coming from behind us. We rushed back over the ridge that blocked our line of sight to see what had happened. The Japanese were jumping up and down screaming wildly. Windell’s group had been waved through the Japanese and Windell had promptly scored a hole-in-one on this magnificent 175/215 yard hole. This was the second hole-in-one of Windell’s career. Since then he has had three more. Ironically the Secretary has a little something in common with Windell. Each of us has a hole-in-one on hole sixteen at Auburn Links Golf Club.

Since 1999, Windell has often traveled with our group to play the great links courses of Ireland and the British Isles. As we have timed our trips to facilitate our playing in Ballyliffin Golf Club’s Annual Pro-Am golf tournament, it has fallen that Windell’s birthday has for several years occurred while we are in Ireland. This year we all sang Happy Birthday to Windell at Gilroy’s Restaurant in Enniscrone, Ireland. Our boisterous singing brought an enthusiastic round of applause from all the Irish patrons dining in the packed restaurant that Thursday night. The photo accompanying this post is Windell and caddy Barry at Ballyliffin in 1999.

While playing a nine hole match in the Wynlakes Golf Club’s Member/Guest in June 2008, Windell birdied the first three holes of our match against the winning team. We beat this team 6 1/2 to 3 1/2 but lost to them on points. We did not lose a match, beat the winning team, but still finished second due to the point scoring method employed in this tournament. Windell had numerous other birdies in this tournament which helped us land the second place finish in our bracket.

Windell also scored one of his holes-in-one at Moores Mill Golf Club in 2005 in a Member/Member tournament which helped carry his two man team to a first place finish in the tournament.Prior to his leaving for this year’s trip in 2008 Windell shot his age or under several times. In 2007, he shot a “two under his age” 66 at Moores Mill Golf Club in Auburn picking up eight birdies for the round.
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Monday, August 25, 2008

The Large Lady of Perth

After Don Kennington sold his veterinary practice, he turned his interests toward helping manage his wife’s art business and playing golf. Don’s office was the Tartan Grill located inside the Dothan Country Club. Well, at least that is where you would find him when he wasn’t playing golf. For several years running, Don and his wife Dale would combine vacations in Europe with Dale’s art work. At the time, Dale was a renowned oil portrait painter. With her she would take a portfolio of client’s photos to use in painting her subjects while on their long summer vacations, each year to a different country. While Dale painted, Don would play golf. One year Don rented space from Ian Brown a hotel owner who Don had gotten to know while staying at The Auchterarder House in Auchterarder, Scotland. As Mr. Brown also owned a small hotel in Callander, Scotland, Don made connections and rented quarters for he and Dale to live there for the summer they spent in Scotland. In Callander, Don joined the Callander Golf Club as a temporary member for the summer. When it came time for our annual trip, Don met the group in Edinburgh where we played courses around St Andrews and Auchterarder.

On this trip, Don rented cars in Edinburgh for our group with each car carrying three golfers and their gear. Harry Howell and I were passengers in a car driven by Lamar Miller. Lamar and Harry had orders from their wives for particular items of crystal that they could only find in a larger town than Auchterarder. We were scheduled to have Scottish opponents of similar handicaps to ours playing in a tournament that day around noon at Callander Golf Club. We left the caravan headed for Callander and detoured toward Perth where the mandatory purchases were hopefully to be made. Perth was a busy place and we liked never to have found a parking place in the bustling downtown shopping area. After maneuvering the heavy traffic and finding the appropriate store in which to make their purchases, we were running late in meeting our deadline arrival time at Callander. As we reentered our car after the purchases, Lamar pulled out into the traffic. He paused at a corner and looked both ways; however, Lamar apparently did not notice a traffic light positioned in an unfamiliar place. It had turned red without Lamar’s noticing. As he saw the traffic clear to his right Lamar gave the car the gas and began to move. Suddenly a loud yell caught all of our attention. To our left, a large woman pedestrian had the green light to cross the street and had begun her steps toward the other side. Thankfully Lamar had moved slowly but there was a big thud as the large lady slammed the hood of the car with her hands and body. There was a loud verbal barrage that ensued from this large lady’s vocal chords with all of them being directed at Lamar. We were all breathless that we had hit this lady but relieved when we saw that she continued her journey across the street apparently not physically injured from the incident.

Relieved that the purchases had successfully been made and we had not killed anyone, we headed toward the town of Callander. We made it to Callander with little time to spare grabbing a sandwich in the club on our way to the first tee. My Scottish opponent that day was named Ian. Ian had spent his career in Africa as an agent for a shipping company and had come home to Scotland to retire. As I met Ian, I could see that he was very excited to be playing this match. At the time I carried a quite high handicap and so did Ian. I would discover the reason that Ian was so excited was that members of the club were not allowed to play the metal tees during regular rounds. These tees are specifically reserved for competitions, and since high handicappers rarely participate in this kind of match, Ian had never before played these tees. I still did not recognize the significance of this until later in our round. Hole fifteen at Callander was a par three whose tee box was nestled in a tunnel of large trees. The member’s tees are located at the front outlet of the tunnel so Ian had never been afforded the opportunity of negotiating a shot from the back of this narrow tunnel (see photo). This day Ian got his chance.

The match that day went well. Our group lost to the locals as we probably should have, but we all enjoyed a unique experience. We were shown great hospitality all day but when we finished putting out on number nine green we were in for a special treat. Here we were met by an old Scotsman, well into his eighties, who stood proudly with two items. He had a large flask which held his favorite Scotch whiskey and a metal tin box. The old man offered each of us a “tablet” which we would find was home made chocolate fudge candy and a drink from his flask. The candy was great. I did not have the nerve to drink from the community flask.

The next year when we stayed at the Auchterarder House in the large hallway of the hotel hung a very large painting of the proprietor, Mr Ian Brown. In the right hand bottom corner of the painting was the name of the painter, Dale Kennington!

I would later take my family back to this great Manor Hotel. It was a really nice hotel but very expensive. At Gleneagles, my son and I would have a match with a father and son team who were members of Gleneagles. As guests we each played this now very expensive course for just 15 Pounds Sterling each. This was thanks to arrangements made by Mr. Michael Halley owner of Gleneagles Knitware Company.

As you might guess, Michael was a friend of Don Kennington.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Elusive Haircut and Early Irish Breakfasts

We were on our final leg of our 2008 Ireland golf trip and I still had not gotten a haircut; I had tried twice before we left from Montgomery. On the first try, the operators closed their shop ten minutes early and would not open up for me even though I was a “regular”. I went back the next day and the wait was so long it would have extended into my next appointment. I had no choice but to abort. But not to worry, I remembered getting a haircut in the Newark Airport in years prior. I decided just to defer since we would have a several hour lay over there. When we finally got to Newark, I went to the small shop and made an appointment for ten minutes later and sauntered off to get a sandwich. I was back in ten minutes but someone else had come along. They gave away my appointment even though I was on time. This left me a bit ticked so I was off to Ireland with shaggy hair. Every moment from Belfast to Ballyliffin had been scheduled with little free time, so it was not surprising that here it was nearly two weeks later and I still had not gotten a haircut.

It was a Friday morning and our practice round in the tournament at Ballyliffin Golf Club was not scheduled until noon. Culdonagh Manor, our B&B, was located just a few minutes from Carndonagh so I decided to make a quick trip into this small town to seek out a barber shop or hair salon. A fellow traveler, Bruce Christian, decided he needed a trim so he came along. By the time we got to Carndonagh it must have been around 9:45 A.M. The town was absolutely dead. There was no one moving either on the streets or in the windows of the shops that lined the “diamond” (their version of a town square). I was perplexed. I knew from previous trips that the banks did not open until ten but I thought that the other shops should be open by this time of the morning. Walking up the sidewalk, Bruce and I noticed two signs on shops indicating that these establishments had operators capable of bringing us back to respectability. We decided to split up. Bruce took the downstairs shop and I proceeded to make the climb upstairs to a hair salon located on a second floor. As I reached the second floor and entered the door to the shop, finally I saw people, three people to be exact, three little ladies sitting quietly in a queue (as they say there) waiting to receive their coiffures. None spoke a word. Since it would be quite a wait if there were only one operator, I decided to turn around and leave. But as I turned I came face to face with a young lady who had to be an operator since she had on the typical attire. I inquired how long a wait it would be and she immediately spoke up, “no wait at all”.

She proceeded to take me and the three ladies to separate chairs inside the shop that had not been visible from the small waiting area. She robed each of us up in a fashion I had not experienced before in a smock with arms, no less. Before I could recover from the surprise of getting this strange smocking, I glanced around and noticed there were now seven chairs filled with patrons and seven operators all buzzing away. The young lady that had led me to my chair became my operator. I was absolutely amazed at how quickly this had all taken place. It could not have been over a minute from the time I sat down in the chair until all seven chairs were filled and operators snipping. I asked the young lady the obvious question. Why were there no people in town? “Oh, you came too soon. When you get back downstairs the streets will be filled”. I took her word for this and we struck up a conversation. As she seemed to sound more British than Irish I asked why she was here. “My mum is from here, and after my father died she decided to come back home to live. We all came with her”. She and her siblings, she would relate, all came to this rural area in the northern most part of the Republic of Ireland to be with their mother. “Family is very important you know it gives us a support system to help us with children and the like”. I was delightfully impressed and touched upon hearing this story. I thought of my own two daughters who live many miles away from my wife and me and how they often need such family support.

When I was wheeled around in the chair for smock removal and exit, I noticed Bruce had become one of the seven patrons. His chosen shop apparently had not opened and he had followed me upstairs. I waited for him and we left together. We were both astonished when we stepped onto the sidewalk at the bottom of the stairs. There were people everywhere in the town. It was if someone had rung a bell in a school at the end of the day and all the students were immediately milling about outside the building. It all began to make sense. Our B&B proprietor in Enniscrone had grimaced each time we had requested breakfast at 7:00 A.M. when we were there. The first time he had asked about our tee time schedule in an attempt to convince us that we didn’t have to be up so early. The third time we went through this exercise I asked the Enniscrone B&B proprietor, Jim O’Regan, what time he normally served breakfast. Unbelievably he replied 9:00 A. M.!

The Irish believe in late to bed and late to arise! And they arrive in town in sync at 10:00 A.M.!
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Don Kennington - Gentleman Golfer

In 1988 after being invited by Harry Howell, I joined a group led by Don Kennington (wearing the green shirt in photo) on a trip which gave me my first exposure to the unique experience of “links golf”. Back then it was not difficult to self schedule tee times on the Old Course at St Andrews, Muirfield, and other British Open venues. Being an Auburn University graduate, I felt at home with a group that was mostly comprised of Auburn alumni. Don was a member of the Auburn Golf team back in the mid 50’s and even though he was now in his mid 50’s he was still a very good golfer. I was always impressed at how Don could consistently score low rounds regardless of the difficulty of the course. Don was a big man with a big heart and a sly grin that quickly revealed his gentle nature to anyone who happened to meet him. Don had a storied golf past filled with remarkable golf accomplishments. It had started when he was in his teens winning the inaugural Press Thornton Dothan Future Masters event in 1950. This tournament for young golfers is still held each year at Dothan Country Club. After his collegiate career had ended, Don completed a degree in Veterinary Medicine and began his practice in Dothan. Some years later Don would travel to Scotland to compete in the British Amateur Tournament held at St Andrews. He was not eliminated until after he had reached the quarter finals, a significant achievement.

This exposure to links golf no doubt led to Don’s affection for these annual trips. On the last trip I took with Don before his death, Don confided to me just how much he looked forward to these annual trips. In a quiet moment he once told me that even after he was no longer physically able to walk the distances required to play links golf he would, nevertheless, like to continue planning and traveling on these trips even if he had to sit in the clubhouse while the rest of the group played. Most of the group that traveled with us were life long friends of Don. They were constantly ribbing Don. This was mainly centered around his inflexibility in altering schedules and his insistence on always reserving the right to make the decisions on the trip. Years later after I began planning trips myself, I came to appreciate Don’s gentle insistence on being the “in charge” guy. At times the peppering of humorous barbs directed at Don would reach a level that made me think that they had gone too far. If this banter ever rattled Don, he never gave evidence of it always maintaining his gentle good natured manner. This group included several doctors. One of these, Patrick Jones, a pathologist, always claimed that Harry Howell was his only living patient. Another member of this group was Lamar Miller, a urologist, was constantly entertaining the group with humorous comments.

One year as we met in the Atlanta Airport waiting our departure, Lamar told this story. Needing trousers for the trip, Lamar went shopping at the local department store. After he realized that his old size 38 would no longer hold his girth, he conceded that size 40’s would have to be purchased. Not wanting his wife to know this just before his leaving on the trip, Lamar made another stop at another store on his way home. Here he purchased a pair of scissors which he used to remove the size 40 tags. Problem solved! On another trip while waiting at the gate in the Atlanta Airport, Lamar was paged by the check-in gate to come forward for a consult. Misreading the name on his ticketing which was A. Lamar Miller, the announcement came over the speaker as Alamar Miller. As you can imagine, from that time on for the rest of this trip he would be referred to by all those on the trip as “Alamar”.

Don was big guy who I would come to learn was a world class snorer. Once as we dined at the Rusacks Hotel in St Andrews, Don excused himself early and retired to his room. By the time the rest of us had dessert and coffee, Don was sound asleep. As we walked by the door to his room, we could hear a roar coming through his door. Later Don would be diagnosed with sleep apnea and on subsequent trips, after receiving his breathing machine, his sleep was more enjoyable for both him and those with whom he roomed.

We lost Don in 1999. He was a consummate gentleman, always encouraging the lesser talented ones of us on the trips. In addition to his great talent and warm good nature Don had a remarkable memory. After a couple of rounds of play with Don I realized he didn’t need to keep a score card. He could remember the score for each member of his foursome on every hole. He could even remember each player’s shot on each hole. I was always amazed at this ability.

I still miss Don. Each time I play a new links course I think of him. In 2001, I joined Ballyliffin Golf Club in Ireland as an International member. Don never played Ballyliffin, but he would have been comfortably at home there. Ballyliffin members exhibit the same warm hospitality that Don always extended to new members of his group.

Don Kennington, a great guy, a great golfer, and a great traveler! Thank you, Don, for introducing me to links golf in the magical sand hills of Scotland and Ireland.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dealing with Currency Exchange Fluctuations in Planning Your Links Golf Trip

Planning for an overseas golf trip involves limiting the risk of currency fluctuations that can potentially turn the team planner’s budget into a nightmare. As the planner, you want to be able to tell your potential golf travelers exactly what the trip is going to cost them. Here are three steps for you to assure your trip members of no surprises.

Step 1. Open an account with a bank in the country to which you are traveling. Since 911 there are strict requirements for opening such accounts. You will be required to supply at least one, possibly two, forms of photo identification, such as a copy of your drivers license and passport. The bank will also require two to three verifications of your address such as copies of utility bills or bank statement page showing your name and address. In some countries, it will be required for you to have your banker act as a sponsor by giving written verification that he personally knows you and that he knows that you have maintained an account in good standing with his bank for a required length of time.

Step 2. Watch currency exchange rates in the newspaper or online. Develop a sense of what is a high and what is a low exchange rate for the given currency. You can determine a history by going to and click on history. There you can research what a currency has done against the dollar in chart form for everyday for a number of years back.

Step 3. When you see the currency has gotten in a favorable relationship to the dollar, call your banker (you need to deal with an international currency exchange dept. such as Wachovia in Charlotte, N.C) that has the capability of purchasing currency, debiting your account, and then wire transferring the funds to your overseas account. (In 2008, I was able to fix our Euro cost at 1.50 dollars/euro by purchasing when rates were in a trough. By the time we left, rates were at 1.58). To do this you will need to get your travelers to make deposits on the trip to provide funds for the purchase.

If all this seems too complicated, you can go to the same international currency exchange bank and purchase an option to buy the currency you will need at a future date just before your trip date. This is a more expensive option and will not give you the best rate of exchange.

Making purchases and getting cash with an overseas account will be simpler while you are in the trip country because you are not charged an exorbitant exchange rate each time you need cash. Another advantage with an account overseas is that you can write checks and mail them with a 94 cent air mail stamp. Delivery will be less than one week on such inexpensive mailings. You can also get a debit card with the account that can be used and avoid all postage charges. Good luck and good travel.

The Secretary
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Links Golf Travel – Tips to an Affordable and Fulfilling Trip - Part 3

This is the final installment of the three part series, Links Golf Travel – Tips to an Affordable and Fulfilling Trip. In the first two installments (Part 1 and Part 2), we discussed saving money by avoiding travel compaines and if you do use a travel company, opt for the self-drive option. Other tips centered around lodging and scheduling tee times. In this post, we discuss tips for airline reservations, travel between courses, and trip transportation.

7. For optimal savings, airline reservations should be made well in advance, preferably in December or January. Sometimes a window opens in the spring that can have the lower rates found in December and January. The availabilty of cheap rates in the spring is strictly a function of the percentage of seats sold in December and January. Get commitments early from those planning to travel. The best way to solidify your trip list is for a potential traveler to make the plunge and buy the ticket in December or January.

8. Do yourself a favor and plan your travel times between venues with a cushion for traffic delays, narrow roads, and rest stops.

9. The best way to travel with up to four golfers is an 8 passenger minivan. This vehicle will handle clubs, bags and up to four, possibly five golfers. For larger groups use an eight passenger minibus and a cargo van. The cargo van rents cheaper than the bus and will carry all luggage and gear. It will also carry three people. These are only available in Great Britain and Northern Ireland as the Republic of Ireland bars foreigners from renting cargo vans. For even larger groups a fifteen or seventeen passenger bus can be utilized.

10. Good luck! If you find this process exasperating, “The Secretary” will do your planning for you at a fraction of the cost of a golf travel company. With the above described process our group played 12 courses, 12 nights lodging, airline tickets, ground transportation including fuel for vehicles for less than $3,500 including airfare. Included were Connemara, Enniscrone, Carne, County Sligo, Donegal, Royal Portrush, Portstewart, and three rounds at Ballyliffin. Try doing that with a golf travel company. They will charge you that for three or four top courses and a couple of nags.

What are your tips or questions? I would love to read them; just leave a comment.
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Links Golf Travel - Tips to an Affordable and Fulfilling Trip - Part 2

In the first part of this series, Links Golf Travel – Tips to an Affordable and Fulfilling Trip, I discussed the best way to save money is to self-plan your trip. The second tip was if you decide to use a travel company, save money by opting for the self-drive option. The third tip was to stay in Holiday Houses which are "self catered". Tips four and five expand on lodging options and tip six focuses on scheduling tee times.

4. If you prefer a bed and breakfast to the holiday house concept, expect to pay a little more for the privilege of having a full hot breakfast in the mornings. These are also found on the government sponsored travel websites. There is an atmosphere of charm in the interaction with locals that is found in bed and breakfast styled accommodations. I would recommend trying this option for a portion of your stay as visiting with your hosts and other guests can enrich your experience immensely.

5. If you prefer a hotel, choose clean highly recommended three star hotels rather than four and five star hotels. You will be using the hotel only for sleeping, so as long as they are clean and comfortable this is all that is important. Go to travel company websites and check the postings by people who have used these accommodations. For example, I had planned to use one particular hotel on our last trip but found it to have bad postings and as a result booked elsewhere.

6. Plan your golf around the “hardest to get” courses first. Once these tee times are secured you will go to the second hardest and on down to the easiest last. Look for early or late afternoon tee times for reduced rates. Look also for courses with all day rates anytime you plan to play two rounds in a day. Plan your lesser known courses for weekends as weekends go at a higher rate at big name venues.

In the last part of this series, I will provide tips on airline fares and transporation during your trip. If you have any tips you would like to share or any questions, please post them. I would enjoy reading them.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Links Golf Travel – Tips to an Affordable and Fulfilling Trip from “The Secretary”

Links Golf Travel – Tips to an affordable and fulfilling trip from “The Secretary”

Golf travel to the links courses of the British Isles and Ireland in the late eighties and early nineties was economical and there was little need to watch costs. Four and five star accommodations were affordable and green fees and ground transportation, even with a plush chauffeur driven coach, were inexpensive. All this came to a grinding halt with the arrival of the new millennium.

As the Euro currency got its legs and began its steady climb against the dollar, venues gradually became more and more expensive. During 2006-2007, the Euro exploded against the dollar and golf travel in “Links Land” suddenly became quite expensive, especially in the areas of the southwest of Ireland and in the regions of Scotland and England that contain host courses to the British Open (now known in Europe as simply “The Open”).

This post is the first in a three part series of our solution to keeping costs low on Links Golf Travel to the British Isles and Ireland:

1. Avoid golf travel companies. Plan your own itinerary securing your own reservations at all venues. Internet access has made this an inexpensive although time consuming process.

2. Auto, mini bus, and van rental provide self-drive savings over a chauffeur driven bus. With a chauffeur comes their lodging and meals expense as well.

3. Look for clean new holiday houses that are available on a weekly basis at reasonable prices. You must start early however, as these go quickly during the holiday travel time in Europe which runs from July through August. This is the best weather time period so competition for these houses is fierce. Such accommodations come as “self catering” which simply means you will be making your own bed, cooking your own breakfast and washing your own clothes.

This type of housing can be found by going to the government sponsored websites that have listings in all areas of the country you choose. Start your planning process in the fall of the year before the year that you plan to travel. Choose your holiday house in a central location to the courses you plan to play. Sometimes a weekly rental will give a savings even though you only use this for four or five nights.

Here are a couple of links to government sponsored websites. Keep in mind you could always do a simple Google search for this as well. (click on your region of interest)

In the next post, I'll cover tips number four through six which includes additional information on accommodations and golf course and tee time scheduling. As always, if you have any questions or tips you would like to share, please post a comment. I look forward to reading them!
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gathering Peaty Water in Dornoch - Scotland Trip 1989

In 1989, I made my second trip to the “links” of northern Scotland. I had heard from my friend, Harry Howell, from Dothan about how wonderful these trips were and the year before had taken the plunge anxious to test my embryonic golf skills on what I had heard were beautiful and difficult golf courses. Now I was on my second trip, a veteran who had still not broken ninety on most of these courses. We had played our first round of the trip on Royal Dornoch, the greatest Scottish links course never to have hosted a British Open event. As before, I had not conditioned myself properly to walking such distances before leaving for the trip. We were lodged at The Castle Hotel in the little village of Dornoch where one can walk from one end to the other of the town in a matter of minutes. At dinner that night, we feasted in the hotel restaurant and, as American men tend to do, the twelve of us were quite loud while eating. I noticed several disapproving glances from the clientele gathered there for their evening meal. Most of these were English or Scottish couples who sat rather reservedly, whisperingly quiet while eating compared to the boisterous goings on at our table. These other guests tolerated our shenanigans and no doubt were relieved when we finally exited the dining room for the terrace outside. As we stood talking, some of our group lit up cigars and others had stopped at the bar and picked up a drink to enjoy outside in the cool Scottish air. As we stood talking, a demure little English lady inched herself quietly up to one of our group and as she gathered his attention softly spoke, “Sir, I just must ask, would it be safe to say that you gentlemen are, off the leash”? Needless to say, this ignited an explosive burst of laughter among the members of the group.

In those days we were quite the gentlemen that she had spoken of, at least in appearance, as we all dressed for dinner in coat and tie. After this encounter on the terrace, some of us retreated inside to the bar where the aficionado of single malt whiskeys in our group, Harry Howell, began to enjoy himself of this delightful drink and to recount the virtues of various brands of this magic brew. An engaging couple that would later become known as Simon and Helen Baines from Derryshire, England sat listening at a table nearby to this litany of comments quietly taking in all Harry had to say. As Harry paused, perhaps to order another round, Simon Baines spoke up and identified himself. “Sir, I have listened to all you had to say, especially concerning your preference for Highland Park, but may I ask, have you ever had Glencoe”? Harry had to reply that he had not yet tried this particular single malt variety. Simon and Helen then began to explain the reason for their being in Dornoch. They were not golfers. This couple made an annual pilgrimage to the hills of Dornoch to collect “peaty water”, water that naturally seeps through the peat bog. After catching multiple bottles of this murky liquid they would cap it and haul it back with them to England for use in mixing with their Scotch. Harry, the aficionado, was dumbstruck. He had never heard of such. The Baines then hailed down the bartender and asked if he could bring the American a glass of Glencoe. After the bartender responded that this was not a brand that he stocked, Simon asked if it would be permissible for him to retrieve Harry a drink from their own stock out in their car.

With the bartender’s permission, Simon exited and soon returned with a bottle of this new mysterious elixir. By this time Harry had had his fill, but not to offend, the drink was poured and Harry began to imbibe. After a short while, I noticed Harry tugging at his tie. He released himself from the imprisonment of this mark of a gentleman and amusingly tossed the thing over his shoulder. It landed in the fireplace. Luckily the warmth of the evening saved it from destruction. What Simon Baines had not told Harry was that Glencoe was 120 proof whiskey, 60% alcohol.

I asked him sometime later what he had thought of the Glencoe. There was not a good natured response. Harry had been bested by the little couple from Cubley, Ashbourne, Derryshire, England. No doubt this English couple had great fun with this story when they returned to England.
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Machrihanish - The Best Opening Hole in Golf

In the summer of 1995 our group was playing links courses in the north of Scotland. After finishing one of our rounds, our leader Don Kennington became engaged in a clubhouse conversation with a local Scottish golfer. The old Scot quizzed Don about which courses our group had played. After rattling off a lengthy list of our past played courses Don paused and the old Scot with a glint in his eye snapped back, “but have ye played Mach..riiii..haaanish”? Don had to admit that he had not yet played the course with this strangely pronounced name. Not to be outdone, Don returned home and planned our next year’s itinerary to include this great links course located in Campbeltown at the south end of the Mull of Kintyre.

Getting to Machrihanish is not easy. The Mull of Kintyre is a Florida like projection that hangs off the west coast of Scotland. The easiest way to access this isolated links course is to catch a short hop flight that embarks from Glasgow airport once or twice a day. Another access is by ferry either from the mainland or from Northern Ireland at select times of the year. The third way to reach Campbeltown is to take a three hour car or bus ride up the west coast mainline through a mountain pass and then back south down the Mull to Campbeltown. As our travel mode was a Scot driven chartered bus, Don chose the long route to Machrihanish. Our trip that next year was uneventful until we entered the mountain pass that contained numerous ringed hairpin turns. Our coach driver’s name was Alex. Alex was from the region of Scotland where residents speak with a deep guttural toned accent. It was difficult to make out exactly what Alex had to say.

As our bus entered one extreme hairpin turn Alex downshifted his transmission to slow the bus for the oncoming maneuver. As I was sitting in the front seat across the aisle from Alex I could tell from his reaction that something was wrong. I could see Alex frantically pumping the gear shift lever forward and backward trying to get it to engage. All efforts failed and our bus came to rest in the middle of this narrow mountain road just short of a blind hairpin turn. Alex opened the door and a couple of our group bounded out to begin directing traffic that was coming from both directions. I approached Alex and asked what was wrong. He grabbed the gear shift lever and showed me that it was freely moving back and forth. It obviously had become disengaged from its connection linkage to the transmission. A flashback memory from my old days of driving a company owned dump truck told me that a shear pin in the fork connection at the transmission had done its job. It had sheared to prevent damage to the transmission when a jam occurred.

Alex sat totally dumbfounded as what to do. This was in the days before cell phones and we had no means of communicating with the bus company repair shop. I asked Alex where the access was to the transmission box. He pointed to the rear of the bus and we headed in that direction. Alex peeled back the rubber floor cover which revealed the trap door access to the transmission. An opening of the door revealed immediately that indeed a pin had been sheared in the linkage. I asked Alex if he had a coat hanger or other wire in the bus. Someone produced one and a temporary shear pin replacement was quickly fashioned. A few twists of the wire and we were back in business. Alex gave me a big smile. I smiled too as I thought back on the old dump truck. I’m just glad that it was the shear pin that failed and not an engine fire that I once had to extinguish on the old clunker using my best multicolored suede leather jacket.

Machrihanish was worth the effort we made to reach it. It is a classic links course whose motto boasts “the best opening hole in golf”. The opening hole drive must cross over an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, a challenging first shot that is not for the faint of heart. Their website touts Machrihanish as a quiet place to play a great links course. That is not what I remember. The day we played the RAF practiced touch and go landings and takeoffs with fighter jets just a short distance away. This was a WW2 American base that was officially handed over to the Brits in 1995. Although a bit short at 6400 yards from the back tees (only two par five holes) Machrihanish is nevertheless a great links course which takes its name from the “machair”, the name given for the land that lies between the sand hills created by sea storms and the wet moor lands that lie further inland. It is in the machair and the sand hills that true links style golf courses are constructed. The long stemmed marram grasses found on the sand hills of links courses serve to stabilize the sand in stormy weather. Maintaining the fragile environment of links courses has caused many courses to build basketed rock walls to guard against erosion.

It is the fragile nature of such sand hill environments that has caused approval of golf course construction in them to be a thing of the past. The new links style courses are now artificially constructed but can be wonderful counterfeits, Kingsbarns down the coast from St Andrews being a great example.

Machrihanish, “the best opening hole in golf”!

Following is a great video I found for Machrihanish on YouTube that was posted by another golfer. I hope you enjoy it.

-The Secretary

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Saving Money on Scotland and Ireland Golf Travel

I have been searching lately for other golf blogs dedicated to golf travel to Scotland and Ireland and have been relatively dissapointed at the results. Most are run by travel companies that plan the trip for you and are more expensive than the trips the Secretary self-plans. I did run across another posting from Brandon Tucker at that mentions some tips to save money when you self-plan. The post is from July 2007 but I think the thoughts are still applicable today.

In some future posts, the Secretary will post some of his secrects on how he saves money on the golf trips he self-plans. I hope you enjoy.

-Assistant (to the) Secretary
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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Two Great Stories from the History of the Old Course at St. Andrews

Two Great Stories from the history of the Old Course at St Andrews Every serious golfer is familiar with the legendary accomplishments of Bobby Jones. In 1958, after many years of retirement, he was asked to come to St Andrews where he was granted honorary status as a citizen of St Andrews. At this ceremony he recounted his last round at St Andrews in 1936. He had retired after winning the grand slam in 1930 at the ripe old age of twenty eight. After winning the Open in 1926 he arrived the next year and declared that if he won the tournament the trophy would stay in St Andrews. This simple declaration would endear him among the citizens of St Andrews forever. He won and it stayed. He also won again in 1929 before winning the grand slam in 1930. After the 1930 win he received a miniature replica of the trophy after he returned home replete with the names of the winners engraved. Did you know that during the time of his great tournament wins Bobby Jones only averaged playing about eighty rounds per year? I know golfers that play nearly that many rounds in three months.

At the ceremony in 1958, he told of being at Gleneagles with friends playing golf as a side event to his trip to the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany. He remarked to his friends that he could not be so close to St Andrews without going back for a visit. He slipped into town thinking he would not be noticed. By the time he reached the first tee there were 2,000 spectators lining the fairway at the number one tee. Before he had played the fourth hole there were 4,000. This is a great story. It reveals the high esteem that the citizens of St Andrews hold for Bobby Jones. But it also reveals their intense love of the game.

There is another story that you may not know of a local golfer who had a similar experience at St Andrews. Upon my return from our England/Scotland 2005 trip, I was told by my wife that Judi Jehle had called and left word that she would like some tips on planning a 2006 trip to Ireland. While discussing with her some of her options for such a trip, the subject of St Andrews came up. To my surprise she told me that she had played in the Ladies British Amateur Championship at St Andrews in 1975. This would be the last tournament golf for Judi for some time as she soon entered Medical School. 1975 was the first year women were allowed in the Royal & Ancient clubhouse. There was an extraordinary field of competitors because the World Cup matches were held the next week in Scotland and all the great teams from all over the world were there for the British Amateur. Judi was playing well and won matches that brought her to the quarter finals. It was in this quarter final match that she was paired against Belle Roberts who had been Scotland’s best player for years. She won the Amateur every year for many years. She also either won or came close to winning the Ladies British Open on several tries. Judi and Belle would become embroiled in an incredible match. Most of the town came out to watch after hearing that Belle had come up against a serious and formidable opponent. Judi’s remarks were there was such a crowd that even some dogs came out and followed the match. Judi shot 34 on the front and had Belle four down at the turn.

The word got out that Belle was down and on the back nine the whole town closed down and more folks came out to watch. Tip Anderson, Arnold Palmer’s legendary caddie was carrying Judi’s bag. With all the support the town citizenry would give her, Belle rallied and shot 34 on the back beating Judi one up. Judi recounts that “Tip” had many great stories to tell her during the course of that week. Judi was very impressed with the play of Belle Roberts. Belle was Captain that year of the World Cup team from the British Isles and also Curtis Cup Captain. She went on to win the tournament. Judi had several practice rounds at St Andrews in addition to her matches, but unbelievably this would be the only course that she would play on this trip---- and she has never been back! Someone of her talent level would certainly appreciate the many courses played over the years by the Dal Riadas gang.

I certainly hope Judi gets a chance to return to the magical land that is “Links Golf”.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

Standing at Attention

In 2000, “Dal Riadans” made their first trip to the golfing Mecca of St Andrews. After an ignominious arrival in Edinburgh finding that our clubs had not traveled with us from Gatwick Airport, we settled in for a several days stay in a small hotel in St Andrews. It was here that we discovered just how much smaller showers are constructed in the United Kingdom. At breakfast, after our first night’s rest, one of our larger members related his dismay with the shower facilities. “We couldn’t figure out how to turn on the shower. We turned the handles but nothing happened. Finally we discovered there was an electrical switch on the wall that activated the shower. Then when I got in the shower and got lathered up, I dropped the soap. The shower stall was so small I had to open the door and get out of the shower to pick up the soap that I had dropped”!

After an unsuccessful attempt to access our group onto the “Old Course” by way of the ballot, we were able to play the “Jubilee Course” another one of St Andrew’s courses which few would play if the course were not located in St Andrews. By this time some of the group had become disgruntled and were becoming a little mutinous. We had played Carnoustie in rented shoes and with rented clubs, with some choosing not to play at all under these conditions. We had missed the ballot for the “Old Course” and because of a trip rule of picking up one’s ball when it was no longer a possibility of scoring Stableford points, one member declared, “I haven’t gotten to putt yet”! The next day we played Crail Golf Club’s great little seaside course down the road from St Andrews. Here everyone got to play, but we all got soaked in a downpour on the front nine. Since we finished early in the afternoon some of us were able to get on Kingsbarns, the then new links course located close by Crail. The balance of the group chose to return to our hotel in St Andrews to dry out and savor the majestic atmosphere of St Andrews. It was later that that we would have related to us the following story.

One of our larger and less nimble members decided that since he had not been able to play the Old Course he would at least go down to this famous place and get some pictures of its celebrated landmarks. He first got shots of the most photographed bridge in the world, the Swilcan Bridge that leads one from the 17th green to the 18th tee at the Old Course. Then he wanted some shots of the famous “Road Hole” 17th green. It was here that the fateful event took place. Since the Old Course is in constant play, and since on this day some local Scotsmen were engaged in a competition, getting shots were a matter of sneaking in between the golfing groups reaching this famous green. From having witnessed John Daly’s famous escape from this deep bunker on his way to winning the 1997 British Open, most golfers can appreciate just how deeply this bunker has been dug.

After accessing this bunker, probably from a sitting position, our beloved member was able to get his shots. As he turned and looked down the fairway he could see golfers approaching their balls for their shots into the green. Alas, escape from the bunker must be made quickly! But try as he may, either from a rear or forward facing position, our dear member just could not get out of the confines of this deep sand pit. Frantically, no doubt, his travail continued until at last a Scottish golfer approached him and rather angrily declared, “Sir, can’t you see, we are trying to have a competition here!” Dismayed, but undeterred our illustrious member decided on a course of action. Perhaps leaning on some military memories of the past, this befuddled but proud golfer assumed a stately upright position and stood at “attention” as the Scots finished putting out on the green. Afterwards other members of our group who had been standing in the background watching this hilarious event unfold came and extricated our humble golfer from his imprisonment. This member’s name was Wat Jones, perhaps the most colorful Dariadan of us all. So colorful, in fact, that there are more stories that we will save for another day.

Keep em straight!

The Secretary
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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Great Golf Blog on Golf Travel


I just found a great golf blog I would encourage you to check from time to time. Brandon Tucker of writes a blog that as describes "offers his unique perspective on golf and travel destinations from Scotland and Ireland to Myrtle Beach. He also chimes in on news events on the PGA and LPGA Tours, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and other happenings around the world of golf". The posting that caught my eye was on St. Andrews Golf Trust announcing that they are keeping greens fees for 2009 at the 2008 level at all of their golf courses. Here is a link to Brandon's post on this and another link or his blog.

Post on St. Andrews Greens Fees Frozen for 2009

As a housekeeping note, you can now find on the right side of the page a blog roll providing links to other golf blogs I enjoy. I hope you like them as well. If you have any suggestions for good golf blogs, please post them in the comment section!

-Assistant (to the) Secretary
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Barhopping Vestryman of St Andrews

In 2005 during a five night stay in St Andrews, our group anxiously awaited our next day’s round on the Old Course. Going against past vows, we had succumbed to purchasing a five night, four course package from Golf Scotland, a golf travel company based in Dundee, Scotland. This company, among others, buys tee times that are allotted to small lodging venues in the town of St Andrews. St Andrews Trust, the entity that runs the much sought after St Andrews golf facility, grants a small number of tee times to these local lodging venues. To maximize the effect of these allotments, these facilities exchange their tee times for five night bookings with golf travel companies, assuring these small companies of filling their rooms during the summer golfing season. Golf Scotland sold us the package at a greatly inflated price which at the time cost our group around $2,300. For this we received access to tee times on the “Old Course”, Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, and the St Andrews Jubilee course and five nights lodging. The rooms were adequate, but when priced separately along with the golf green fees the total cost would have been less than half what we paid.

After dinner on Saturday night our group gathered at a local bar located on the corner just a few steps from our bed and breakfast rooms. This is where we met John. If I ever heard John’s last name, it has now escaped me. John was a local avid golfer who talked endlessly about the Old Course. It seems that the locals are granted membership in the St Andrews Trust courses. Locals are allowed reserved tee times which are plentiful and cost a mere fraction of what visitors pay for green fees. Bill, the proprietor of one of our two B&B’s, played the Old Course everyday we were in St Andrews. I had a lot of questions for John. I had heard that in prior years that The British Open was held at St Andrews that visitors who played the course for two to three weeks prior to the tournament were required to carry a plastic mat around the course with them. Each shot was to be hit from off the mat rather than from the ground where the ball had come to rest. John allayed my fears, declared that this was no longer a requirement, that he had played the course that very afternoon from the turf and we were not to worry. Being a links golf enthusiast I had many questions for John. John answered each one in great detail. After an hour or so of pontificating on St Andrews, and after multiple pints of Scotland’s best brew, John suddenly pushed back his chair and declared that he had an appointment at another local bar and that he must be on his way. We retired that night thinking that John probably imbibed well into the morning hours.

The next morning the father and son duo, Bill and Joe Howard, decided to attend mass at the Catholic Church which was located only a half block from our rooms. When Bill and Joe entered the church they were startled at what they saw. There in the altar area of the church was our bar friend John, totally garbed in a vestment robe. Yes, John assisted in administering communion for those gathered for this Sunday morning service. As Joe and Bill returned to our quarters I was standing outside the front door. As they began their report John appeared, marching up our street, still fully robed in his vestment attire.
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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Why Dal Riadas? - A History

Many eons ago in a time when the island that is now Ireland contained as many as 150 separate warring kingdoms, the son of a king from the south, one Cairbre Riata, moved north to the area now known as Antrim and established his own kingdom. He would come to call his kingdom “Dal Riata” (Kingdom of Riata). Here he fought many fierce battles to achieve supremacy over the area and to drive out the occupants that had preceded him. He fought with many different groups, but his fiercest rivals were the U’Neills, later known as the O’Neills. Those who have traveled with our group to Ireland on previous trips will recall that the U’Neills later occupied the ringed fort on the high hill at Grianan of Aileach. The U’Neills would eventually win in a battle with the Dal Riatans which led to the Dal Riatans concentrating their efforts toward what would be a newly established second Dal Riata in what is now the western isles of Scotland.

The fierce followers and descendants of Cairbre Riata would establish his first kingdom throughout the area that is now known as the Antrim coast region of Northern Ireland. Cairbre Riata must have been a very ambitious warrior and leader. It wasn’t long until he and his warriors crossed over the fourteen mile (narrowest point) body of water now known as the Irish sea and began raiding and pillaging the coast of what is now western Scotland. Not satisfied with looting, they began taking women back to their kingdom of Dal Riata for wives for themselves and family members. After many such forays some of these warriors fought and conquered (and in some cases compromised and made peace with) the local inhabitants of these coastal areas of Scotland's islands. As a result these raiders took up permanent residence in the new lands and established a new “Dal Riata”. Later the word was anglicized to “Dal Riada” and later to the joined “ Dalriada”. These inhabitants eventually made their way all across what is now Scotland. Many of them, or their forbearers, would establish the Scottish Clans that became so famous in history.

Because our group travels both the original “Dal Riata” kingdom and the subsequently established “Dal Riada” of Scotland, I assumed the name for our group of annual golf travelers. Once, while in a hotel in Buncrana, some locals happened to overhear our conversation regarding the name of our group. “Dal Riada? Isn’t that the name of the old kingdom around Antrim” , one of them asked. When we replied in the affirmative, they were quite impressed that we would even know that much Irish history.
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"Best of Ireland 2006" Trip Report

"Best of Ireland 2006” has come and gone, but what a trip. Our vehicles logged over 1200 miles. We had a few snags along the way, but all in all, the trip ran rather smoothly. There were a few missed turns, but fewer than in years past, due to the navigation efforts of Windell and Eddie, but also due to the competition that has developed between the “van duo” and “the bus rigade”. Seeking not to be outdone, the secretary worked hard to reduce “missed turns”. It was with great pleasure that pay back came in Carndonagh when the “van duo”, while leading, missed the R238 turn in Carndonagh towards Ballyliffin.

We ran the gamut in Ireland, learning where we would like to replay, the courses of the southeast such as The European Club (where we played all day for one rate), Portmarnock, and “The Island Club”, and areas we intend to avoid in the future; namely, the southwest which has for sometime been in a “soak the American tourist” mode. There was a couple of exceptions in Waterville and Lahinch but not worth coming back to the area. Never again will the secretary play the over priced “Old Head of Kinsale” where we paid 50 euros for 13-14 year old boys who were passed off as senior caddies. Along with a 275 euro green fee price tag, several of the junior caddies lied to new members of our group as to what they were supposed to be paid. (Always negotiate the price of caddies including tip before any round of golf anywhere.)

We learned good value in hotels such as “The Great Southern” at the Dublin airport and dumps such as Treacy’s Hotel in Enniscorthy, which cost exactly the same for a night’s stay. We confirmed, once again, that the North has better roads, and plenty of good courses including the top two in Ireland (Portrush and Royal County Down). We strengthened our relationship with Ballyliffin, where the Pro-Am tournament continues to be the richest social experience and least expensive three days of golf in all of Ireland.

Even though we had a lot of rain in our first day Saturday round, our teams managed to score respectably under the conditions. Sunday afternoon was different as better weather enabled two of our teams to rise to the top two spots on the Glashedy course. Playing with my son, Pat, pro-Seamus Clinton, and Ryan Doherty, a sixteen year old junior member, our team finished first with 88 points in the Stableford, best two ball competition. This was out of fifty four teams. That followed Saturday’s 75 points on the Old Course. Windell and Joe had the best junior girl, Agnes Doherty, and Donal Gleeson for their Pro. They finished second with 86 points on Glashedy on Sunday and also won crystal. Overall, our team nosed out the Howard/Humphries team by one point for the two day tournament.

Another highlight of the trip was our round at Royal County Down. There I met Oliver, a seventy something year old caddie who shepherded the secretary into his best round of the trip, an 83 with an eagle and three birdies, garnering 31 Stableford points, clearly my best ever. What made this so special was my son Pat, playing with me, also had an eagle and scored 28 points. When it came time to leave I wanted to take Oliver with me. He made me relinquish my “go for it” mentality, and for just one round made a pretty good golfer of the Secretary. Pat went on to play well at Ballyliffin and it was due largely to his great play that we were able to bring home “The Crystal” .

There were comical moments, as when the Secretary tried to follow Joe Howard’s van over a hump at The Island Club and drug off a muffler and tail pipe assembly from the bus. Many photos were taken of the Secretary as he struggled to disengage the back portion of the tail pipe assembly and wire up the front muffler and tail pipe portion so the trip could continue. Many miles later at Carndonagh, I managed to find a muffler shop open just before Friday afternoon closing. There three boys were found ranging in age from about thirteen to twenty five. The three were covered with dirt and grease from head to toe. They looked as if they had each been made up for a presentation of the Charles Dickens play, Oliver Twist. After surveying the situation and much discussion between the three, they went to work. The youngest pumped on the jack and literally ran back and forth with tools that the senior member requested. The third young man acted as the “holder” of the apparatus as it was lifted back into place. When the work was completed I asked the oldest what I owed. He meekly replied, “a tenner”. I asked if he was sure and he replied just “a tenner”. Before Eddie Caldwell and I left, I called him back and tried to give him another ten euro. He would not take it! If there was any doubt why I fell in love with this part of Ireland in 1999, it was erased by three dirty and greasy, but proud young men in Carndonagh, Ireland.

Best of Ireland 2006 What a great trip!!!!!!!!!

If you have any memories you would like to share of your experience of this trip or any other golf trip to Ireland, please share them in the comments section. I would love to hear them! In addition, if you have any questions regarding this post or anything related to links golf, please ask them in the comment section as well. I am sure me or one of our readers could answer it.

Keep them straight!
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Saturday, August 2, 2008

British Open Courses 2005 Trip Report

Greetings from the Secretary:

Following is a trip report from our 2005 trip. Look for additional trip reports from prior trips soon.

England/Scotland 2005 British Open Courses trip has come and gone, but what a great trip! I would never have guessed it in advance, but this was one of the most memorable trips our group has ever taken. It is most probably the best yet! From our start in the south of England to the final days in the Kingdom of Fife, St Andrews, there were special things happening each day. There were many firsts on this trip. Here are a few.

1. First time for Dal Riadans to play the south of England (Royal St Georges, Princes, Royal Cinque Ports).

2. First time to experience “Irish style hospitality” in the U.K. (Royal St Georges and West Sussex).

3. The first time Dal Riadans have played a course that was used the same week as a “Qualifying Course” for The U.S. Open (Walton Heath, old and new courses).

4. First time for members of our group to experience an exclusive personalized tour of the Royal & Ancient Clubhouse (including the dining room just before lunch time). Only the Head Club Porter and our six members made this tour.

5. First time our group has played a “British Open Course” (St Andrews) the last week it was open to the public prior to closing in preparation for the tournament.

6. First time a Dal Riadas golfer has shot level par on “The Old Course” St Andrews (Joe Howard).

7. First time Dal Riadans have putted through a golf green covered with hailstones (3rd and 5th holes at Carnoustie).

8. First time to meet the “reigning hickory shafted club champion”, Andrew Reynolds, club pro at Royal Cinque Ports who went around Rye Golf Club in “72” with hickory shafted clubs. Andrew has been club pro at Cinque Ports since 1978, and is not yet fifty years old.

9. First time to witness golfers in kilts (Kingsbarns).

10. First time to play “heathland” golf courses (West Sussex and Walton Heath).

11. First time to play mandatory 2 ball matches (Royal Cinque Ports and West Sussex).

On a personal note it was the first time “the secretary” has shot par on the “road hole”, #17 at The Old Course, St Andrews. Ditto for hole #18 at Carnoustie.

In addition to all this, we almost got to see the British “royal family” at St Andrews. They arrived in town for Prince William’s graduation exercise just hours after our early morning departure (June 16th) for the airport in Edinburgh. Most of our group played 12 rounds of golf on this trip including 36 holes each day at Royal St Georges and Walton Heath.
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Friday, August 1, 2008

Links Golf

There is a kind of magic that occurs when a golfer encounters a new links on which to test his craft. It is partly the mystery of what lurks beyond the looming sand hills. It is the anticipation and anxiety that one feels when determining where the destination lies and how best to reach it. It is the testing of the elements of nature that can rear up to impede the journey. It is the moment of triumph when topping a ridge and finding the target has been found. It is the cool clean seacoast air that clears the head and energizes the spirit. It is about choices made and the fruit of those choices. It is the soft buoyancy of the bent sod supported by past years crops that have given way to new green springing blades. It is in sharing the journey with an old friend and in making new friends. It is in learning new ways, and reliving old ones. The object is not in conquering this magnificent place, but rather in gaining a common harmony. There is a pounding in the breast from the opening volley until the final putt. There is the fellowship afterwards with a toasty and a pint. Yes links golf is all these things and more. There is a magnetism that exists in this emerald kingdom that is found nowhere else. And it draws us back from year to year, leaving us yearning for our next return. To our new companions,

“Cead Mile Failte”, one hundred thousand welcomes.

Welcome to the land of “The Links” !
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