Carnoustie (Carnoustie, Scotland, UK)

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Is Carnoustie hard?  Absolutely.  But don’t be scared away, it’s a great layout and an awesome experience to play.  Pictured here: the short par-3 13th.

Mention Carnoustie to most golfers, and they think “Carnasty,” the nickname given to this famously difficult links on the east coast of Scotland.  Now that I’ve had a chance to play Carnoustie, I’ll confirm what we already know–the course is bloody hard!

But the “Carnasty” moniker doesn’t do the course justice because it causes golfers to overlook the fact that Carnoustie, while incredibly challenging, is also a wonderful course.  Carnoustie’s layout is great, even borderline genius.  The course has more history than just about any other course in the world save for the Old Course at St. Andrews.  And, despite being challenging, the course is 100 percent fair.  Good shots are rewarded, but bad shots are severely penalized.

Carnoustie is an absolute must play on any golf trip to Scotland.  Here are my thoughts about the course, concluding with why I am giving Carnoustie my first ever A+ rating.

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2016 The Open Preview: The Predictions

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The 18th fairway at Royal Troon, host of the 2016 Open Championship, is a pretty sweet setting to finish a major tournament. 

Having recently played Royal Troon, host of this year’s Open Championship, I feel like I should have inside knowledge about what to expect.  Truth be told, I’m as clueless as ever, but that won’t stop me from making some fearless predictions.  So without further adieu, here they are.

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Royal Troon Golf Club (Ayrshire, Scotland, UK)

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Royal Troon has a good share of ordinary holes, but several spectacular ones as well, including the famous short par-3 eighth, the “Postage Stamp.”

“Tam Arte Quam Marte” is the motto for Royal Troon Golf Club.  “As much by skill as by strength.”  It’s an appropriate motto for the host of the 2016 Open Championship. Troon is not a course that favors the bombers.  It’s a relatively straightforward links that rewards the player who can find the middle of the fairway and the middle of the green, then drain some putts.

I had the pleasure of playing Troon last month, just one month before the Open.  It was a phenomenal experience.  The course was in great shape and, although it’s not the most interesting layout, it is still a great challenge, both for weekend golfers like me, and for the tour pros.

Here are my thoughts about Troon, which I hope gives readers some insight about the course before the Open, and also if they ever plan to venture over to Scotland for a round.

Continue reading Royal Troon Golf Club (Ayrshire, Scotland, UK)

CordeValle (San Martin, CA) *Updated for 2016 U.S. Women’s Open

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The par-5 third hole is one of several scenic holes at CordeValle.  But not only is the course beautiful, it’s also a great venue for a championship event like the U.S. Women’s Open.

Earlier this year, I wrote a lengthy review of CordeValle, host of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open…which takes place this week!  It’s the biggest tournament on the Women’s calendar, so I’ve given my review a little makeover to serve as a guide for the tournament, and also for anyone interested in visiting CordeValle for a round in the future.

Continue reading CordeValle (San Martin, CA) *Updated for 2016 U.S. Women’s Open

2016 U.S. Open Preview: surviving Oakmont

There’s winning a U.S. Open, and then there’s winning a U.S. Open at Oakmont, host of this year’s 116th running of the event.  The Pittsburgh area course is a synonym for brutality.  It’s tight, the rough is savage, there are bunkers everywhere, there’s a 300-yard par-3, and the greens are the slickest in the world.  A win at Oakmont isn’t just another victory in a major.  It’s golf’s version of the Medal of Honor.

So…who will this week’s hero be?  Read on to find out.

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Quick thoughts on my week in Scotland

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In addition to being fabulous for golf, Scotland was the most welcoming country I have ever visited.  Pictured here: The tee shot on No. 18 at North Berwick, heading back into town.  

I returned yesterday from a weeklong golfing trip to Scotland and WOW, what a trip!  As expected, I got in four rounds of golf at Royal Troon, Prestwick, North Berwick, and Carnoustie.  I also snuck in a Coldplay concert and did a little sightseeing.  I’ll have plenty of things to say and pictures to share in the near future.  But first, I wanted to share some quick thoughts about my trip.

My trip was way too short:  Going to Scotland to play four rounds of golf is like going to California to see Disneyland and nothing else.  It’s a great time, but you’re leaving a lot on the table.  There are so many fine courses in Scotland, and many of them need to be played more than once to be truly appreciated.  Four rounds is simply inadequate.  One of the guys I played with was on a 29-day trip to Scotland and had taken four previous trips to Scotland.  He’s doing it right #lifegoals.

The Scots are incredibly nice:  The folks in Scotland, without exception, were the most welcoming and friendly hosts of any country I have visited.  At every course I played, there was always a staff person or a member who showed me around and was keenly interested in learning where I was from, where I’ve played, etc…  The kindness extended beyond golf, as well.  At one pub I visited, for example, I asked the bartender what whisky I should try (I am not an expert), and she spent a good 5-10 minutes with me chatting about the different kinds and letting me taste a few.

Get a caddie: My first round in Scotland was at Royal Troon, a course known for being relatively straightforward by links golf standards.  I therefore figured a caddie was unnecessary.  Huge mistake.  Even this most basic of links courses played much differently than the courses I am used to in the United states.  I probably would have saved 10 strokes with a caddie and appreciated the course even more.  A caddie will set you back 40-50 pounds plus a tip, but it’s worth it, especially if you are already paying big bucks for a round at a famous course.  I paid for a caddie for subsequent rounds at Prestwick and Carnoustie and had a much better experience.

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Ahead of me is Mr. 29-days-in-Scotland, who was wise enough to hire a caddie for his round at Royal Troon.  I was left wandering the gorse alone.  Pictured here: Troon’s par-4 11th hole.

Expect to play with Americans:  In each of my four rounds, I was grouped exclusively with other Americans.  I asked one of my caddies if Americans make up the majority of visitors, and he said absolutely–probably about 85 percent of golfers are Yanks.

Take the train:  Every golf course I played was an easy walk from a train station.  In fact, Prestwick is literally right on the other side of the tracks from the train station.  For those visitors looking to do some big city visiting while in Scotland, I highly recommend staying in Glasgow and/or Edinburgh, then taking the train to the golf course.  Prestwick and Troon were about a 35 minute ride from Glasgow, while North Berwick was less than half an hour from Edinburgh.  Many of the other courses in the country are also next to a train station and an easy ride from a big city.

Did I try Haggis?:  Of course I did!  At multiple places.  For those who don’t know, Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish described by Wikipedia as “a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach.”  Sounds gross you say?  Wrong!  It’s freaking delicious, especially with some well prepared neeps and tatties.

What to expect on this blog in the future:  I’ll get back into my USA frame of mind by writing a quick U.S. Open Preview later this week.  After that, I’ll surely write detailed reviews of the four courses I played in Scotland, plus a few more in-depth posts about some of the highlights and lowlights of my Scotland trip.

-AB

 

 

Preview: A week in Scotland

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I’ve got my passport, a little cash, and some light reading for my plane flight.  I’m ready for Scotland.

My wife loves Coldplay.  That’s why I’m golfing in Scotland next week.  Allow me to explain.

My wife found out a while back that Coldplay would be touring in Europe this summer.  She explained to me how desperately she wanted to see them live.  I rolled my eyes at the thought of flying from San Francisco to Europe to see a concert, and told her she had no shot with Chris Martin anyway (that’s Coldplay’s lead singer).  But, being the all-around great guy that I am, I said we’d try to find a way to make it happen.  It occurred to me that we were already planning a trip to Boston at the beginning of June for a wedding, so it made sense to see if Coldplay was playing anytime the following week and, if they were, hop over the pond for an extended vacay.

So I checked tour dates.  Sure enough, Coldplay had a concert on their European tour scheduled for June 7…

In Glasgow.

My internal golf sensors exploded.  I now had an excuse to hit the links in Scotland.  So an agreement was easily reached with my wife:  I’d go see Coldplay with her, but have free rein to golf the rest of the time.  It was a win-win.

Like any avid golfer, I’ve been yearning to tee it up in the home of golf ever since I can remember.  I’ve read all about the great courses there, and I come accross stories and blog posts all the time about others who have ventured to Scotland for a golfing trip.  I’ll now be one of the lucky ones.

Read on to see my itinerary:

Continue reading Preview: A week in Scotland