April 24th – Carnoustie Golf Links

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For the final round of the trip, we decided to check off one more Open rota course and drove to Angus, Scotland to play Carnoustie. The course is ranked #26 in the 2016/17 GD world rankings and will host the 2018 Open Championship, which it has hosted 7 times. Winners at Carnoustie include Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Paul Lawrie and Padraig Harrington. The 1999 Open is most remembered by Jean Van de Velde’s collapse coming down the stretch, needing only a double bogey on the 18th to win, he proceeded to make a triple and lose in a playoff, which was also attended by Justin Leonard and eventual winner Paul Lawrie.

The original course was of ten holes, crossing and recrossing the Barry Burn; it was designed by Allan Robertson, assisted by Old Tom Morris, and opened in 1842.

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Par 4 2nd hole “Gulley”

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Hogan’s Alley

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6th Hole “Hogans Alley”

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8th Green “Short”

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Par 3 13 “Whins”

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The wind was whipping so hard during our round that the pin on the 14th hole snapped at the cup. My caddie said they break about 10 pins a year. IMG_6518.JPG

There were very few photos taken during our round due to the temperature, and probably the fact that it was the last round of the trip and there’s only so many photos you can keep of pot bunkers.

Carnasty as it is often referred, really lived up to its nickname. If it wasn’t for this round, Jay would have broken 80 every day.  Tough, tough course and a round I will never forget. It was a perfect way to conclude a trip to Scotland, playing an incredibly challenging course under adverse conditions.

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Wee bit frosty the next morning at 4am. Packing up the car and headed to the Edinburgh airport!

 

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April 23rd – Kingsbarns Golf Links

Kingsbarns has been a course we’d heard about many times over the years, so the anticipation was through the roof. The name derives from the area being the location of the barns used to store grain before being transported to the Palace at Falkland. The course is ranked #69 in the GD 2016/17 rankings and will host the 2017 Women’s British Open.  It is only a 10 minute drive from the Fairmont through farms and the small town of Kingsbarns. There’s a fantastic practice facility and the small clubhouse is perched on a hill overlooking the 18th fairway and green right next to a large putting green and the first tee.

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Path from range to first tee/clubhouse

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This building has offices and the starter on the far end. I think it also is where the caddies hang hang out.

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Clubhouse

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Hole 2 “Firth” Par 3 with Carnoustie visible on the far shore across the Firth of Tay.

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Dad with his second birdie of the trip at the 2nd, Firth. We all hit the green but only Dad converted!

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This is the 4th hole “Castle” approach. Named after  a castle that was built on this site by King John of the Scots in 1292 and was in ruins by 1790.

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Driveable par 4 6th

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Picking out my line with a little help from Jay’s caddie

 

 

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Par 3 8th Wee Dunt, or “small bump” which features a two tiers, pin for us was on the lower left.

 

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Chipping at the 8th

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Plaque in the 9th fairway

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Nice walk through the trees to the 9th tee. Some of the only trees we’d see the entire trip. They never come in play though.

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12th tee

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Dad putting at 12 green

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Par 3 13th appropriately called Cliffs. Such a great looking par 3 and a tiny green. if you want to hold it. The bunkers on the right pick up most shots that roll off, but the drop off from there is severe. This was definitely the toughest second shot of the round being down below those right side bunkers…

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Par 3 15th Rocky Ness

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Looking out from 15 tee

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18 green, tough approach over a burn, land short and you roll right in…which I think we all did.

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Took long enough to find us a Belhaven Black, which was a great way to end the day with lunch in the clubhouse. Awesome day at Kingsbarns, a course I can’t wait to play again. I think we would all rank this one near the top of the list when taking into consideration the entire experience, from the caddies and overall hospitality, to the grand views of the water and coastline and everything in between nestled among the gorse bushes.

I remember asking my caddie if the day we had at Kingsbarns was a “once a month” type of day…little to no wind, warm and sunny. He told me no, the day we’d have tomorrow at Carnoustie comes once a month and he said “that’s the only way to play Carn-nasty”

Next up: Carnoustie Golf Links

 

April 21st & 22nd – St. Andrews Old Course

The second leg of the trip started with a roughly 2 hour drive from North Berwick to St. Andrews via the Forth Road Bridge with spectacular views of the Firth of Forth. The drive was more of the same, farm land and tight hedgerow-lined roadways and roundabouts.  NB to St Andrews.JPG

We had time to sit down in the St. Andrews Links Clubhouse for breakfast and a cruise through the pro shop. Scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and a few Americanos and we were headed to the first tee. This was the third course in the Open rotation that we would play during the trip and it ranks #8 in the GD world rankings for 2016/17. Past champions here at the Old Course include the Big Cat (twice), Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, John Daly, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus twice, Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, and most recently  Stacy Lewis at the 2013 Women’s British Open.

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Royal & Ancient, putting green, first tee, and 18th green

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The 1st and 18th fairway is almost 130 yards wide

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First tee in front of the Royal & Ancient

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First Tee Old Course

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West Sands Beach

Before today I had no idea how the Old Course was laid out, or the fact that there were three other courses alongside, the New Course, Jubilee, and Eden. The entire trip we’d been staying to the left in the car, so when the caddies said, “left is safe all day”, it was easy to follow directions. The Old course has many shared fairways and even 7 shared greens, another fact that we learned early on after walking upon massive greens. While watching Open Championships I guess I never paid much attention to the nuances of the course.

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Swilcan Burn from first green

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Double green

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We weren’t expecting rain and left all of our gear in the car, of course that meant it would rain. The heavy downpour only lasted 2-3 holes, but that was enough to soak us to the bone. It was fascinating to see the weather switch directions entirely midway through the deluge. The caddies said it was due to the changing of the tide. By the 7th hole we were out of the rain and with the wind blowing consistently for the afternoon, our clothes dried up rather quickly.

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7th green and the Shell bunker

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On the front 9 we came across these stone boundary markers that have been in place for hundreds of years and make the property lines for Golf Course and the Rabbit Farm.

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8th Green – Short hole bunker

The front 9 is surrounded by thick and punishing gorse bush and littered deep bunkers. The fact that there were so many shared fairways and greens left each of us with several interesting points of attack when approaching the pin. Only after making the turn did we notice there were bunkers that seemed to just pop up out of nowhere, that’s because the course was once played in both directions.

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One bunker you want to avoid is the famous Hell Bunker, on the 14th hole. When The Big Cat won in 2000, he avoided hitting a bunker the entire week. Crazy to think about since there are 112 bunkers on the course.

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Jay getting dialed in

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Another look at Hell bunker with David standing inside for perspective.

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Stone wall between the Eden and Old Course

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17 green and road hole bunker

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Road hole bunker

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Dad on 18 tee

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Family photo on the Swilcan Bridge

Jay and I had to recreate the classic Jack Nicklaus Champion golfer of the year pose.

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After the round we went over to the famous Jigger Inn, situated along the 17th Hole “Road Hole”. The cozy place was filled with memorabilia and photos. Great place to relax after a round with a Jigger Ale brewed specially for the Jigger by Belhaven Brewing.

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After the round we learned that if we wanted to get to the first tee at 6am we could get in line for a starting time, first come first serve. David Jay and I decided that there was no other place we’d want to play than the Old Course as it was such a fun day.

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Sunrise at the monument

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Sunrise on the ride into town

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Waiting in line for second crack at the Old Course

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A group of chaps donning the traditional attire and playing with old clubs

Very dog friendly course, we had a 5 some in the group behind us that included a Rottweiler.FXLS2979.jpg

Pictures from around St. Andrews

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Endless fields of rapeseed used for various oils

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We had time for a quick 27 holes at the Himalayas putting green

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We saw this in every Open rota clubhouse, a framed photo from the most recent held Open Championship with every participants signature.IMG_6376.JPG

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Couple glasses of scotch and a few game of pool back at the hotel

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Dad standing outside the Fairmont Hotel

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View from the steps of the hotel overlooking St Andrews

Next up: Kingsbarns Golf Links

April 20th – Muirfield – The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers

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Located just minutes from North Berwick, GD ranked #9 Muirfield Golf Club in Gullane was the second Open rota course we played. Muirfield has hosted the Open Championship 16 times in its history, most recently in 2013 when Phil Mickelson played the round of his life on Sunday afternoon and won the Claret Jug. Other notable champions at Muirfield include Ernie Els, Nick Faldo (twice), Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player.  Muirfield also hosted the Ryder cup in 1973, where the United States was victorious.

The course is not laid out in the traditional links style, out and back along a coast. However, the course features two 9 hole loops, front nine clockwise, and the back 9 counter-clockwise. Similar to the other courses in the area, the front 9 and back 9 have different colored pins to help golfers stay on track.

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Front of Scorecard

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Really like the simple card design

 

 

Aerial shot during tournament week from the yardarge book. Picture on right is group on the par 3 4th green with par 4 12th green in foreground.

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Hole 2 Par 4

The sodwall bunkers are visually appealing and severely penalizing throughout the entire course. The rough hadn’t fully grown in after its winter slumber, but it was not hard to imagine what the property would look like with wind whipping through the knee high rough. We had a pretty strong wind for the entire round, made for a lot of interesting club selections, but overall a nice sunny day.

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David with his close-talking, close-walking caddie.

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Another look at some awesome bunkers

 

 

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David headed out backwards on 6th, I had to do the same on this hole!

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Bunkers on the right side of 12th Green

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Another look at Hole 2 from 16 tee

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Hole 16 Par 3 – surrounded by 7 bunkers

Trevino holed his second shot from one of the bunkers on 16 during his victory in 1972.

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The “Coffin” bunker on Par 5 17th

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Hole 18 steps away from the clubhouse

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Dad putting on 18

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Muirfield Clubhouse

I couldn’t imagine playing Muirfield from the back tees where the pros play, under tournament conditions. Add in knee high rough and weather and it makes for a very long, grueling day.  The course is still a beast even from the members tees because it seemed like there was tremendous amount of bunkers that would penalize you one shot.  Until recently, the third round 81 shot by the Big Cat in the 2002 Open was the only time he’d shot in the 80s in his career! I must say, I got up and down from the green side bunker on 18 to shoot 80 and beat Tiger by 1, so at least I got that going for me!

After the round we were required as guests to wear a coat and tie while inside having lunch, so we freshened up and pieced together an outfit as best we could using borrowed shoes and sport coats from the locker room. We were too busy looking at all of the original paintings and old feathery golf balls to make fun of David wearing a tie with his golf shirt and a mint green colored jacket. It was such a cool experience, we didnt care about anything other than enjoying a warm lunch and taking in our surroundings. It was a wonderful way to end the round, sitting in that room just as many prominent golfers and guests had for hundreds of years, talking about their round.

Next Up: St Andrews Old Course. We take the couple hour drive to St. Andrews Friday morning and get ready for the second leg of our trip.

April 19th – North Berwick Golf Club

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Sunrise in North Berwick overlooking the Firth of Forth

At this point in the trip we were getting over the travel lag and ready to step out our back door onto the North Berwick Golf Club. We grabbed a coffee at the Steampunk Coffee Roasters and walked around looking for a place to get some haggis ‘n eggs in our bellies. The haggis tasted alright. It was sort of like a hash consistency with a little tang? Not terrible but we stuck with the lorne sausage the rest of the trip.IMG_6205

North Berwick, established in 1832, was #50 in the world per Golf Digest 2016/17 rankings. We were greeted by a friendly staff who gave us a warm welcome. He was genuinely interested in where we were from, what courses we were playing on our trip, and how we were enjoying our stay in town.

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The clubhouse is on the edge of town overlooking the 18th hole.

Photo Credit: North Berwick Golf Club

Opposite the 18th green you find a few small buildings that contain the pro shop (not pictured below) and the starter shack. A large fenced in putting green is where we got a feel for the green speed and the many subtleties. We met our caddies on the first tee directly behind the starter shack and we headed out.

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Front of the Scorecard

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Check out hole 10!

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Circular building is the starter shack. First tee just behind with putting green on right

The course is a traditional out and back layout with an ever-changing topography along the rocky/sandy coast. It was definitely worth having a caddie along for the walk. Their insight into the different lines off the tee and yardages into greens was extremely helpful.

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All smiles after going Driver-Putter-Birdie on the Par 3 4th Hole!

 

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Hole 6 “Quarry” Par 3 ~139 yards

 

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One of the holes NBGC is most known for is the par 4 13th, named “Pit”, which is the start of a great set of holes and could be some of the most fun I’ve had coming in on any course. The Pit features a unique rock wall that you must hit over on your approach to the green.  We’ll never forget when Dad hit the wall on his chip and it ricocheted just right to allow him to putt through the walkway onto the green. Too bad we don’t have a video of that shot, nice move Dad!IMG_6223.JPG

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Par 4 13th “Pit”

IMG_6229.JPG North Berwick GC is also well known for having the original redan, the par 3 15th “Redan”. This template is often copied all over the world. It features a strongly sloping right to left with a bunker guarding the front left part of the green.

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16 tee with the hotel in the distance

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16th Tee

For the last few days we stared down on the 16th hole from our hotel rooms, waiting to take on the challenging green complex known as the biarritz. Coming in at around 360 yards it’s not that long but the green features two narrow plateaus and wicked tight lies all around.

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16 Green

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Hole 18 headed back into town.

The 18th hole is a great finishing hole. It’s a little hairy with the parking lot on the right, but you have to just get your target, and rip it. David, Jay, and I drove the green and made birdies all around, which was a nice way to end the round.

The clubhouse has a bar upstairs overlooking 18 green. Its there where we learned that half the membership at the club have single digit handicaps.  We also found out that Jay’s caddie, Scott, has a sister who goes to school in Missouri and she’s a really talented player hoping to make it to the LPGA tour. Scott is also headed to a D-II school in Missouri to play golf.

The course was a lot of fun to play, you could play it every day with different weather conditions and have it be an entirely new course. Can’t wait to go back.

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Before dinner at the Grange, we grabbed a drink at the Ship Inn. Cozy place, good spot to watch a game, or hang with your dog apparently. North Berwick was also very quiet, stores and shops close up nightly between 4-5pm, rarely is anything open until 5:30pm. It was a nice change of pace.

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Pictures From Around Town

On several occasions around town we were approached by locals asking us how our golf was going. Everywhere we went it seemed like people wanted to know where we were from and how we were liking our stay. The residents are very friendly and will go out of their way to help give you directions or explain a bit about the local area.

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Cemetery and church ruins across the street from the Steampunk coffee shop

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Next Up: Muirfield – The Honourble Company of Edinburgh Golfers

April 18th – Turnberry Ailsa

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After a few Americanos we made the trek to the opposite coast to play the iconic Ailsa course at Turnberry, overlooking the Firth of Clyde. This was the first of four courses in the Open Championship’s current rotation that we played during the trip  and by far the most scenic of the four. Consistently ranked in the top 100 golf courses worldwide and GD 2016-17 ranking #22.

The drive took a couple hours through farms littered with sheep and other animals. Every small town is filled with stone buildings and old charm. We only got honked at once on the way to Turnberry after coming in hot to a roundabout and not looking to the right. Woke us up real quick!

North Berwick Turnberry

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Arriving at the Turnberry resort, guests are greeted by a grand entrance and a flowing water fountain. The resort overlooks the course from atop a hill. World class practice facilities await each golfer. We were greeted by Malcom and his staff, who were very attentive and helpful as we unloaded our sticks and got set up for our round.

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One of the many practice greens

There were so many short game areas to practice chipping and putting, I wish we could have stayed all afternoon.  There could have been some serious bets on the line!

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Turnberry Resort Hotel

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Water fountain in front of clubhouse

Turnberry has hosted four Open Championsips: 1977, 1986, 1994, and 2009.  They have also hosted many other prominent events, including the Women’s British Open in 2002, the Walker Cup in 1963, the Amateur Championship in 1961, 1983, 1996, and 2008, and the Senior Open Championship on seven occasions, 1987–90, 2003, 2006, and 2012. In 2009, Watson who was 59 years old, held a one shot lead when he bogeyed the 18th hole in the final round. He eventually lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink.

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The Clubhouse was filled with great pictures and memorabilia. We had ate breakfast overlooking the 18th hole before we hit the range for a few swings.

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3rd Green

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Hole 4 “Woe-Be-Tide” Par 3 143-194 yards

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View of 5th hole approach from 2nd tee box.

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“I think the next green is uh this-a way!”

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Walk from 5th green up to 6th tee .

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When the Donald purchased the property, he restored the lighthouse that sits on the rocky coast and now serves as the halfway house. There are two suites that can be rented for a yuuuuuge fee.

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Dad having a sit on 10th tee

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11th Par 3 “Maidens” 115-215 yards

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Another look at Par 3 11th

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Pre hand-mashy rule implementation

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Hole 16 “Wee Burn”

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Closer look at the bridge and the “Wee Burn” ready to snatch up your ball if you come up short like the Big Cat in 2009. Tiger had a horrific round in 2009 en route to a MC.

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Walk from 17 tee to 17 fairway

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Plaque on right side of 18 fairway commemorating the shot Tom Watson hit en route to victory in 1977 beating Jack Nicklaus. The final round has been called the “Duel in the Sun” as Watson and Nicklaus separated from the rest of the field. Runner up Nicklaus was 10 shots clear of 3rd place! (See leaderboard below).

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In 2003 the 18th hole was appropriately renamed “Duel in the Sun”.

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Random castle on ride back to North Berwick

 

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Our day at Turnberry was a lot of fun, weather was grey, but not much wind and no rain. We had a nice walk with our caddies who shared a lot of great stories and even had a few jokes for us to take home. Wonderful scenery and its fair to say the changes Trump and his team have made to the course are truly spectacular. It was well worth the drive to play this famed track.

On the way home, we only got honked at once…again…this time we were driving too slow in the fast lane. Apparently we were supposed to stay to the LEFT.

Next up: North Berwick Golf Club and some sites around town….

April 17th – Dunbar Golf Club

After almost a year of planning and counting down the days, the long awaited trip to Scotland was here. We flew from Boston to Edinburgh overnight and immediately picked up the rental van and headed to where we’d be staying the next few days: North Berwick.Edinburg to North Berwick DirectionsThe Edinburgh airport is a bit outside the city, so the drive gave us some time to get used to driving on the wrong left side of the road and see the countryside. Once outside the city limits, there are miles and miles of farmland and, oh ya…roundabouts! By the end of the trip I was convinced that the Garmin GPS was only programmed to say “entering roundabout” and nothing else. We checked into our hotel North Berwick, overlooking the North Berwick Golf Club (West Links) and the North Sea.Macdonald Marine

At this point, we all were running on adrenaline and excitement for the upcoming week. Since we had the entire afternoon ahead of us, we decided to pass taking cat naps and made the short drive to the Dunbar Golf Club.

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Dunbar Golf Club Pro Shop

The course was built in 1856 and has a narrow layout along the North Sea coast. The first two holes are par 5s that go out and back, before you reach a par 3 heading down the hill back towards the clubhouse. The hole was named after a local businessman who used to hand out pennies to those who played the hole well.  Let’s just say that only a couple penny or two would have been earned here by the Askew boys as we tried to shake the early season rust from our games.

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Par 3 – 3rd hole “Jackson’s Pennies”

Just beyond the 3rd green is a rock wall where holes 4 through 17 run up and down the jagged and rocky East Lothian coast. This is where we got a feel for true Scottish golf. There were rock walls, awesome bunkers, and a ton of wind coming in…

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Stepping through the wall…

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View looking back off 4 tee
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Jay walking down 4th fairway – hole named “Shore”

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4th Green

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7th Green

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David 8th Tee –  “Cromwell” Named after the victory of the 1650 Battle of Dunbar

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8th Green

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10th tee par 3 “Sheiling” named after the ruin off the green that used to house farm animals.

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Quick photoshoot in the Shieling

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Course Routing from their website

On holes 12 onward the weather flipped a 180 on us and the wind was gusting pretty good. There aren’t many photos from this stretch as we were trying to brace ourselves from the wind. We finally got a break from on 18 tee once we dipped inside the rock wall. Overall great course and experience. Friendly staff and a nice way for us to warm up after a long night/morning of travel. We headed back to North Berwick for the night and got ready for the road trip to Turnberry in the morning.

Next up: Turnberry Ailsa