St. Andrews, Scotland: Golf's 5th Avenue

Shane Bacon
July 14, 2010

If you don't get the game of golf, you don't get the obsession with St. Andrews. "It looks like a goat track," some people might say. "It's pretty flat," others might complain. "It isn't even pretty," the blasphemous might utter.

To truly understand the beauty of the Old Course at St. Andrews, and the entire town for that matter, is to get what it must feel like for golfers to come home. Not "home" in the sense of the word, but more like home in the sense of your happiness. The town of St. Andrews is focused on one thing and one thing only, and that's golf. You can't walk around a corner without a pub sporting the game or a shop trying to sell you cheaper merchandise.

As you round the corner in your rental car (and hopefully you've made it that far driving on the wrong side of the road, through corners that make driving through the Rockies seem comfortable), the entire town greets you with a smile. You see the famed links almost instantaneously, along with some of the other great tracks that make up the St. Andrews Links.

You pull past the grand Old Course Hotel, and make a couple of roundabouts before you can take your left to finally lay eyes on the 18th green, the one you've read about for years and years. Goosebumps can't even keep up with the initial feeling when you first step up to the Old. It's majestic in a way that makes it original. Flat. Simple. Beautiful.

A non-golfer wouldn't appreciate, and they probably shouldn't. I don't gawk when I see modern art or hear a guy hit a note on the guitar that is tough to reach, because that stuff isn't my cup of tea. Here ... here is where I'm comfortable.

If it isn't a round on the Old, it is a pint at the Dunvegan, surrounded by 30 golfers all trying to squeeze in their one shining moment from the day. You have teenagers, groups of 30-somethings and men without any hair left to enjoy the Scottish wind all excited like they'd just see their first Playboy. It really is an electric place. You're hearing stories of the battles at Carnoustie that day, or how Kingsbarns is more beautiful than expected. Guys talking about birdies, and settling up over bets, enjoying a Tennets and some fish and chips. Just typing about it makes me consider checking to see if there are any last-minute flights out, just so I can feel that camaraderie that only happens in this town.

The Old Course is the only place in the world where you can hit your tee shot with a car driving across the middle of the fairway, a man walking his dog up the 18th, and a group of tourists eyeing your swing. It is a melting pot of people, all here because of one white ball struck with a stick some 550 years ago.

This week, the town is different. It is more manicured and less, well, Scottish. Golf is played on Sunday this week, the only time they do that all season. It will be overrun with people that may or may not appreciate the Old like they should.

Nonetheless, for one week every five years, golf is highlighted where it is always highlighted; St. Andrews. May we all enjoy it for just what it is; beautiful, exciting and unique.