I think I have just about caught up after last week?s whistle-stop trip to Scotland so it?s about time I reported back.
Jezz Elwood and I met up at Gatwick at 5.30am for what turned out to be a very bumpy flight to Edinburgh. As we came in over the Firth of Forth the plane was swaying from side to side and we knew we?d be in for an interesting game at Muirfield, where we?d been invited to play by secretary Alastair Brown, who was keen to find out more about the methodology for compiling our Top 120 Course Rankings.
Most golfers have heard two things about Muirfield.
No.1 It?s a fantastic Open Championship course that pro?s rate highly because of the quality of the course and the fairness of the test.
No.2 It?s not a very friendly place for visiting golfers.
The reality is that only one of those statements is true, and the good news is it?s the former. The course was in superb condition for the last day of November, with the greens running very true despite a recent needle core. To say it was windy was an understatement. Even the caddies admitted it was blowing ? normally you can expect them to dismiss 20 mile an hour winds as a mere breeze!
As for the game we had a ding-dong match play encounter. The secretary and I took on Jezz and Alastair Good, the pro at Gullane, and despite holding a lead for much of the front nine Jezz?s Kramski putter got rather hot on the way in, and he and Alastair eventually took the match 3 and 2.
Granted it takes a bit of forward planning to get a game here ? don?t phone up the day before you want to play expecting to find they?ve got a spare tee time – but think ahead, make your enquiries, confirm your booking and you?ll be richly rewarded. The course is as magnificent as the great and the good say, the club is most welcoming to outsiders, and if there are better roast potatoes served in a British or Irish golf club I?d like to taste them.
It might have been the bracing sea air ? or more likely a glass or two of wine with lunch ? but as designated map reader (or holder of the sat nav thingy as it is these days) I abjectly failed in my duties as co-driver and nodded off at just the wrong moment. As a result we missed the turn for the Edinburgh ring road so ended up going through town at rush hour. Anyhow, we eventually got to St Andrews and after a quick scrub-up went to the Jigger Inn for a couple of pints, a discussion about the best holes at Muirfield (we both agreed on the 6th which is apparently Jack Nicklaus? favourite) and a catch-up on the highlights of the golf from New Zealand.
Friday dawned colder but with clear blue skies, which boded well for our plan to squeeze in 18 holes at the Lundin Links before it got dark and we needed to be at the airport. First up though was the principal reason for our trip. A visit to the R&As new equipment testing centre, and one of Jezz?s regular interviews with R&A chief executive Peter Dawson. You?ll read about both in forthcoming issues.
Having finished in St Andrews, Jezz and I made a dash for Lundin where we were joined by contributing editor Fergus Bisset, who had trekked down south from his Aberdeenshire home to Fife.
I?ll leave the description of this epic encounter to Fergus in his blog save to say my TC Chen at the 1st fought off stiff competition from Fergus?s Van De Velde impression in a burn at 8 and Jezz?s Doug Sanders-esque putting display at 17 to be comedy moment of the day.
After sorting out the winners’ spoils – a princely two pounds to Jezz and three to Fergus ? we settled down for a hearty bowl of soup and a pint or two as we looked out to see the last rays of winter sun disappear over the Firth of Forth. Splendid stuff.