By way of an introduction, my name is Ben Saulson and I’m from Portland, Oregon. Whilst studying here in London I’ve been lucky enough to land myself an internship with Golf Monthly. So, the next two months should be a great experience. Talking of great experiences, I’d like to share my memories of a recent trip to St Andrews.
Prior to my jump across the pond, I have only been able to play on a couple of true links courses, most notably Bandon Dunes – a course that describes itself as “true to the spirit of Scotland’s ancient links”. But, just a few weeks ago, I travelled to Scotland to find out what all the fuss was about. My dad and I filled out a ballot and were lucky enough to get onto the Old Course at St Andrews on our second attempt. My Mom doesn’t play golf but came along for what is quite possibly the most famous walk in golf.
On our arrival we received a tartan, drawstring tee bag with tees and a yardage booklet. Much like at Bandon Dunes, there is a course shuttle to take you around between the practice facility and the first tee box. We hopped off the shuttle with our rental clubs and walked to the first tee where we met up with our playing partners – fellow Americans as it happened, from Detroit, Michigan.
As I stood on the first tee and addressed the ball, nervousness came over me the same way it used to when I played in High School tournaments. It finally became a reality that I was about to play on the most famous golf course in the world, one that I have heard about my entire life, and one with so much history. Despite my nerves and my lack of recent play, I struck a pretty good shot. As I walked up the first fairway, I looked over to the adjacent 18th and at Swilken Bridge. I could not help but think about how the leader of The Open must feel being the last to tee off on a Sunday looking over at that bridge, hoping to hold his cap aloft on his way to hoisting the Claret Jug.
Despite having never played the course, I was quite familiar with the holes courtesy of Tiger Woods‘ video game. It truly was a surreal experience finally setting foot on the Home of Golf. Nearly all of the fairway bunkers are hidden from view and many of the tee shots blind. Firing shots over fescue and thick rough, I just had to trust that I would end up in a safe place.
As we finished our round, we paused for pictures on Swilken Bridge and continued our way up the 18th fairway. Complete with excitement, fascination, and pure enjoyment, it was a round of golf that I never wanted to end. I noticed a few posters hanging in a nearby shop with some famous golf quotes. One of them read: “Without a doubt, I like it best of all the Open venues. It’s my favorite course in the world”. That was Tiger Woods. I knew I had just finished one of the most memorable experiences of my life.