As I write this I am truly feeling the effects of my twenty three courses. My concentration and focus is suffering. My will is there but my body is a little more reluctant.
The last three days in my hometown over Easter has been somewhat of a golfing epiphany. It came as I looked over the vast expanse of golf courses that stretches nearly three miles—from the Kittocks and Torrance courses, down the cliff tops, over The New Castle course... then to the spired town of St Andrews and the spittle of land stretching into the Eden Estuary that is "home of golf” and finally to the outward Jubilee. In three days I had golfed as far as the eye could see on every one of the 72 holes.
One shot, one step, one hole at a time. I had a moment, after some windy cold weather, as the sun shone over the whole, when all I could say to myself was, “You did it!”
Day 16 - Elmwood Course (Cupar)
This is an eighteen hole parkland course affiliated with Elmwood College which provides education for careers in golf. Greenskeeping, golf coaching and golf management are amongst the many subjects being studied.
It was overcast and chilly but we went out in the best part of the day and didn’t get wet. My golfing companion was again Heidi Orr. We have known each other since childhood and we are having a little friendly rivalry. On this occasion Heidi came out on top with two strokes less than me. Trying to keep up with Heidi got me through the back nine.
Day 17 – Balgrove Course (substituted for Aberdour)
Winter resumed with a vengeance as all trace of spring disappeared in a Scotland wide snowstorm. Aberdour Golf Course was closed due to frost.
I had twice played 36 holes in one day so in terms of my “30 rounds” challenge I had two days in hand... But the forecast was grim, and just in case of more frost closures, I played nine holes at Balgrove in St Andrews, where frost is rare due to the lay of the land being surrounded by the salty sea. I played in high wind and freezing temperatures and when I arrived the starter said I was his only player on the course that day.
Day 18 – Charelton Golf Club
Charelton is a parkland course that looks out to the Firth of Forth on the grounds of what was once the Charelton Estate. It is near enough to the sea, that by 10:30, even with snow on the surrounding hills, frost was off the greens.
Bruce Harley was my companion. He is the father of a little boy with both Down’s Syndrome and autism who traveled all the way from the west coast to play with me, and having raised over £1000 in sponsorship, he really wanted to play. So we did... and even with the return to winter, we blessedly got the best of the day... the sun actually came out on us for a spell.
Day 19 - Falkland Golf Club
Falkland lays claims to having some of the earliest connections with "gowf" through the Stuart Kings of Scotland, whose Hunting Palace was and still is located here at the foot of the Lomond Hills. (In the photo you can see our group with the snow covered hills and The Royal Palace in the background.)
Today was another day with Heidi who has generously been donating her green fees and giving me lots of moral support. Also joining us was Suzie Cunningham (a trustee of the charity) and her friend Sally Townson, who worked on the Solheim Cup operations but never had time to play because of work. This was Suzie’s first time ever on a golf course, but I am sure she will be back. I saw her being bitten by the bug straight after she sunk a 30 foot putt on the 7th hole. She was the only one who made a putt!
We were warmly greeted by the Ladies Captain, Valda Wicks, who set us on our way with promises of "bacon butties" and mugs of tea on our return.
Falkland was the last of my nine-hole courses. In planning, my reasoning had been that late March would have the worst of the weather and by April the longer and “big name” courses with more chance of nicer weather might attract more golfers to play with me during the Easter holidays. But as I write this, I am finding it tough and am now thinking it might have been better to leave them for last.
Day 20 (Good Friday) – The Jubilee Course
The Jubilee (named in honor of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897), is the course that many say is their favourite of the St Andrews Links and some say the hardest.
I am in dilemma. I thought I was spoiled on the New Course but I have to say that this course has charmed me equally. It has a finish that keeps you focused and interested. All I can say is, that, despite my sheer tiredness, I feel I am quite lucky.
Day 21 - The Castle Course
I must say that I was very daunted at this weekend’s golfing.
My father had described the Castle Course as beautiful but a "monster,” however the Shivas Irons Society acted as my saviour in the form of Jamie Gardner, a member who guided me around this stunningly beautiful links course.
It turned out that Jamie had been a close friend and golfing partner of my late cousin Ewan, who had been tragically killed in a road accident. This made what is certainly a test of golf and my endurance something very special for me. I felt privileged to have Jamie's gentlemanly company and support, which included raking bunkers and pushing my trolley up hills. The fact that he had shared much of his schooldays golf with Ewan made us instantly have something in common for my earliest journeys on the golf course were also in Ewan’s company.
The Shivas Irons Society is remarkable isn’t it? With the little ripples that come from its existence?
Day 22 (Easter Sunday) - The Kittocks and the Torrance at the Fairmont. (36 Holes)
Both the Kittocks Course and the Torrance Course (named for designer Sam Torrance) are challenging and beautiful new courses managed by the Fairmont Hotel in St Andrews. 36 holes was quite a test for me and I admit to being grateful that buggies were available on the Kittocks.
(Before I say anything more I would like to note that I walked a total of 46,881 steps from Good Friday to Easter Sunday—and that was with the buggy on the Kittocks Course.)
Day 23 (Easter Monday) – Lundin Links
I played Lundin Links with Tom Corke, a Phd student at the St Andrews University on an R&A scholarship. He is playing five courses with me and being sponsored for his birdies. He made five today, which is not bad on a links with viewing towers on which he had never played. He is a fine golfer playing off 3 and with a gentle soul to share my journey.
Day 24 – Scotscraig Golf Club
I haven’t downloaded all of my pictures yet because between my marathon golf weekend and staying up late to watch the Masters Tournament I have barely had time to write this blog.
Tom played with me again and had 2 birdies. His total for the Jubilee, Lundin Links and Scotscraig is an impressive 8 birdies with some more chances left out there. What is even better is that he himself is donating a sum for each bogey he makes (he did make some of them), so the charity is in a win-win situation.
As I write this on the eve of Day 24 my mettle is truly being tested. My body and muscles feel dog tired and my calves twinge as I walk. But I still have my smile... I swore I would not complain or moan too much, and it was a solemn promise. But this morning at Scotscraig, the course that my late uncle was a greenskeeper at for many years, I felt like crying as I shot an 11 on the 11th.
At the end of this part of my challenge, if the weather is hot, wet, windy or cold, it no longer seems to effect me. I have six more courses to play and last night I centred my life on what this is for and why—my daughter Eve and the charitable trust that will need to be there—for me and other mums and dads like me.
In golf I am beginning to struggle a little with my focus and the concentration on my shots. What’s new! I am sure however that after a good night’s sleep I will be up for the last part of my challenge. The final six of my thirty courses. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Yours, a humble and tired girl,
Golf in the Kingdom of Fife
— 30 Rounds in 30 Days —
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