Picture gallery of the Ireland/Scotland trip (finally…)

25 06 2010

So we’ve been back nearly a month now – time to produce a selection of piccies that capture, I think, the essence of the trip. Many thanks to my friend Martin for his patience in turning me into a technowhiz (or, at least, not a total Luddite). If you think this trip might be your cup of tea, and you have the constitution to survive literally gallons of Guinness and Scotch whisky, not to mention the full Irish and Scottish breakfast eleven days in a row, you might want to contact our good friend Jeff Flynn at Hidden Links.

As I wrote in an email to Jeff soon after our return, “It wasn’t a cheap trip, but it was worth every penny!”

Robin makes a new friend, early in our first round of the trip, at Lahinch. It’s also his first acquaintance with the love grass…

Now that’s what I call a bunker… the 11th at Lahinch. I did manage to get out at the first attempt (which is more than can be said for later efforts).

Glennie prepares to launch a tee shot into the River Liffey.

First hole at Doonbeg. You want luxury? Doonbeg does luxury…

Ballybunion Old Course, 10:00 a.m.

Ballybunion Old Course, 10:15 a.m.

Your average every day bunker at Kingsbarns. Glennie’s third shot from this monster was memorable: think Stanley Cup type poke check to prevent the ball rolling back into the trap – again!

On the first tee at St Andrews Old Course, May 28th 2010. You can cut the tension with a knife. We tee off in six minutes.

Glennie on the edge of Hell Bunker, 14th hole, St Andrews Old Course.

You know the expression ‘hit a house!’? Well, Adrian hit the hotel on the famous 17th Road Hole. (Note the blue skies, compared to the rain and hail we’d been playing in 20 minutes earlier).

‘Setting the Record Straight’ at the Swilcan Bridge, 18th hole at St Andrews Old Course.

The Great Robinski, proud and undisputed winner of the Celtic Challenge.

Glennie (whose picture you’ll find in the dictionary under the definition of ‘debonair’).

The Chief, probably thinking of something nasty to say about my putting…

Me in stunning sky blue sweater, specially selected for the trip by Scottish Wife.

Probably my favourite hole of the entire trip – the infamous short 14th at Doonbeg. Misread the yardage, so used the wrong club, mishit the tee shot, got a lucky bounce to within eight feet and sank the putt for birdie. Gotta love golf, eh?

And finally, the picture that sums it all up: Robin, back in the love grass at Lahinch. Are we having fun yet?            Yes we are!


Legends of the links (part 3)

29 05 2010

Ireland + Scotland Golf Trip May 2010

From left to right: the Great Robinski, Glennie P, the Chief, Bagger Dave

Heroes and villains. Friends and foes. It all depends on who your partner is on any given day. Take the Chief, for example; splendid fellow on Monday when he was my partner at Cashen, pretty much beating the Evil Empire (Robin and Glennie) single handed, but turned into the devil incarnate yesterday at Kingsbarns when Glennie was now one of the good guys (i.e. my partner) and Robin and the Chief were wearing the black hats. I was lucky enough to hit a good drive on the tricky first hole. (The marshall’s comment after seeing my colleagues’ tee shots all disappear into the gorse: “Well, at least one of yous seems to have some kind of idea of what you’re supposed to be doing”). Anyway, my second shot was equally good – improbable, I know – and finished about 12 feet from the pin. As I lined up the putt Adrian said, with more than a hint of menace, “If you sink this, I’m going to put this flagstick where the sun don’t shine”. Needless to say I brookered it, leaving it at least two feet short. That was also the last birdie chance I had for about two hours…

It’s painfully clear by now that the true legend of the links on the tour is none other than Rockin’ Robin himself. An 83 at Kingsbarns after a tough day on the New Course leaves him so far ahead of the field on nett scores that I refuse to announce them out loud any more at the post match debriefing in the pub. My own typical hole has gone as follows: decent drive, poor approach, bad chip, two (sometimes three) putts = bogey (or worse). Adrian veers between brilliant and disastrous. Always long off the tee, it’s then a question of whether we can find his ball in a patch of the short green stuff or whether it’s skulking somewhere in the gorse. Glennie’s balls seem to have some kind of homing device implanted in them which seeks out any pot bunker in the vicinity – and, trust me, there’s plenty to choose from. (On re-reading that sentence I’m a bit concerned about a possible double entendre, but what the hey). One of my abiding memories will be of Glennie reaching out of a bunker with his club to poke check a ball that he’d just played out skilfully, that had reached the green but then caught the slope and was rolling right back to where he’d played it from. Robin just keeps rolling along. For the most part with skill, but the odd bit of good fortune too, which never hurts. On the short par three 13th at Kingsbarns yesterday he sliced his tee shot (understandably, as it runs right along the ocean) and narrowly missed a group of greenskeepers. Apologies were duly made and accepted and the search for the ball began. There was some pretty scary love grass around and it was looking as if Robin would have to make the walk of shame back to the tee. Just at that moment Adrian shouted out that he’d found the ball – it was lying on the floor of the greenkeeper’s cart. A free drop, a deft chip and a short putt and Robin walked off the green with a par. So it goes..

We tee off at the Old Course exactly two hours from now and I’m surprisingly nervous.  (Actually, given the state of my game, I think it makes perfect sense to be nervous. After all, it’s not every day you get the chance to embarrass yourself at the Home of Golf). I went for a walk this morning around the beautiful city of St Andrews to calm down a bit and took a swack of pictures. Hopefully, with Ben’s help, I’ll learn how to download them so you can see some of the better ones. I also have a slew of on- course pictures: Glennie in a pot bunker, Robin meeting a goat on the side of a mountain, Adrian far away in the gorse, that sort of thing.

I’ll give you an update after the round if I can, but in the meantime – wish me luck. On present form I’m certainly going to need it…

All da best.

Dave B.

Update (6 hours later):

Thank you, golf gods! 80 on the Old Course! I can pretty much die happy now. When I get back home I’ll tell you how it came to be that I was standing in a pot bunker on the dreaded par 5 14th, soaked to the skin, having to chip out sideways and thinking ‘It doesn’t get any better than this…’

We’re off!

19 05 2010

There’s a tricky balance that I’m trying to achieve in this week’s blog. On the one hand, I want to let folks know about our schedule and give some links to the courses (pun intended) that we’ll be playing in Ireland and Scotland. On the other hand, I want to do this in a sensitive manner so that it doesn’t look like I’m gloating. Much.

The four of us – Glenny, Robin, the Chief and I – leave tomorrow for our much anticipated pilgrimage to the home of golf. In our usual dysfunctional fashion we are leaving from the same airport (Vancouver) but at different times, landing in the same city (London) but at different airports (Heathrow and Gatwick) and then flying to Ireland with different airlines. Potential for a cock up of monumental proportions? Pretty high, I would say. It has to do with a) Glenny’s obsession with air miles and b) my need to be back by June 2nd to caddy for B B at the Times Colonist Open in Victoria. The others, fairly sensibly, are extending their stays to do a bit of tourism – the Chief getting extra points for involving his wife in his visit. The rest of us will have to hope that expensive gifts for our spouses will do the trick, although Bandito Juan is on record as saying that the likelihood of this ploy working is about the same as our chances of breaking 80 on any of the courses we’ll be playing – slim to none.

Volcanic ash permitting, we land at Shannon airport (Ireland, for the geographically challenged) on Friday afternoon and tee off at Lahinch the following morning. On Sunday we play the Greg Norman designed Doonbeg before travelling to Ballybunion to play 36 holes at the Ballybunion Old Course and Cashen. (We’ll be staying at the gorgeous sounding Teach de Broc hotel. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it – Gaelic isn’t one of my languages). By this stage we should have discovered whether the Chief being teetotal has given him an unfair advantage. If it has, clearly the committee (Robin, Glen and I) will have to make the appropriate handicap adjustments for the remainder of the trip.

On Tuesday we leave the west coast of Ireland to fly to Edinburgh. Unfortunately, the trip organiser (that would be me) failed to realise that there are no direct flights from Shannon to Edinburgh on that date, so that instead of nipping across the Irish Channel we’ll be flying south to London in the morning and then catching a flight up to Scotland in the afternoon. Guess who’ll be paying for supper that night?

We’ll be staying at the Greyfriars Hotel in St Andrews, and over the next five days we’ll be playing Kingsbarns (twice), Carnoustie, the New Course (built in 1895) and finally, of course, the Mecca of golf, the Old Course itself. As I plan to make haggis and whisky my staple diet for those five days, this second part of the trip could be considered more a feat of endurance rather than an opportunity to show of my golfing skills to caddies who may or may not be impressed by my attempts to clear the Swilken Burn with my nine wood.

So to sum it all up: the trip’s been a long time in the planning, and we’re hoping to behave fairly respectably, score reasonably well and not bring shame on the name of Glacier Greens Golf Club (oh god, I’m feeling the pressure already). One of us will return to the Valley as the newly crowned King of the Celtic Challenge, but I hope all of us will be able to resist the temptation of giving you a blow by blow account of the nearly 1,000 shots each we’re likely to make over the course of the nine rounds. Unless you ask, that is, in which case you have been warned…

All da best.

Dave B.

P.S. My good friend Peter came round last night to share some good news about his battle with the Big C. He was bearing a ten pound note on which he’d written in felt tip “Four beers, please” and said it was to go towards our expenses. When I pointed out that it might not be quite enough to pay for a round he made it clear that Robin, Glen and the Chief took priority and I would have to go without. So when it happens, as it inevitably will, that I drive a ball into one of the scariest sand traps on that side of the Atlantic, I do solemnly swear that as I try to extricate myself from the bunker I will shout out ” This is for you, Dobbs!”

P.P.S. Many thanks to Ben Davies for his patience in showing me how to attach links. He’s created a monster! I can link anything now! With any luck, he’ll be able to show me how to attach photos when I get back. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but this week’s blog is only 812 words long…