Trip to Scotland above par for eight golfers
Summerfield group hits links at five different courses
Several Summerfield golfers recently visited the holy grail of golf - playing on the links of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, as it is known by its formal name, along with several other first-rate courses in Scotland.
Golf is considered a Scottish invention, and the country is renowned worldwide as the home of golf. The game was first played at St. Andrews before the founding of the university there in 1411, and historians think it was probably played in one form or another for a century before that.
The eight golfers in the group included Summerfield pro Rob Lindsey, Summerfield Men's Golf Club members Larry Comstock, Larry Launder, Rod Sacconaghi, Pat Shute, Bill McRivette and Larry Smith plus Bob Jannuzzi of Oswego Lake Country Club. They played on the same fairways and greens as long-ago golfers, but to enjoy five days of glorious golf took more than a year of advance planning.
Lindsey is the first to admit that this was his idea: "I've always tried to take groups on golfing adventures at other places I've worked, but it just never came together," he said. "This trip was open to everyone, but it ended up being seven men and me. We had to book the golf reservations a year in advance, and St. Andrews had to be booked one year and one week in advance."
The planning involved a local travel agent - Carolyn Horn at Time to Travel - plus Round Ball Golf Tours in Scotland to set up the reservations at the exclusive clubs: In addition to St. Andrews, which was played on the last day, the group played (in order) Royal Troon, Cruden Bay, Trump International and Carnouski.
"Eight was the minimum number to get the best prices," Lindsey said of the trip that ran from Saturday, Sept. 7, to Saturday, Sept. 14. The group flew into Edinburgh and out of Glasgow, driving in a loop to hit all the golf courses and staying in three different hotels. A driver/guide accompanied them on the entire trip, providing excellent tips on where to eat and what to do.
Each course was unique in its own way, "and all the guys had a great time," Lindsey said. "Every place we went, we were in awe of the scenery and history, and we were playing on courses that we had seen on TV. And we had perfect weather most of the time. At Cruden Bay, there was a 30-mph wind with gusts up to 40 or 45 mph, and while we were playing the first three holes at Trump and the last three holes at Carnouski, it rained lightly. All the locals considered it good weather."
The trip actually ended up taking place later in the year than Lindsey originally planned. "My original goal was to do it before Labor Day, but it was an issue of timing at St. Andrews," he said.
The good weather meant the guys were able to fully enjoy all the courses, which they found very different from U.S. courses.
"The courses had a lot of elevation - more than I thought - and a lot of dunes with grass because we were playing by the North Sea," Lindsey said. "Trump International was different - it is only 1 ½ years old and is not your typical Scottish course - it is more natural.
"Carts are not allowed unless someone has an extreme medical condition, although you could use push carts. Using carts is not the traditional way to play golf. We rented a caddy, or fore-caddy as they're called there, for each four golfers, and they educate you about the course, read the putts and find balls. Going from the green to the tee-box could be hard to find as there were not a lot of directional signs.
"The courses measure distance by yardage, and another difference was that in the States we measure from the center of the green, and there they measure from the front of the green. Some courses had shared greens but separate holes."
The men played in groups of two or four with different people each day so they all got the chance to play with each other.
The drives between the courses usually took between two and four hours, so the group could enjoy sightseeing on the way and also visit other courses that they didn't play.
The final day of play was at St. Andrews, which Lindsey called his "dream."
"That's what draws everyone from the States, although there are a lot of good courses in Scotland," he said. "It was a bummer that we didn't get to play the original - or 'old' - course that opened in 1865. St. Andrews has six or seven courses, and we played the 'new' one that opened in the 1880s. The Dunhill Championships Tournament was going to be played next on the old course, and it was closed so they could set up for it.
"So many British Opens have been held on the old course, and one shot requires shooting over the hotel. I've got photos of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklas standing on the stone bridge on the 18th hole, and it would have been nice to get my photo taken there."
Still, Lindsey conceded that otherwise the scenery was the same on the St. Andrews course they played, and the group stayed right in town where the University of St. Andrews is located.
"It was a university town, and golf made the city," he said. "The gates at the university have crossed golf clubs on them."
An unexpected surprise was learning that Hilary Clinton also was in town to receive an honorary degree at St. Andrews.
"There was Secret Service all over, and the people there were referring to her as the next president and wanted their photos taken with her," Lindsey said. "And she was on our plane going home."
Over all, the trip was a major success, according to Lindsey.
"It went without a hitch," he said. "It is not too often when you have a tour that goes so smoothly. It was amazing to play in the original golf kingdom where it all started. And we ate well. We ate our way through Scotland and ate what the locals ate."
Comstock called the trip "a lifetime experience."
"I enjoyed it all," he said. "The accommodations were very nice, and the people were very friendly. The courses are totally different from here. I have played in Ireland, but this trip was fantastic with the beauty of all the courses and everything flowing so smoothly."
Shute also called it the ultimate trip, saying, "We all had a good time, and it was a great group of guys. Other than the plane ride over and back, it was a wonderful trip! It was interesting to play their courses as there were not many trees - just a few bushes - and the rough was pretty deep, so it was easy to lose balls. I lost one or two.
"St. Andrews was special - it is one of the places everyone wants to play. We were really fortunate as far as the weather. We ate in pubs, and our driver/guide was a very nice guy who knew the ins and outs and could make good recommendations.
"I would recommend this trip to anyone - these are the ultimate places to go and play golf. Rod (Sacconaghi) said that seven old guys shouldn't have that much fun. This was just a bucket-list item come true for me. It was well planned, and I'd go again. It was great to see the history of the town of St. Andrews, and they were celebrating the 600th anniversary of the founding of the university with a parade. Rob is a really good guy - we're fortunate to have him."
Bill McRivette joked that the group's slogan should have been, "What happens in Scotland stays in Scotland."
He added, "We had a great time - it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It met all my expectations. I especially enjoyed our caddie at St. Andrews - he had been doing it for more than 50 years and had never been to the U.S. His dream was to go to Nashville - he loved Country Western music and has 5,000 records. I had more fun talking to him about Country Western music. He was very knowledgeable and a cool little guy - about 5-feet-2-inches tall."
McRivette said he asked the caddy, "At the end of the day, when you get home, do you say, 'They were the worst golfers ever?' and he said, 'Yes, but we want you to come back.'
"Caddying runs in families and is passed down from father to son - it is considered a very important job. At one course, a father and son were caddying for different groups
"I enjoyed the golf very much. At one point, we were in the tall grass, I swung my club harder than heck, and the ball moved 3 feet. The caddy said, 'You don't have to kill it - it's already dead.'
"My wife and I had gone the year before and enjoyed getting to know the people. One night after we finished our late round at Carnoustie, we couldn't eat because all the pubs stop serving food at 9 p.m. So we went to an A&P and bought candy bars, Pringles and Scotch for dinner."
Besides that memorable dinner, McRivette said the haddock fish and chips were outstanding. "The pieces were huge - 12 or 14 inches long - and I had them almost every night. One night I made the mistake of ordering lasagna with french fries - which is an odd combination - and then I went back to fish and chips.
McRivette, who had been to St. Andrews before, said he and Shute got an up-close look at Clinton: "Pat and I were a little late, and everyone else was at dinner," he said. "There was a procession of what looked like professors going by, and we saw Hilary with what was maybe the president of the university.
"The trip exceeded my expectations. Rob did a great job setting up the courses, although I played awful golf. Most of the time the weather was so good that we played in short-sleeve shirts. I love Scotland - there is no litter or graffiti anywhere.
"Rob is great addition to Summerfield - he has energized the whole place, and he's fun to golf with."
Finally, Larry Launder also spoke highly of the trip.
"I'm an avid golfer, and this was really an incredible experience," he said. "My wife and I were in Edinburgh before for only three days and played one course. This was strictly a guys' golf trip - it was great to play all five days, I loved the courses, and it was a great group.
"They call it links golf, and a lot of the courses were along the ocean. I didn't play well until the last day, and my favorite course was St. Andrews, probably because I played the best there. And I was concerned about walking 18 holes five days in a row, but we held up OK, and the last day it was a flat course. Each course had its own personality, and some had beautiful views. On one course we saw a castle in the distance. And we were in one town where the Knights Templar originated (in the 1100s).
"You hear so much about the food in England and Scotland being terrible, but we had great food - I had fish and chips twice - and one night we ate at a restaurant in a marina, and I had great prawns.
"It wasn't a shopping trip, but we did shop the last day in St. Andrews. Rob and I were playing together at St. Andrews, and at one point he turned to me and said, 'Can you believe where we are? We're at St. Andrews!"
This might not be the last golfing adventure for Summerfield golfers because Lindsey is already considering a future trip.
"We're already talking about next year, although that trip wouldn't be out of the country - maybe South Carolina or Utah - and would again be open to couples," he said.