Playing Golf at St. Andrews

Several members of Royal Montreal Golf Club traveled to Scotland for a Father and Son tournament in June, 1989. Past President John Thompson with son Peter, Jack Jackson with son Rob (a past Royal Montreal Club champion), Rick Jackson with son Scott, and Ron Foreman with son Ken, arrived in St. Andrews on Father’s Day, the customary kickoff day for the week long event. A practice round was scheduled for Sunday and the five day competition began in earnest on Monday.

The tournament was played over five courses: Carnoustie, the New Course and the Old Course at St. Andrews, the Queen’s Course at Gleneagles, and Scotscraig. Forty-two teams from the United States, Canada, and Austria participated, with the field being divided into four flights based on combined handicap. The format on four of the five days was four ball-better ball with both gross and net scores per father and son team being recorded and full handicaps allowed. The Scotscraig round was Scotch Ball (alternate shots). Four of the five rounds counted towards the overall championship with the Scotch Ball round being mandatory.

Some of St. Andrews’ finest caddies guided us around the courses providing invaluable advice regarding where our drives should land and our putts aimed, all the while regaling us with stories of what Ben Hogan, Tom Watson, or Johnny Miller had done on this particular hole at some time in the past. On Thursday Jack Jackson drew from the caddie pool the famous Tip Anderson who claims to have caddied every round Arnold Palmer played in the British Isles.

Many participants found the Gleneagles course to be the prettiest because of its hills, lush green foliage, and grazing deer. The 6,936 yard Carnoustie course provided the greatest challenge for many because of its length and its exceptionally dry condition, with both fairways and greens being rock hard. Many North American golfers are disconcerted by the features of the links courses, flat overall but with rolling sand dunes, pot bunkers, thorny gorse bushes and plenty of wind.

Most golfers on their first visit to Scotland find the Old Course at St. Andrews to be the most inspiring. Golf has been played at this, the oldest golf course in the world, for over 500 years. The course is virtually unchanged in that time so playing it today conjures up images of the earliest golfers as they struggled as we do to conquer this unconquerable game. To stand in the remains of the castle high on the cliffs of St. Andrews and look down on the windswept sand dunes buffering the land from the sea, one can imagine why the people of those ancient times would quit the town and take up the venerable game as a recreational pursuit.

Rob Jackson, three time Quebec Amateur and twice Canadian Junior champion, filmed much of the weeks happenings on video but was unable to capture the week’s most exciting moment for the Royal Montreal contingent when Scott Jackson, using a five iron, had his family’s first ever hole in one on the par 3, 207 yard 17th hole of the New Course. Rob did however combine with father Jack to win the low gross prize in their flight.

Accommodations were at the Old Course Hotel situated on the 17th hole, also known as the ‘Road Hole’, where we were fortunate enough to dine nightly in the Observation Lounge (now called the Road Hole Grill) watching the golfers play the finishing holes with a view of the sun setting on the famous Royal and Ancient clubhouse.

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