All Change at the Top…

Whether or not Tiger has won back the support of the golfing world, he has certainly regained some of his old form on the golf course with his recent victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Florida. Is this him staging his comeback in a bid to reclaim his number one title again? It’s his first PGA Tour win since 2009 and sees him climb to 6th in the world rankings. It certainly sees him in fine form heading into the Masters so only time will tell if he’s got another green jacket in him.

European, and in particular UK, golf would appear to be in a pretty secure place right now judging on performances we have seen in recent tournaments. Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald are representing us well and consistently – having dominated the top three spots in the world ranking now between them.  On a Scottish note, former Open Champion, Paul Lawrie, hinted at a return to his previous form with his win in Doha at the Qatar Masters helping him to climb back into the top 50 in the rankings from his previous position at 78th; the first time he has been in the top 50 since 2003. This was his second win at the event, his last in 1999 so let’s hope that there’s more to come from him.

An interesting time was had for Fife golfer, Peter Whiteford, recently too as we saw him disqualified from the action at the Avantha Masters in New Delhi over a ball moving incident. It just shows that it pays to trust your instincts. He thought his ball might have moved but this was confirmed as not true by an official and his caddie. Footage of the day’s play was studied by the tournament officials overnight and it was confirmed that his ball had moved but he hadn’t acted accordingly therefore he was disqualified. He had been leading the field in the first two rounds and had been one off the pace in the third. A mistake that will certainly not be made again. On a more positive note, let’s hope that East Neuk lad, George Murray’s, third place finish at the 2011 Dunhill Links Championship  in October is only the start of great things to come.

With so much emphasis on the 2012 Olympic Games coming to London this year, it is easy to forget that the Ryder Cup will be coming to town, well almost, in 2014 when it takes up residence at the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles. It will certainly be some spectacle and we are very lucky to have it so close to the Home of Golf. Keep your eyes peeled for the latest on what the Old Course Experience can offer for the Tournament. In the meantime, why not start planning your very own Old Course Experience and leave your own mark on the hallowed fairways of the Old Lady?

(LR)

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Ten Truths from Auld Scotia

Over the last few weeks Scotland has been very present in the news with yet further talks and debates on her possible independence, or impending independence, depending on your point of view. This week saw Scottish tradition come to the fore once again as we celebrated the life and works of the national bard, Robert Burns at traditional Burns Suppers up and down the country on his birthday, the 25 January. We moved from the highs of the haggis and whisky-fuelled celebrations to the tense yet ultimately deflating Scottish tennis performance at the Australian Open by Andy Murray – so near yet so far, again – maybe next time? Do not despair though as with all the media attention focussing on Scotland recently there have been numerous interesting articles published , some serious and some not so much! We stumbled across an article in the Daily Telegraph entitled ’50 Fascinating Facts you should know about Scotland’. Although I’d love to spend hours extolling the virtues of our fine land, I’ve picked out just a few light-hearted favourites to share with you;

1. The shortest scheduled flight in the world is one-and-a-half miles long from Westray to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The journey takes 1 minute 14 seconds to complete.

2. Scotland has approximately 790 islands, 130 of which are inhabited.

3. Like Rome, Edinburgh was built on seven hills and the capital has more listed buildings than anywhere in the world.

4. Scotland had its own monarch until 1603. After Elizabeth I died, James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, ruling both countries.

5. St Andrews Links is considered the “home of golf”; the sport has been played there since the 15th century.

6. Queen Victoria is reputed to have smoked cigarettes during her visits to the Highlands of Scotland to keep away midges.

7. The very first recorded appearance of the elusive Loch Ness Monster occurred in 565 AD, when a “water beast” attacked one of St. Columba’s followers in the loch.

8. Scotland’s smallest distillery, Edradour in Pitlochry, has 100,000 visitors per year but produces just 90,000 litres of malt whisky.

9. There are as many Scottish people living in North America as in  Scotland, with censuses in the United States and Canada identifying around five million people claiming Scottish ancestry.

10. It is home to 19 universities and institutes of higher education, including St Andrews, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met.

How they managed to narrow it down to just fifty facts I’ll never know but if number five has whetted your appetite then contact us at the Old Course Experience for more information on how to guarantee your place on the hallowed fairways of the Old Lady.

(LR)

Sources: The Daily Telegraph online http://tgr.ph/zKYtTl

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Looking Good for 2012

If we were to cast a golfing eye over the 2011 season, it would be fair to say that there have been numerous ups and downs. On looking at some of the Majors alone, we at the Old Course Experience would go out on a limb and say that there must have been more records broken in the Majors this year than in any other. It’s great to see such a wealth of talent coming to the fore in the elite game. It started with Charl Schwartzel when he stormed to victory in Augusta in April – who could forget his unprecedented four-birdie-finish to take the green jacket? Young Rory McIlroy let his clubs do the talking as he claimed the title at the US Open at Congressional Country Club in June; the youngest winner since a certain Mr R T Jones in 1923. Fine footsteps in which to be following I’m sure you’ll agree. What a turnaround for the Northern Irishman after his very mixed performance at the Masters just two months before; to witness his game crumble on the final day at Augusta was difficult to watch at times. There were numerous doubters of his mental and golfing strength in the following weeks which must only have made his US Open victory all the sweeter. Keegan Bradley’s US PGA victory has seen him named PGA Rookie of the Year for his efforts after what has been a fabulous spell for him; we’ll surely be seeing more of the same from him in the seasons to follow. In July Darren Clarke proved to be a worthy Champion at the 140th Open Championship at Royal St Georges; after twenty attempts at the title, his patience was finally rewarded and he definitely showed the ‘young guns’ how it is done.

Going back to May we learned of the death of Seve Ballesteros as he lost his long battle with cancer; a truly tragic loss to the golfing world. He is undoubtedly missed not only by those who knew him but also by the millions worldwide that followed his colourful career game by game. He was a true gentleman in the sport and a great promoter of junior golf. How fitting it is that so many young stars, who probably grew up watching him and learning from him, are now rising up through the ranks ready to burst onto the scene.

On a lighter note, we saw in June, for the first time since the records began in 1986, the top three spots in the world rankings occupied by UK golfers; 1. Luke Donald 2. Lee Westwood 3. Rory McIlroy. Gone are the days of Tiger’s one-man-show – he definitely forced the others to strive for his level in all aspects of the game. Tiger has, however, had a turbulent time in recent years with his very public fall from grace. This was even more visible with his decided lack of form and victory for most of the season and saw him slip to 23rd in the rankings. In July he shocked the golfing world with the announcement that he and his long-term caddie, Steve Williams, would be parting company. After over a decade on Tiger’s bag and after helping to guide him to 13 of 14 Major victories, Tiger ended the fruitful partnership. It wasn’t until Woods took his controversial place on the US Presidents Cup team Down Under at Royal Melbourne that he showed some form and clinched the point that sealed the American victory. Are things looking up for Tiger in 2012?

Englishman, Luke Donald, has had a phenomenal season ending it with a double victory by scooping both the European Tour Golfer of the Year and the PGA Tour Player of the Year accolades. He has performed with an outstanding level of consistency throughout the season in the face of his ever-vocal critics and there must surely be a Major title waiting for him around the corner.

As the golfing circus came to St Andrews once again for the annual Dunhill Links Championship, the quality of the field was second to none. With three current Major Champions in Schwartzel, McIlroy and Clarke along with defending champion, Martin Kaymer, the Tournament proved to be yet another success on the golfing calendar with Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey emerging victorious. It was great to see local East Neuk lad George Murray finish so well in joint third place and young SALJGA golfer, Alasdair McDougall, performed with the steely nerve of a seasoned veteran in what must have been the highlight of his golfing career to-date.

More recently it was wonderful to see the British public’s support for the three golfers nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the year 2011, Clarke, McIlroy and Donald, with Clarke coming in second to cycling’s Mark Cavendish. The Queen herself has recognised the achievements of our elite players in the New Year Honours list by making Rory McIlroy an MBE and Darren Clarke an OBE (Member and Officer of the Order of the British Empire respectively) to complete what has clearly been a tremendous year for them both.

Having barely scratched the surface of this year’s golfing efforts it is clear to see that the future of world golf certainly looks rosy and the future of UK golf in particular looks to be in especially safe hands. Long may it continue!

(LR)

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Five Fun Facts from OCE’s 2011…

We’ve had a little time now to catch our breath and re-surface here at the Old Course Experience after a very busy 2011 season and have dug up some light-hearted facts and figures for you from over the summer…

1. Thousands of golfers from over 26 nationalities guaranteed their place on the Old Course this summer with us.

2. Old Tom Morris himself rose from the grave to visit clients some four times with his local friend David Joy throughout the season!

3. Over twenty-two hotels have been visited by our clients throughout Scotland this year and almost twice as many golf courses (with the same again that could be explored!)

4. 172 scorecards have been marked in OCE Tournaments this year – here’s to even more next year.

5. Three lucky OCE golfers ensured that they will not forget their time in St Andrews by achieving holes in one during their trips!

Why not join in the fun and create your own OCE statistics next season? Contact us now to find out how we can guarantee that your golfing dreams turn into the experience of a lifetime.

(LR)

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Sunset on another Season in St Andrews

Well, the sixteenth season for the Old Course Experience has drawn to a close and this has undoubtedly been the busiest yet. St Andrews found herself riding high on the wave of last year’s Open Championship and 2011 has proved that there is an ever-increasing golfing audience. In the wake of the Open, over four thousand golfers made the astute choice in allowing the OCE Team the opportunity to create them a Programme that would afford them the chance to take in as much championship golf as they could shake a club at during their stay. They’ve been round the Old Lady and her neighbours the New and Jubilee courses; they’ve taken on Kingsbarns  and the Castle then travelled further afield to Carnoustie and Gleneagles. For those who hadn’t had enough while staying in St Andrews, there were ventures north and west to take on the likes of Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart, Muirfield, Royal Troon and Turnberry’s Ailsa and Kintyre courses. More? ‘Surely not!’ you say but many of our returning clients simply could not sate their golfing appetites so it was off over the water to the Emerald Isle for them!

Our clients made the journey to St Andrews for a multitude of reasons from special birthdays and anniversaries to ‘bucket list’ missions; some simply make the pilgrimage to the Home of Golf to pay homage to the golfing greats who have passed that way before. Who could resist capturing that iconic image on the Swilken Bridge?  Golfers from more than twenty nations have been represented in 2011 alone including visitors from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand; why travel all that way and risk being disappointed in the over-subscribed daily ballot for tee-times? By utilising the services of the Old Course Experience you can guarantee your place on the Old Course then sit back and relax as all the pieces fall into place. Whether it’s the Open Championship, the Father & Son Tournament or simply  some healthy competition among friends, allow the Old Course Experience to show you the finest in Scottish hospitality.

(LR)

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Dunhill Descends on St Andrews

The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship returns this year celebrating its tenth anniversary and the quality of the professional field certainly reflects that. Over the years the event has gone from strength to strength in terms of the golfers and celebrities in attendance along with the growing strength in numbers of the spectating crowds. So seldom in world golf do you see so many top-level professionals playing such a concentration of iconic links golf courses in the space of four days; Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and the Old Course herself – a fabulous prospect for any golfing enthusiast.

Prior to its current format the event went by the name of the ‘Alfred Dunhill Cup’ and took place from 1985 until 2000. The original tournament saw teams of three professionals represent their countries in a round-robin  format over three days with the semi-finals and final played on the Sunday. It was a fabulous event for spectators that usually attracted the crème de la crème of each nation’s golfing talent making for some exciting golf and some true on-course camaraderie. The tournament has changed vastly in style and format with the introduction of the celebrity pro-am set-up in 2001 but this perhaps reflects a change in current society and her fascination with ‘celebrity’. The friendship on the course, however, has never waned and each year we see professionals like Ernie Els take to the course with their father as their partner. Martin Kaymer takes it one step further this year and keeps it in the family with his father Horst partnering him and his brother Philip on his bag!

Dunhill week sees the town of St Andrews swell in numbers as a party atmosphere takes grip for the duration. An unlikely gathering of elite athletes, businessmen, radio and television personalities and Hollywood stars is brought together to join professionals for the event drawing crowds at each of the host venues; regular competitors include Sir Matthew Pinsent, Samuel L Jackson, Hugh Grant and Huey Lewis! This year sees three of the current major champions out to contend for the title, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke along with defending champion, Martin Kaymer, from Germany. Although the prize fund is substantial, I belive that many of those competing would still attend regardless of the potential spoils given the location and the indiscriminate draw that the Old Course has on every golfer.

Current Masters Champion, Charl Schwartzel, summed it up perfectly in a recent interview with BBC sport when he said that “standing on the first tee at St Andrews gives you goose bumps every single time you step up there. It’s difficult to describe for someone who has never played it. The first, 17th and 18th … if you don’t feel something when you go down those three holes there’s something wrong with you,”. We couldn’t agree more with him! Don’t be left out – contact the Old Course Experience today to plan your guaranteed experience on the Old Course.

(LR)

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Course records and more!

A new plaque was recently unveiled at the St Andrews Links Clubhouse showing some of the notable course records for the each of the Championship courses on the complex. It certainly makes the reader envious to see lines of scores in the mid-sixties and lower! Showing that he was well on his way to this year’s fabulous form, young Rory McIlroy shot a staggering 63 on the Old Lady in the 2010 Open Championship to lead the way on the current course set-up. Reading some of the scores prompted me to look into some other ‘alternative’ golfing records and I’m sure you’ll be amazed at some of the findings;

1. LONGEST DRIVE: 64 year-old Mike Austin drove a phenomenal 515 yards with a Persimmon driver on a Las Vegas golf course in 1974. The Guinness Book of World Records only recognises the distance travelled by a ball in the air, however, so the record is actually held by Karl Woodward at 408 yards in 1999.

2. HIGHEST SCORES: John Daly took 18 in 1998 on a par 5 at the Bay Hill Invitational, one short of the 1938 US Open record set by Ray Ainsley on a par 4. I think you’ll agree with me on the most astounding single-hole total though – no fewer than 20 shots were racked up by Frenchman, Philippe Porquier, on a par 3 at the 1978 French Open!

3. ‘AGE SHOOTERS': The youngest person recorded as shooting their age is Bob Hamilton, a golf professional from Hamilton Golf Club, Indiana, who shot a 59 in 1975 at 59 years old. The oldest record goes to 103 year-old Arthur Thompson of Victoria, British Columbia in 1972. A special mention must also go to Slammin’ Sam Snead who shot his age of 67 at the Quad Cities Open (now the John Deere Classic) in 1979 but then went out and notched up an even better 66 the next day.

4. LOWEST 18 HOLES: The lowest 18-hole score recognised by Guinness World Records is the 58 scored by Shigeki Maruyama in a sectional qualifier for the 2000 US Open.

5. BALL SPEED: So, what sport do you think holds the record? Baseball? No – a measly 127 mph. Tennis? No – a paltry 153 mph. Golf? Correct! ‘Sports Science’ TV show recorded five-time Canadian long ball champion, Jason Zuback, crushing the previous record in 1999 with an astonishing  204 mph drive.

There are no doubt countless untold stories and records from St Andrews and the world of golf. If you think you’re ready to take on the challenges the Old Lady has to offer then contact the Old Course Experience and we’ll guarantee your place on the golf course if not quite in the record books!

(LR)

 

Sources: http://www.golf.about.com, http://www.newsvote.bbc.co.uk

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