It has been a volatile time recently in the caddie world with Tiger Woods sacking his caddie of over a decade, Steve Williams. With Tiger only ever having had two professional caddies on his bag – Mike ‘Fluff’ Cowan helped Tiger win his first Major title at the Masters in 1997 and Steve Williams had been on Tiger’s bag for thirteen of his fourteen Major victories – it will certainly be an interesting time for him in the next few weeks.
Over the years there have been a number of players who have formed great partnerships with their caddies. Bernhard Langer had Peter Coleman on his bag for over twenty-two years and Phil Mickelson has worked together with Jim ‘Bones’ MacKay for over fifteen years seeing him through more than twenty-four victories. Fanny Sunesson from Sweden joined the caddie ranks in the Eighties before she was taken on by Nick Faldo in 1990 – the duo stayed together through four Major victories until 1999. I don’t doubt that these partnerships have seen their ups and downs but throughout it all there seems to be a loyalty, support and mutual respect that never wavers. Other partnerships have been tested to their limits but have survived like Ian Woosnam and his caddie at the time, Miles Byrne. At the Open Championship in 2001 Woosnam started with a great birdie but noticed on the second tee that he was carrying fifteen clubs in his bag instead of the maximum allowance of fourteen – a school boy error by his caddie – and so he incurred a two-stroke penalty. Luckily for Byrne, Woosnam chose not to sack him joking instead that it was the biggest mistake of Byrne’s life and that he certainly wouldn’t do it again!
Once of the most famous partnerships in golf would have to be that of Arnold Palmer and James ‘Tip’ Anderson. Tip guided Palmer to two Open victories at Royal Birkdale in 1961 and Royal Troon in 1962 but the bond they shared saw their friendship last over thirty years until Tip’s death in 2004. Tip was so highly regarded by Palmer that when he couldn’t make it to the Open in St Andrews in 1964, he recommended that his friend, Tony Lema, take Tip on his bag. Lema had barely practiced on the course and poor weather provided the most testing of conditions yet, with Tip by his side, he went on to win the Tournament.
It begs the question – what does it take to be a caddie for the world’s top players? I read once that in the average four-hour round, a golfer will spend a little over an hour actually striking the ball. That leaves almost three hours for the grey matter to give us a psychological workout so, going by those figures, I would put it that patience is of paramount importance! A caddie must not only provide advice on the obstacles and challenges of the course but also inevitably offers moral support, acting as a steadying influence for a top-level player in a turbulent world of media attention. A caddie’s role may flip from ‘verbal punch bag’ to therapist to loyal companion all in the space of a backswing so it takes a certain type of character to handle those situations. An experienced St Andrews caddie once told me that the best advice he could ever share with someone just starting out in the caddying world was that they should learn quickly when not to speak.
So many different people visit the Old Course in St Andrews each year from politicians to film stars to friends making that once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage that the caddies here could spend a lifetime regaling you with their jokes and stories. A favourite tale is that a gentleman was so nervous on the first tee that he nearly missed the ball on striking it and sent it shooting off behind him and into the Valley of Sin in front of the 18th green. His caddie shook his head, handed him his putter and quietly told him that, if he sank the putt, the new course record was his! How much truth the story holds we’ll never know but whether you simply want someone to carry your bag or someone to share a joke with on the way around, I can certainly guarantee that your Old Course Experience will be a memorable one.
Well, only two Majors into the season and already so many records have been smashed! Here are just a few of them:
1. Northern Irishman, Rory McIlroy, became the youngest US Open Champion since Bobby Jones in 1923 and also the youngest major winner since Tiger Woods won the Masters in 1997.
2. Fifty years after Gary Player became the first international Masters Champion, fellow South African, Charl Schwartzel, followed suit and took home the trophy.
3. Presently, the top three spots in golf’s world rankings are occupied by UK players – 1. Luke Donald (ENG) 2. Lee Westwood (ENG) and 3. Rory McIlroy (NIR) – the first time since the rankings were introduced in 1986.
4. Charl Schwartzel’s four-birdie-finish at this year’s Masters was an unprecedented achievement in the tournament’s 75-year history.
5. Rory McIlroy also carded a 16-under 268 at the US Open which proved to be a new tournament record total – some four shots better than the previous record.
With the Open Championship just around the corner, who knows how many more records will be set. With so much new talent coming through the ranks it seems that everybody has raised their games creating some fabulous Major moments so far. It may be too late to get to Sandwich next month so why not sit back and enjoy the tournament at home while you plan your visit to the Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes next year with the Old Course Experience?
What better way to pass some time than to return to a bygone age and play the game as it was intended – relying on hand and eye co-ordination and holding your nerve! Hickory golf forces the golfer to relax, slow down and rely on their technique and not the technology as is so often the case in the present day. The clubs can be made from up to ten components of various materials from metal sole plates to long leather grips resulting in a hand-crafted tool that, as most would agree, holds a certain charm and beauty.
Hickory golf is still very popular today with hickory competitions held throughout the year worldwide. In fact, during the Dunhill Links Championship in 2004 at St Andrews, a ‘Hickory Challenge’ was held on the Old Course that saw some of the world’s foremost players take part in an exhibition match using hickory clubs. Spectators looked on as top golfers Vijay Singh and Ernie Els took on the Old Lady with the traditional clubs.
Some of the OCE Team recently made the trip to Kingarrock Hickory Course in the grounds of Hill of Tarvit Mansion House near St Andrews to experience it first hand. Some fared better than others to begin with but after a few holes we had all slowed down to the pace of that long-gone – but not forgotten – era. The afternoon was finished off with a very civilised glass of traditional ginger beer and some shortbread – the perfect way to end the day and prove that, even back in the 1920s, the post-game analysis was of paramount importance! The Old Course Experience has included a round of hickory golf at Kingarrock in our recently launched ‘Heritage and Traditions Tour’ for 2012 that will afford a lucky few the chance to experience this style of the game so be sure to get in touch with us if you are ready for the challenge!
1. There are over 60 ‘ Royal’ golf clubs in the world with the majority to be found in the United Kingdom.
2. The Duke of York was Captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews from 2003-04 during its 250th anniversary year.
3. Golfing great, Ben Hogan, had an older brother called Royal!
4. No fewer than three Kings in the fifteenth century banned the playing of golf due to its distracting their men from practicing archery (James II, 1457/ James III, 1471/ James IV, 1492)
5. Prince William is said to have a ‘Harry Potter-style’ scar on his forehead that resulted from his being struck by a seven iron while playing the game with friends when he was nine.
I’m always glad that the more recent Royal Family has had a change of heart from that of their ancestors when it comes to golf and even from some of the facts above it is clear to see that they too have their own tales to tell from the Home of Golf. Why not share some of your own stories on our Facebook discussion board?
What a moment it was for young Charl Schwartzel last week at Augusta! Fifty years after the great Gary Player became the first international Masters Champion, the golfing world watched in awe as Schwartzel completed a final round that can only be described as magical. From holing his chip for birdie on the first to the spectacular putts that saw him finish with four birdies to claim the prized green jacket (an unprecedented achievement in the Masters’ 75 year history), emotions were undoubtedly running high.
A million and one thoughts and feelings flash through any golfer’s mind during a round. This week sees the Home of Golf play host to our tenth annual Father & Son Tournament which, over the years, has seen 346 golfers and 18 nationalities compete for the coveted crystal trophy. So far, the weather has been merciful, providing just enough North Sea breeze to prove challenging and to show the teams what links golf is all about! The bond between father and son is a singular thing in life and in golf it is laced with poignancy as we remember Old Tom Morris and his son Tommy. Having won the Open Championship a staggering eight times between them, their achievements in so many aspects of the game live on as inspiration to us all. The 2011 Father & Son Tournament sees a strong South African contingent competing, so, who knows, perhaps we’ll soon see the three most prestigious trophies in world golf in the hands of South Africans!
Why not share some of your own golfing experiences from the Home of Golf on our ‘Dreams’ discussion board on Facebook.
It’s no ordinary experience! If there is a single course in the world that all golfers aspire to play, it is the Old Course in St Andrews. Grown men are brought to tears of joy (and frustration!) by the ‘Old Lady’ on a truly emotional journey for any golfer to follow in the footsteps of their golfing idols. A mix of emotions accompanies that famous stroll over the iconic Swilken Bridge, down the fairway and up to the Valley of Sin – reverence for those who have passed that way before and sheer delight for the opportunity to recreate those famous images on the bridge – a moment to capture.
‘Thanks for making our golfing dreams come true’ are the words that sit below a picture gifted to us by a group of American clients a few years ago. This simple phrase sums up The Old Course Experience perfectly. From the moment you are greeted on arrival to the moment you are waved off at the airport, all you have to do is enjoy yourself; no thinking required. Each year, thousands of golfers make the pilgrimage to St Andrews in the hope of playing the Old Course but, due to the demand, so many are left disappointed. By using the services of The Old Course Experience, however, those dreams will come true.
If you have your own dreams and Old Course experiences to share, visit our ‘Dreams’ discussion board on Facebook.