Golf: First Tee - Letter of the lore down to a tee

ALL HIGHWAYS lead to Carnoustie for The Open this week but for those less than enamoured at the prospect of a festival of golf, take the low road to Carnousie. If Carnoustie is Scotland's sleeping giant, Carnousie is its dormant mouse.

It lacks not only the T of the great Angus links but a tee. There is no golf course at Carnousie, a wee hamlet four miles west of Turriff in Aberdeenshire. However, it does have a castle, dating from 1538, a barony, the Burn of Maggie, and a reputation as a refuge for those on the run, not from The Open but the Jacobite Uprising.

Carnousie stands very much as it did in the 16th century, although there have been no recent reports of a laird hanging a pageboy for taking food to the laird's wife (she was imprisoned in the tower) as happened several hundred years ago. And the dialect is guaranteed to confound all but Robbie Burns.

Here, courtesy of the Aberdeenshire library, is a sample: "There wis a dizzen hooses wi mairried folk at Carnousie. They were aye wheel contented in their wark. They were great ploomen an een ti gan fae hame. There are only fower original families left noo."

So, go miles oot o oor wy and enjoy the unique distinction of saying that you didn't watch The Open at Carnousie.

Sign of the time

CARNOUSTIE last staged The Open in 1975 and one of the reasons for its restoration is that it has fulfilled a Royal and Ancient criteria - a new on-course luxury hotel. The Carnoustie Golf Course hotel, as it is named, boasts several unique features.

One is that it is possibly the only place in the world to charge more for a view of the golf course than the ocean. The summer season tariff is, per night, pounds 149 for a course view, pounds 139 for an ocean view and pounds 129 for a park view with, of course, a full Scottish breakfast thrown in. Thus you will pay pounds 10 more to watch somebody hit a ball into the rough at the first hole.

The hotel also has suites named after Carnoustie's Open champions. They range in price from the Cotton suite (pounds 275 per night) to the Hogan suite (pounds 650). The latter, with its own dining room, lends itself to corporate hospitality. It also has a mock book case which, when detached from the wall, converts into a double bed.

The hotel has 85 bedrooms, 60 of which have been commandeered at a special rate by the R & A. Ideally the Player suite would be occupied this week by Gary Player and the Watson suite by Tom Watson but they have been beaten to them.

However, the most distinctive feature of the hotel - it has already been put on the market by its owner Michael Johnston - is that it boasts the world's largest Rolex. Weighing half a ton and measuring 2.8 metres, the clock, which overlooks the first tee, dominates not only the hotel but also the skyline. As great clocks tend to do on great stages (witness the timepiece on Waterloo station) it is sure to become a meeting place, with no excuses for tardiness.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Carnoustie's Big Ben is that in exchange for the most prominent site, with the promise of extensive television coverage during the Open, Rolex did not pay the hotel a penny for the privilege.

Goofing around

IF LUKE DONALD (the subject of a feature on page four) and Robert Duck come through the second round of final qualifying tomorrow, it raises the possibility of a Disney theme to the Open. Both players, who are honing their skills at Universities in America, have regularly teamed up for the England amateur side in what could never be described as a Micky Mouse partnership.

Alliss in wonderland

PETER ALLISS, the BBC's voice of golf, is selling his corporate, not to say corporation, image to promote a golf holiday for the man who has everything except a private jet. The Alliss in Wonderland tour takes in courses in Bermuda, America, Australia and the Middle East.

"When PrivatAir asked me to be the host of these tours for amateur golfers and their partners I was intrigued and delighted," waxed Alliss, lyrically. "The idea of having your own VIP jet at your beck and call, as you fly from one great course or exotic location to the next, must surely be the dream of all golfers. PrivatAir is the specialist in VIP travel and regularly flies Royalty and heads of state around the world." And now, BBC commentators, Lottery winners and public utility shareholders.

The cost of this jaunt for 49 passengers is pounds 31,850 per person, a turnover of pounds 1,560,650. For the less well-off, Alliss is hosting a European trip at just pounds 18,650 per head.

Haul of fame

TIS THE season to be upmarket. Tomorrow sees the launch of The Finest Golf Clubs of the World, a union of 100 private establishments, including Riviera in Los Angeles, the Oxfordshire and the Buckinghamshire in England and Druids Glen and the K Club in Ireland.

The "Club of Clubs" will have its own clubhouse, the Eden Pavilion at St Andrews. "This is the first association of its kind to offer existing members the opportunity to play other courses across the world and build relationships between clubs and members into an international fellowship," said a spokesman. Aiming for 10,000 members, they also plan to make a few bob. Platinum membership costs pounds 10,000 for a 10-year period (gold membership is pounds 5,000 for five years) and if everybody goes platinum the income will be pounds 10m. Subscribers will also get to play in a tournament with the final to be held at Riviera, once the haunt of O J Simpson.

The biter bit

A MAN who stole two sets of clubs from Greg Norman's house on Jupiter Island, Florida, has returned them. "Once he realised that they were the clubs Greg uses in tournaments he panicked," explained a police officer.

Of course, given the former Open champion's recent form, it's possible the thief found no takers for the Cobra clubs.

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