There are times when you wish the world would swallow you up and there are times when the world actually considers doing so before deciding you aren't worth the Rennies. My experience at Turnberry recently was a textbook earth-burper.
In truth, it should have been my cherished moment of what I laughingly refer to as "my playing career". There I was on one the most dramatic Open tee-boxes in the company of one of the Open's most entertaining competitors. Sergio Garcia was bearing a grin from one edge of his visor to the other as he welcomed the umpteeth press group of the day. "I am 'ere to adveese you about theees tee shot," said Sergio.
Being first to hit (somehow I had earned the honour on the ninth) I nonchalantly stuck in my tee peg, plonked on the Pro VI (at just the right angle so "Pinnacle" was concealed) took a few swings of the beast, turned to Sergio and uttered the bombshell: "Right then, what's the Tiger-line here?"
Before we go any further, there are two things you should probably know. The first concerned the drive facing me. The new championship tee on the 10th apes the famed old 9th tee in basically residing in the middle of the Atlantic with water to the left and in between the golfer and the intended target (which happens to be a fairway so narrow and at such an angle that it darts around in the mind's eye like an epileptic boa constrictor). It is neither for the wimps or the wayward; or in my case the wimpywayward.
The next thing you need to be advised of is Garcia's relationship with Tiger. The two get on like Popeye and Bluto; without having the benefit of Olive Oyl as a go-between.
So it really didn't matter that I wasn't referring to "Tiger-line" as in "Tiger Woods-line" or that the term "Tiger-line" was being used in British golfing circles for decades before Woods was invented. The hombre had taken umbrage. As I was about to recoil my weapon, Sergio said: "Tiger's line would probably be the green. But I'm not Tiger." As my ball was pathetically locating ocean with a directional sense that was less "Tiger-line" and more "Onedin Line", he might have been tempted to add: "And neither are you."
To be fair, Sergio was graciousness personified when we eventually left the tee, shaking me by the hand instead of the Adam's Apple. It ruined my equilibrium, though. Boy, did it. After going out in 54, I came back in 57. I can recall at least three 18-inchers I would have fancied holing if my focus had been unaffected. At least the memory of the Ailsa Course is left untainted.
It is pointless to explain how a hacker should tackle the spectacular layout widely revered as one of the top three in the British Isle. To be honest, a hacker should not tackle it. We don't have the game to enjoy it, but we do have the feet. A personal belief is that unless you can play a bit – and certainly drive a bit – it is impossible to achieve a proper perception of a Championship course with a set of clubs on your back. Most of the time is spent in the cabbage. Furthermore, from the tee there is too much trepidation to appreciate fully either the aesthetic quality or, indeed, the challenge confronting the golfer – and too much frustration on the green to do so in reverse. In this regard, Turnberry truly is the perfect course for a hacker to be a spectator.
Of course, there is a mystique about every Open venue but this particular one is right up there with St Andrews in the spine-tingle ratings. As for being picturesque it has no equal on the Royal and Ancient rota. The ninth is the signature hole, although all the holes that stretch along the coast, from the fourth to the 11th took the breath away, together with most of my balls.
However, it is the 10th that shall always live with me. The hole's name is "Dinna Fouter", which, as John Barton's excellent book The Golf Guru (Quirk, £10.99) reveals, is translated by Gaelic academics as "Don't Falter", but by the Turnberry members as "Don't Fuck About". If only I'd read that before my trip north.