The Hacker: Not-so-low-cost flights could force us to drive up to play the Road Hole
Sunday 10 April 2011
One of the ways a hacker can endear himself to his fellow golfers, and there aren't many, is to take on the onerous task of organising an away trip.
There's nothing golfers like better than a few days away, playing different courses here or in another country. But if you travel by air, it is becoming a painful process.
It was in 1999 that we first made a pilgrimage to St Andrews, where they began a winter package that included three rounds, one on the Old Course, and three nights' full board at one of the hotels.
We chose the Rusacks, which is perched over the 18th and reeks of golf, and we've returned every year since – now numbering 16 trips.
On our first couple of visits, we went by road. It's a seven-hour drive from South Wales but it's almost all motorway and it means we can chuck everything into the boot.
Then came low-cost flights which quickened the journey. But the prices have increased by dint of hidden extras and the cost of taking clubs. And the time it takes to book flights for golfing parties on the internet gets longer and more frustrating.
Golfers must be a major proportion of their clientele so why don't airlines make it easier for us to book flights for us and our bags? Going by road again is becoming more attractive.
Since you have to book your tee-times on 1 August the previous year, then wait until the flight schedules are published later in the year, then collect the money, it is a long process that requires the stoicism and patience only a true hacker possesses.
My mother-hen thoroughness is such that the night before our departure I sent an email reminding them all to bring photo-identification. Then I arrived at the airport having left the trophies at home.
There was also a slight faux pas regarding our first round. We were playing the new Castle course, which was added to the St Andrews Links set-up in 2008, on our first day.
Since we weren't due to land in Edinburgh until 11am, I requested tee-off times from 2pm, not realising that the clocks weren't due to go forward until that night. I was in the final group and we played the last two holes in total darkness. Anybody sensible would have packed in earlier but we stumbled on and I nearly decapitated my partner with a shank on the 18th. Not that he saw it, he felt it wheesh past his nose.
It is an excellent course, a classic links on cliffs overlooking the town, and it was matched by the hospitality. The bar in the superb clubhouse should have closed an hour before we finished but they kept it open until we staggered in from the dark.
The Castle was designed by David McLay Kidd and the rolling lay-out among duney hillocks is in contrast to its ancient sister courses. Blessed by the weather, we couldn't have asked for a better three days and I even played half-decent golf.
While on the subject of St Andrews, I have been admonished for referring to the Old Course, on which golf has been played for 600 years, as the oldest in the world.
Ian Wood writes: "I usually believe most of what you say. However, our little nine-hole course here in Musselburgh can prove it is the oldest in the world." Ian, a sub-postmaster who lives a nine-iron from the fourth, directs me to their website where this claim is verified by the Guinness Book of Records.
They also claim that Mary Queen of Scots played there in 1567. Sadly, that lady's golfing career was cut short when she was executed in 1587 because she mounted a threat to Queen Elizabeth I. They were troubled times and I don't want to get any further involved in the argument.
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