Walking along the rock of ages; GOLFING TRAVELOGUE Trevor Peake follows in the footsteps of golf's greats in Scotland.
ON my first visit to Turnberry to cover the 1986 Open Championship, the weather was so cold and windy on the first day only brave men left the comfort of the press centre to watch the action.
On that day the field of 156 of the world's finest golfers finished the day collectively 1,251 strokes over par, with an average score of 78.
Only Welshman Ian Woosnam, then at the height of his powers, matched the par of 70 to lead by a stroke from four players, including Nick Faldo - who would win his first Open at Muirfield the following year - with the eventual winner Greg Norman four back on 74.
It was in similar cold and blustery conditions that I got the chance to play the fabled Ailsa course in March and when I squelched off the 18th green four and a half hours later I was filled with the warm glow of having mastered one of the world's great links courses.
Mastered in my case is, of course, relative. It doesn't mean I remotely approached par off my 15 handicap, but it does mean that I got round without losing a ball, in fact hardly ever having to look for one.
I only failed to complete one hole, when I picked up out of one of the cavernous bunkers while there was still some sand left in it.
The first hole, 338 yards from the yellow tees, is named Ailsa Craig after the famous rock out in the Firth of Clyde, which appears to stand sentinel over the course.
Seemingly deserted from a distance, I discovered through a recent BBC Countryfile programme on a Sunday morning that the granite which makes curling stones is quarried from Ailsa Craig.
The first at Turnberry has a couple of the 18 new bunkers being crafted onto the course, to add to the previous 67, before the Open Championship returns to the Ayrshire links in 2009 after an absence of 15 years.
Directly into the fierce wind, a double bogey six felt like a minor victory.
At the downwind second Mak Siccar (Make Sure) of 368 yards I dropped just one stroke and then it was back into the wind for Blaw Wearie, which aptly means out of breath, and another couple of strokes gone.
The short fourth, with the tee alongside the beach, is called Woe-Be-Tide - with a warning in the strokesaver that the adjacent beach could be your downfall. With the wind behind on the 155 yard hole I put a six iron to 10 feet and sank the putt for a memorable birdie - spoils you don't often bag on a championship course at my level.
With the wind more or less behind all the way from the fourth to the 10th there were three more very satisfactory pars before the going got tougher. The second short hole, the 221 yard Tappie Toorie sixth was one, a five wood finding the back of the green and two putts, then the same club found the green in two at the long seventh and a 15ft putt brought a par four at the eighth Goat Fell, a 362 yard slight dog-leg left along the shore
The most spectacular and photographed hole at Turnberry is the ninth, Bruce's Castle.
With the remains of Robert the Bruce's fortress and the lighthouse on the promontory, it features in many of the publicity shots for this most scenic of courses.
The championship tee requires a shot over the rocky shore to a hog-backed fairway but fortunately all we could do was imagine how we might fare as it was out of commission for the 'hacker'. The 406 yard 10th Dinna Fouter translated as Don't Mess About, features the unusual island bunker 60 yards short of the green, and the short 11th Maidens at 145 yards has a valley entrance to the green and two menacing bunkers, one on either side.
With a strong side wind, a perfectly flighted five iron set up another par, making it two pars and a birdie from the three short holes so far.
The 12th is called Monument after an RAF memorial on a hillock above the green which commemorates the airmen stationed at Turnberry during two world wars. This proved to be my major downfall.
With the rain starting to come down heavier and a couple of visits into the rough and the fateful bunker near the green, I gave it my best and marched on to Tickly Tap (Tricky Little Stroke).
The 13th is, at 340 yards from the yellow tees, the shortest par four on the back nine.
However, the 13th and 14th Risk-An-Hope proved testing in the fierce crosswind before we turned into the teeth of the wind for the final four holes.
Ca Canny, which roughly means Take Care is wise advice on the 177 yard 15th.
With no fairway between the tee and the green and three deep bunkers to the left of the hole it required a good shot into the wind and I was found wanting, dropping two strokes to par to ruin my good run at the short holes.
But the 16th Wee Burn, proved my finest hour on the way home. With Wilson's Burn just in front of the green virtually impossible to get out of for those foolhardy enough to try to reach the green in two, I hit a good drive up the 368 yard par four, a sensible six-iron short of the burn, then another to 18ft and my longest putt of the day for a satisfying par.
The 17th Lang Wan, or A Good Whack is aptly named and is where Zimbabwe's Nick Price sank a 50ft eagle putt on his way to winning the 1994 Open Championship. I totted up more than twice that score then posted a similar double-bogey at the last. Named Duel in the Sun, it commemorates the epic battle between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus when the Open was first staged at Turnberry in 1977.
One behind and in trouble off the tee Nicklaus found the front of the green with an eight iron from the rough and sank a monster putt for his birdie only for Watson, who was safely on in two, to follow him in for the second of his five Open Championship victories. Talked as of one of the greatest ever final days in any Major championship the 1977 Open was the first time the oldest Major was ever staged at Turnberry.
Since then the names of Norman and Price have been add to the small list of Turnberry champions and a fourth will join them in 2009. But will he get the same satisfaction I got from my birdie at the fourth or my par into the driving wind and rain at the 16th? I doubt it.
'Mastered' means I managed not to lose a ball
A green on the Ailsa course at Turnberry (above) as the sun sets in the background while (below) a group of golfers enjoy the picturesque surroundings' Looking across the 10th green (above) on the Ailsa course with the lighthouse and Ailsa Craig island visible and (below) the Ayrshire coast
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|Publication:||Daily Post (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Jun 6, 2006|
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