Isle of Arryn and the British Open
I wrote last time that we had reached the end of our Scottish adventure – but nooooo, there’s more – much more.
Where was I?
We were in Inverkip where we had our autopilot replaced ($5000 – shudder!). While there, the harbourmaster asked me in passing if I had been watching any of the tennis from Wimbledon. I said only a bit, but next week I was going to be glued to the set watching The Open (for all you non-golfers – The Open is the British Open, but is referred to as The Open since there is nothing else on the planet that can compete with it for prestige. Say The Open and every golfer knows you are talking about the British Open). Then he said, yes, they’re playing right down the road at Royal Troon.
Royal Troon? That’s only 20 nautical miles away. Shit, shit, shit! 20 nautical miles from The Open? I went back to Capri, told Vinni, hopped up on the net and found out we could get tickets for saturday.
Ok – now we just need a harbor berth. Called Troon Yacht Haven and Whaddyaknow? Sure come right on down, you berth in slip E24, starboard side to. Back up on the net, buy the tickets and we’re on our way The Open. The harbourmaster in Kip and everyone else were flabbergasted – we had not only gotten tickets to The Open, but we had cornered a berth in Troon marina – simply impossible they all said.
Eat your hearts out all you dedicated golfers reading this.
Sailed down Tuesday afternoon (got hit by a couple of squalls, rain, rain and more rain – after all, this is Scotland). As our new Scottish friend, Alisdair says: It doesn’t rain all the time in Scotland, frequently it snows! Yeah, I know another witty soul – does the sun ever come out in this country?
On the way, I found out that while our new autopilot works just fine – our radar now doesn’t like working with it, so we’ll have to get that worked on (fuck, fuck fuck – I hate boat electronics!)
Anyway to make a short story long – we berthed, showered (god that felt good), chowed down, drank some wine and life was beginning to look up.
One of the wonderful aspects of this lifestyle Vinni and I have chosen is that we have no obligations to anyone or anything except ourselves, which means when an opportunity for something like a chance to go see The Open, we can just go.
Isle of Arran
Thursday rolled around and we had decided to visit the Isle of Arran, which is just opposite Troon and a short 55 minute ferry ride away. Many years ago, I visited Arran with my daughter Anne-Sophie when she was living in London (we took a 5 day drive through Scotland) and remembered it as a beautiful island. Alisdair and others had also told us that Arran is pretty, so since we had nothing better to do – off we went.
For some reason, it didn’t rain that day (the clouds ran out of water and needed to be refilled?), the sun shone and life was wonderful (well, wonderful it you think driving on the wrong side of a very, very narrow road with hairpin turns in a car with the steering wheel and the gearstick on the wrong side is fun). Vinni would say “Oh – look at that – isn’t it pretty?” and I would nod and say – yes, yes, even though I hadn’t looked (the road was very, very narrow).
By the way – it didn’t rain.
At any rate – if any of you are up this way – Arran (like all of Scotland) is well worth a visit.
Saturday came and we were up at 4 a.m. The players teed off at 7 a.m. and we wanted to be on the first tee watching. It is about a 30 minute walk from the harbor to the course and we started out a 6 a.m. (we had to collect our tickets at the office – better be there early).
Well, early is early, especially since they players weren’t going to tee off until 8:30 (should have checked), so we had a 1 ½ hour wait before we could collect our tickets.
It was overcast, spitting a little rain and the wind was blowing, say 20 mph. Royal Troon is a links course, meaning it is located right on the edge of the beach, with the first tee right there overlooking the water. Now you can guess where the wind was blowing from? Right in from the ocean and straight in the faces of eager spectators Vinni and Carsten.
There are many kinds of cold in this world
- Nippy out there
- A wee bit chilly
- Really cold
- Nut-numbing cold with icicles hanging off your family jewels inside your clothes
We were at stage 6 – nut-numbing cold. Christ! We sat on the first tee, watching the Montgomery and 4-5 other flights tee off and then we couldn’t take it anymore. Our knees were stiff from the cold. Vinni had decided to wear full sailing battle dress and I had a shirt, fleece, and windproof breaker on – and we both still froze. Some of the spectators, believe this or not, were in shorts! A couple of women were in short skirts! Scots must have different metabolism than the rest of us.
But it was a great day, we came back to the first tee late in the day to root for the Danish player, Søren Kjeldsen, and to see the last couple of flights, including Mickelsen and Stenson. We stayed right through the last flight finishing hole 18 at close to 8 p.m. so all in all 14 hours in the freezing cold.
I played well the first couple of days but I faded, like the rest of the field, on the saturday and the sunday. I reached the 18th fairway and the crowd was hushed as I prepared my second shot from the rough into the green. You could have heard a pin drop. The silence of the crowd was deafening, as they say
SHEEEET! what has Carsten been drinking? HIS second shot into the green? hushed crowds? Of course the crowd is hushed – look at the goddamn bleachers – there’s noone there! Has he finally gone completely stark raving bonkers?
Sorry guys – my golf fantasy sort of ran off with me as I was writing that – but anyway, this is a shot of the 18 green at 8:30 a.m when there is nobody there.
We walked back, stopping at the Anchorage hotel and bar for dinner and I simply can’t explain how good it felt to be inside in the warmth, with a drink in my hand and shortly thereafter, a big hot dinner.
Stuart from Boat Electrics, the guys fixing our electronics showed up Monday with the spare part we thought was needed and it turned out it wasn’t. I won’t bore you with the details – but it looks like we will be here for another week (sigh).
So our Scottish adventure continues and our Irish adventure looks like it will be short indeed, perhaps just a couple of days in Dublin, then on to Cork and across the Bay of Biscay.
We’ll put one of the days to good use – tomorrow we’ll be laying golf at the Troon (how about that!!)
I know you are all just waiting for it so here it comes –
Yesterday the sun was shining – but by the way – today it is raining.
Golfing at Troon
No way to get greenfee tickets for the Royal, but Troon is awash with links courses (near as we can tell something like 8-9 courses. We could get greenfees on all of them except the Royal. Everyone here said – Darley? oh that’s a tough course. On top of that recommendation, it advertised itself as a true links course, a PGA The British Open qualifying course, and open to the public.
How could we resist? Jack Nicklas had qualified for The Open many years ago by playing Darley, and if it was good enough for Jack, I guessed I could lower myself and my standards a bit, if just for a day.
Off we went, and for some strange reason, the sun decided to shine and there wasn’t much wind. True links course it was, with heather, gorse and tall grass aplenty to catch and hide any errant golf ball. Vinni played the front 9 superbly, scoring her handicap, but fading on the back, mostly because she landed in a pot bunker (oh, perhaps I forgot, the course was littered with pot bunkers. If the heather, grass or gorse didn’t catch and hide your ball then you had the joy of trying to get out of a pot bunker – sigh). It took her three strokes to get out, a costly affair on her scorecard, later on a par three she simply scratched the hole.
Of course, not all bunkers are equal – some are more equal than others. Like this one:
This is the hole she scratched. Here is the view from the tee. Notice there is no fairway anywhere. Extremely observant readers (which you all are of course) will note that right about in the center of the picture there is a very small red flag.
You guessed it – that’s the flag on the pin. You might just notice a very tiny patch of green next to it – that’s all you get to see of the green – talk about blind tee shots! Vinni didn’t make it over and onto the green, thereby losing her ball, so she scratched this hole.
Since I am incredibly modest (modesty, dear reader is one of my stronger and most becoming traits), I won’t mention the incredible beauty of my 5 iron that dropped the ball directly onto the green, affording me a birdie putt (from 15 feet). Nor will I tell you (nay not even by a single word) of the birdie I was able to note on my scorecard.
Vinni was 4 strokes off her handicap and I carded an 85.
Actually I was a great golfing day and we enjoyed every minute of it. For the weekend, we’ll get a special treat. The Scottish ladies Open is being played right next door at the Dundonald links course, entrance is free (free? Yes free), so we’re going to go both days and watch someone who knows how to play golf – the best of the ladies.
Saturday came and we took a taxi to Dundonald links – my god what a course – someday we will return and play this. It has to be one of the best courses in Scotland. The weather was – wait for it – almost dry, with only a bit of rain in the afternoon – hardly enough to wet the hairs on a hounddog. When we got back to the marina, I noticed a fellow loading 3-4 live lobsters into hsi car and asked him where he bought them. Llouwyllen sells them he said and pointed. Quick as a flash I was asking Llouwyllen “how much?” 5 pounds apiece he replied and I said “I’ll take two”
So dinner turned out to be fresh lobster with jalapeno mayo dressing and some garlic bread with white wine – not too shabby for an evening after watching golf.
There were three Danish women competing and although we didn’t know any of them we stood on the first tee and wished them luck in Danish (loudly) They responded with smiles and thank you’s. Nanna Madssen had a good day, finishing 5 under which put her in the second to last ball out the next morning. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to repeat the performance sunday. Her long game was beautiful, not a bad shot all day, but her putter was worse than stone cold – we watched her miss 7 birdie putts and one eagle put in a row. She tried very hard to maintain her composure, but it was obvious that all the missed putts were taking their toll. Her face got harder and harder and showed less and less emotion.
Seeing that makes me happy I only golf for fun and for a living – I simply couldn’t take a day like that.
Today, monday, we’re making spaghetti sauce and preeparing Caori for sea. We’ll leave early tomorrow to catch the ebb tide down the Firth of the Clyde. We have to sail 196 nautical miles and that means something like 36 hours. Supposedly the weather will be with us. I’ll write more when we reach Dublin………………………….