Heading Off to the Old Course

By: Jeff Shelley

We all have "bucket lists." You know what these are: the places or things we want to do before kicking the bucket. Well I'm about to check off one of the most important items on my list: a round at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.

The Old Course is to golf what Yankee Stadium (the original version), Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are to baseball; Lambeau Field is to pro football; track's Hayward Field; Boston Garden and the NBA; Wembley Stadium and soccer (called football on the Continent); and Wimbledon to tennis - all shrines of their respective sports.

But these landmarks don't have as rich a heritage as the Old Course. Golf was first officially played on these hallowed grounds in 1574, though documents from the reign of King James IV show that he bought golf clubs at St. Andrews in 1506, which indicates that these ancient links are significantly older than written evidence shows.

I know many people who've been blessed to play the Old Course, and every one of them called it a moving and spiritual experience. One friend, writer David Wood, who literally circuited the planet while researching his book "Around the World in 80 Rounds," has played several times at St. Andrews. Each time David has crossed the famous bridge over the Swilcan Burn on the 18th hole, this normally affable, even-keeled person breaks down and cries like a baby.

Also on our list are other "bucket-worthy" courses: Carnoustie (which found golfers swatting about featheries in the early 16th century), Royal Aberdeen (founded in 1780, making it the sixth-oldest golf club in the world), Murcar Golf Club (established in 1909, a relative newcomer), and Cruden Bay (with golf played at this site on Scotland's east coast as early as 1791).

I'll be checking out from Cybergolf during this 10-day sojourn to the "Birthplace of Golf," but I should have plenty of tales to tell upon my return May 11. So with this, I bid you all Alba gu brath! (Scotland forever!).