ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – I arrived at the Home of Golf Monday morning and walked 18 holes Tuesday. Here are some impressions from an Old Course first-timer.
• Holy bunkers, Batman. Each of the 112 bunkers seems to have a lip that’s the height of my 11-year-old cousin. The cluster of six bunkers in the landing area on the right side of the par-5 fifth is dead meat. Hell Bunker on the par-5 14th looks outrageous. The Road Hole Bunker is made even worse by the fact that the 17th green is about the width of a kitchen table. No wonder Bubba Watson’s caddie was high-fiving anyone within arm’s distance Monday after blasting a ball out of the bunker before Watson himself.
• The atmosphere of the town is incomparable. St. Andrews Golf Links is at the heart of town. Fans can walk up and buy tickets from a sidewalk no more than a sand wedge from the 18th green. Don’t want to fork over 60 pounds for a ticket? No problem. Just line the 18th hole outside the gates and fans get an unobstructed view of the first hole, 17th green and 18th hole. The pubs that line the streets on the surrounding blocks have been packed with fans, players and caddies. In a 10-minute span Tuesday evening sitting outside the Dunvegan Hotel, I saw walking by Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton and Matt Kuchar.
• Lunch, anyone? On the menu Tuesday in the media center . . . haggis. I opted for fish and chips.
• The Old Course is not a great spectating course. Best of luck this week to the fans hoping to follow one or two groups of players. The terrain makes for tough sightlines from outside the ropes. That said, if you’re content hanging out in the grandstands, the massive bleachers on the par-3 11th offer one of the best views in golf. Looking out toward the Eden Estuary, fans can see action on holes 7-12.
• Don’t mess with the gorse.
• This is a college town, too. The University of St. Andrews, founded in 1413, has buildings scattered across the town. The school has a little more than 7,000 students, many of whom are still here this week soaking in the atmosphere of the Open Championship.
• There’s more than one track here. The Old Course is surrounded by the New Course, the Jubilee Course and the Eden Course. Their fairways and greens, many just yards from those on the Old Course, sit empty, but look as inviting as ever. For a first-timer, some are indistinguishable from the Old Course.