Golf Historical Society of Canada

Jeff and Vaughn's Excellent Adventure (2022)

GHSC News Item: August 13, 2022 – Jeff and Vaughn’s Excellent Adventure (2022)

Reported by: Vaughn Perusse, GHSC Hickory Ambassador

We are still recovering from an odyssey of biblical proportions. A group of 12 embarked on an apostolic pilgrimage to our Holy Land, our Mecca…… St. Andrews. It was an adventure more than 2 years in the planning, expertly crafted by Wayne Morden (wayne@athlonegolftours.com) which included access to the Open Championship (2nd and final rounds), numerous golf outings and a number of off-course experiences which challenged our views of the game, its history and our relationship to it.

Watching The 150th Open

I had the privilege of seeing Costantino Rocca sink that putt on 18 during the ’95 Open which John Daly won at St. Andrews. Tickets to the final round back then were only 20 pounds! I never thought that event could be eclipsed and yet, it was. On Friday, we witnessed Tiger’s walk and wave over the Swilcan Bridge as Rory tipped his hat in acknowledgement from #1. The day started wet and cold but finished clear and warm. Judging from the collective images shared on Dropbox, members of the group followed some players, positioned themselves at tees and greens or took temporary rest and refuge in the many grandstands provided. They were able to get up close and personal. 

The event surpassed everyone’s expectations and the excitement of the final round was, at times, overwhelming. While many of us were pulling for Rory, Cam Smith’s performance was undeniably superior. He was the deserving Champion Golfer of the Year and Winner of the Gold Medal! You could not have scripted a better finish.

Playing Golf

The experiences on the golf courses were varied and rewarding. A mix of historically significant and newly created and celebrated venues were challenging and provided a broad spectrum of the game. Some of us arrived early and played Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club. We enjoyed the company of club Captain Steven Hill and John Pearson (President of the British Golf Collectors Society) who travelled more than 2 hours from North East England to join us at “The Oldest Golf Club in the World” (until a recently discovered document from 1552 cited St. Andrews as the oldest) As Steve stated, we only need to find something from 1551! We played the course, which lies inside a racecourse, with hickory clubs. 

We were then treated to fine Scottish hospitality and we were able to examine Willie Parks’ playing clubs! It was an honour to be playing in such an esteemed group. Our friend “Iron” Don Davis, an accomplished golfer from Colorado, enjoyed his first hickory round and proved it’s the stroke, not the club.

Prior to our journey from Edinburgh to the Kingdom of Fife, we grabbed a bite at The Golf Tavern (est. in 1456) and enjoyed the Pitch and Putt across the way (formerly Bruntsfield Links). As we ventured into St. Andrews, we began our rounds with a trip to Scottscraig, the 13th Oldest club in the world and also an Open qualifying course. It is a Links/Heathland mix which was a great deal of fun to play. Its parched fairways allowed our shots to bound endlessly forward. We were welcomed warmly and it was a great introduction to “Golf in the Kingdom.” 

After a day at the Open, we were off to play The Dukes (a newer course, constructed by Kohler of Whistling Straits, Old Course Hotel and all things plumbing fame). It was a luxurious test. The bunkering, elevation changes and layout were very difficult for those of us using hickory.  I managed to snap the shaft of my jigger on the 3rd shot of the day. Jeff, meanwhile was getting used to golfing in a kilt (his first time!) The challenge of a swinging sporran can be quite exciting. While we were there we met a large number of players from South Africa. They would be dining with Gary Player that night. Lunch in the sumptuous clubhouse was predictably delicious. 

Our visit to Crail was truly a highlight. Wayne had arranged for a presentation by Club Secretary David Roy. It was fascinating. We saw the only medal ever awarded to Alan Robertson (Champion Golfer) as well as clubs from Tom Morris and numerous trophies, medals etc. We were then accompanied by a piper as we proceeded down the first fairway. This was either a celebration of our ensuing round or a warning to other golfers of our errant shots. Crail (Balcomie) was a totally rewarding experience. Steeped in history and completely authentic, it is a must visit when in the area. They even raised a Canadian flag in honour of our visit. During our round Jeff took the opportunity to recognize the passing of 2 of our longstanding GHSC members, past president Norm Moreau and the effervescent Bill Stewart. He struck a Norm/Bill ball into the North Sea at the 14th hole, Constantine’s Cave, a fitting tribute.

As our love affair for all things Tom Morris continued, we found ourselves on the famous Lundin Links. It is a true links test with all the bumps, swales, pot bunkers, heather and gorse one could ask for. It was also a day that saw record temperatures for the area, 37 degrees Celsius. We had packed rain suits and toques and instead were desperately seeking shade and sunblock! Locals were flocking to the beach, passing between Lundin and Leven. It was wonderful to hear the children playing on the beach as far away as the 13th hole but still very clear. Like Scottscraig, the parched fairways allowed for plenty of roll, some bounces good, others, well … We were warmly welcomed and the most exciting thing was the genuine appreciation of the members upon learning of our love of the course.                                           

The following day proved to be yet another memorable experience as we ventured to Kingarrock Golf Club (Hill of Tarvit). While Jeff and I brought our own hickories, it was an opportunity for all our travel partners to experience the joys and frustrations of hickory golf. The club provided clubs and limited flight balls to enhance the round. This is a family course from the early 1920’s lovingly restored and authentically maintained since 2008. Jeff and I both managed to find the only bunker on the course! Anyone with an interest in golf history must visit. I would also recommend visiting the estate and enjoying High Tea (more about that later). 

Our final round took place at Dumbarnie Links, a Clive Clark design which has received much deserved praise. Although the fairways appeared generous, you still had to make shots. The bunkering and greens were demanding. Unlike Musselburgh, Scottscraig, Crail and Lundin, Dumbarnie (like The Dukes) reminded us that 21st century versions of the game were equally, albeit differently rewarding.

Other Experiences       

Both the Open and our golf experiences would have made for a fine trip, however, Wayne had arranged for a wide variety of “off course” experiences which elevated the journey to another level.

We started in Edinburgh, where on the first day, we walked to the newly revitalized town of Leith in search of Georgian Antiques (owned by John Dixon). We wanted to explore his inventory of 8,000 hickory clubs. (formerly 21,000 until an entrepreneur from China purchased 13,000!) On the way, we came across a statue in honour of John Rattray in Leith Links (now a public park) and origins of the original 13 Rules of Golf. This journey proved very fruitful as I found a playable Maxwell Jigger and a very unusual Gibson putter. Jeff found “The Holy Grail”, a club fashioned by none other than…… you guessed it, Tom Morris!!!!!! The 2.5 hours we spent here felt like 15 minutes and our trip was off to a great start. Thanks for your patience Wayne!

Over the course of our time in St. Andrews, we were fortunate to have had dinner reservations at a number of different restaurants. Wayne ensured we were able to enjoy great meals; The Doll’s House, Forgans (yes the club maker’s workshop since expanded), Adamson’s and the incredible Russacks Hotel.

One afternoon, a fellow traveller, Andrew was kind enough to offer us a wonderful experience. He is a trained Sommelier and is well-versed in all things gourmand. We sampled wine/cheese/whisky pairings prior to our adventure in town.   We also enjoyed the newly renovated Russacks Rooftop Patio overlooking the 18th fairway prior to dining at “The Jigger Inn!” As previously mentioned, we visited the estate at the Hill of Tarvit. After playing Kingarrock, we were treated to a traditional High Tea with all the trimmings. We explored the gardens and enjoyed a tour of the beautiful home.

Prior to our final dinner at The Russacks, Wayne had arranged for a private tour of the R&A World Golf Museum. I was surprised to see the transformation of the space. I had visited it in the past and it was an interesting museum. Not unlike the Museum at Culloden, it is now, a contemporary, interactive space, appealing to all ages and interest levels. We were hosted by a knowledgeable and hospitable staff, we were able to ask questions, interact with displays and participate in an historic putt-off with authentic equipment. Our final evening featured an elegant dinner overlooking the 18th fairway witnessing excited players fulfilling a dream round on The Old Course. 

Vaughn and Jeff, wearing their kilts

Conclusions     

It is very clear that our golf trip was about so much more than golf. 

We were able to witness history in the making—the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship and an incredible finish on an unrivalled venue. We played some iconic courses (often times after an informative presentation). Our experiences on the courses were often highlighted by further experiences beyond the course. We were also fortunate to have an incredible group of participants. Although some of us met for the first time, our collective journey together helped to forge new friendships. I believe we all grew from this time together. 

I wish to thank Jeff, Andrew, Wayne, Mark, Tim (Topper), Jim, Peter, (Ryan and Tim), Dip, Don Don (The Iron man from Colorado) and especially Wayne Morden (The Commish) who created this event. Your thoughtful construction of this journey is truly appreciated. Viva Ireland in 2024!

Below are pics from our trip. Click on any one to see a larger version.

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