Tales from Scotland


Emptying out the notebook from a wild 10-day excursion to Scotland for the Open Championship at St. Andrews.

  • Spent several days up north in the Highlands before arriving in St. Andrews. Spent the first night at Skibo Castle, which was a far cry from the St. Andrews University dorms that I slept in for the Open Championship. Madonna was married there 10 years ago. At Skibo, not the dorms. My room was larger than all of the apartments I lived in during college.
  • If you ever go to Skibo you will meet Alan Grant, or Alan the Grant as he’s often called. An entertaining and colorful dude.
  • Royal Dornoch is an absolute treat and is easily in my top-3 favorite golf courses. The other two courses on my list were played in great weather, not the 40 mph winds and rain that we encountered at Dornoch.
  • Castle Stuart is a year old and seems like it’s been there for over 100. It’s nicely woven into the terrain and the large fairways were helpful, especially since I developed a nasty snap hook during the trip.
  • Neat touch at Castle Stuart was the soda machine halfway up a ridiculously steep hill from the 12th green to the 13th tee. The starter gives you a token for the machine before you tee off. At the time it seems hokey. Three hours later when you need it, not so hokey.
  • Had dinner at Castle Stuart with a room full of Brits while the World Cup finale was on the telly. Interesting. During halftime I asked if they could switch to the U.S. Women’s Open so I could see Paula Creamer win her first major. They obliged and wanted to rip my head off at the same time.
  • Discovered Kummel, a sweet, colorless drink with a licorice taste that is extremely popular at many high-end clubs in Scotland. It packs a mean punch but certainly warms you up after finishing a chilly round of golf. It’s a must-try.
  • Played Crail, not a big fan. Way too quirky. Tough to get comfortable on a golf course when your three swing thoughts are don’t hit anyone, don’t get hit and I’m not exactly sure if I’m playing the right hole.
  • Driving on the other side of the road really isn’t that difficult. It makes Americans nervous but it shouldn’t. Think left, look right was the best tip I received. The roundabouts can be tricky but, once you get the hang of them, you realize that they’re much more efficient than stoplights and they make traffic flow better.
  • Never fall for the “omen” bet. You know, the one where you have to bet on the last player you see before heading into a betting parlor? I spotted a player-to-remain-nameless talking on his cell phone just before I walked into Ladbrokes and put a few pounds on him. That player shot 80 in the second round and was on the first flight out of town Friday night.
  • Went to have lunch in the Media Centre early in the week at the Open Championship and one option was a bowl of something with breading on top. I asked what it was and thought I heard “fresh pie.” Turns out, it was fish pie. Fish, good. Pie, good. Fish pie, not good.
  • I forgot to ask an important question while there. It’s no secret that Americans typically aren’t fond of Scottish food. Are Scots fond of American food?
  • There’s never a bad time to swing by the Dunvegan, the best pub and hotel in St. Andrews, which is 112 yards from the Old Course. Ran into everyone from Fluff Cowan to Todd Hamilton to Lucas Glover. Owners Jack and Sheena Willoughby are always an absolute joy to spend time with.
  • Hopped the fence late Saturday evening with several others to visit Old Tom Morris’ grave. I thought it was going to be a creepy experience but it turned out to be a hoot. Made sure not to step anywhere near the tombstone. Wanted to make sure I’m not forever cursed with the aforementioned snap hooks.
  • Louis Oosthuizen sucked the life out of the Open Championship on Sunday. Wish there was more drama. That said, Oosthuizen deserves all the praise, he played flawlessly, which is likely to get lost in the shuffle.
  • Speaking of Oosthuizen, a perk of being a writer is that I only have to know how to spell his name, don’t have to know how to pronounce it. Still, in this case, it’s probably a push with my on-air brethren who’ve had to say it ad nauseam the past week.
  • Would do it all again in a heartbeat.