ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Many moons ago, stone markers were placed at various points around the Old Course at St. Andrews to separate land used for golf from land used for grazing sheep. The side of the stone with the letter G was the side you could play golf and vice versa. This information was provided by my caddie, Colin, who was very keen to show me a particular stone marker beside the 10th fairway. On this marker, the letter G can still be seen and, much to my amazement, it looked exactly like the G from the original Golf Channel logo.
Today was the only, and final practice, day for me. I chose to play the Old Course and was drawn with two brothers who happened to be from close to my hometown, south of London. It’s a small world. In front, we had Jean Van de Velde and Carlos del Moral along with amateur Frank Keener, who’s playing his eighth Dunhill. Paul McGinley joined our group for the final three holes and was delighted with the condition of the course, saying the greens were some of the best surfaces he’s seen at St. Andrews.
My golf was up and down, which is the general trend of late. I was a bit unlucky at the 17th when I hit it dead straight instead of going over the hotel. The end result was a lost ball as the rough down the left is like many other parts of the links – very thick. Maybe not as bad as what you might expect at an Open Championship, but still difficult for the average amateur.
As I’m learning, the Dunhill is a great deal about old friends coming together for an extraordinary week. Many of the professionals have become great buddies with their amateur partners and they look forward to spending some quality time together. Amateurs and professionals are treated equally, there are no separate ranges or courtesy vans. The experience is truly unique.
I’ve never been to the Bob Hope or Pebble Beach pro-ams but I am going to guess they have a very different feel to that of the Dunhill. Whether it’s the golf courses or the fact that crunch time is coming for the professionals, this event seems a lot more serious. Rarely do we see the horseplay we’ve seen at other pro-am’s. Whether it's good or bad, the amateurs seem to want to get down to business much like their professional compatriots.
For me, my experience at the Old Course has calmed the nerves. Thursday will certainly be intimidating but having experienced the glare of cameras and spectators today, not to mention the rough, I’m still looking forward to it all tomorrow.
Watch full coverage of the Alfred Dunhill Links on Golf Channel Thursday - Saturday at 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. ET.
Dunhill Diary, Part 2: Dry clothes and Draw Party
Dunhill Diary, Part 1: Big Stars ... and Me