So much has been said about this course already this year and it lives up to everything. A belter, a stinker, and a fair test of golf. We managed to avoid the rain until the closing holes but it was a tempestuous September day if slightly calmer than Lytham. Inevitably the course showed signs of the recent Open Championship in beaten up areas off the fairway but the high banking and dunes still gave it a special feeling.
There is a calm amidst the banking, it is more intimate than the stadium courses. Here you feel absorbed in the surroundings, the weather, and your game, with nothing to distract you. You are on your own under God's heaven. It would be poetic if you weren't being challenged by some fiendish holes. I am very glad we weren't playing off the back tees but I managed to hold it together until tired decision making on 17 and a knifed chip on the last brought me back to my handicap.
When you are playing your best game here you get full reward but the slightest indiscretion makes you pay with blood, sweat and tears. Whilst I saw plenty of action in the bunkers my playing partner gallantly spent more time reporting back as to how irritatingly well placed they were and how deep! He will be an expert, but not just yet. There is a reason for anonymity.
The first few holes demand attention and strength from the start and the first short hole is no push over with the sixth playing like a par 5 on most courses. The seventh has a deep green but deeper bunkers and the eighth gives you a chance before the blind tee shot on nine and a tough green to find, even if you are on the fairway.
Ten and eleven can turn you inside out but just make sure that you hit the right club on 12 and remember the wind that can pick up strength from the gap between the sand hills off the back right. I escaped the green side bunker but not for a sandy par
I suspect many will want to see the 13th because for Jordan Spieth's half hour that earned him the Championship. He certainly went a long way right and gave himself a hell of a shot and a remarkable recovery for his bogey. Find the fairway here and a par is still not certain. Various Americans were running up and down the dunes to try and work out the magnitude of his achievement. It needs seeing to understand how, after the Augusta meltdown, he set himself the task of bogey to keep himself in the competition. A true links test that everyone faces. I am used to that test, and usually fail, so for Jordan to do that, under that pressure must earn everyone's respect.
It helps that the next four holes are, perhaps, the easier run of four holes on the course. My round was wrecked at 17 after a decent drive down the right and an, evidently, unrealistic attempt to clear the right hand bunker. Compounding that by trying to be too clever with the bunker shot got me into more trouble in the rough, then I got on the wrong side of the pin and too many putts. But, I figure, no one is interested in a story where you play safe and don't go for your shots. As long as you remember your lessons.
So I took on the corner bunker at 18, unsuccessfully, pulled it left of the green side bunker, knifed the flop shot into the opposite bunker and just about made it to the bar with my sanity, but not my scorecard, intact. Two birdies; 5 & 11, gross pars on 7, 13 & 15 and an 8 / 7 finish.
An inglorious end to a glorious day. Retired to the equally marvellous clubhouse and a friendly welcome. This is a course everyone must play. True links.