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  • Neil White


Updated: Jun 18

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With the spirit of Willie Park and Old Tom Morris, Mrs W sent her putt towards the cup and it was if the souls of those pioneers of golf blew it in.


It is easy to be romantic about our wonderful sport at Prestwick – the home of the first Open championship.


Of course, the giant global event we know today is a far cry from the competition between caddies and greenkeepers in 1860.

The eight competitors played 12 holes with clubs known as mashies and niblicks and nipped off to the nearby Red Lion after their round.


But that sense of history is very much alive today at Prestwick and a visit here feels like a true pilgrimage.


Before our game, I was lucky enough to chat to the club archivist Andrew Lochhead in the traditional, oak-panelled card room, surrounded my Open memorabilia.

Then it was out on to the course with a caddy recommended by the host of our previous game at Turnberry.


“If you haven’t played there before, it is essential to your enjoyment. They will show you the lines as well as make sure you don’t lose balls.”


So, it proved – the advice enabled us to score well on a track which has beaten up many.

Although, I wasn’t convinced by the conservative instruction from the first tee, the ultra-intimidating short par-four down the side of a railway line.


Apparently, eyes from the starter and caddies are turned skyward should anyone take out driver but as the wind was blowing on our faces, I reckoned both Mrs W would have been well placed with ours.


As it was our three-wood shots were central but resulted in us facing long approaches to a target with a wall on the right and dune hiding the entrance on the left.

 I spotted the aptly placed graveyard across the road, as I putted out for a six.


To be fair, the caddy became more in sync with our game as it progressed and he was especially useful on the blind holes such as the third, the site of the Cardinal bunker.


Actually this is more of a beach, stretched horizontally across the fairway at 230 yards, beneath a 90-degree right-turn and a wall.

Oh, and there is also a stream running down the right of the hole and the fairway leading to the green undulates dramatically. What a hole.


This keenness on blind shots over walls is even more mind-boggling on the fifth – a par-three which ascends sharply before falling to a hidden green.


This time the wall is marked with lines which should guide the player to success. Sadly, not me because I pulled my drive to a gnarly spot left of the green.

 Normality is restored for a while with two conventional par-fours – the sixth is into a green which slopes dramatically from right to left past a grass dune and the seventh is the long uphill stroke-index one with a trio of bunkers down the right.


“I have never seen anyone birdie this hole”, said the amazed caddy as my three-wood approach rested eight feet from the pin on the 428-yard par-four ninth.


Unfortunately, I didn’t completely defy his expectations because I missed the putt but it was a springboard for exciting scoring on the back nine.

This begins with a testing drive to the par-four 10th which bend sharply upwards between two large bunkers.


This is a par-five, stroke-index four for ladies and Mrs W took advantage of having more shots that a rifle range by snaffling a par and four points.


This set the trains running – she nicked another three points on the par-three 11th which is surrounded by six bunkers.

The undulations on many of the greens at Prestwick are wild and this especially true on the par-five 12th where the vicious humps and bumps could easily divert the ball into a cunningly placed pot bunker.


The 13th runs along the coast and shares its fairway with the 16th and Willie Campbell’s grave.


This is the name given to the pot bunker in which Campbell was stuck for four shots as he looked certain to win the inaugural Open.

Fortunately, my drive stopped three feet short of it and no such sandy misdemeanours meant I recorded a par four.


Only five holes left but spoiler alert – three birdies were still to come, beginning at the 14th back towards the clubhouse car park and memorial to the original Open 12 holes.


This is a short par-four whose key defence is a line of four bunkers in front of the hole and four behind.

I found sand after duffing my second shot but Mrs W struck a pearl of a drive, struck a meaty approach sank her putt from 12 feet.


Our caddy said the 15th was his least favourite hole but I loved it because it is so quirky.


Its swirling fairway weaves between big bunkers and dunes into a green that falls sharply from left to right.

Back on Campbell’s hole, there is plenty of fairway shared with the 13th out to the right but thick rough awaits those who try to chop off its gentle corner.


The Cardinal bunker from the third hole stretches in front of the right side of a green which leans in from that side.


I took the risk and the ball came in off the bank to three feet. I was delighted to roll in the birdie putt.

There are many Marmite holes at Prestwick and one of them is the 17th which was my favourite.


This is a par-four with a drive between dunes and and blind approach over a high ridge over a ginormous bunker in front of a bowl green with tufty rough awaiting overhit shots.


I was mighty pleased to be past the flag in two but the ball was stuck in clingy grass beyond the target and so I had to settle for a five.


“I reckon you can drive the green”, claimed our caddy as we stood on the final tee, 249 yards from the pin on the 18th.


In for a penny, I thought, and gave it my all and saw the whizz towards… the greenside bunker.


I was pleased with my sec ond shot on to the putting surface but my efforts were overshadowed by my Mrs W chipping to 12 feet a nailing her second birdie.

It was a superb end to a wonderful day which we rounded off with a snack in a clubhouse surrounded by more memorabilia of those halcyon days when golf change forever on the links at Prestwick.


It was a privilege to follow in the steps of those heroes.



















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