A quiet night and real anticipation for the next round followed. The North Berwick West Links is an institution. I don't think much of golf course rankings, but one of the most famous lists (probably financed by advertising) of the magazine Golf Digest, ranks this course 25th in the world list, which includes all courses outside the USA.

But much more exciting are other stories that you can tell about the course and the club. On my last visit, I was welcomed on the 18th green by a member of the club's staff, who was very interested in the process of my round, after a rather mixed and rainy round. He asked me into the clubhouse and showed me around. That alone would be worth mentioning alone. But the story he told me was very good, and I simply take it for granted: Former British Prime Minister A.J. Balfour was a member of the North Berwick Golf Club. I was taken to the former clubhouse, which is now a single room in today's clubhouse, and was told that it was there that Balfour occasionally held his cabinet meetings at the time. When I heard the story three or four years ago, I found it extremely amusing. Now I have to remember that in 100 years you will be able to tell a very similar story about the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey. It is unlikely, however, that other contemporaries will write about this special but important political leader of the present that he is the finest spirit who has turned to politics in our time. That is how Lord Birkenhead, a good friend of Churchill, a great drinker and thus a citizen of the world, described Balfour.

Also exciting is the story of the Tom Morris team, Old Tom and Tommy. The graves of the two in St. Andrews have been seen recently. And also the book, that the following story has been taken from, I already mentioned: Tommy's Honor. The two Morrisens play against two other golf legends of the time, Willie and Mungo Park, a match on the course in North Berwick, as the crow flies maybe 35 kilometers from St. Andrews, but separated by the Firth of Forth. The match is on a knife's edge, but a lot is at stake: the honour. Especially Old Tom's, who stands in the late autumn of his giant golf career, Phil Mickelson knows what it feels like. Shortly before the end of the game, two holes to go, a telegram reaches Old Tom: Tommy may come home immediately, because his highly pregnant wife Margaret would be plagued by serious complications. However, Old Tom now decides that they won't get home in time anyway and hides the news from Tommy in the hope of at least winning the game. After the game, they hurry to get home directly by ferry. But unfortunately too late: Margaret and the newborn are dead. Tommy dies a few months later. The official cause of death was lung bleeding that led to respiratory arrest, but the legend tells of a young man of 24 who died of a broken heart. But at least they won the match.

The third and fourth stories to be told about the course in North Berwick actually relate to the architecture of the fairways. The 15th hole of the course is considered the most copied hole in the world. It is called Redan and is characterized by the fact that the green of the par 3 hangs backwards, i.e. it slopes diagonally backwards. In addition, it is played blind, which means that most flag positions do not allow a view of the flag. The 13th hole, called the Pit, will surely remain in your memory for a long time: After a drive to the right side of the fairway, the shot must be made to the flag over a wall that completely guards the green and also separates the beach from the course. Very spectacular!

I drove to the starter hut in the morning and asked for the possibility to play there that day. That should be possible, they told me, and asked me to be there again at quarter to eleven, so they would introduce me to my playing partner. I did as I was told and rolled off for breakfast. When I came back I prepared my gear and a friendly gentleman approached me and enthusiastically inquired about my bike and the combination with the clubs.

We chatted for a few minutes and it soon turned out that he would also be my partner. Great, since we immediately found a pleasant rhythm of conversation. We thought there were two of us, but just before we were called to tee off, another player was asked to join us. The first, G.J., maybe in his late 50s, came from Colorado, if I remember correctly, and recently sold his 30-year-old skiing gear shops to one of the big sporting good chains in the US. Now he is still working as a consultant for a transition phase. He was in Scotland because he brought his daughter here to study and has now added a larger tour across the Home of Golf to the trip. He was one of those golfers you just love to play with. He could talk and listen and also hit a great ball. Brandon, on the other hand, was more my age, probably a little younger. He was apparently an athletic type and also had a pretty impressive level of golfing experience. The two were highly experienced golfers with handicaps of 5 and 2 who had been playing golf since childhood. What fun this round was! In front of us and behind us were the typical American tourist groups, each consisting of four players and four caddies. So we didn't expect a particularly fast game. But that was neither the plan today, nor was it particularly noticeable. We had a wonderful time or at least I can summarize it for myself. What would have probably annoyed me a little if I had been alone was so entertaining: Every few holes a Marshall appeared, who actually intervened in the game in an organizing and information giving way. Already on the green of the first hole he gave me a perfect hint about the direction of the putt, which wasn't quite enough for the birdie, but the par was hardly a formality afterwards. On the tee of the second hole he told us about Phil Mickelson, who once transported the tee shot to the edge of the green on the opposite 16, in order to make a 5 putt to a double bogey from there. When we arrived there three and a half hours later, we immediately remembered the story. The green has a terrain that made me spontaneously think of some of the previous stages of cycling: it consists of three parts, two levels at the same height, separated by a ditch about one metre deep. If your ball is lying on the front level and the flag is on the back level, everything can actually happen during the putt, because it is also possible without any effort to putt down from the green on each side. A real fun! I assume that Mickelson's mentioned round was the Open Qualifier 1992; there he is certainly not in the main field and funny enough on the website of golf author Geoff Shackelford there's a little hint that Phil can still remember the whole thing well, even if he doesn't report the disaster so directly: Asked when he would have played links golf for the first time in Scotland, he remembers North Berwick, the 15, Redan, and explicitly the green of the 16th hole :-) LINK.


Actually, it's like the caddie from another group of players told us on the 14th tee: The course really starts there. The hole is called Perfection and G.J. and I were allowed to witness how that might have been meant. Brandon probably didn't know the name of the hole when he was teeing off, because he pulled his tee shot completely to the right into a bunker that actually belonged to the fourth hole next to it. If you lie in this bunker and the green of the 14 is your goal, then you have to forget about pride and somehow hit back onto the fairway with a sand wedge, because the bunker should be about 2 meters deep. But suddenly Brandon seemed to have remembered the name of the hole, because from there he still hit about 135 meters over a hill, up to about two meters in front of the green, from there he made of course a perfect putt over 15 meters and the par putt was only 10 cm away from the edge of the hole. Terrific!
I already wrote about the 15. It's a pity that we were all a bit unfortunate when putting, although this was not only due to our putting but also to the very demanding green, because our shots from the tee were all pretty good. The 16 is a real test, because it goes over a wall and a small burn in about 200 meters distance and only then comes the described mad green. The 17 is again a tricky and exciting thing, because after a hopefully good tee shot you still have a relatively long shot, which has to be about 15 meters high towards the end of its flight path, because there is the green and in front of it a really ugly bunker. We all played par, which was really remarkable here. At the end there is a short but very nice hole, which has very special perspectives due to the close parking lot on the right side, the fairway of the 1 on the left side and the clubhouse behind the green. Brandon still said that his rental car would be the first in the row, but we all stayed reasonably straight, avoided any glass breakage and played the round appropriately to the end.

You can tell that the last two rounds on Scottish soil on this trip have completely reconciled me to golf and left me with the smile that every golfer wears after just playing one of the rounds he thinks he should, could, has to play permanently.

On the way to my bike, the starter approached me again and thanked me for stopping in North Berwick on my trip. The thanks were all mine!

As the cycgo award, I think it is appropriate that this day and these two rounds get a small copy of the Ryder Cup in memory of Phil Mickelson.

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