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Frozen on the Links

Playing conditions at Birkdale, for most of this year's British Open, were similar. You might argue that the players here were the world’s best but you really have to sample those conditions firsthand to appreciate the show put up by Padraig Harrington, and more so by Greg Norman, at age 53.

Prabhdev Singh | Print Edition: August 24, 2008

Prabhdev Singh
Among the emotions that TV viewers of the recent British Open at Royal Birkdale experienced were disbelief, and then there was some sniggering on the side, too. The first, because many just couldn’t comprehend how seasoned pros, among them Vijay Singh, could go as high as 80. Of course, then there were those sitting smugly in their lounge chairs who thought they could do better. For all those who entertained such thoughts, let me tell you a short story. A few years ago, I was part of a group travelling through Ireland on a golf tour.

The hospitality was incredible but our hosts (Tourism Ireland) should have handed out golfing advisories before we teed up. It was a bright sunny morning when I looked out of the hotel window and stepped into the waiting van in a T-shirt. By the time we got to the golf course, a cloud cover had moved in and the wind had picked up. Within a matter of minutes, I was frozen to the bone. The pro shop came to the rescue but after that, every time the group would be together, I would be reminded about what I had paid for the sweater. 

As I stood on the first tee at Castlerock Golf Club in Northern Ireland, the desire to try out links golf was slowly but steadily ebbing out of me. What I saw before me was a sliver of a fairway between mounds covered by knee-length grass. There was no sign of the green on the par four. A weak tickle and a few hacks later, I made a six.

Natureís challenge: Northern Irelandís Graeme McDowell gets a feel of links golf
Under the circumstances, I thought that was a great start. The second was a sharp uphill dogleg to the right and the hole played into the wind. Believe me when I say this: my drive took off, rose higher into the sky, covered about 150 yards, and then started to come back! The ball was completely at the mercy of the wind. It finally ended up in thick gorse, which, by the way, is another lovely little impediment on these golf courses. 

By the time we got to the back nine, the wind had turned into a howling gale, it had started to rain and I had no sensation left in my body. Our hosts decided that their overseas visitors had sampled enough of links golf and called it a day. The walk back to the clubhouse was mostly into the wind and I did everything possible to stop myself from toppling over. Playing conditions at Birkdale, for most of this year’s British Open, were similar. You might argue that the players here were the world’s best but you really have to sample those conditions firsthand to appreciate the show put up by Padraig Harrington and more so by Greg Norman, at age 53.

Tip i tried: If you are going to be playing some links golf and the sun is shining as you head out, don’t let it fool you. It can get dark pretty quickly, and cold. Warm clothing and a rain suit is a must. And if things get ugly, get back into the clubhouse and warm yourself up with a drink. You’re not being paid to do this.

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