There is a place where the best bets in life reside. It’s the home of the can’t-miss, no-sweat, easy-money wagers we sometimes make, a place where parlays and teasers go to become safe and guaranteed income. My British friend Julian recently visited this place. If you read A Course Called Ireland (no worries if you haven’t, as long as you own it, didn’t buy it used, and tell your friends who want to borrow it that they should do the same), you might recall Julian from such moments as, “All the holes look the same when you’re staring down at the weeds looking for your ball,” or his time spent stranded on a beach beside a Northern Ireland army base, invoking his British citizenship and daring her majesty’s army to come arrest him. Julian will be joining me for some of this next adventure around Scotland as well, and he came up with a keen plan for financing his golf in the UK. He went to a British bookmaker, where he took a quick trip to Lock City:
The circumstances whereby Julian was able to place a legal wager (that’s ten quid at 1,000 to 1 that I make the cut at the Open) on my participation in the 2015 British Open are a short book in themselves; suffice to say that the above is an actual bet, and that I am eager to land in the UK where I can plunk down my own tenner at William Hill bookmakers. On Rory McIlroy to lap the field.
There is an endgame to all this travel that I sometimes lose in all the planning. As I piece together my itinerary, trying to squeeze 89 links into 57 days, it often feels as if I am putting together a jigsaw puzzle on its edge. Move one course, it sends an earthquake through the rest of the trip; with ferries only crossing on certain days, and island flights only landing at lowtide, and this club only allowing guests on this morning, and that club closed for member play–it is a Jenga of a trip. It would be well impossible without the help of VisitScotland and Golf Tourism England who have jumped on board to help me arrange all these tee times (god save them, every one). But in all the rental finagling and Tripadvisor accommodaiton searches and pleas for beneficence from hotels I can’t afford, I must remind myself that this trip has begun and will end with two vast yet simple questions: What is the secret to this game? And can I put it to any sort of use?
The last tee time on the itinerary, I’ve sort of taken for granted, because I know when and where it will be, and I won’t have to beg my way onto the course. I’ll send a check, and I’ll have a tee time, and it will be at the Brunstfield Links on June 22nd, just outside of Edinburgh. And I almost have to remind myself that I won’t be able to bring a pal along to play with me, and I won’t have to decide which hole I’ll play with a GoPro strapped to my head, because that final round is a regional qualifier for the British Open at St. Andrews. Oh yeah. That’s what this trip is about.
This isn’t A Course Called Ireland. It isn’t about dodging lorries or staving off dogs. This story has a goal, and each of these many rounds has a purpose. I am looking for insights, playing for answers, and I’m visiting nearly every links in the home of golf in search of them. I once endeavored to play the world’s greatest round of golf, and it’s up to others as to whether I accomplished that in my jaunt around Ireland. But here, I’m playing a different round — I’m after the world’s greatest practice round of golf. The strokes matter here. This story isn’t just about where I go, but it’s about where my ball goes, too.
It’s a full plate, for sure; plan two months of links insanity, and get really, really good at golf when, you know, you have some time, so that this whole endeavor isn’t a joke, and so that Julian’s ticket somehow avoids its destiny as a coaster in an Edinburgh pub in June.
It will take a miracle, you might be thinking. And I agree. Lucky for me, my plate feels like it’s full of them.