The Road Hole

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Or, The Greatest Voice In Golf.

Submitted: July 22, 2015

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Submitted: July 22, 2015



Ivor keeps punching me in the arm.  I am two pints behind in the drinking game I am supposedly participating in.  I just want to finish this story and get it published before I pass out.

It has been a heck of a day.  I’m in a place called The Jigger Inn in St. Andrews, Scotland.  Yesterday, a fellow named Zach Johnson won the British Open, as we Americans call it.  Ivor would punch me extra hard if he heard me calling it that.  It is the Open Championship to the Scots and the other folks on this side of the pond.

Today, I was in the first group out in the morning.  Normally, you have to be somebody to get the first tee time, or any tee time, on St. Andrews, the day after the granddaddy of all tournaments.  Am I a big deal in the world of golf?  Nope.  Do I have friends in high places in the British Isles?  No way.

I got my primo reservation the old fashioned way.  I bribed the starter.  Ivor. 

I began working on that a week ago, before the crowd showed up.  I found out where Ivor likes to drink.  I let him beat me at darts.  Wasn’t hard to do since he is really good.  After he was drunk, on my dime, I offered to pay off his bar tab in exchange for the tee time.  He was my new best friend.

Watching the tournament for five days was awesome.  The weather was brutal at times.  The sideways rain and wind destroyed umbrellas and blew balls off of greens before the players could place their marks.  But after the rain and wind stopped, the course was soft and vulnerable.  The pros lit it up. 

Watching is nothing like playing, though.  I was the first to hit a tee shot Tuesday morning, the first to walk across the footsteps of my favorite professionals.  After the oldest golf tournament in the world.  On the oldest course.

I’d like to say I posted a great score, but it was not to be.  St. Andrews is difficult enough.  We Americans struggle with the bouncy greens on links courses.  I ended up shooting 86, didn’t even make a birdie.  Made a few good putts and a few pars.

But it was worth it, just for what happened on the Road Hole.

The 17th hole at St. Andrews may be the quirkiest hole in golf.  Not many have a name people would recognize.  It’s the only one I know of where you hit your tee shot over a hotel.  No kidding.  The Old Course Hotel has a two story administrative addition in the back that the hole curves around.  If you want to get your tee shot in the center of the fairway, you aim at the first O in the “Old Course Hotel” sign.

Which I did, and hit the best shot of the day.  You can’t see the ball land, but I had visions of a 300 yard drive in the middle of the fairway.  For once, my dreams came true.

My near perfect drive left me an easy nine iron to the flag.  I just didn’t account for adrenaline.  That extra bump you get when you are excited or scared or both.  I hit the next shot too hard, it sailed over the green.  Due to another of the Road Hole’s quirks, this caused a problem…

Golf courses are finite places and must have borders.  If you strike your ball, and it leaves the property of the course, it is considered out of bounds.  Typically, if there is a public road bordering a hole, the road itself would be considered out of bounds.  Not the 17th at St. Andrews.  A road, which serves as a public sidewalk, is behind the green.  It is considered in bounds, and part of the course.  A stone wall on the far side of the road is the out of bounds marker.  Thus, the Road Hole.

If the sun is up, and the wind is less than hurricane force, there will people playing golf at St. Andrews.  There will be people walking behind the 17th green, up and down Old Station Road.  This is Scotland, so alcohol will be involved on both accounts.  When I hit my approach shot too hard, I became a Roadie.

Golf balls bounce after they hit something hard, like a stone wall.  Although it rarely happens, it is possible for a golf ball to bounce off of something and end up on the green, 12 feet from the hole.  Regardless of how statistically unlikely, it did in fact happen.  Not only that, there was a guy, walking down the road, pint of ale in hand, earbuds in, listening to Scottish folk songs on his iPod.  Ivor.

After the ball reflected off of the brick wall, on its way to its eventual resting place on the green, it ricocheted a second time, off of Ivor’s beverage.  Ivor’s mug reflected off of the gravel on Old Station Road.  It didn’t break.

When we got close enough to recognize each other, Ivor pointed his finger at me, and said “You, you, you…You owe me an ale.  Tell you what Serge, I’ll go double or nothing with you on your putt.  If you can birdie the Road Hole, we’ll be even.  If not, you have to buy the first round for the house.”

Bear in mind what I could accomplish on the most famous hole in golf.  The day before, Phil Mickleson hit his tee shot onto a balcony at the Old Course Hotel, ended up making a 7.  The best golfer on the planet, Jordan Spieth, made a 5, that ended his chance of winning his third major in a row.  I could beat Spieth by two shots.

Naturally I missed the putt.  But it was close, it lipped out and I tapped in for par.  Beat Spieth.  And Mickleson.  So here I am, three sheets to the wind, and two drinks behind.


Ivor Robson is a real person, and would never associate with the likes of me.  He is the most famous starter in golf, everyone loves to hear his lilting falsetto when he announces the golfer’s names at the British Open.  But this was his last tournament.  When Ivor called Zach Johnson’s name, that was his 18,995th announcement, and his last, after 41 years.  He is retired.  We will miss you, Ivor.

But he will be around.  He is a fine golfer and can be found on one of the many fine Scottish courses when weather permits.  And, he can’t go five minutes in a pub without someone demanding to hear, “This is game number 41.  On the tee from the USA, Serge Wlodarski…”

The World Golf Hall of Fame has a category for contributors to golf.  Folks like Bob Hope and George H. W. Bush are members.  I want to hear Ivor exercise his famous voice one more time, giving an acceptance speech at the Hall.  On the tee from Scotland, Ivor Robson.

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