Goswick Senior Gents Open: How to take a first-class links cruise at steerage rates

Goswick Senior Gents Open: How to take a first-class links cruise at steerage rates

Braid's Brilliance -- Here's a wide view of the 16th hole at Goswick, a 424-yard par 4 off the competition white tee markers.

Braid's Brilliance -- Here's a wide view of the 16th hole at Goswick, a 424-yard par 4 off the competition white tee markers.

Most of my golf on this trip has been of the hand-in-hat variety: pick a course to play, show up unannounced, ask kindly if I can get a game and then thank the powers that be profusely when they oblige. It’s an excellent plan if you have the luxury of time and prefer to wing it—a stark contrast to most Americans’ auld country experience, which usually involves months of planning and much piling on and off a tour bus on a tight schedule.

Wednesday’s round, though, was a departure from my loosey-goosey routine. A local friend signed me up for the Senior Gents Open competition at Goswick Golf Club, a classic James Braid links that dates back to 1890. My benefactor also teed it up, along with two other mutual friends.

The downside: the four of us ended up in separate groups, so we didn’t see much of each other until after our rounds. The upside: I had the chance to get acquainted with two new people and play a first-class links at steerage rates.

Total cost? A mere £15. That’s less than $25 for those of you of the American persuasion. If Pebble Beach with its $500 tariff stakes out one end of the golf-value continuum, Scottish open competitions most definitely hold down the other. After all, the normal weekday rate at Goswick is £45 or three times the competition entry fee. And if you play well, you might win your money back—and then some.

I regret to report that my foray into tournament golf didn’t end quite so happily. My round summary: rough going at the start, righted the ship for a few holes, took in heavy water on the 9th and 10th and then found my way to calm seas for the final eight. Quantitatively speaking, it added up to 31 Stableford points and a middle-of-the-pack finish. Meanwhile, one of my friends—a member at Goswick—was the leader in the clubhouse at 39 when I had to make the short drive north to Berwick-upon-Tweed to pick up my wife, who was arriving on the 4:30 p.m. train from London. The wind freshened noticeably for the later tee times, so there’s a good chance his score held up.

Old World View -- A look back at the par 4 14th from the elevated tee of the downhill par 3 15th. 

Old World View -- A look back at the par 4 14th from the elevated tee of the downhill par 3 15th. 

The far bigger takeaway, though, is this pathway to Scottish golf on the cheap. It’s like finding a seam in the defense. As long as you have an official and current handicap and plan ahead a bit, you can play some of this country’s best courses for peanuts. Just check out the handy dandydatabase maintained by the Scottish Golf Union, the governing body of amateur golf over here. The fixture list has basically run its course for the current season, but archived listings will give you a good sense of what’s possible. I did a quick scan and came across Senior Gents Opens at Royal Montrose for £16 pounds (vs. the standard weekday fee of £55), Cruden Bay for £15 (vs. £95) and Carnoustie for £15 (vs. £77).

Of course, going light on your wallet does put you at risk of placing a heavy burden on your ego. As Bobby Jones once said, there is golf and then there is tournament golf—and they are two completely different things. So if you’re the super competitive sort who must win to be happy, God help you. Me? I’m thrilled just to be out there, and at a bargain to boot.

So when one of my friends spotted me on the course and asked how I was doing, I said, “I’m not bleeding!” And I meant that literally and figuratively.

Links to the Links: Because I'm not the final word on this topic -- far from it!

Tommy’s Honor: No links golfer’s education would be complete without it

Tommy’s Honor: No links golfer’s education would be complete without it