My Dad taught me how to play golf from an early age, collecting me from school to go to a local golf club and learn the ins and outs of the game. As time went on, golf became a major passion for me; not just on the course, but also watching the greats of the 1980s battle on the windswept courses in Scotland. Carnoustie was never one of the courses that sprang to mind – Turnberry has always been my favourite, where pros played with celebrity amateurs during the 1980s in televised “pro-celebrity” tournaments; Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller belting the ball around whilst the likes of Bruce Forsyth and Sean Connery entertained the crowds and t.v. audiences with their improvised “sketches”.
But I digress.
The golf course has long featured in my life and the eighteenth (and final) hole has so many meanings: the end of a junior competition, where so much pressure lay on my final score; the end of a day’s caddying, when tips of varying generosity topped up a meagre wage from my Saturday job in a local golf shop; the setting for the climactic moments of a dramatic Open Championship on Sunday evening television. The 18th hole can signify the end of a lousy day: but more often the end of a day spent out in the countryside with fellow afficiados, friends and challengers who all feel the same highs and lows of a well-struck or mis-hit ball.
Standing on the first tee and then next to the 18th green at the famous championship course in Carnoustie this past weekend took me back to the days when golf, and not photography, was my driving impulse. When I was playing the final few shots of a late afternoon round of golf and the race was on to finish the round whilst the flag was still in sight through a dusky twilight. That, combined with the huge history of the mounds on which Ben Hogan teed up in 1953 and the green where Henry Cotton secured his second major win in 1937, was enough to remind me why I used to prefer the greens to the darkroom. And why, now that I have a car, the golf club near my home may well see me visit.