The trip that I've been waiting to go on for at least the last ten years was finally here. Golf at St Andrews Golf Links in Scotland. Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to fly up to Northern UK, and when I found out that my friend Emily golfs and also wanted to go to St Andrews, our trip was booked within a few days.

To set the stage for non-golfers, St Andrews is known as the "home of golf," as golf was first played on the grounds of the Old Course over 600 years ago. Every five years, the British Open is held on the Old Course, with previous winners of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, John Daly, and Tiger Woods. Its the dream course for almost every golfer and the top of my golf bucket list.

Getting to Scotland was a project in itself. We left Thursday afternoon (Thanksgiving) on a train to Rome. Luckily I was able to find WiFi so I could Skype my family who were gathered for Thanksgiving. Emily and I then flew to Dusseldorf, Germany for our over night layover. Being a small airport, there was only one place for us to sleep: the benches in the kiddie play section next to a Micky Mouse themed children's ride.
Thanksgiving dinner at the airport
We woke up at 4:30 AM to check in for our flight, although we didn't sleep more than an hour throughout the night. Half asleep, we went through security and then had to pass a visa checkpoint. If there's one thing I learned from this semester its that German security and police are terrifying. Both Emily and I were questioned and they even thought I was part of the U.S. Army, but we were eventually let through.

We arrived in Edinburgh around 7:30 AM and after two buses, a train, and lots of walking, we finally arrived at the Old Course at 10:00 AM, a whole half hour before our tee time. We threw our luggage into clubhouse lockers, picked up our rental clubs, and were driven to the first tee by buggie (Scottish name for golf cart). After a few warm up putts, we met our playing partners, a couple from Washington DC who are members at Congressional Country Club that has hosted numerous PGA tournaments including the US Open and the PGA Championship.
Emily and I in front of the R&A Clubhouse on the first tee
We joined up with our caddies and the starter called our tee time. I was thinking of how Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods have all taken the same walk onto the first tee box that I was taking now. Talk about pressure. Not having hit a golf ball since August, I was expecting to completely miss the ball. I pulled driver, teed up my ball, and smacked it 300 yards straight down the middle of the fairway.

Did I fool you? In true Eric Croci fashion, I barely hit the ball, topping it about a hundred yards out, but at least it was in the fairway!

The rest of the round I was in complete awe that I was actually golfing on the Old Course in St Andrews.
112 bunkers on the course, this is the only one I hit into
Road Hole #17, one of the most famous holes in golf
Incredible views the whole round
Me and Emily on the famous Swilcan Bridge on 18
Talking with my caddie during the round, I found out that he has caddied in three British Opens, including once for Gary Player and finished tied for 6th in the 1995 Open. He was incredibly helpful explaining how to play each hole and very good at reading the green, although it took a while adjusting to not having to carry my own bag. The course itself was beautiful. Rolling hills with tall grass for miles in the distance. And the best news was that I only lost one golf ball!

The rest of the round was absolutely incredible. Lots of good shots to go along with a few poor ones as well. After the first few holes I was able to get my swing back. The only bunker I hit into left me with a 35 yard shot to the green and I put it to three feet and made the putt. On the Road Hole #17, one of the most famous holes in golf, I hit a great tee shot over the Old Course Hotel and wound up in the middle of the fairway. In style, I finished out the round with a par on 18, ending with 11 pars and shooting an 84.

After the round, we went out to dinner and then back to the hostel. Being up for basically 40 hours, we called it an early night. The next morning, we got breakfast at a bakery that was suggested to us called Fisher and Donaldson. They're famous for their fudge covered donuts and I could see why. Delicious. Walking around the streets of St Andrews, there were golf stores everywhere and I realized that it was "socially acceptable" to carry your clubs around on the city streets. I kept saying that this place is heaven and was wondering why I didn't study abroad here!

The course is regarded as "the oldest new course" as it was set out in 1895. The course was much narrower than the Old Course but very similar in the basic lay out. It was a lot warmer and less windy than the day before, but I didn't quite play quite as well shot an 85.
Par 4 along the water at the Eden Course
Out on the New Course

Sunday we woke up to a chilly and rainy day, and I couldn't convince Emily to come play round three with me at the Eden Course. I braved the weather and went out with five layers of clothing on and two pairs of pants, and it was well worth it. Despite the rain and the strong winds, I managed to find my swing and put together a great round of 75 with a few birdies mixed in.

Sunday night we had to travel back to Edinburgh to stay the night closer to the airport to make our flight in the morning. We had a seven hour layover in Dublin and decided to go sightseeing in the city.
The final long weekend trip of the semester was in the books. This past weekend I was in four different countries over four days, including three different countries on Monday alone. I took trains, planes, and buses over a total of forty five hours spent traveling to and from St Andrews, but wouldn't have traded it for anything. St Andrews was like no where else I've ever been and I can't wait to go back again.
Hanging out with Jack Nicklaus

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