New Links St Andrews, a charity dedicated to providing educational, cultural and sporting opportunities to deserving young people, together with partners Youth on Course based in Monterey, overcame three successive years of restrictions on travel and assembly this summer by hosting a week long series of events featuring juniors from California and their counterparts from Fife.
New Links co-founder Kenny Wood was delighted by the success of the week after the enforced hiatus.
“We were thrilled to be able to pick up where we left off in 2019 and that is thanks to the deep roots we have developed in the St Andrews community since we started this in 2006 and our strong and abiding friendship with our colleagues at Youth on Course, who we first worked with in 2009”.
The itinerary featured a specially tailored talk on the many opportunities to study and do research at the University of St Andrews, extensive access to the town itself, and lots of golf on landscapes ancient and new, including the Old, Strathtyrum and Eden courses at St Andrews Links, Kingsbarns, Dumbarnie, and Kingarrock Hickory Golf Course.
Four college-bound Americans and five locals of school and university age spent time together throughout the week, with 16-year-old Adam Duncan joining up for a second time, having made his debut four years ago.
The group had the privilege of hearing from golf industry specialists Garry Forrester at Kingsbarns and David Scott at Dumbarnie, where they also met the designer of this contemporary classic, Clive Clark. There were tours of the R&A World Golf Museum and the hi-tech testing centre at Allan Robertson House. Participants stayed at David Russell Apartments, each enjoying their own en suite room.
“It’s fun meeting new people and talking a little trash, and if you want to extend the trip by another week I wouldn’t mind!” said Mahamed Ibrahim from Culver City.
With gusts of 30-40 mph during the week, it was a challenging but exhilarating time to be on the links.
“St Andrews in the wind – that’s a real Scottish experience – there’s a big difference between par golf and links golf,” Mahamed continued.
“The wind hits you – the full force of it – but it was a change I like and I now know how to hit those lower shots. My favourite was the Old Course: the history, my man Tiger winning there twice…”
Looking back on her week in Scotland, Alyssa Carter of Los Angeles said: “At first I was nervous about being here, but travelling abroad has extended my perspective and world view.
“I’ve developed some really meaningful bonds that will continue after this trip.
“I was submerged in an entirely new culture, got to slow down and take everything in, and really enjoy it. It was a great time”.
Malia Loo is a +1.2 player who showed high-class ball striking abilities throughout the week, including a chip in from 120 yards on the second hole of the Eden Course.
She had a full appreciation of what being in St Andrews had to offer.
“To play where golf originated, that opportunity to stand on the Swilcan Bridge and play the Old Course – you feel history just standing on the grass”.
The first venue of the week was Kingarrock, where the game is played with century-seasoned wooden shafted clubs and which is an ideal place to start any Scottish golfing expedition.
“Hickory golf forced me to slow down my swing, my tempo, to not think too hard about my technique… to just flow. That made it easier to play the shots into the wind…it forced me to be more relaxed: in competitive golf I’m a machine!”
Links golf also encouraged Millbrae resident Malia to experiment and improvise, like putting from off the greens, or having to make radical club selection changes for the wind.
“I was thinking about my shots and course management skills. Putting into the wind makes a huge difference – I never thought about it – and clubbing up one for every 10 mph of head wind. The Old Course and Dumbarnie were three to four club winds”.
The group’s high standard of play was all the more praiseworthy since their personal clubs were not delivered from Edinburgh airport for several days, and in one case not at all, and they mostly used hire clubs.
Daniela Andrade, who plays off +0.9, overcame the inconvenience to play great golf, including hitting a wind assisted 320-yard drive on the eighteenth of the Eden Course.
“The hickory was really fun, taking it back in history and being in it.
“Kingsbarns was one of my favourites – that brought Pebble Beach and my home in San Jose together.
“The Old Course: stepping on it was incredible and the wind added to it.
“At Dumbarnie I pulled out the putter…I played low shots…bump and runs…everybody uses a 58 degree wedge, but there’s a whole new side to my game for sure: it opened up my creativity”.
Daniela also noted other resonances of the trip and observed some of the wider ramifications of life in St Andrews.
“I enjoyed talking to local students at the university, getting their actual experience instead of hearsay…and we compared our culturals a lot.
“Being here, I fell in love with golf even more.
“The Himalayas was one of the first ladies clubs, and golf was a way to go out and really express who they were”.
Youth on Course chaperone Michael Lowe agreed with Daniela’s assessment.
“In addition to history, it’s about the culture and connections.
“One of the most powerful things New Links St Andrews provides is the opportunity for young people from different countries and communities to connect, and it’s life changing for them in so many ways.”
Kenny Wood thanked all those who helped make the New Links-Youth on Course 2023 event such a success.
“The enthusiasm of the local participants helped to make this one of the most outstanding New Links occasions and we are indebted to Adam Duncan, Joelle Millar, Sophie Coombes, Cameron McDonald, and Ewen Farquhar for their contributions this year.
“I also thank the individuals and organisations that have aided and encouraged New Links: Hannah Fleming, Sandra Docherty, Audrey and Alan Hogg, Garry Forrester, David Scott, Dave Allan, Beth Shotten, Thomas Marr, Bobby Millar, Lynne Page, Shalina Malik, and Valerie Melvin; the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, St Andrews Links Trust, the University of St Andrews, Auchterlonies, Kingarrock Hickory Golf Course, Kingsbarns Golf Links, Dumbarnie Links, and Club Cars”.