ST. ANDREWS, Scotland—The most quixotic layout in all of golf, the famed Himalayas putting course in St. Andrews has only attracted one player in the Women's British Open field. So give Carin Koch (and her kids) credit for having the guts to take on the world's most yip-inducing, head-shaking and laugh-provoking track earlier this week.
Open from April to the end of September, the aptly named putting course has been home to the St. Andrews Ladies' Putting Club since 1867. Open to the public, it's the best bargain in a pricey town: nine holes for $1, 18 for approximately $3. Guests of members pay just 50 cents.
While you'll play among small kids, senior citizens, families and college students, there are no windmills or clowns' mouths. The only decorations are metal flagsticks topped with red and white flags, along with small white wooden arrows on the ground that serve as tee markers. Unfortunately these directional markers are little help given the insane slopes formed by ancient sand dunes.
Downhill, sidehill and uphill putts are standard, often all on the same hole. There was even a pin tucked in the middle of a volcano-shaped rise on Thursday, painfully repelling four consecutive tee shots. Only 12 holes are open this week due to the tournament, but they just happen to occupy the hilliest part of a landscape bordered to the west by the 2nd tee of the Old Course.
The man in charge of the seemingly impossible pin positions, which change every day, is 24-year-old Neil Moore. "Where I put the holes depends on whether the members have ticked me off the day before," he laughed. "Actually, I just make them up as I go along. But I can't make it impossible or I'll get too much stick from the women. Sometimes, though, I set a goal for myself that no one will be able to get a hole-in-one that day."
Somehow, someway, numerous players share the 18-hole record of 35. Another mark even more unlikely to be topped, depending on Moore's mood, is the one for most hole-in-ones during a single round: three.
And unlike the adjacent Old Course, there is no yardage book or caddie available to help. You and your putter (part of the green fee) are on your own. That's why Moore provides only one small bit of advice prior to teeing off. "I just give people the putter and a ball and tell them to have fun."