Davie Gilchrist – A Royal Visitor
By Ed Gowan
Every golfer knows that the game has ancient beginnings and traditions. Many today will still admit that’s an important aspect of golf, though the numbers of those who do are clearly declining.
But, especially for those privileged enough to enjoy the game in Scotland on occasion, a return to bygone days can bring very special experiences and memories.
During this past winter season, we were blessed to have one of golf ’s princes in town, sharing his vision and experience with a few, and now you. His name is David Gilchrist, from the neighborhood of St. Andrews, or more accurately, Kings Barns—just up the road. Davey, as his long-time Arizona friend, J. Michael Meadows calls him, is the Caddie Master at Kings Barns, a wonderful modern edition of Scottish links land golf.
A relationship with a real caddie is a dance, a melding of knowledge, golf skills (or lack thereof), strategic thinking, course analysis and, of course, humor. Don’t forget the humor. In fact, if you
don’t have a sense of humor, avoid Scottish caddies. They will know that, and you will find out, usually in a way that will have your fellow golfers reeling in guffaws.
Caddie stories have abounded for centuries, but like rules and happenings, there are always new ones to be told from nearly every round. Davey has a few. Some take the form of advice:
“It’s best to keep one’s mouth shut until the ball comes to rest,” he says, to keep your psychological controls strong.
“If you drop something, pick it up. A caddie carries clubs, he doesn’t baby-sit them.”
“Sand wedges are for sand only in Scotland,” referring to the normally rock-hard fairways, suited more to bump-and-run shots.
And one of the best lines after your opponent complains about your justplayed shot that gets inside his, “What did you hit, there?” Your caddie will defend you with, “Sir, this is a game of ‘How many?’ not ‘What with?!”
He also will share a story or two if you’re found to be friendly.
“One group played Kings Barns several days in a row, with three players taking caddies and the fourth pulling a trolley. The fourth player quickly gained a reputation for being cheap, as he would
ask the caddies throughout the round for advice, but forget to tip at the end of the day. On the third day, a particularly windy day, the group came to the 15th hole, a dogleg right par 3, close against the sea. In fact, the hole that day was far to the rear, making it mandatory to play over the rocky shore with a strong crosswind blowing out to sea.
“As the caddies were discussing the probable ‘playing club selection’—because in Scotland that’s the only thing that matters (yardage is only part of the equation)—the fourth player asked, ‘Well, boys, what do you think it is?’ Without any hesitation, one caddie replied, ‘Sir, why don’t you ask your Trolley?’ Point made.”
After one PGA Tour player had flung his driver some 60 yards ahead of the 14th tee after a tee shot, Davey reminded him, “Best to throw it forward so you can pick it up on your way to the next hole.”
Or the classic line used by all Scottish caddies when asked after an errant tee shot, “Caddie, what’s over there?” They respond,“Well, Sir, your ball for one thing! Never have been there myself before.”
On the suggestion of his club professional, Davey tried caddying several years ago “You’ll really fall in love with the game in a way you could never imagine.”
Within a few short months, his clubs were packed away, and 36-holes-a-day were the norm, carrying doubles. The money didn’t matter anymore; he had found his dream and home.
A few short years later, here we are in Phoenix with David Gilchrist, taking a few months off for R&R, golf, but still caddying at Phoenix CC. (By the way, a rusty game, his tenth round of the last year [played at Moon Valley], resulted in a reasonable score of 75.)
So, should you join the fortunate with a visit to the spectacular Kings Barns near St. Andrews, book yourself a starting time, and email the club with a request to have Davey Gilchrist “look after your caddie request—you’re a friend from Arizona." As Davey said, “If you love golf, you’re always my friend.” Don’t miss the chance, and say “hi” for the rest of us.
And, please bring us a new story!