Interview: Living as a Links Golfer in St. Andrews

This week in our Interview Series, we reached out to Graylyn Loomis, who blogs at Living as a Links Golfer.

Graylyn is obviously a lot smarter than the rest of us, because he picked a University that would allow him to play a ton of world class golf. Currently in his final year at St. Andrews in Scotland, and gets to play some spectacular Scottish courses quite often.

He was kind enough to sit down and chat with us about his blog, his life in St. Andrews and his pretty awesome summer.

Let’s get to it.

Golfing St. Andrews with Living as a Links Golfer

Breaking Eighty: What’s your favorite course played, what do you love about it?

Graylyn: Royal Dornoch is one of my favorite courses that I have played. It is located very far north in Scotland and is not particularly easy to reach.

The course was originally laid out by Old Tom Morris and was the birthplace of one of my favorite course architects, Donald Ross. The remoteness of Dornoch along with the strength of its design make it an incredibly unique experience.

After playing Royal Dornoch one can see the influence it had on Donald Ross in his designs at courses like Pinehurst #2 and even my home club, Biltmore Forest Country Club.

loch lomond gray loomis

The 5th at Loch Lomond Golf Club.

Breaking Eighty: You had an incredible summer playing some great courses like Winged Foot, Bethpage Black, Pinehurst and Fishers Island to name just a few while interning at, what was that experience like?

Graylyn: The summer in New York City with GOLF Magazine and was a unique and excellent experience. I was able to go to a number of tour events to interview players in addition to writing a number of pieces for the magazine.

The experiences at work along with all of the great golf I was able to play, including a second round at Pine Valley, made it a summer that will be hard to match.

The entire experience gave me insight into the inner workings of the golf industry and confirmed that it is the place in which I want to establish my career.

Breaking Eighty: For a first timer golfing in Scotland, what courses do you recommend?

Graylyn: I recommend basing the trip in St Andrews and then making day trips out from the town once having played the essential courses in the area.

There are roughly 18 excellent links courses worth playing within an hour and a half St Andrews. I would recommend playing the St Andrews Old Course, the St Andrews Jubilee Course, St Andrews New Course, Kingsbarns, Crail (Balcomie), North Berwick, and Muirfield to name a few.

Using St Andrews as a base is perfect for the first time golfer in Scotland. Once you’ve hit the essentials list on the first St Andrews based trip, make the journey out west to play Troon, Turnberry, and Prestwick before going north the see Dornoch, Cruden Bay, and Royal Aberdeen.

16 st andrews castle course gray loomis

Approach to the 16th green at the St. Andrews Castle Course).

Breaking Eighty: You’re in school at St. Andrews, so after a few years of living in the UK do you notice differences between golf there and in the US?

Graylyn: Golf in the US and golf in the UK is very different on a number of levels. The overall style of Scottish links golf is something that is matched at only a few locales in the US.

It took me the better part of a year to truly get used to playing on Scottish links. It would take a lifetime to master the firm, fast courses.

The second main difference is the idea of the “golf club”. While the US is filled with very private and exclusive golf clubs that do not allow unaccompanied guest play, most UK private clubs set aside tee times for guest to come play their course.

For instance, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield are very private and exclusive, but guest are able to book and play their course on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

There are merits to both systems, but it sure is nice to be able to book a tee time on some of the worlds best courses regardless of whether they are private or not.

Crail Golfing Society - Balcomie Links gray loomis 2nd

2nd hole at Crail Golfing Society – Balcomie Links.

Breaking Eighty: As someone who has played the courses at St. Andrews more than a few times, what’s one tip you can offer anyone playing to get a leg up on the competition?

Graylyn: I will narrow down the question to advice about playing the St Andrews Old Course. My advice may not differ drastically from others.

Always err left of the tee and try your best to keep the ball running along the ground.

The Old Course initially appears “easy” and will lull you into a false sense of security before bashing your scorecard and ego into oblivion. Stay patient and don’t let a single mistake compound into a huge number. Stay patient and take your medicine if you end up in one of the deep bunkers.

Breaking Eighty: Anything you’d like to add or mention that we didn’t cover?

Graylyn: I have some very exciting rounds of golf lined up in the next few months that will be going on my blog, Living as a Links Golfer.

I have not yet played any of the great golf in England and I look forward to traveling south in order to play a few rounds. I also have a few winter rounds in the works for when I return to North Carolina this Christmas. Keep an eye out for the new course reviews!

Thanks to Graylyn for taking the time out of not only golfing but studying to give us a little bit of insight on some of those incredible courses in Scotland. They are on the golf bucket list for sure!

All photos courtesy Graylyn Loomis

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