St Andrews in Scotland is famous as the birthplace of golf. Every few years the “old course” hosts the British Open so all television viewers are reminded that the place is hallowed ground.
Unless you are a golfing fanatic or rich enough to travel and play there, you probably don’t know anything about St Andrews. You simply assume it’s a quaint old Scottish village that has a storied golf course. But it’s much more than that.
Thanks to a young American golfer named Oliver Horovitz, who also excels at writing and filmmaking, we learn that St Andrews is one of the most charming places on earth. Horovitz was a champion junior golfer in high school who quickly learned that he wasn’t good enough to turn pro. But he was bright enough to get into Harvard on a deferred basis.
Horovitz decided to spend his off-year attending college at the University of St Andrews. He was drawn to the village by its golfing history and the fact he had a great uncle there. What started out as simply a year in school turned into a recurring summer job as a caddie at the old course and a set of adventures that Horovitz captures in a wonderful memoir called “An American Caddie in St Andrews: Growing Up, Girls, and Looping on the Old Course.”
What makes this book so terrific is not the golf per se but the characters Horovitz meets and befriends. Whether it’s his uncle, his friends from school or the caddies at the golf course there is an underlying charm and decency to these people. It’s little wonder that Horovitz keeps returning to this golfing Mecca.
The biggest focus is on the caddies and how seriously they take their jobs (with their Scottish charm and unique sense of humor, of course). Many of them have been around for years and have turned their knowledge of the old course into a science. Tourists, especially those from the U.S., come and play the course every summer and rely on the caddies to guide them through the course’s complexities (I once saw Jack Nicholas on television take four shots to get out of one of Britain’s notorious bunkers).