Open Countdown: Troon, foursomes, kümmel, and the Queen
Foursomes is a game in which two golfers take turns playing the same ball. In the United States, it's usually called Scotch foursomes or alternate shot, and it's often a prelude to divorce. (The great British golf correspondent Henry Longhurst once recounted, with disapproval, an old joke about a male golfer who was “alternately playing and kicking his ball” because he was “practicing for the mixed foursomes.”) Foursomes moves fast, and hitting just half the shots ensures that someone in the group always has a hand free to hold the kümmel, a clear, anise-and-fennel-flavored alcoholic beverage, which is sometimes called the golfer’s liqueur:
Kümmel is a popular drink at Troon. Every year, its members play a cross-country foursomes match with members of Prestwick, which is right next door. Half the field starts on the first tee at Prestwick, and half starts on the first tee at Troon. Everyone plays to the eighteenth green on the other course, breaks for lunch, and then plays all the way back. Two Troon members I played a non-foursomes round with in 2009 told me that, usually, a team scores better if it starts at Prestwick, because a typical Prestwick lunch includes so much alcohol that golfers who make the turn there sometimes have trouble finding their way home.
Competitors who start at Prestwick get to eat lunch in the dining room at Troon. Hanging on the wall at one end is a portrait of one of the club's founders:
Hanging on the wall at the other end is a portrait of the Queen:
A member told me that pictures of the Queen are always supposed to be hung so that her eyes are higher than the eyes of any person in any other picture in the same room. Doing that at Troon would have meant pushing her almost all the way up to the ceiling. So they didn't.