Photography by Paul Birrell
Our Review - Old Course
Whisper it quietly but there are many who argue that the most famous golf course in the world is not the best in Scotland, and some even suggest it is not even the best in St Andrews.
We at MulliganPlus sympathise, and purely as a test of golf prefer the New. But although the Old Course has too many blind shots, several driveable par fours, only two par threes and is a place where you can hook all day and not get into trouble, it remains our favourite place in the golfing world for one simple reason – history.
From that knee-knocking tee shot on the first hole, directly in front of the imposing R&A clubhouse, to the easiest finishing hole in championship golf, the lore and tradition of the game seeps from the grass.
Every great player in history has played here, a boast unique to St Andrews, and if that’s not enough to lure you on your own golfing pilgrimage to this corner of Fife, you don’t have the soul of a golfer.
St Andrews (New)
Many good judges consider that, in pure golfing terms, the New Course at St Andrews is a fairer, better test than its illustrious neighbour, and we agree.
For one thing, it has few of the hidden perils of the Old – as you stand on the tee you can pretty much see what the challenge is. After a benign few opening holes the New draws you further and further into its net of undulations, shared fairways (and one double green), pot bunkers and large, subtle and true greens.
It is a classic ‘out and in’ layout and is probably the design by Old Tom Morris that has been altered the least over the years – because it doesn’t need to be.
Visit on a calm day, stay out of the bunkers and putt well and you will still face a good test. We particularly like the par threes, especially the 9th, over 200 yards, uphill, to a hidden green, with OB all along the left. Par this and you can call yourself a golfer.
Such is the history attached the Old Course at St. Andrews, it is virtually impossible to do it justice by mere words - but try we must. Until 1764, the course comprised 12 holes and a round consisted of 22 holes. By 1764, the Society of St. Andrews Golfers decided to combine some holes, thus reducing a round to 18 holes. Due to the growing popularity of the game, the greens were enlarged in 1832, catering for incoming golfers playing two different holes, an economical way of creating 18 separate holes and fairways.
Though adjusted by Tom Morris, the Old Course is essentially natural, its layout changing little in over 200 years. Essentially the course has been modelled by the winds of God that formed the dunes into randomly complex shapes, indifferent then as now, to the vanities of mankind. While golf has been played for centuries at St. Andrews, the authorities did not always look it upon favourably. Under the Act of Parliament of 1457, it was declared that "golfe be utterly cryit doun and not usit". James III and IV subsequently reinforced this statement from James II due to the belief that the pursuit of golf was distracting men from archery practice and thereby weakening the defence against the threat of invading English armies.
Though the championship credentials of the Old Course hardly require justification, the venue has played host to 25 Open Championships and many other events over the years. And while it measures almost 7,000 yards from the championship tees, the visitor is more likely to take on the 6,566-yard challenge. Golf was originally played here in a clockwise direction but over time, the anti-clockwise format was deemed to be superior and since 1870 only one championship has been held over the original layout and that was due to an oversight by the green keeping staff.
In the absence of wind, the Old Course can actually play quite easy but the overpowering sense of awe that one feels when standing on the first tee will certainly equalise matters. And while each hole is both a pleasure and an unforgettable experience to play, some of the finest on the Old Course include the 1st, 11th, 14th and 17th holes. Quite apart from the degree of difficulty, the first ball struck on the Old Course will probably prove to be the most shot nerve-wrenching shot that you will ever hit. One should steer the drive to the left hand side of the fairway, keeping the out of bounds on the right well out of play, while the long hitter must take care to avoid the burn, situated 260 yards from the tee. The second shot calls for a medium to long iron, depending on the wind and with the green almost at one with the burn, walk off with a par and it is a job well done.
The par 4, 17th "Road Hole" is one of the most celebrated and feared holes in golf. Should you take the advised line over the "Black Sheds", your drive should be struck with a touch of draw and must carry at least 180 yards. And while the prudent second shot here would be to the front right corner of the green, for those who relish a challenge, great accuracy is required in order to avoid the road to the right and rear of the green and also the dreaded Road Hole Bunker. End up in the bunker though, and you may well experience both on your way to running up a nice score.
The Old Course at St. Andrews is a must for all avid golfers, who should make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. While it is one thing getting the opportunity to play here, it is quite another to make the occasion a memorable one in scoring terms. Every virgin Old Course golfer finds that in addition to pitting their wits against the course, the none-too-slight elements of history, reputation, aura and self-determination all contrive against a low return. As the legendary Robert the Bruce said to his troops at the battle of Bannockburn "I have brought you to the ring, now you must dance".
The oldest golf course in the world has many remarkable features which help make it so special to golfers around the world. It is the Home of Golf where golf was first played 600 years ago and yet it remains a real test of golf for today's champions. Despite its reputation and status, it is a public course and is one of six public courses on St Andrews Links. The Old Course has evolved over time and was not designed by any one architect. The people who played a major role in shaping it are Daw Anderson (1850s), Old Tom Morris (1860s- 1900) and Dr Alister Mackenzie (1930s). The course is known for its particular physical features including 112 bunkers, some of which are especially famous e.g. 'Hell' on the long 14th, 'Strath' on the short 11th and the Road Bunker at what is probably the most famous golf hole in the world, the 17th or Road Hole (so called because a road - which is in play - runs hard against the back edge of the green). Another peculiar feature of the Old Course is the double greens where the outward and inward holes are cut on the same putting surface. These greens are large, not surprisingly, and golfers can be faced with putts of almost 100 yards.
The Old Course is also unusual in that it starts and finishes in the town, but its truly remarkable feature is that in today's modern golfing world, a course which has evolved over six centuries, remains a true test of championship golf.
Located as it is in the shadow of its illustrious neighbour, the New Course can be considered one of St Andrews' best kept secrets.Opened in April 1895, the course was built in response to increasing demand for golf at St Andrews.
The construction of the New Course was paid for by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which engaged B Hall Blyth, an Edinburgh civil engineer, to design the New Course, and entrusted the layout to Old Tom Morris and his right-hand man David Honeyman.
The result is a classic links course which is a first class golfing challenge. The course has the traditional out and back layout, with the 18th green just to the right of the first tee. It also has, in the great St Andrews tradition, shared fairways and even a double green at the 3rd and 15th holes.
Now well into its second century of life, the Jubilee Course has developed from a basic 12-hole layout into what many consider to be the toughest test of golf at St Andrews.
Created on a narrow strip of prime golfing land between the New Course and the sea, the Jubilee was originally intended for ladies and beginners. It was laid out by John Angus junior and made ready in only three months.
The course was named in honour of Queen Victoria, whose Diamond Jubilee fell in 1897. On a full day of celebrations, the Jubilee Fountain was unveiled on the Links and the Jubilee Course was officially opened by Mary Macgregor, wife of Provost John Macgregor, who struck the first drive with a commemorative club made by Old Tom Morris.
18 Holes Around 1902 David Honeyman, Tom Morris' right hand man, suggested that it was possible to extend the course to 18 holes. This was done in 1905 at a cost of £150.
Further Improvements Between 1938 and 1946, further improvements were made under the supervision of Willie Auchterlonie, the Open Champion of 1893. He increased the course's length to 6,020 yards and commented that "..some day this will be a championship course".
A Championship Layout. In 1988 the re-design of the Jubilee to championship standard was carried out by Donald Steel. The teeing grounds were raised, not only providing wonderful views of the Links, but also exposing the golfers to the winds which sweep in from the bay. Mr. Steel's redesigned course now plays at 6,742 yards and is a real test for all golfers.
The course was officially opened by Curtis Strange, the reigning US Open champion, in September 1989.
The Jubilee has hosted the Scottish Amateur Strokeplay Championship, the Boys' Home Internationals, the British Mid-Amateur Championship and, in 2004, it was the venue for the qualifying rounds of the Amateur Championship. The course hosts the St Andrews Links Trophy in alternate years with the New Course. Willie Auchterlonie's judgement has been fully vindicated.
Opened for play in 1914, the Eden course was designed by Harry S. Colt, internationally renowned for his course design skills. His use of natural features and of partially buried field boundary walls gives the course an entirely natural feel.
Alterations completed in 1989 under the direction of the golf course architect Donald Steel do not fall short of the high standards set by Mr. Colt. The result is a course of character but slightly less testing and more forgiving than the three courses lying on the seaward side
Designed by Donald Steel to offer enjoyable golf, the course complements the tougher, championship layouts at the Home of Golf. It is shorter and, with only 15 bunkers, a relatively sand-free environment by St Andrews' usual standards.
It still, however, requires a considerable level of skill if it is to be negotiated successfully.
Although few in number, the bunkers are cunningly placed and the moundings around the greens place a considerable emphasis on iron play accuracy. The greens themselves have slopes and borrows which can make taking more than the regulation two putts all too easy. With a large choice of pin locations on every hole, the Strathtyrum continues to grow in popularity every year.
Originally opened in 1972, the Balgove was remodelled by Donald Steel in 1993 and it is now a popular course for residents and visitors alike.
It is especially suitable for families playing golf together.
The Links Trust is creating a seventh 18 hole course to join its portfolio of six courses. It will be a public course, open all year round and is hoped to be ready for play in 2008.
Following the coastline east of St Andrews, the Castle Course is two miles from the town centre. Work on the ground began early in 2005.
The designer, David McLay Kidd, creator of Bandon Dunes on the West Coast of America, intends to create a typical Scottish golf experience. Each hole has a choice of five tees and the course will be playable between about 5300-7200 yards.
A history of the site is available to read - click here
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