In the late 1800s, the Old Course was getting too popular, largely due to the extra visitors flocking to St Andrews on the trains. The R&A decided to pay for the New course to be built in return for allocated tee times on the Old. These rights are still enclosed in an Act of Parliament passed in 1894, the precursor to the current Act of 1974, which specifies how the public St Andrews links courses are managed.
The New course was designed by Old Tom Morris and B Hall Blyth and opened for play in 1895. This makes it one of the oldest “new” courses in the world!
Situated adjacent to the Old course, the New is often referred to as the local’s favourite because it is tighter and more defined than the Old. It possesses some similarities to the Old, shared fairways, a double green at the 3rd and 15th and the traditional out and back layout. In many ways it plays and feels more "normal" than the Old – it’s certainly less quirky and perhaps prettier too, with swathes of dense gorse providing brilliance of seasonal colour.
The fairways are undulating, but they don’t have the same slopes and curves as the Old. Consequently, there are fewer hanging lies. There are some great holes on the New, especially in the dunes around the turn for home. The 10th hole is a tough 464-yard par 4 and it's a cracking hole which Bernard Darwin also liked, but thought that it was not in the Old course mould. In his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, he wrote: “This is nevertheless a really fine one, running down a narrow gorge between two ranges of hills, with a fine, slashing second shot with the brassey, albeit more or less a blind one”.
We think that if the New Course could be transported to virtually any other coastal stretch of the British Isles, away from the shadow of its auld mater, it would surely have a higher reputation and be recognised as the excellent links course it is. Who knows? If the course had not been in the shadows for so long and perhaps updated to a similar extent as many other links courses, it might well have played host to an Open Championship.
In 1910, Darwin wrote: “Still there occasionally comes a time when we grow sick to death of the crowding and waiting on the Old course, and then we are glad enough to steal away on to the New course and have a round, which will probably be at anyrate a comparatively quick one.” Could this really be the answer as to why the locals prefer the New course?
The first time I played the New Course was during a week in St Andrews, exploring the town and all the courses of the Links Trust. I thought it was a wonderful, classic, links course. The second time was during a 72-hole charity day of golf on four courses around the Fife region: Drumoig, Scotscraig, New course, and finally Fairmont St Andrews (Kittocks). So my second time playing this course was after 36 holes of golf that day and it had been raining for the majority of them. When we arrived at St Andrews it was raining sideways. On any other day I would have stayed inside, but this was a charity event and people had given us donations to play 72 holes, so golf it was. It's quite difficult to play with an umbrella wedged into your midriff to stop it blowing away and I only really remember a few other things about the New course from the day: my 2-hybrid saw a lot of use with half power swings just to advance the ball 100m down the fairway; and, I'd never resented playing golf before, but I remember that distinct feeling at one point. But, we finished the round, collected some more donations into our charity bucket from people who thought we were crazy (they'd be correct!) and set off for the final round.
I also recall feeling a real sense of sadness for those playing the Old course that day. For some it may have been the culmination of a lifetimes dream and the weather was just horrible, to the point of making golf almost impossible.
While the Old course was its usual heaving self (even at 7 in the morning) we teed off at 7am and played millionaires golf. There was no one in front and the next group teed off at 8. Enjoyed a wonderful golf course in 2 hours, 40 minutes. This is a decent, fun golf course that has some seriously goood holes - 6, 8, 10 (best hole on the course), 15 and 16. It also features a 225 yard par 3 which also has a tough green complex. Course was in great condition with fairways tight and greens firm and smoooth. Definitely worthy of inclusion in the top 100 in UK. Pricey but that is the cost of playing any of the courses at "the home of golf" which seems to generally target the wealthier clientele that make the pilgrimage from overseas.
Good review of a good course, but ref the cost, I appreciate value is all about perception but anywhere else the New would be higher ranked and more than £80 high season.
Sandwiched between the Old and Jubilee courses the New is at the mercy of the wind and essentially plays out towards the Eden Estuary and then back towards town.
Many locals say they prefer the New to the Old and you could argue it is the truer, fairer test of golf but as a result of that it loses some quirk, charisma and sparkle. That said this is a very fine golf course with a number of excellent holes.
There is a lovely flow to the course, early on especially, where the next teeing ground is just a few paces from the previous green.
There is a lot of subtlety about the course and some of the green complexes are outstanding – the ones at the third, fourth, fifth and sixth early on in the round are brilliant; clever, subtle and with no wind the only real defence of the course, save for the mild littering of fairway pot bunkers.
The New course is an essential play if visiting St. Andrews for any period of time. It may not be the most visually appealing but it is arguably the most exacting of all the layouts and a very high quality classic links experience.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
If you are inclined to be a little inaccurate then the par three 5th will increase your anxiety levels. Almost all of the 180 yards is flanked by expanses of gorse on both sides of the fairway. You need to thread your way past the two greenside bunkers but don’t over-club as there is also gorse not far from the back of the green.
The New course is particularly interesting around holes 8 and 9. The 8th is index 1 and heads towards the Eden estuary. On a windy day the par three 9th can be a nightmare. It is 225 yards from the back with the Eden Estuary running all the way along the left edge of the fairway. There are no bunkers on this fairway and anything slightly right will generally feed back towards the slightly sunken green.
At the back of the 16th green you will see a rare sight for St Andrews – a clump of stunted trees. The 18th is a tight par four of 408 yards with the green not far from the general dining area of the visitor’s clubhouse, although you may not feel as watched as on the Old course, there is usually a number of people following your progress.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course that he played and featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.