St Andrews (Old) - Fife - Scotland

The Old course at "The Home of Golf" in St Andrews has staged 29 Open Championships, that's more than any other course on the rotation.

Date Winner Country
1873 Tom Kidd Scotland
1876 Bob Martin Scotland
1879 Jamie Anderson Scotland
1882 Bob Ferguson Scotland
1885 Bob Martin Scotland
1888 Jack Burns Scotland
1891 Hugh Kirkaldy Scotland
1895 John H.Taylor England
1900 John H.Taylor England
1905 James Braid Scotland
1910 James Braid Scotland
1921 Jock Hutchison USA
1927 Bobby Jones USA
1933 Denny Shute USA
1939 Dick Burton England
1946 Sam Snead USA
1955 Peter Thomson Australia
1957 Bobby Locke S Africa
1960 Kel Nagle Australia
1964 Tony Lema USA
1970 Jack Nicklaus USA
1978 Jack Nicklaus USA
1984 Seve Ballesteros Spain
1990 Nick Faldo England
1995 John Daly USA
2000 Tiger Woods USA
2005 Tiger Woods USA
2010 Louis Oosthuizen S Africa
2015 Zach Johnson USA

Rarely is the Old course ranked outside the top ten because it’s a very special links, designed by Mother Nature. Surely there is little left to write about St Andrews; the spiritual home of golf, the world’s most famous links course, the mother of golf and so on. It is probable that golf was played here way back in the 12th century; what is certain is that the Old course is one of the oldest golf courses in the world.

In 1553, the Archbishop of St Andrews administered confirmation, at last allowing the community to play golf over the links. The Society of St Andrews Golfers was formed in 1754 and ten years later the course was reduced from its original 22 holes to 18. In 1834, William IV bestowed royal patronage on the club and The Society then changed their name to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Significantly, Ladies’ golf began at St Andrews; the world’s first ladies golf club was founded here in 1867. Royal North Devon’s ladies club was formed one year later.

"There are those who do not like the golf at St Andrews," wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, "and they will no doubt deny any charm to the links themselves, but there must surely be none who will deny a charm to the place as a whole. It may be immoral, but it is delightful to see a whole town given up to golf; to see the butcher and the baker and the candlestick maker shouldering his clubs as soon as his day's work is done and making a dash for the links."

The St Andrews Old course itself usually isn’t an instant hit, it’s a golf course you have to get to know and love. First timers might be somewhat disappointed. It's also unlikely that the Old course will feel familiar when you play it for the first time (except perhaps the 1st, 17th and 18th). Television pictures tend to make the ground look very flat, but the humps, hollows and ripples in the fairways are much deeper when you get out onto the course, as indeed are the pot bunkers. Dr Alister MacKenzie wrote in his book, The Spirit of St Andrews: “A good golf course is like good music or anything else: it is not necessarily a course which appeals the first time one plays over it; but one which grows on a player the more frequently he visits it.”

In Tom Doak’s Little Red Book of Golf Course Architecture, the author goes a long way towards explaining why the Old course isn’t an instant hit:

“The Old Course would never receive the acclaim it has today if we hadn’t been told for eons how great it is. It is the great golf course that the most players tend to dismiss as overrated after their first round – of course, that has something to do with its fame too. But it seems to me that the two reasons for it are simple: 1) most tourists don’t get to see the most interesting hole locations, which are reserved for important events, and 2) golfers can’t make out the strategies of the holes because the features are so difficult to see.”

However, it goes without saying that every golfer should play this course at least once, preferably multiple times. It sends shivers down the spine when the starter announces your name, setting those first tee nerves jangling. Oozing familiarity with names like the Swilcan Burn, the bridge over the burn—thought to have been built by the Romans—and the Valley of Sin. There are many memorable holes on the Old course, but one in particular, the 17th, the Road hole, is probably the most famous hole in the world.

And a word about the greens: they are the most extraordinary and interesting putting surfaces in the world. There is little definition between where the fairway, fringe and green stops or starts and the fairways are probably faster and certainly more undulating than the average golf club’s greens. And the size of them is absolutely staggering—they are gigantic—occupying more than an acre in some cases. When you are on the green, forget about having the pin tended—take a pair of binoculars instead.

Mother Nature was largely the architect of the Old course, but some credit must be given to Allan Robertson. In 1848, he widened fairways, created the now-famous gigantic double greens and built the infamous Road Hole green. Robertson's protégé, Old Tom Morris, also made further revisions to the Old course down the years.

"If I could be certain that everyone were intimately acquainted with the Old Course at St Andrews," wrote Tom Simpson, "my task, in saying what constitutes a good golf course would be a very simple one. I should just say St Andrews and leave it at that."

So, get yourself in the ballot and keep your fingers crossed. You will definitely remember the Old course experience for the rest of your life. And did you know that St Andrews Links has become the first Open Championship venue to achieve the prestigious GEO Certified ecolabel?

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Reviews for St Andrews (Old)

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Description: No other course has hosted more Opens than the Old Course at St Andrews. Its 29th Open and the 144th Open Championship returned “to the Home of Golf” in 2015. Rating: 9 out of 10 Reviews: 138
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Kyle Dix

Had the pleasure of playing this course just before the 150th open with my dad. Absolute bucket list round of golf.

Nothing came in the way of letting us down for the experience. The caddy was brilliant, the course was amazing and would recommend people crossing the world to come here, if you are a golfer you have to play here.

September 14, 2022
10 / 10
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Robin Wolf

Walking in the footsteps of giants. Played in winter off mats. Maybe it's the perfect links turf or the teary eyed walk up the 18th. But there's no place quite like it.

August 26, 2022
10 / 10
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M. James Ward

I attended / covered the 150th Open Championship and while the Old Course is still a first-rate layout design wise for the broader golf population it's become obvious that when you have the world's finest players competing for the oldest major championship you will need assistance from Mother Nature to temper the tremendous scoring that took place.

The Old Course -- like a number of links layouts -- cannot be a stern test without major wind velocities throughout the duration of the event and truly firm turf conditions.

The players at the highest of levels have a skillset truly beyond words.

The Old Course still has an array of engaging aspects tied to positioning one's golf ball but that is more tied to the play of the bulk of players below the highest of levels.

The R&A has lengthened the course and there's no doubt the 17th hole still presents challenges when played as a par-4. I even saw pin locations used that were as tough as the layout could offer. The unrelenting buzz saw of birdies made was mindboggling.

The key for any Open is having wind play a pivotal role in concert with firm and fast turf conditions.

I have to wonder whether the Old Course still has the chops to be a meaningful test for the highest caliber of players.

Before people weigh in -- know this. I am a fan of the layout but I wonder if the course still has the goods to really be impactful for the best of the best.

My above commentary is not an indicator on the intoxicating ambience that comes from the town and the experience in being there. It is purely on the design aspects and whether they are still pertinent to the skillsets of the finest players in the sport.

One final thing -- I have played the Old Course numerous times over the years and still revere it.

August 10, 2022
9 / 10
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Ron Stelten
August 11, 2022

I have to believe or perhaps want to believe that the R& A Open Committee is scratching there heads wondering just what they can do to The Old Course before the next time The Open returns. They know that the next time around the entire field will be playing eighteen like it was a long par three.

I played on the PGA European Tour back in the 1980's and early '90's. I was there for two Opens. What I saw last month at St Andrews was very disappointing. The Old Course played like a pitch and putt. Even the lengthen seventeenth was still a medium-short par four. The course does not present the challenge it has in the past.

This is not to say that the drama wasn't spectacular, it was. But that is beside the point. The top players in the world can give us golfing fans drama and close competition on any style of golf course.

My opinion is that the Old Course should give us more. Far too many of the famous bunkers are not even on the radar for today's pros.

My hope is that the R&A can find a way to roll back the ball in time for the next Open at The Old Course. In my mind and opinion the golf ball should match the golf course and what better golf course to use as the standard for the ball than The Old Course at St Andrews.

The ball that Nicklaus, Ballesteros, and Faldo use at St Andrews was almost identical. With that ball the best players in the world knew that every bunker and mound was in play. My hope is that the future rules of golf save the golf course and not the wishes of golfers that just want to play overpowered golf.

Finally, in 2024 The Senior Open will be held at St Andrews. I hope to be playing in it. If I am so lucky, I will be hitting drives and iron shots the same distance I did when I was there as a young tour pro. In July 2024, I will be 68 years old.

Kevin Henley
August 11, 2022

Very reasoned comments with which it is hard in the main to not agree.

The answer lies in whether this summer is a freak or whether it is a taste of the future as I too, whilst loving the Old Course, concede that in those conditions it is toothless to the incredible modern talent.

However with previously normal rain seasonal rain fall the rough grows up - don’t cu I back - and when the wind blows the stern test is back.

I play most years at Carnoustie in the Craws Nest Tassie and to heal the amateurs round in a sensible time the rough is usually very well pruned. Of course Carnoustie is Steiner test that the Old but as long as there is Spring rain the Old course can be set up tough too if the wind blows.

Trouble is pro golfers do not like being supposedly made to look silly for in effect dropping shots in the rough like a majority of golfers do.

For me far more entertaining to watch Taylor and Davies chase a black round the table for half an hour under pressure, just as to see the superbly talented modern golf pro chopping out of the rough and struggling with the pressure and the conditions.

Watching balls lane by flags and then a pair of legs walk up and hole the umpteenth birdie is bland by comparison in my humble opinion but it seems that birdies are sexy to many viewers.

Warren
August 12, 2022

What ideas are out there to toughen the Old Course up? For eg Would it be sacrilegious to put a cross bunker in at the 250m mark going right across 1 and 18? But more importantly Why can’t we accept 259 beats 260 instead of thinking of it as 29 under v 28 under.

Ron Stelten
August 15, 2022

My question to Warren is, “Why is it the golf course that has to change?” Changing the golf course is only one option. Another option is changing the equipment. I am on the side of changing the equipment. In auto racing when the cars get too fast they slow down the cars, they don't rebuild the tracks. Baseball is always adjusting the ball, the don't build larger playing fields. Riviera CC in LA has four tees that are used one week a year. The cost of maintaining those four tees is a 52 week expense. Why should the golf courses foot the bill for changes in equipment. Changes that go beyond and outside the vision of the original golf course architect and owners. Alister MacKenzie wrote about the added cost to building a golf course because the “new” golf ball went so far. He also wrote about the longer time it was taking to play golf because of the longer courses. How expensive and how much longer does a golf course and a round of golf have to get before attention is placed primarily on the equipment.

M. James Ward
August 18, 2022

Ron --

The equipment companies and its connection to the PGA TOUR is what drives the consumer market. If the USGA and R&A were to enact a 10-20% rollback on the golf ball the likelihood equipment companies would opt for litigation. And the consumers -- the bulk of men who hit 220 yards drives -- would not exactly "jump for joy" that they would lose 10-20% on the tee shots they get now.

You can be sure that the PR moves by the equipment companies would illustrate how people within the respective governing bodies are taking the fun out of golf for the game they play.

It is truly unfortunate what has happened to classic architecture golf courses, but the reality is that the genie was let out of the bottle over 25 years ago. When metal clubheads were permitted was the beginning of the downslope in terms of meaningful control. The same can be said for golf ball technology which fundamentally altered the game when the Pro V1 and Pro V1X entered the scene.

Bifurcation is a possible solution but the USGA, R&A and the key players within the equipment category are dead set against that even though it's clear as day that golf at the elite level is miles beyond what takes place with basic players

The issue with scoring at this year's Open was not that Cameron Smith was -20 but the bulk of scores further back was also quite low. In sum -- the golf course did not really provide any real separation.

Without sustained wind velocities (3-4 club wind) and max firm and fast turf conditions the Old Course is simply overmatched. I also question how relevant The Open Championship can be for future renditions at the Old Course. Keep this in mind, I do believe there can be fair and testing conditions for the world's best players -- see this year's US Open at TCC (kudos to the USGA on the set-up) and to Kerry Haigh once again at this year's PGA Championship

I am very much aware that fans of the Old Course are aghast that any person would suggest having actual course modifications. But candidly I don't see why a more thorough analysis be done that can look at what possibilities exist on that front. For example, new bunker placements may be needed on certain holes -- and placed in the appropriate 300–320-yard locations. I am especially concerned at how the middle holes of the course have become nothing more than a birdie binge.

Let me point out the 18th was simply an extended par-3 -- hardly memorable by any definition.

Change is hard to swallow, and I am very much aware when proposed reform can go wildly off the tracks -- see the results at Inverness and Oak Hill from years back as just two examples of how the "improvement" ruined the pedigree of each. Thankfully, both have been updated to be more in alignment with what they were originally.

If the USGA and R&A want to step out on the limb in rolling the golf ball back they had best be prepared for a massive fight -- one they may not win and one that may cost them millions in doing so, Is fighting the good fight worth it?

Sadly, I believe the opportunity was lost years ago when wooden clubs and balata balls could have been sustained before the onslaught of what one sees today. Other reforms could have been carried out -- no lofts greater than 54 degrees and a max number of clubs used to be decreased from the existing 14 to either 10 or 12.

The Old Course is still relevant to all players - but not those at the world class level. The R&A should review thoroughly what The Open can and should be about.

I have covered major championships since 1980 and seen the progressions that have happened. in an up-close manner. Players are stronger and better equipped on a range of fronts (no pun intended). Selling length -- or even the allusion of it for average players -- has always been a focal point for the equipment companies. For ruling bodies to believe these same companies will willingly accept a ball that goes considerably less in distance and then promote / market it as such is in dream land.

Rolling back the golf ball 10-20% is very easy to preach about -- but doing the actual heavy lifting and going toe-to-toe with the equipment companies in doing so is a far different matter. The protracted collaborative approach being carried out by the USGA and R&A was meant to bring together varied interests, but now it's time for the bodies to realize that their interests are clearly not on the same page with those selling such products.

As an aside -- it would be amazing if someone like Fred Ridley stated Augusta National would mandate a "Masters golf ball" and how each invitee would need to play such a ball in order to play in the event. One should not hold one's breath in thinking that will happen.

Ron -- and to all others -- just realize I am a big-time fan of the Old Course but going forward and leaving the course "as is" and keeping the layout in the rotation will mean a repeat of what we just saw this past July.

There are certain realities that exist because meaningful reform when needed did not happen. The R&A needs to do some serious soul searching going forward.

Robert Butlin
August 18, 2022

Two thoughts; one which may be constructive, one which is whimsical.

The constructive one is to decrease the par score - make St Andrews (and other courses when being played by professionals) a par 70 or 71.

The whimsical one is that, if re-incarnation was real, I'd come back as a scratch female golfer and thus play the golden age courses as the challenge they were back in the day.

BB
August 18, 2022

There will be a commercial challenge of rolling back the golf ball, but I still believe the dog is wagging the tail and not vice-versa. Or at least it should be this way. There is a successful precedent with the rules changes to wedge grooves from 2010 so I hope it’s possible to do it again.

There are current rules that limit how far a ball can travel. For example, the ball cannot be less than 1.68 inches in diameter. No manufacturer can make a ball smaller than this (but if they did, it would fly further). Therefore the R&A could adjust this existing rule to a larger minimum size - requiring no actual tech roll-back from the manufacturers. Callaway actually market a slightly larger ball and admit it travels less far.

A larger ball could also make putting slightly more difficult - think throwing a sausage or an elephant up an alleyway - which could also influence scoring. Bifurcation issues would hopefully be minimal - e.g. Pros would be playing with their little balls immediately, but amateurs could presumably still use their balls (out of competition) until they are spent. Within a few years all golfers would be playing with the same balls.

Another ball rule concerns the weight. This time it is a maximum stipulation (1.62 ounces). Reduce this maximum and a ball will also not travel as far. See how far you can throw a table-tennis ball compared to a golf ball. I’m not sure why the governing bodies are not pursuing these avenues - perhaps there is a good reason (that hopefully isn’t simply “fear of incurring the wrath of manufacturers”).

One note on equipment history: It was the Nike Tour Accuracy - the first solid core ball - that arguably lead to where we are today. Tiger put it into play in 2000 and immediately won the US Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes. Titleist followed suit within a year, replacing their wound core balata with their own solid core Pro V1. It’s fair to say Titleist made a better fist of it commercially - and the victor always tends to write history - but for a few months in 2000 Tiger had an equipment advantage to go with his superior ability. The concept of “Tiger Proofing” courses back then was perhaps more accurately defending them against the new solid core golf balls - a debate we are still having more than 20 years later.

Ron Stelten
August 18, 2022

Thank you M. James Ward. As always your thought and writing is clear. I know the up hill battle of my hope and wish for golf.

I wonder if the golf courses themselves could band together to say "no more". Wouldn't the top 200, 300, 400 golf courses have the might to stand up to the manufactures and say "your equipment is forcing us to spend money that we no longer want to spend". Or something to that affect. Perhaps Augusta and St Andrews could lead this cause.

In closing, a conversation like this can go on forever. I hope to read more replies but this will be my last.

3Putt
August 21, 2022

It's taken me a little while to join this correspondence because I thought I should structure my [contrary] views carefully.

The previous articles are very well written: the content is well stated and based on sound principles but am I the only one who believes that these beautifully designed old courses should not be interfered with or, at worst, gently modified without compromising the original layouts?

St. Andrews will always be a gentle test of golf in benign weather [remember Tiger in 2000!] Easy to toughen it up - play it at a different time, where the weather might be a bigger factor.

It should be remembered that for the most part, golf courses are there for the golfing public, not a tiny cohort of golf bullies. Likewise, most courses that host professional tournaments do it once a year or often less so why change them?

It seems to me that there are several factors that contribute to the [sometimes offensive] low scores that we see in current times and they are:

The strength and fitness of the modern pro. golfer

The extraordinary advances in equipment in the last 15 years.

The advances in golf agronomy that allow the venues to be presented in such purity, apart from, perhaps, classic links courses which don't need much change.

BUT to my mind the elephant in the room is the outrageous advantages that the pro's are given when playing - pristine fairways and greens, perfectly raked bunkers where even the orientation of the rake marks is taken into account, pure greens, divots and plug marks properly managed either by caddies or course staff and the big daddy of them all - if it rains [gasp] the ability to 'lift/clean/place' the ball. How often do we see this now? No wonder they are shooting such low scores. Try suggesting that to your match committee!!

Apologies for the long-windedness but let's not put the cart before the horse here. Subtle change - yep, a new approach by the R and A, USPGA etc. in how/when/where tournaments are played - definitely but trashing our treasures, please no.

Sadly, 'plus ca change' it is not.

Andrew Lilley

A dream came true recently when I played the hallowed links of the Old Course.

I queued up in the singles queue to get on. Arriving at 0:09, I was 9th in the queue and fortunately got the last guaranteed tee time. Some will think I’m crazy for trying to sleep on a bench just so I can play golf but for me it was all part of the St Andrews experience. Golfers from across the globe coming together to exchange stories about where they’d played, great rounds had and the dreams they have of playing the Old Course.

As my tee time wasn’t till 4:30 I took myself back to bed for a few hours before wandering round St Andrews soaking up the experience. Watching people playing the Road Hole whilst having lunch at the Jigger Inn, taking on the crazy slopes of the Himalayas putting green and seeing the hive of activity finishing off the stands for the 150th Open Championship added to the buzz I felt as my tee time got closer.

St Andrews is just an incredible place, an experience in golf that will probably never be topped for me. Although the course itself and the round you have play such a part in the experience, from hitting the longest, straightest drive I’ve ever hit on 1, almost rolling out into the burn, attempting to get out of the deepest pot bunkers on 11, finding the centre of the fairway on 17, slicing my drive on 18 on to a roof only for it to bounce back into the fairway whilst being watched by 20 or so people and then been cheered and jeered by those on the Rusacks balcony and around the green for sticking my wedge shot to 10 feet and then missing the par putt, I will try and write an objective review about the course, divorced from the overall experience of playing at the Home of Golf.

I’ve seen a lot of comments from first timers saying they were massively underwhelmed by the Old Course. Each to their own but I just don’t see how you can be.

Admittedly, the first isn’t much to look at but the OB right and the Swilcan burn running in front of the green do pose a question to you whilst stood over your shot. From 2 on though, the course steps it up a level and just keeps going.

There’s classic, rolling undulating links land on the fairways with strategically placed bunkers, many of which are not visible from the tee and can catch what may seem a good shot off the tee. Many people told me that left was my friend off the tee and whilst I would agree for getting off the tee, it then leaves all sorts of problems for the approach as the route to the green and pin are protected by bunkers and hollows, the massive Cartgate bunker on 3 being the perfect example.

The famous double greens are on another level for me as green complexes. Their sheer size, the undulations, which I thought seemed more nuanced on the back than the front and how bunkers, swales and hollows cut into them and the way the land all gathers to those points is just sublime. The craziness of the crossover between 7 and 11 would be laughed at today but just works as do the back to back drivable par 4s at 9 and 10.

The back nine for me, went up yet another gear to the front and the walk home with the town getting every closer is magnificent. 11-16 is a stretch of very challenging, tough holes, tee shots and approaches need to find the right spots or you’re in a world of pain. And Hell bunker on 14 is truly terrifying.

Whilst I’ve tried to be objective so far, I’m going to say that 17 is the best hole I’ll ever play and the walk up 18 is just truly special. It’s the one hole I don’t think you can divorce for the experience but as a hole alone poses so many questions especially around the green.

Conditions were unbelievable as you’d expect just a month before the Open, fairways firm and fast, immaculate greens and some juicy rough being grown up.

What a challenging and crazy place yet so much fun and playable. Sorry for the long long read, I’ve tried to describe it here but I don’t think I’ve really got the vocabulary to properly explain my feelings so I’ll just say if you’ve not been then go and if you have been then I’ll ask when are you going back and can I come?

July 29, 2022
10 / 10
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David Oldham

When reviewing the Old Course its about the whole experience, the history, the atmosphere & the course. The 1st time you play it, stood on that 1st tee, crowds watching, nervous, thinking don't hit it OB, then finishing thinking what's all the fuss about. There are many great holes on the Old Course, fairways are wide and greens are BIG. Avoid the bunkers and there's a good score to be had. I can understand the negative comments about the course the first time you play it but the more you play it, 4 times for me, the more you appreciate the course. St. Andrews Old course is a must for any golfer.

May 26, 2022
10 / 10
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Gavin Hale
July 31, 2022

Hi David. Thanks for your comments on my review. Replied to you there, but just to confirm:

1) I've played the Old course 6 times now, and it's not yet won me over as it obviously has you

2) I got married in St Andrews and visit frequently (more so than I play the old course). It's a special place and would recommend a visit to anyone

3) I spectated at the opens in 90, 95 and the most recent a few weeks ago

4) I fundamentally disagree with your statement that there are many great holes. There aren't. There are a few gems, the 11th and 16th have always appealed.

5) if you deposited the old course anywhere else, and judged soley on its merits it wouldn't be so highly regarded (obviously)

6) as can be seen from the courses I've rated/reviewed, if I only had one course to play (a la Jack Nicklaus) it wouldn't be here.

St Andrews the place: 8 balls

St Andrews Old Course experience: 5 balls

Old course: 3.balls

Somewhere in there is an overall rating.

Oliver Cram

This course is a must visit for any golfer in the world. The feeling you get playing this course for the first time cannot be matched by any other course in the world. You won't feel more nervous for any first tee shot but the good news is that you have the widest fairway in golf to aim for.

You really feel like you are walking in footsteps of legends at this course.

I have played several times, and given the favourable green fees compared with other championship courses, I would go all out and get a caddie to make your experience all the more memorable if you only play it once.

Its also invaluable as you won't have a clue where to hit most of the tee shots as a first timer.

St andrews has some interesting holes in the middle, my personal favourite is the 13th hole. I think this is one of the most complex holes you are likely to play and after several rounds I am still not sure what the best strategy is.

The closing stretch is just full of memories. You will feel like a true champion if you take the Tiger line over the O in hotel of the 17th tee.

And if wearing a jumper, please take it off before attempting to drive the 18th just like Nicklas.

March 08, 2022
10 / 10
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Mark

Seldom have I felt my heart pounding as I stand on the first tee box of any courses but this time I did. Maybe its the history or the majestic nature of St Andrews but certainly teeing it up at the first at the Old course felt like the pinnacle of my course itinerary so far and to be honest unless I make it to Augusta I doubt it will be beaten. We had the most splendid of days weather wise, with a golden winter sun drenching the immaculate fairways it was hard not to be seriously impressed by the whole experience. You hear so many people talking about their first experience of playing the old course and many are somewhat negative. I think its managing expectations and I had done my best for the previous four days of our trip not to put such an unhealthy emphasis on the old course. I have to say to the contrary the old course turned out to be probably one of my favourite rounds ever, we had definitely saved the best till last.

The course itself is just unlike anything I've played. Starting on the widest of fairways you could hope for with local dog walkers cutting across the middle, the old town behind you and the sea to the right, its super special, its intimate but intimidating at the same time.

I was clearly inspired as I made a personal best of 3 birdies and 1 eagle for my round. Driving the green at the 9th and holing a 30 foot put was something I will never forget. We played like the typical tourists we were talking videos and photos along the way and soaking in the whole day. I cannot wait to return to St Andrews and enjoy all it has to offer again but will I ever play the Old course again? Maybe some courses should be only played once to keep the memory of perfection intact!

February 15, 2022
10 / 10
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jason

Just played it for the fourth time and played like a total donkey ! however being that I wasn't trying to score well as my score was dead after four, I had a chance to enjoy the majesty of the place.

I have never experienced anything like this place in regards to the fact that it changes almost beyond recognition each time you play it.

Firstly the size of the greens means you can be 80 yards different on the approach and with many of the greens being side on...... this can feel like a totally different hole. Add the ever changing wind to this , again you have a very different experience every time you play.

As mentioned earlier this was my fourth time playing the old course and 5 of the holes I thought I hadn't played before !

Go once and you will love it once, but go every year and you will love it for life !

Bucketlist golf and experience.

February 02, 2022
10 / 10
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Dean Petrone

St Andrews is a religious experience.. if you are a serious golfer, it will make you feel complete; if you are a casual golfer, it will make you into a serious one. For the first timer, the course itself is unlike anything you’ve ever played before and can only be fully appreciated through use of a caddie. The number of shots one could play on the course is infinite. Par the Road Hole, finish birdie and you may be looking for real estate in the town of St Andrews on your plane ride home.

February 02, 2022
9 / 10
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M. James Ward

What is there to say about The Old Course that has not been mentioned countless times?

For me -- the starting point is simply this -- there is no course on the planet matching the history and tradition you get when there. The "home of golf" tagline is not hyperbole -- it magically cuts deep into the very soul of the game

Just stepping onto the 1st tee is an experience with no equal peer in golf. All of the greatest players -- save for Hogan -- have planted their feet there. Standing in front of the R&A clubhouse with the town so close and the beach nearby is amazing.

Clearly, the Old Course reaps the rightful bounty of such magnificent and enduring history.

But those singling out that dimension solely often underplay the strategic nature of the course. Those playing one round, in most instances, will not fully see the magic of the layout. This same situation is akin to when playing #2 at Pinehurst. I chuckle when people make pilgrimages and then after one round on the Old they bellow ignorantly -- "is that it?" Far too many of these ignoramuses then go about playing "x" number of other courses and don't realize how they shortchanged themselves without a follow-up round.

The vagaries of links golf are on full display when playing The Old Course. One of the aspects that makes a one-time round so limiting is that during general play pin positions are often located in benign spots so the requisite need for proper angles and trajectory control are not maxed out. When they are, and then add blustery conditions, the full mature of greatness of The Old Course comes alive strikingly.

The other element that can't be stated enough is the overall playability of the course. With a ground game dimension front and center the wherewithal for higher handicaps to move one's ball around is doable. Far too much of modern golf has placed playability further back in terms of key essentials. That's truly unfortunate.

My other comment deals with the world renown Road Hole. Some may not realize the 17th was a par-5 for many, many years. Then, I believe, with the 1960 Open Championship, ipso facto, the hole was deemed a par-4. The reality is that the nature of how the green is angled dictates healthy respect. Modern players attempting to hit and hold the green from 200+ yards out is akin to landing a 747 on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Just ask Tom Watson when he attempted to fit his 2-iron approach during the final round of the '84 Open. To achieve success on the hole one must simply play to the right of the green and attempt to see if you can gain access to the very front portion of the green. Even being short right and using the Texas Wedge is both a smart and practical play. Leaving the green with a five (5) on the card is quite respectable. Landing in the frontal bunker is truly terrifying but bounding off the green and intersecting with the devilish Road can mean any number is in play.

The walk on the 18th is magical. The town to the right and the famed clubhouse beckoning. Yes, getting beyond the Valley of Sin and possibly leaving the hole with birdie as Nicklaus did in '05 during his final pilgrimage is what all golfers can aspire to when there.

The Old Course mandates a brilliance in terms of placement. Tee shots are given more liberty, but one soon finds out that such liberty can extract a price with the shot that follows.

In modern times since WW II -- the names of Nicklaus and Woods are the only ones to have won TWICE there. And the latter did so by never being in a bunker in 2000. Amazing.

When one connects the various dots in terms of a course's overall stature it's hard to downplay why The Old Course commands the high place it rightly enjoys.

Candidly, those who love architecture and have not been there should plan accordingly. The 150th edition of The Open coming in July '22 is an event that will indeed be most special, and I am eager to be there.

The Old Course truly connects past and present. I can only hope the R&A does not attempt to doctor the layout in future years beyond what's been done.

Hallowed ground - indeed !

December 17, 2021
9 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

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Ryan Book
December 17, 2021

I ask this question with respect for your significant travels and experience...you noted correctly that some aren't as awestruck as others, and among these "others" there are many who consider it among the best courses in the world. I note that you gave it a 5.5 and not a 6...could you give a brief list of "cons" to describe what keeps it from reaching the very top tier? Thank you!

M. James Ward
December 18, 2021

Ryan:

My score of a 5.5 rating does not mean any significant "cons" regarding my rapture for The Old Course. Keep this in mind, far too many people post reviews via this site with a grade inflation mindset and hand out six (6) ratings when a fair-minded number should be lower.

Why is that?

It's partly tied to a limited sampling base many have. When someone has a relatively small sampling size compared to others, they don't have a wider array of courses from which to provide the kind of meaningful cross comparison that can truly delve deeper. Cross comparison analysis fares more effectively with a larger base and therefore can shake out the real contenders from others that are simply pretenders.

In all the courses I have rated with this site I have given out only a small number of courses at the 6.0 level. That does not mean a score of 5.5 is an indicator of some fatal flaw.

Just realize there are those who include a course rating number for non-architectural elements. Such as -- how friendly was the staff upon arriving? Was the food tasty? Was the locker room stocked and serviced correctly? You get my drift. These mindless inclusions have nothing to do with the core of what needs to be assessed -- the overall architecture. That's why the site is titled -- top 100 golf courses - not top 100 golf experiences. Some may link them as one and the same thing -- I don't.

Now, I know for some -- the added non-architectural elements are important to them. My ratings number rests solely on what is present from the moment I step on the 1st tee till picking my ball out of the hole at the 18th. If a club has nothing more than a tent for a clubhouse that's something I don't hold for or against in my overall assessment.

When I go to a restaurant the quality of the food rates above all else. I don't go to a restaurant because the curtains were arranged a certain way, or the utensils set out in a specific manner. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate all the non-core inclusions, but I assess the architecture as the first among equals.

Now onto your question concerning my 5.5 rating on The Old Course.

The Old Course is somewhat handicapped because of the limitation in the repertoire of par-3 and par-5 holes within the routing. In sum -- you have just two for each category and while the holes are notable -- specifically the 11th and 14th holes -- the 5th and 8th are a bit less so for me.

When one reaches the far end of the property, I enjoy the opportunity offered to play a bit of catch up with the various short par-4 holes. However, I don't view the 9th and 10th providing compelling architecture. They are good -- but not particularly inspirational.

There is also the reality when playing The Old Course that wayward misses to the right are ones bearing the greater proportion of pain on one's scorecard. Missing left on a number of holes and you will still be making strokes with one's ball -- albeit with a more challenging approach angle.

Finally, the routing is one-dimensional -- you go out in a set direction and then you head back to the clubhouse in reverse. That is why Muirfield, in my estimation, is the consummate test and its roster of champions through the years is testament to that conclusion.

Ryan -- ultimately the issue for The Old Course, as I penned in my review, is that many golfers only sample the layout one time and then head to other courses in the immediate region. There is no immediate WOW factor.

The clues of greatness are layered below the surface. Sad to say, but most people are often struck when clear visuals emerge. You can see that most notably through the designs created by Tom Fazio at any number of his stellar creations.

The Old Course is one all golfers should attempt to play in a lifetime. The elasticity in what it provides to the widest array of golfers is truly special and became the inspiration for such luminaries as Bob Jones and Alister MacKenzie through the creation of Augusta National.

I hope the information I've provided has been helpful in explaining my rationale.

Merry Xmas !

M.J.

Ryan Book
December 20, 2021

M., very satisfactory points to explain a 5.5 versus a 6...as someone who holds dear a route that changes direction frequently, your point on Old registers well with me! And don't worry...you aren't the kind of chap I'd reckon altered his rating based on practice grounds and pre-round sausage sandwiches. Merry Christmas!