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St Andrews Links - follow signs to West Sands
Book well in advance - by ballot
Championships hosted: Arnold Palmer Cup, Boys Amateur, British Masters, British PGA Matchplay, Curtis Cup, Eisenhower Trophy, European Amateur Team, Scottish Amateur, Scottish Open, Senior Amateur, Senior Open, St Andrews Trophy, The Amateur, The Open, The Womens Amateur, Walker Cup, Women's Home Internationals, Women's Open
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.
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?
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 !
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!
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., 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!
As BB said below, perhaps the Old Course should be exempt from a rating as it's the spiritual home of the game we all love to play.
I cannot give it anything else but a '6' as it had been years in the making for me to play the Old Course. The dream finally came true last summer (thank you DD) and I had the most wonderful experience playing with three friendly and funny locals (oh and they could play too). I don't think it is up for us mere mortals to opine on such a course but just to say that everything flows together...the first tee nerves, trying to stay left on most shots, not knowing where to go, not seeing the pot bunkers, trying to stay out of 'hell', not hitting the hotel and finally putting out on 18 in the shadows of the R&A.
If I had one course to play for the rest of time, the Old Course would be it. Zero doubt. It's simply a magical place in a magical setting.
From the days of Dutch sailors “kolving” their stones across this linking land, to the present day invasion from all points of the compass, many things have been written about the Old Course. I’m not going to get into that for I can find no angle and am lost for original words. Instead, I will attempt 18 takeaways for each tee shot taken on my long delayed first visit here:
1. Standing around waiting on the 1st tee was quite cool. We were paired up with 2 Canadians and they’re not nearly as bad as Americans make out. With a surprising lucid mind, containing just one swing thought (Ian Baker Finch), I drove it slightly left.
2. Over the next 18 holes, I only lost 1 golf ball. Therefore this course is very playable. On one Dutch course last year I consigned 11 to a watery grave.
3. It soon becomes clear that you can drive left on almost every hole. My plan was to bail out, then make a bee line for the flag with the second shot. One of the only exceptions was at the Par 5 hole 14, where I aimed left, then further left with my second, before aiming at the flagstick. I’m undecided as to what this says about the strategic merits of the course.
4. At no point before, during, or after my round did I think of all the pros who’ve walked these fairways. Not once. Perhaps I forgot to remind myself of this. In general terms I was very aware of all the golfers like you and I who’ve walked those fairways. It’s clear that it’s some kind of pilgrimage for the regular golfer and it’s with those I felt something akin to a kinship.
5. After a few holes I decided that it’s the areas around the greens that makes the challenge here. That and the wind that wasn’t too present on Friday day we played. My strategy (see #3 above) ensured I was faced with all kinds of long & winding roads to the hole. Occasionally I don’t think it was possible to get within 6 feet. Better players armed with a little knowledge would take different routes to the hole - but next time I’m in town I’ll still aim left then enjoy what happens next. The massive greens themselves were true yet surprisingly slow.
6. The Spaghetti Junction nature of holes 8-11 surprised me, and I don’t think I’ve really got a sense of this multi-directional congestion from watching Opens on TV. It reminded me of a roundabout in Naples.
7. Hole 11. I asked myself if was a perfect par 3? The world’s shortest Par 5 some say. Happy to report I parred it.
8. Every bunker I strolled past in my dreamlike state seemed to have a name, so on the back 9 I started browsing the stroke-saver to pay attention to this. Tough to beat a behemoth named HELL, but needless to say my favourite feature was Mrs Grainger’s Bosoms. I again drove left to steer clear of any tempting trouble they might offer up. Despite my best efforts, I didn’t go in any of bunkers at all. With hindsight, a shame.
9. Our green fee was £137. All things considered, is there better value, amongst the absolute elite, than this? I’m left wondering if Golf should have some kind of New York style rent control that references the Old Course pricing. Shadow Creek costs $1,000 to play. For the same outlay you could play 97 holes of The Old Course. Tomorrow I’m going to ask my manager to quadruple my salary and see what happens.
10. By now I’m starting to think this is a memorable course. Any critical powers have long since evaporated along with my score and I’m just really enjoying myself. On one hand I’m thinking it’s not that great, but at the same time I’m racking up memories left, right, & centre (mostly left). Neat trick.
11. Driving over the “railways sheds” on 17, whilst trying to avoid a hotel window, was definitely something different. And accompanied for the first time by palpable fear. The first 3 in our group had split the fairway, so it was a great feeling to see my ball sail over the “L” from “HOTEL” (was aiming at the “E”). My future swing thought on all holes will be to aim at an imaginary “L”.
12. Standing just off the 17th green working out how to hit a bump & run, was Positively Transcendental. Not quite sure what the word means in this context, but it feels like the correct one. Also gazed across to The Jigger Inn at this point (my view, for what it’s worth, is that the Dunvegan knocks it into a Cocked Hat).
13. Driving on 18, whilst trying to avoid a car window, was another highlight. I’ve seen disaster here so the fear is justified & thank goodness for high MOI drivers. My second swing thought is now to imagine a line of expensive cars lining the right side of every fairway. I hit another shot for the age last here and the course accordingly gets an extra half ball rating from me.
14. One of the aforementioned playing partners, must have been a 5-6 hcp, had up to this point played pretty well (aside from a putter that needed jump starting at the turn). Yet he did something very impressive on the last: He topped his ball at an outrageous pace and it embedded itself into the side of the Swilken Burn on the fly. It sat there smiling back at us and 3 of us reciprocated with unbridled laughter. I desperately tried to think up some kind of “he drove his Chevy into the Swilken Levy” quip (for it referenced his name), but couldn’t quite nail it. Later on we enjoyed a few drinks with these 2 fine members of both The Commonwealth & The Pulpit Club (which allegedly knocks TOC into a Cocked Hat) and it brought home the brotherhood of traveling golfers. I do fear we owe them quite a few drinks, so if you’re reading, please do get in touch.
15. But now it was my turn. As we took the obligatory photos on the Swilken Bridge, I slipped over comically & heavily - stretching my knee ligaments and breaking my backside into several pieces. Should it be more widely known that it’s a slippery bridge? I’d sue the R&A if I thought it’d get me a free round.
16. In terms of value for money, I’d advise you to end up in the Valley of Sin. No, not that club you went to on your Stag Party, but the infamous ridge running infront of the 18th green. After a decent drive, I tried to hit some kind of clever three-quarter wedge (which a man of my means should never attempt), and watched on helplessly as a well-struck shot teetered on the green for a few seconds near the front left pin, before rolling back into the Abyss. Yet another memory that I would not have any other way.
17. Standing briefly back there on that bridge, or in fact anywhere out on the course, I felt the course to be a strong symbol of golf. Whatever that means. And I’m usually immune to or pretty cynical about these things. And I know it’s a cliche, but some cliches have a hint of truth about them. The Old Course at St Andrews is not the home of golf (that’s Holland) and it’s not the best course in the world (that’s RND), but it’s perhaps everything else in between.
18. My final takeaway is that, perhaps in the same way your don’t talk about your friend’s wife, this course should arguably be beyond a rating. Geoff Shackleford once proposed this (which means I really have to play NGLA) and I agree with him. If I coldly break the Old Course down into component parts after one visit, I can’t yet justify such a high rating, yet it’s the course I’d most like to play again.
My son and I have just finished a 7 day tour of Angus, Fife and Lothian.
The courses we played in order were: Old Course St. Andrews, Elie, Carnoustie, Dumbarnie, Kingsbarns, North Berwick and Muirfield.
I'll use the same preface and tour summary within each respective course review. Hopefully, our informal ranking(s) might provide some comparative context and help in deciding where to play.
Not much debate about whether to play the Old Course at St. Andrews.
It's the home of golf and everybody wants to play there.
There is no doubt that St. Andrews is unique with an atmosphere and history all of its own. And the golf course is embedded and central to all that St Andrews is.
But is the golf course any good?
I've read lots of reviews eulogising over the course.
And a few brave souls suggesting the course is underwhelming or over-rated. Even Tom Doak suggests you might not appreciate it at first!
Well I appreciate the 1st and 18th - the way they link the course to the town.
The 11th is a great hole. A blueprint par 3.
And I like the 16th and the 5th.
And then there's the 17th.
So that's a 1/3 of the course.
But let's face it. As a golf course, the Old Course is not Birkdale, Turnberry or Carnoustie is it?
I'd go further and say that if St. Andrews wasn't in the location it's in, with the history is has, it might not make it into the top 10 in Fife, let alone UK or World.
A statement which may be sacrilege to many.
But it IS where it is. It IS the home of golf. It IS in a superb location and it IS full of history.
It is a special place that you want to score well at.
You're paying for an ultimate golfing experience (the course is one almost secondary component of that experience).
And when we played it - the course was in good condition and greens, perhaps a little slow, were true and consistent.
So play the course - and get a caddy.
Susan caddied for me - she was great and added hugely to my experience.
I said I'd provide a ranking from our 7 day tour as a comparison guide. My son and I had a lot of fun talking about various criteria for what "best" was.
In the end, I have settled on 2 rankings: "most fun & visually inspiring" and "most keen to make a score on". These probably equate to those who are playing the game as a game and want to take time to smell the roses, and those who take it a bit more seriously where it's the satisfaction of attaining a score on a quality course.
My "most fun & visually inspiring" ranking from our little 7 day tour was:
1. North Berwick (1st, 2nd, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th ...you get the idea)
2. Elie (10th, 11th, 12th, 13th)
3. Dumbarnie (stunning panaromic views across the course and to the shore)
4. St. Andrews Old Course (just the atmosphere and the courses history and locale within the town)
5. Carnoustie (6th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 18th)
6. Muirfield (solid golf hole after golf hole)
7. Kingsbarns (hampered by atrocious weather)
The courses I'd "most like to make a score on" ranking was:
3. North Berwick
4. Old course, St Andrews
If I had just one course to play - North Berwick - it's just a great walk.
If I had just 3 courses to play - North Berwick, Carnoustie, St. Andrews (looks, quality, history)
I hope my totally subjective reviews give others some insight.
It was a memorable tour, and the list of quality courses in the area we didn't play (Leven, Lundin, Crail, Scottscraig, Castle, New, Jubilee, Panmure, Montrose, Gullane etc etc) serve to show what a fantastic region of Scotland this is to play golf.
One of the best courses, best experiences or both? As a person mad on golf I have waited far too long to visit St Andrews. The town of St Andrews is like mecca to golfers a right of passage and I could not wait to arrive and see what the town and course has to offer. I haven’t visited anywhere like it, where golf it as the heart of everything that is there. From the bars, museum, countless shops and even the hotels, the place is a golfers dream and goes above and beyond expectations. The course does have some detractors and I was interested to see what I would make of S Andrews the home of golf.
On the day the weather was as good as it gets. We played in scorching hot conditions with barely a breath of wind. I found that without its defences the course wasn’t overly difficult nor particularly long. I shot 5 over my playing handicap on my first time round, mainly due to a bit of a struggle on the greens. The greens were magnificent by the way and even with a caddy I just found them ever so difficult to play on. More experience of links golf and more times around the old course would certainly have given me a better chance to shoot my handicap.
I must say the first tee is superb, a real experience… and utter theatre. Depending on your tee time hoards of people can be sat watching you swing away and its possibly the most enjoyable/nerve wracking first tee in golf. The only comfort being that the fairway is about 100 yards wide. I was so pumped up I managed to hit my driver flush straight into the swilcan burn. I tried to take a bit off and swing easy. I suppose thats a lesson for us all.
I enjoyed the 7th hole a short par 4 where iron or 3 wood off the tee works best. Once safely in position a devilish approach awaited with a very difficult green sat upon a steep plateau. The 11th was also a nice par 3 with the Eden estuary in the background, and where the member we were paired with had a hole in one. Well done Scott if you’re reading.
I loved the lay of the land , the way the fairways were full of lumps and bumps. You never quite knew what would happen and I got a few lovely hops to avoid bunkers but also some horrendous ones that were gobbled up.
The bunkers were by far the best and toughest i’ve ever seen in golf. Not many courses have named bunkers but the Old course has many. The coffins or hell to name but a few and all have stories attached. It certainly created real drama in the round and playing in different winds must really bring different bunkers into play. You get the feeling that no round would ever be the same and I really enjoyed that aspect.
Mid round I was really starting to enjoy the tee shots. My main weakness in my game is with the driver, but around St Andrews such problems are negated by aiming into safe spots or left on most tees and playing other fairways. As is well known left is right and right is s***e and that played perfect for my game giving me a higher level of confidence than usual when branding the big stick. I managed to drive two of the par 4s and although we had perfect conditions i’m not an overly long hitter. I thoroughly enjoyed the course as it gave every golfer a fighting chance of playing well. It didn’t beat you up. If you could avoid the really bad rough and gorse by aiming well away from them then you’d avoid punishment
There is a point in the round where my memory is a little vague. Even with the yardage book out in front of me I cant quite remember some of the holes specifically. I think this is because the holes have a similar landscape. From the tee especially there are visual similarities on many of the holes. In general its very different to the other top rated courses Ive played. Its more understated and lacks that real wow factor that a lot of other courses have. Its missing in my opinion some stand out holes especially in the middle of the round where each hole feels a little similar to the next.
I found the round very enjoyable though for many other reasons. As you’re going round you chat with other golfers who might be on your fairway or maybe you’re on theirs. Members asking if its your first time playing. Course stewards giving sage advice and even the server at the halfway house asking how you’re round is going. Theres just something in the air at St Andrews. Something you cant put your finger on, or even try to explain. But everyone has a smile on their face.
The home stretch is where the course bares its teeth with 15 and 16 were very strong demanding holes. As you get closer to the town the excitement builds knowing of course what is to come. Hole 16 surprised me I thought it was an excellent hole with out of bounds to the right, thick rough left and bunkers covering the lay up short. It forced the driver and hitting towards the hotel there is no better backdrop. Once safely away its not too difficult but it serves as a good warm up for whats to come and asks the golfer to stand up and he counted on the tee.
The famed 17th… the road hole at St Andrews is what every golfer wants to play. Not a lot can be said that hasn’t been said before but for me its the best hole i’ve ever played. With a mild right to left wind. I hit a good drive to around 185 yards from the green on the left hand side of the fairway. I then tried to hit a lefty fade using the wind with 4 iron to the back left pin. Which was nestled right behind the road hole bunker. I smoked the iron announcing as it was fading back from the right edge of the green “thats gotta be close?” to which my caddie said “bunker” the ball landed 10 yards to the right scurried left, toilet bowled round the bunker and dropped in. At first a wave of disappointment came over me but whilst walking to my ball I realised that i’ve never been happier to be in the sand, or life in general. I nearly chipped in and then left my par putt agonisingly on the edge of the hole. I couldn’t have played it any better and made a bogey 5. It’s certainly one of the more challenging holes.
As a side note I would advise hiring a caddy. Im not a wealthy individual but they are such good value for money and really added to the experience. As a first timer as well I cant stress how valuable their knowledge was. Every hole you needed to know where to hit the ball off the tee, where not to land, which bunkers to miss and which parts of the green to hit and then how to read the greens. If you are playing the course for the first time i’m not sure how you could navigate the course without disaster. My caddy saved me easily 5/6 shots and if you asked him he’d probably rightly say a few more than that.
How to sum up the Old course? Id say that it just puts a smile on your face. I mean who wants to play a course that is overly difficult or long and end up with your game in tatters. Although the website asks us to mark the course and forget about all other aspects. I think that on this occasion St Andrews and the experience plays such a massive role in the round. It is just golfing heaven. I was having the time of my life and how can you not enjoy playing the home of golf when you are almost at euphoria over every shot. Ok the course in most parts isn’t overly special. If you like the finer details then each hole has different ways to play it and that is certainly a boon. I think even going round the Old course fifty times you’d never have the same shot twice and thus course knowledge and experience counts for everything.
The course granted does disappoint slightly at times and if i’m completely honest I found parts of the course baffling, but it is impossible not to fall in love with the place and the golfing atmosphere. Its golf as it was originally designed, its a little madcap at times but the parts that didn’t hit the mark fade away once you are walking down the 18th fairway, looking around and experiencing the walk of past champions. Every golfer must visit and once you have you will want to come again and again and again.
St Andrews – The first and the last I don’t think you can beat the first and the last at St Andrews. It is one of the only places in golf where as an amateur you are guaranteed to have a crowd watching you, no matter the time of day. It’s the place where Seve holed his putt; where Nick Faldo was dominant; where Rocca duffed it into the valley of sin only to hole his next; but also where old and Young Tom Morris and even Mary Queen of Scots played the game.
Similarly the first and the last (or most recent) time I played the course will always stay with me. I first went to St Andrews in 1997. My dad took me there after finishing my GCSEs. I struggled round until I came to the intimidating 17th. Dad gave me the line over the sheds. I was bang on line, but I thinned my 3 wood straight into them! It bounced back kindly allowing me a recovery iron to approximately level with the Jigger Inn. Still nervous I again slightly thinned a 9 iron which dad and my playing partners interpreted as a brave punch shot under the wind, which duly flirted with the road only to role round behind the Road Hole bunker perfectly just below the hole. What a par.
Buoyed from that I made the last in regulation but was left with around a 30 foot putt in front of a gallery. Drained it. A group of Americans loudly cheered the ball all the way in & I acknowledged them with a wave as if I was Sir Nick himself. What a finish!
The following morning as I came down to breakfast in the b&b in murray park I was greeted like a celebrity as the same group of Americans also happened to be staying there! “Youre the boy who birdied 18 yesterday! When I saw that I said, Martha, im gonna get that there boy to do my putting for me when I play the old course tomorrow” I enjoyed the compliment, particularly as he never would have said it had he seen the other 17 holes!
From that moment I was hooked on the place, which brings me to my last round. The last time I played the course was my graduation week. The 1997 holiday had convinced me there was only one uni to pick. Realising how privileged we had been for 4 years we decided to put our names in the ballot on our last day. Obviously we didn’t want to miss one of our final nights out and were hoping for an afternoon tee time. We drew something like 6am.
I made the first tee after about 2hours sleep. My friend Giulio opted to simply stay up. With low expectations (given the amount of alcohol in our systems) and after the American 4ball, who had clearly been promised our time by the starter, opted not to split in the hope other students would be no shows, we embarked as a 2 ball. We both hit fantastic drives in front of the waiting caddies and the golfers watching (even at that time there was an audience as people were hoping to get a game having missed out on the ballot).
I wasn’t keeping score, but things were going really well, we were savouring every moment knowing if we played here again we would have to pay the same for 1 round as we had done for the previous year. Then at the turn, the hangover arrived. I got up and down for par at 10, chipped in at 11, and holed a monster putt for par at 12. My emergency mars bars didn’t make much impact on the sudden down turn in my ball striking that had been balanced out on the previous 3 holes by sheer luck.
I turned to Giulio – what is my score? He started adding it up. ‘Sh*t man, you’re level par!’ Sh*t indeed. I duly completely topped my tee shot.
By the 18th we were really flagging. I got my drive away at the R&A clock, but Giulio completely carved his into the Russacks Hotel. Amazingly it bounced back in bounds. I made the green to polite applause. Was about 30 feet away again. Giulio meanwhile was fielding questions from a keen spectator, who presumably had not seen his drive and was complimenting him on what a brave line he had taken off the tee whilst asking his plan for the approach. Queue a complete duff.
I managed to get my birdie, the applause reminded me of my first round all those years before, Sir Nick was back, though I doubt he has ever holed a birdie to finish 12over gross. It says a lot about why we keep coming back to the game (or possibly my hangover) that I cant remember the details of what was clearly a collapse between 13 and 17, but that day was not about a score, it was about playing a living piece of history, and recognising how lucky we had been to have had the opportunity to play it regularly for the previous 4 years.
I played The Old Course last year and was relatively underwhelmed. However, I’ve taken advantage of the easy access again and enjoyed it far more this time. Playing in a different wind helped, and I know people say it needs more and more plays to truly appreciate it, but I’d put it in my top 5 courses now.
For us mid-handicappers it has a fun mix of scoreable and true ‘championship’ holes. I had found some of the front nine forgettable and whilst I still think it’s a little inferior, 2 to 6 are very solid. The 12th is my favourite hole, I love the fact that it looks simple from the tee but you get to the fairway and it’s a minefield.
Everyone knows about the rest, there are a couple of Open venues I prefer but it’s hard to beat the St Andrews experience and nerves. It also has the best quality greens I’ve played on, I just wish people were more careful with pitchmarks - it’s treasonous.
Returned here a few weeks ago for another round, the auld town never fails to get the juices running and always a special place to visit. There is nothing to add to any other reviews or the countless momentary on the place, I can only sum up as "understated elegance"
4.5 balls for a golf course currently rated among the 10 in the world? I feel like you might indeed have something to add to the other reviews...even if it's just "whoops, chose the wrong rating!"
St Andrews Old is so much of a simple analysis to golf. In one breath you are offered a municipal course with tee times available. In another breath you have an advance tee time service which also offers an opportunity for play. Additionally, if you choose to partake of the guaranteed manner of play, you shall pay dearly. Doesn't that pretty much sum up the view of golf in general as to how you may partake of playing this game. The Old is the home of golf. It's an absolute joy to play. 6 times I have made my way to play it. Only once was that journey predetermined vis an advance tee time. Setting off to travel 4000 miles without a tee time requires a certain personality. Yes, an itinerary was filled out otherwise. But the primary reason for the trip is/was the Old. The 1st is as open as any 1st and yet you feel uneasy. The 17th as you take aim at the corner of the hotel. The 18th as you bring it home. The criss cross which creates some fun. Bunkers with names, keep it left, greens the size of football fields, which pin should I aim at. Perfection in many ways.
I’m not sure us mere amateurs should review this course. But just to provide perspective I’ll try it.
The best course in the world? Certainly the most famous. And so the opening tee shot was one of the most nerve wracking of my golfing career. The widest fairway in golf. But I was delighted to find it. Some didn’t the day I played!!
After the first you are away from the spectating tourists and the town and into a challenging but scoreable links course. Lots of blind drives!! Generally
aim left! A good study of your course guide or a caddy is vital. Then it’s tight lies and the crazy lumps and bumps of St Andrews. Obviously the course is in great condition and it’s amazing to think about all the greats having negotiated these holes.
The highlights after the tee shot on the 1st are the 17th and 18th. 17th tee. Pick your letter on the Hotel sign and hit it true! Then avoid the Road hole bunker and it’s a basic 450 yard par 4!! It was fun.
18 is great. The worlds widest fairway remember!
All in all a great experience. I loved it. Mainly due to holes 1,17 and 18. But all of the course is enjoyable. A one off probably but something most golfers should try once!!