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, the world’s oldest surviving “Royal” golf club. Sadly, the first royal club, Royal Perth, is no longer in existence, though in 1937, Royal Perth was born again, this time in Australia. 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: 8.9 out of 10 Reviews: 121
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Hugh
As a special 40th birthday present my wife bought me a package to play two rounds on the Old course, one forwards (the normal routing) and one backwards (i.e. playing the course in reverse). This is what they call playing the “left-hand circuit”, or “clockwise”. It’s an amazing experience; not only to play St Andrews the normal way round, but also to tackle it in reverse is even more special. Up until the late 19th century, the starting point was from the 18th fairway to the 17th green and then from the 18th tee to the 16th etc. Apparently, Old Tom Morris was responsible for changing the routing to the present day layout in the 1870s. Well, what can I say? If you can afford this absolute treat, go for it. The opportunity arises each April and it’s well worth the money (circa £250)…especially if you can get your wife to pay! Additionally you get a round on one of the other St Andrews courses too, so effectively it’s a three round package. Anyway, this was my second trip to the Old course and I have to say that I liked it much more the second time around and I personally think that the course is just amazing the wrong way round.
February 13, 2005
8 / 10
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Bart Boudreaux
The rush of adreniline due to historical significance compensates for faults in the golf course. Nothing else compares with the feeling you get when playing #1 and 18. Holes #1 and 14-18 are very good but other holes are average. It's a course you can score on in decent weather conditions. The whole St. Andrews experience is fantastic, be sure to visit the Dunveagan Pub.
January 01, 2005
8 / 10
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Jim McCann

I played the Old Course on 12 June 2003 on a sunny day with blustery winds on the inward half. The Links Trust member who got my friend and I a tee time has played the course many times yet he had a Strokesaver in his hand most of the way round!

His advice was invaluable as there are many drives where you can only guess at what's up ahead. I'm fed up hearing that you have to play the course several times to fully appreciate it – most of us only get the one chance (at £105 a pop) so have to base our opinion on that round.

I felt the course was weak round the turn with crisscrossing fairways and driveable par fours but there's more to a course than the terrain and the atmosphere over the last 6 or 7 holes as you head home with the town loming in the background is very special.

Overall it's a must play but you may feel underwhelmed by the actual golfing experience. Our host took us into one of the members' clubhouses that sit alongside the 18th fairway so that rounded off our round memorably over a dram or two and really made our day.

The facilities in the regular players' clubhouse are excellent and it made me proud to be a golfing Scot to see that so much is obviously being ploughed back into the infrastructure for visitors at the home of golf.

I didn't get back to play the New or Jubilee courses but hope to do that in 2005.

Jim McCann

December 20, 2004
8 / 10
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lee newbon
I have been lucky to play the Old Course a number of times. I feel you have to play it more than once to start to understand the beauty it beholds. The first time you play it, it is quite a shock and many wonder what all the fuss is about, however I promise you the magic will take hold of most and the time spent on the Old Couse forever memorable. The greens are an experience of their own, do not think your putting stroke has left you if you 3 putt regularly (or even 4 putt) you will have more 90 footers here than anywhere. Coming up the 18th and through the Valley of Sin, looking at the old town is one of the finest feelings in golf, unforgettable.
November 10, 2004
10 / 10
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oneildunne
Having been fortunate enough to play the course with an R+A member for only £10 I was very nervous about teeing off in front of the club house. Luckily my friend had played it around 100 times as he was at University there. Both being good players we found it relatively easy but I still three putted the 17th hole. However I made up for it by driving the 18th hole and making birdie. It was great as there were 100 American tourists looking on. THE BEST GOLF COURSE IN THE WORLD BAR NONE, and I have played most of them including Pine Valley, Augusta and Cypress Point.
November 08, 2004
8 / 10
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oneildunne
Whether you come away liking it or not, when you are old and the arthritis kicks in you will be very glad you can tell your grandchildren that you played it. Even with the wind blowing it was surprisingly easy compared to other links courses I have played. But has it ever really been known as a hard course? Depsite the annoying American tourists around the 18th Green a wonderful experience.
November 05, 2004
6 / 10
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Dudley Nicholls
Although I can see why people may not like the old course , for me it was a fantastic experience. I agree with other comentaters that it is not as difficult as the new ( played the day before ) but becasue of its history it seems to have an aura about it. You can get away with some dreadful shots and be punished for what you thought was a good shot but perhaps that is what the old course is all about.
August 04, 2004
10 / 10
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steve stanislowski
Maybe my expectations had been built up too much but this was one of the most dissappointing golf expriences of my life. Take for instance the opening and closing holes - a large flat field - who would design such holes now. And many of the other holes which did not stand out as great or even good golf holes. Apart from bunkering many holes are featurelss and even much of the bunkering is irrelevant for the modern game. Okay I'm glad I played it, home of golf etc. but each time I see a ranking list such as yours I cannot help but think there is at least a '0' missing from the ranking of this course. An average course at best.
June 08, 2004
4 / 10
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Warren
March 03, 2019

"who would design such holes now" ; "irrelevant for the modern game"- well Steve these holes were designed maybe a couple of hundred years ago pre 460 cc drivers and 5 piece balls and is where golf started. What ridiculous comments and rating. Go to page 11 of St Andrews reviews for review by Steve.

John Cornish
I am fortunate to play this course regularly, and while it may not be an immediate hit with all, it is a course that grows on you and one that presents a different challenge each time. My fondness for the Old has become such that I cannot wait to play it again next week, almost immediately having walked off the course.
June 06, 2004
10 / 10
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Steve Smith
It's the overall experience of St.Andrews, and for the lucky ones, myself included, who get lunch and a tour of the Clubhouse, that's so special. The famous holes, notably 17, get the imagination racing, the attempts to recover from the bunkers more so. However, put the course anywhere else, and it does not present the challenge of any number of outstanding links courses in the UK. The New Course presents a different, and some would say, a harder challenge.
May 26, 2004
6 / 10
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