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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barry moulder
Just came back from playing the old course. I have played a few times here and it just seems to get better. The first time I played I wasnt overly impressed to be honest, but the more you play it the more you appreciate how good it really is. The greens and bunkers are brilliant, but its the strategic element which is most impressive, you could happily take driver all the time, but i reckon you would find bunkers more often than not so you have to think on the tee. The stretch of holes from 13 to 18 are very very strong, probably the best in the UK. Most of all its fun, the feeling standing on the 1st tee and putting on the last green with crowds watching is one im sure you wont find on any other course in the world. We had about 150 people watching us put on 18 and they all cheered and clapped when my friend sank a birdie. Absolute magic in every way!
April 14, 2009
10 / 10
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Mark Jasayko
The depth of history is overwhelming and should inspire almost all golfers who are familiar with it. The classic out and back layout. The Road Hole is one of the best ever.
December 30, 2008
10 / 10
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Alex Westenfield
Played in Aug. 2008. Course drained very well after all of the summer rain. Incredible tradition and sense of excitement as you go off the first. A great way to spend a morning. We must have had 200 people watch our group finish out, that was really fun. A very underrated test of ball-striking in my book.
December 05, 2008
10 / 10
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Robert Smith
Have only played the Old Course once, and my experience wouldn't get me rushing back. A group of 7 of us played there on a breezy cold March day, nobody on the tee in front of us, no queue to tee off behind us. The threeball went off first (naturally) and I was in the fourball behind. Waiting around on the tee the nerves began to creep in as you realised where you were, standing in front of the imposing club house and members bar right over your shoulder. Unfortunately the nerves got the better of me and despite my three friends splitting the first fairway, I completely messed up and nobbled my drive. Never mind, it had made reasonable progress, and we ventured out into the unknown. After about four or five holes a "friendly" marshall appeared. He got chatting to us as we made our way around the course, and after a while offered to help by not only giving us lines off of each tee, but also raking any bunkers we found ourselves in. It suddenly dawned on us that what he was actually doing was getting us moving along as quick as he could. Now we are not slow players, any more than four hours for a fourball and I am moaning like hell. I hate slow play. But this was a joke. We were well up with the three lads in front of us, and as I say there was absolutely nobody behind us at all. It completely ruined the day for me as you were aware of this guy watching you and trying to move you along quicker than you actually wanted to! He left us at about the 15th hole I think, but by then the damage was done. I don't remember much about my one and only visit to "the home of golf" other than leaving there thinking I had been cheated somehow. It's all about money at the Old Course and I won't be going back. The course itself (from what I can remember of it) was in very good condition and the greens were fast. But seriously, that's all I can think of. Much rather play Carnoustie. It's a better test of golf.
December 05, 2008
4 / 10
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J Barber
I've only played the Old course once, and I'm glad I did, but I wouldn't rush back. I expected it to be better than it was. The course was in good condition and the greens are excellent but I found it a disappointment. Without the history it certainly wouldn't be on the Open rota.
October 17, 2008
6 / 10
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malcolm roberts
I just dont get it with the old course, I think that too many people are thinking with their hearts rather than their heads.Whist the whole"St. Andrews" experience is wonderfull the old course is distinctly average and were this course located enywhere other than St. Andrews it would hardly raise a mention in any list.The 1st., 9th. 10th. and 18th. are little more than golf in large fields and the par 3's are barely memorable, only the quirky 17th readily springs to mind.Compared to most of our great links both the course and its condition just do not rate. Ive played it 4 times and it just does not get better for me as a course, just a glorified muni.
October 05, 2008
1 / 10
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Lawrence
October 07, 2008
the 11th, barely memorable? were you drunk?
Dewi Henderson
October 07, 2008
"The par 3s are barely memorable"!! Is this a joke? - the Old Course has only two par 3s, one of which (11th) is the best par 3 I've ever played. It's well known how much effect the wind has on this hole but the pin position also has a massive influence given the slope and contour of the green. The Strath bunker on its own makes this hole very memorable!
Don McBlade
July 07, 2009
Wembley is a big field, so is Lords yet every amateur footballer or cricket player would like to play there. St Andrews Old gives every amateur (under 24 h/cap) the opportunity to play where the greatest names in golf have played. Where else can you do this, what other sport? Have you forgotten the 4th hole, and what about 14, Hell Bunker. Oh er, I birdied 17, finished Par, Birdie, Par 22 points on back nine, ahem. Loved every minute especially drive on first, nailed it thankfully. Absolutely best golfing experience ever and i have played a few championship tracks over the years UK and abroad.
Billy
December 21, 2011
It’s weird that you have stated that the Old course is no better than average (3-ball rating) and yet given the Alma Mater a 1-ball rating. Even under thick snow the Old course deserves better treatment than this.
Michal
It's very hard to review the Old Course. Without the atmosphere of the place the course isn't really that great. Ok, it's good, in very good condition, the greens are brilliant, and holes 14 and 17 are really good on their own merit but most of the other holes are rather forgettable. On the other hand, of course, it is the atmosphere and the fact THAT YOU"RE ACTUALLY PLAYING THE OLD COURSE that make the experience great. In normal circumstances I would give the course 4 balls at best. But if you add the excitement of the first tee shot and walk over the Swilcan Bridge to the equation it has to get at least 5.
September 10, 2008
8 / 10
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John Chmara
Truely the Home of Golf! You can sense the history as you enter the little town of St. Andrews. Course conditions were outstanding when I play it on June 6th 2007 on a cold windy morning but no weather could chill my spirits. Very unusual experience because of the great history and many pictures of the course you have the feeling you have been there before, but it is much better in person!
August 12, 2008
10 / 10
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Alex
After applying last September we got our allocated tee time for the Old course, the time ticked by slowly until 3:20 13 June 2008 and we marched off down the 1st fairway, you hear a voice saying ‘’they have all walked here’’ as you march towards where you managed to hit your drive (it is a nervy occasion). The starter gave us a tip ‘’left is right and right is wrong, apart from the loop’’ and how correct is that. Anyway after we all struggled to the 8th tee after somewhat feeling overwhelmed, rushed and saying to ourselves this course is not really anything special or anything of great beauty, it relies on tradition and rather large sloping greens. The 17th did create fun (3 balls into the hotel !) and the 18th was a joy to play with the town and clubhouse acting as a great backdrop. Anyway my view was that many of the holes (2, 3, 5, 6 + 7) are all very similar and almost unfair as you really cannot see where to hit it off the tee. Also have a look where the Pro’s tees are, as in most cases they are not far behind the yellows which means that most of the ‘famous’ bunkers are not even in play for them. Oh well we have been, seen and now done it, would I return – no, for me to many players on the course (with caddies) and it failed to live up to my expectations.
June 14, 2008
6 / 10
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pratty
April 01, 2009
Thats a shame you did not enjoy the old course, look back at your stroke saver and you will see, that the back nine is a superb layout, with one of the best par 3,s in golf at the 11th, and its a great run in all the way, with the 17th thrown in as well, if you can't enjoy this course then you really need to change your sport, remember, this is where it all began.
W
Made my pilgrimage to St Andrews this month. The Old Course is much better than I was expecting. The first is one of the dullest holes on the planet...but this is the Old course at St Andrews!! After the first hole the course is great. Not great in a BIG way, great in other ways - history, fun and condition to name but three. Personal highlights included playing on the huge huge greens, hitting my drive over the corner of the sheds on the 17th (the line really is the 'o' of 'Old' if you are brave enough - I wasn't and ran out of fairway) and getting my 4 down the last. Drawbacks - the welcome is at best businesslike (and they did check handicap certs) and we were hurried along on the course despite being 20 minutes ahead of the card at one point! Still, it was wonderful and I will defintely be back.
April 15, 2008
8 / 10
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