No golfing expedition to Scotland is complete without playing the Old Course at St Andrews, which, as the ‘home of golf’, has hosted more Open Championships than any and which annually is the central core of the three Scottish courses that host the Alfred Dunhill Links pro-am championship.
Carnoustie and Kingsbarns are the other two.
All professionals in the field for this week’s Dunhill will play one round on each of the courses and then go back to the Old Course at St Andrews for Sunday’s final round.
For the casual golfer, taking a trip north of the border can bring with it some quality tracks at affordable prices.
But no golfing expedition to Scotland is complete without a round on the Old Course.
Two of golf’s all time greats have both had high praise for The Old Course.
Jack Nicklaus, an 18-time major winner and one of the game’s most respected course designers, has said of the Old Course: “I fell in love with it the first day I played it. There’s just no other golf course that is even remotely close.”
And Tiger Woods, the highest paid golfer of all time, has enthused: “Without a doubt I like it the best of all the Open venues. It’s my favourite course in all the world.”
The myth about the Old Course being one of the toughest courses in the world is not true.
In fact, generous fairways and greens of the kind it offers are a rare commodity on championship courses. So making a respectable score is a real possibility. But there are two serious obstacles – bunkers and the wind.
If the wind blows (which it often does) you’ll need to bring your ‘A’ game to record a respectable final total.
Usually the wind blows with you on the way out and into your face on the tougher back nine. With out-of-bounds running down the right hand side of the last five holes avoiding a slice is a must that goes without saying.
Then there are the bunkers. Don’t underestimate the heartbreaking quality of sand. These steep-faced bad boys will make a monkey out of the best players in the world – and often have.
So don’t even think about trying an heroic shot ‘that Tiger would be proud of.’ – especially at the ‘Hell’ bunker on 14 and the one on the left side of the green at the infamous ‘Road Hole’ on 17. They are not to be messed with.
Whether you’ve ripped the course up, been blown away or got stuck in the sand you’ll never forget the Old Course.
The last three holes were crafted by the golfing Gods and simply must be played by any golfer worth his salt.
Best Hole: Even before it was lengthened ahead of the anniversary Open, the 17th Road Hole was one of the toughest and most famous holes in all of golf.
A tough drive is followed by a near impossible second. You can play safe and lay up or relish the challenge and try and avoid killing the odd spectator.
The ancient city on Scotland’s east coast has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries.
Legend claims that the bones of St Andrew were brought from Patras in Greece by a monk called Regulus in about AD 390, but historical evidence tends to lean more heavily, though, towards the relics arriving in the possession of a bishop fleeing from England almost 400 years later.
The presence of his bones in the city which took his name brought pilgrims from all parts of the known world. St Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland and the city grew in size, prestige and wealth.
As early as 1123 the famous stretch of links land, which had been left by the receding waters of the North Sea, was granted by King David I to the bishops who controlled St Andrews.
Through a series of charters and confirmations the rights of local citizens to the links have been protected ever since.
The country’s oldest university was founded here in 1413 and golf was believed to be a popular sport at that time. Certainly it was taxing the minds and bodies of the local population by 1457 when King James II banned the game by act of the Scottish Parliament because archery practice, which was necessary to the defence of the realm, was being neglected.
By the beginning of the 16th century the population of the town had grown to 14,000 and at times of religious and commercial festivals more than 300 ships would fill the small harbour and crowd St Andrews Bay.
Local golfers shared the links with monarchs, ambassadors, bishops and university academics. Mary Queen of Scots and James VI were both visitors to the town.
The Reformation, however, destroyed the city’s religious significance, the under-funded university was in danger of being moved to Perth and the huge cathedral, once visited by Robert the Bruce, lay in ruins when “22 Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Kingdom of Fife ” presented a silver club to be competed for in a golfing contest over the links of St Andrews on 14 May 1754
Their motives were two-fold; to enjoy the sport and the conviviality which always followed, but also by staging an annual contest for a significant trophy they hoped to restore the reputation of St Andrews as the home of golf and stimulate a return to the glory days when royalty and religious leaders were regular visitors.
The annual Challenge followed the example established 10 years earlier by the Gentlemen Golfers at Leith, later to become known as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and generally recognised as the world’s oldest golf club.
In later years the Edinburgh golfers were to move twice in their quest for less crowded playing conditions than the five holes they had at Leith and because this extended period of change coincided with the ever-growing reputation of St Andrews, the latter began to assume the role of the ‘home of golf’ and this was strongly enhanced by the granting of royal patronage by King William IV in 1834 and the building of an imposing clubhouse 20 years later.
By the end of the 19th century golf clubs throughout Britain looked naturally to St Andrews for guidance and the members of the Club “somewhat reluctantly agreed” to take command of the rules of the game in what was a first step towards becoming golf’s most powerful authority.
Members of the club led a nomadic existence for exactly 100 years after the formation of their original society in 1754 and in common with most sporting societies of the time held their meetings and social gatherings in local taverns, typically those in St Andrews run by William Duncan or Baillie Glass.
The minutes of the club record that in 1766 members were instructed “to meet once every fortnight by eleven of the clock at the Golf House and to play a round on the links, then To dine together at Baillie Glass’s and to pay each a shilling for his dinner – the absent as well as the present”.
In 1835 the Union Club was formed and a small and rather primitive clubhouse known as the Union Parlour was opened in Golf Place. Golfers and archers alike paid five shillings a year to store their equipment
A club house site at the first tee of the Old Course had been obtained many years earlier, but it was not until July 13, 1853, that the necessary funds were raised and a foundation stone for a new clubhouse for The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and Union Club members was laid by former captain John Whyte-Melville.In June the following year the imposing sandstone building was ready for occupation. Members of both clubs shared the premises and the two bodies were officially amalgamated under the Royal and Ancient title in 1877.
Within two years plans were being drawn up to expand the new clubhouse and over the next 70 years a succession of six architects added developments which took the building upwards and outwards to finally create the structure which is now instantly recognised throughout the world of golf.
Few signs of the original building are visible, but it still exists within the framework of today’s clubhouse.
THE OLD COURSE
The basic qualities of the Old Course at St Andrews are the same today as they were when golf was first played over this stretch of ancient linksland six centuries ago.
Natural evolution and man-made changes have re-shaped some of the details, but the up-hill-down-dale nature of the dunes terrain and the special challenge presented by almost every hole would still be recognised today by the ancient pioneers who first struck a ball over the land centuries ago
In the early days of the game, golfers at Leith played over five holes, Musselburgh had nine and St Andrews 22 – or strictly speaking 11 which were played out to the estuary of the River Eden and back again into the city.
Homeward players had the right of way, but after holing out they had to tee the ball within one club length of the hole for their next shot. This created not only a very poor quality of surface over which to putt, but also a great deal of confusion and frustration.
In 1764 the first four holes were converted to two and the resulting 18 holes eventually became the accepted standard for the global game.
It was not until 1856-57 that separate holes were cut for those playing the outward and inward holes, but soon afterwards the practice of teeing the ball on the green was abolished and separate teeing areas were used, getting golfers off the greens more quickly and improving their surfaces.
In its original form the Old Course was played backwards, from the first tee to the 17th green and then following a clockwise rotation, but the present anti-clockwise route became popular and for a period of some 40 years play was switched back and forth on a regular basis between the left and right-hand courses.
The creation of a separate first green in 1870 eventually led to the present course being permanently adopted for major events, although records for both courses continued into the last decade of the 19th century.
In modern times the old left-hand course has occasionally been played for a few weeks in winter.
Constant use and natural erosion over hundreds of years forged a widening path through the dunes, heather and whin bushes. The inward holes of today’s course mark the original line followed out and back by the earliest golfers and the gradual widening of the double fairways has brought more land on the seaward side into play.
Most bunkers are in natural hollows where the thin surface of topsoil was easily broken to reveal the sand beneath.
Some have been refined and modernised and in the early 1900s additional bunkers were put in to the right of several outward holes to replace the bushes which had once flourished there.
A bunker in the wide expanse of the shared first and last fairways was removed in 1914 and six new championship tees have been created to cope with the onslaught of today’s big- hitting professionals.
But man has merely tinkered with a few surface details. The natural challenge of the Old Course remains intact, as daunting and rewarding as it has been throughout the history of the game.
COURSE RECORD: Bradley Dredge shot a 64 during the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship of 2006. He teed off at the 10th and gained five birdies in a row, adding a sixth at 16. A double bogey at 17 was the only blemish on a scorecard that went on to record birdies at 18, 2, 5 and
For further information on the seven courses at St Andrews, including its latest, the Castle Course, you can Click here.
The Golf Practice Centre at St Andrews is a comprehensive facility for practising driving, iron play, pitching, bunker play and putting and is open all year round every day from 07h00 – 19h00 with the last golf balls being dispensed at 18h00.
The floodlit driving range uses only top quality balls and a seated viewing and light refreshment area is available, along with changing facilities.
The driving range has over 60 bays, including 22 indoors, and a landing zone which is over 400 yards long. All mats are air cushioned, and five bays include the Power Tee automated system.
The short game area includes a replica of the Road Bunker and its putting green, once the second on the Eden Course and regarded as one of the finest in St Andrews.
Golf balls are dispensed in units of 50 and 25. Charges are:
– For 50 balls: £3.00 for adults, £2.70 for students and senior citizens, and £1.80 for children under 18
– For 25 balls: adults £1.50 and children £1.00.
There are two discounted periods for children, 08h00-10h30 and 17.00-18h30 when the charge for 50 balls is reduced to 70p.
Smart cards giving twenty units of 50 balls can be purchased for £50. 45 minutes at the short game area costs £2.00 and use of the grass tee area is £3.50.
The Golf Practice Centre also houses the St Andrews Links Golf Academy and a custom fit studio.
ONLINE TEE-TIME RESERVATIONS
Using Linksnet, you can reserve and guarantee starting times on four of St Andrews Links courses, New, Jubilee, Eden and the Strathtyrum. A simple online booking system allows you to choose your tee time from a large number that are usually available for those wishing to employ the Internet.
The Castle Course, the 7th course at St Andrews, is now available to book. Times are available between 28 June and 31 October 2008.
The Old Course: Because of the overwhelming demand for tee times on the Old Course, reservations are entered into a daily ballot, the results of which are published online on the St Andrews Links site on a a daily basis.
Those wishing to book a 3-day ticket should contact the Advance Reservations Department.
Telephone: +44 (0)1334 466666
Green fees for the five 18 hole courses are priced according to the season: high, shoulder and low.
Tickets for 3 and 7 day play can be bought on the first day of play from the starter. Advance Reservable Three Day Tickets may also be bought from the reservations team.
Payment can be made in cash (sterling), cheques (with guarantee card) and major credit cards (except Diners Club). To avoid speculative bookings, pre-paid green fees are not refunded.
SINGLE ROUND FEES
High Season, 16 April – 14 October 2012:
Shoulder Season, 15 – 31 October 2007
Low Season, 1 November 2007 – 29 February 2008
Old (with mats) £77
Shoe hire: £12.50 (includes new pair of socks)
Club hire: Callaway steel or graphite £30 per round or £40 per day
Under-16s can hire full sets for half the adult price
Junior clubs £5 per round or £7.50 per day.
Please note: Ladies’ clubs are available in graphite shafts only
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