* Prices may differ from that shown
Here's a review about St Andrews the ancestral 'home of golf' that - apart from these two early mentions - promises to contain nothing whatsoever about golf courses.
It's a small town steeped in medieval history situated in the East Neuk of Fife - the peninsula shaped like a dog's head that lies about a third of the way up Scotland, jutting out between the Firths of Forth and Tay. If you look at the map of Fife as if it is indeed a dog's head, St Andrews is situated on the coast about where its eye would be. As well as being famous for the aforesaid ball-and-club based game, it also has Scotland's oldest university (and also one of the country's smallest traditional universities).
The setting is very picturesque. There are two good sandy beaches on either side of the town - the West Sands, which runs for miles - actually, this is slightly to the north and west of the town - and has long linear areas of sand dune, and the East Sands, which is a slightly grottier, smaller beach on the other side, by the town's ancient harbour. This beach is largely bounded by built-up development and in consequence consists of almost no beach at all during spring and neap tides. In the bad old days, the town's sewage outfall used to discharge among the rocks at the far end of the East Sands; despite this the town's beaches used to regularly receive national awards of merit (that on examination, were based on the presence of on-site loos, car-parks, ice-cream vans etc. rather than - as might be expected, cleanliness and water quality); as I haven't lived in the area for years I don't know how things stand water quality wise at present. There is also a pleasant small beach (surrounded by rocky cliffs) that has orange grainy sand in the middle of town, down by the ruins of the Medieval castle. This is called the Castle Beach and it is gateway to huge areas of flat / sloping rocky outcrops, with excellent, deep rockpools. The rocks are very slippery and fully exposed only during very low tides; the usual precautions should be taken if visiting here.
The West Sands beach is famous for being a location for one of the (many) running sequences in the film 'Chariots of Fire'. It is a superb-looking spot, with fine, pale-coloured sand - unfortunately somewhat blighted by being used by amoral dog walkers, as well as cold sea breezes for much of the year. There is a charge for entry by car in summer and as a note of warning, the public toilets that serve the beach are, traditionally, hideous.
Below the East Sands the coast merges into cliffs with rocky beaches and isolated coves. There is in theory a cliff path that can be taken by walkers south from St Andrews and around the East Neuk; parts of this path collapse regularly, hikers occasionally fall off it and so on, thus it is something of a hazardous route. Despite the presence of sandy beaches there are rocky cliffs in the town high enough to hurt yourself off; very sadly, visitors have very occasionally come to (fatal) grief falling from these. The vital message here being to never jump over a wall near the coast in St Andrews if you aren't 100% certain what lies on the other side.
The 'urban district' of St Andrews consist of a grand total of two and a bit shopping streets, all running in parallel with each other: South Street and Market Street have the most shops, and the bit of North Street that I've included has a few small art-type galleries / boutiques. There are also a few smaller shopping streets (Bell Street; Greyfriars' Gardens etc.) intersecting the main streets listed above.
Being a tourist spot, St Andrews is one of those odd towns where it's possible to buy a vast array of decorative objects, clothes and souviners from any number of specialist retailers in the centre of town, but where it can in fact be slightly tricky to get hold of basic household essentials, say, a pint of milk. There is one of those smallish, urban Tescos in the town centre for grocery shopping, but for their 'proper' shop everyone heads to the local Morrisons, or the new 'Aldi' - both of which are about a mile to two miles from the city centre, and in a location relatively close to each other but so tricky for non-locals to find that it won't be worth my attempting to describe it.
What St Andrews also has, in terms of the number of shops per really quite small unit area, is a truly surprising quantity of second hand / charity shops. This has something to do with such shops being partially or wholly exempt from local business rate charges, which are apparently very high in the town, as I understand it. The streets in the main town are small and often terribly congested with traffic and pedestrians - especially around lunchtimes during term-time, when pupils from the local secondary school Madras College disgorge in large numbers into the town centre. In town it's so busy during business hours that there is in practice only limited on-street parking; a parking voucher system operates with 'scratchcard' sytle parking tickets being available from local businesses in the area. Traffic through the town is governed by a fiendish one-way system; there are many unexpected miniroundabouts with zebra-crossings practically on top of them which make things particularly difficult.
If attempting to eat in St Andrews, you should make every effort to avoid the centrally-located cafe / bakery by Martin McColl's newsagent in Market Street because the food is appalling and has been for years: (the name of the business changes regularly - the last names for it I can remember are 'the Light Bite' and / or 'Andrew Kidd'). There is a very good to excellent fish and chip takeaway called Peter Michaels tucked away in a side-street at the end of Market Street; the Kinness Fry Bar, another chippy a short stroll out of the town centre is also a good bet. There is a famous ice-cream seller - B Janetta's at the seaward end of Market Street; the last time I was there I found someone else's hair in my rum n' raisin ice which, when I complained, the proprietors weren't at all fussed about - so on hygiene grounds my advice would be to give that place a miss. There is much, much better and conveniently located ice-cream parlour called 'Luvians' in Market Street by the (dry) fountain which is an excellent bet.
Admittedly there is not a great deal to do in St Andrews itself - apart from shopping, if you don't like golf or ancient monuments - of which the town has several, including - in addition to the ruined castle, a ruined Cathedral, torn down during the Protestant Reformation. You may notice a number of crosses or X-es set into the cobblestones here and there around the town; each marks the spot where (Catholic?) martyrs were burned to death during this period of violent and bloody history; local etiquette is not to stand on them (something to do with failing all your exams if you're a student, or otherwise attracting general bad luck). In terms of attractions there is a Sea Life centre on the beach which is exactly like these types of places always are, and of course walking on the beach itself, which is to be highly recommended.
Standing on the first tee at St Andrews you look forward onto a vast wide open space. An impossible to miss fairway which seems to stretch beyond anyone's driving range. Behind you is the Royal and Ancient clubhouse where the rules of this great game are still administered and verified to this day. To your left is the shop of Tom Morris Open champion in the 19th century and a landmark which continues to draw visitors from all over the world. Beyond that the town of St Andrews with the oldest university in Scotland and to your right the waves of the North Sea sweep onto the shore of the beach.
For beauty, history and the challenge of the golf course you are as near to heaven as a golfer can get whilst still breathing.
The course was used for this years Open Championship and though the winner could easily have been predicted the tournament provided a lot of excellent golf before Tiger Woods victory was confirmed. As a mid-handicap amateur though what is the Old Course actually like to play? I am fortunate to have played St Andrews a couple of times. Happily on both occasions the weather was kind and secondly that I played reasonably well. I can say without any hesitation that to achieve a par on any of these holes is a great feeling and I have done it on a few of them (I've also had a few 7s and 8s).
The 1st as I have said is magical. Here you are truly stepping in the footsteps of giants and of history. It is an easy drive though I have seen a few people slice off the tee and nearly hit the scorers hut. Thankfully my drive travelled straightish left and a nice distance and I was off. This is pleasing because no matter what time of day you tee off there will be an audience of a few tourists. You then play your second over the Swilcan Burn onto a large flat green. A couple of putts later and there is your par. Luck will play a part though as if you are short you may get a nice bounce over the burn and onto the green. In the burn and you're looking at a 5 or a 6 here. The 2nd is straight but longer at 411yds and narrower. You are playing onto a large green that is shared with the 16th and the fairway is used by those driving on the 17th. You have a lot to watch out for here with a lot of trouble down the right from bunkers, gorse bushes etc. You start to move away from the sea as the New Course appears on your right. The 3rd is wider and more undulating but generally has fewer perils. A large bunker guards the green , but the green is large enough to have plenty to aim at.
The 4th is long difficult par 4 which as it cannot be played straight plays like a par 5. Again the undulating ground and occasional bunkers including a huge one called The Cottage make this a very difficult hole. When you do reach the green it is shared with the 14th. The huge par 5 th also shares its green, this time with the 13th. As you look at the huge fairway your only option appears to be to get it off the tee as far and as straight as possible and hope for a good lie.. There are so many hazards with the road and gorse to the right the ground sloping away to the left, the fairway so narrow and a large moat before the green. A hugely difficult hole for any player and it makes you appreciate how good the professionals are as many birdied this hole during The Open. The 6th is a slightly easier par 4 needing a drive of 220yds carry to reach the safety of the fairway. A longer drive may reach the famous 'Coffins' bunkers. After this is pretty straight forward to another shared green - 6th and 12th this time. Give your approach a good push to get it up the hill before the green.
As the Old Course has largely been manufactured by the lie of the land and time the holes around the turn are a strange combination. If it were not for the tradition I am sure it would be altered but it remains an odd series of holes from 7 to 12. The 7th is a dog leg right but as you play your second shot you may find those teeing off on the par 3 11th playing across you toward the same green. If it were a local course you would think it odd but on a championship course it is unbelievable. The 7th plays towards the river and features all the old favourites, gorse, undulating fairway and a huge bunker - Cockie -at the front. At least the 8th - a straightforward par 3 gives you a breather. Yet again though a shared green with the 10th. The 9th is a shorter par 4 with fewer perils than most. Often golfers feel they can pick shots up here because the holes should be easier. The problem is you are right out at the mouth of the river and the wind can be a problem here both in terms of strength and changes in direction. The 10th is similar to the 9th but just be wary of staying away from the gorse down the left. Get in there and you'll be lucky to be able to play out - if you find your ball. The 11 again has Cockie the bunker in play and at 170yds gives you a difficult club choice, with the weather also likely to play a part in your choice Underclubbing brings the bunkers into play, overclubbing could see you run off the back towards the river.
The 12th has half a dozen bunkers to catch your drive and you need to carry 225yds to clear most of them after that it depends where the pin is as to how difficult it will get. The 13th is immensely difficult sharing much of its features with the 6th. At 400yds it is longer than the other par4s and has many problems not leats the gorse to the right. The 14th is a 525yd par 5 with an out-of-bounds covering all the right side. With bunkers in range of the tee and a large slope along the left side this is a difficult hole with shot-choice crucial depending on where you find yourself after your drive. The 15th has a wide fairway to aim at with a couple of bunkers to catch the shorter drive after these though a straightforward hole.
Approach the end of the round we encounter three lovely closing holes. The 16th has the old disused railway line to the right with the fairway guarded by a number of bunkers , Once over the these its back to the huge shared green which has a large rise about 12-20 yrds in depending on where you reach on it. The 17th is the famous road hole which plays around the corner of the hotel. A hugely difficult drive which only the very brave will attempt. At 460yds though laying up means a certain bogey. Even after this though more difficulty comers from the narrow fairway, undulations and of course the deep but small bunker which gurads the approach to the green. This hole is enormously daunting but one that you play with a smile on your face. And so to the 18th named after Tom Morris this is another hole to savour. Relatively easy with a wide area to aim at and no major hazards once you are over the burn. You can walk over the Swilcan Bridge as so many have done before and play up to the green taking care not to be short and falling into the valley of sin.
And so this finishes the round at St Andrews. Anyone who gets the opportunity should try to play St Andrews Old Course. It should be remembered that the Old course is a municipal course owned by the local authority. To play you need to be residing in St Andrews and enter a ballot for the following days play. There is no guarantee you will get on. High handicappers can get on but should be properly dressed and obey the rules of golf etiquette. There are no club facilities available. Caddies can be hired.
There isn't a place like this in golf. Even the Americans admit it. You stand on the first tee, and you get an incomparable thrill. Part of this is history; part is the fantastic anticipation of what is come, part of it is indefinable atmosphere. If you can get your first tee shot away, you have done well.
But it's also an extraordinary mixture of hallowedness and common place. The good townsfolk of St. Andrews walk their dogs across the course on the way to the beach, and appear to reackon that it's perfectly normal to have such a revered patch of ground in their midst.
For detail on this course I would refer Dooyoo readers first to Kenjohn's excellent crowned review. But let me give you a few sentences on why I think every golfer should play there at least once.
* After your round, you will remember every hole in vivid detail.
* You can hire a caddy, or you can go round with an excellent guide book, called How to Play the Old Course. This gives you a line at every hole, and is crammed with the good advice that is born of years of experience.
* The double greens, the Swilcan burn, the whins (gorse), the wind, the wickedly hidden pot bunkers, the huge bunkers like Hell and Cockle, the treacherous Road Hole, the thrill of playing the 18th right alongside a street, the knowledge that a par or birdie on a hole would have beaten this pro or that (you get to choose when they played it).
* It is perfectly possible to get a good score around the Old Course, if you are playing half decently, but it can bite back without warning.
It's quite a lot harder to get a game on the Old Course than when I first managed it almost forty years ago at the age of 14, and for the price of £4, having been successul in the famous ballot.
Now, if you play in the high season, which is for about six months of the year, you will pay £130 (2008), and only about 50% of the times are available in the ballot. It's £91 on October, and £64 in the winter, but then you have to play off fairway mats, which I wouldn't fancy. Chances of success vary according to the time of year, how busy the course is and the weather. A minimum of two golfers can enter by telephone, 01334 466666, or in person before 2pm on the day before play. The results are shown by 4pm on the web, and at various locations on the Links.
On a few days each year, (three days in early April in 2009) the course is played in reverse, ie. from the 1st tee to the 17th green, then the second tee to the 16th green and so on. This is how the course was played in the mid 19th century, and I would guess makes an interesting diversion if you know the regular layout well.
Because the Old Course is so popular, with over 40,000 rounds a year, special conditions apply to bookings. There is a handicap requirement of 24 for men and 36 for ladies. You have to bring a valid certificate or card.
By the way, the Old Course is closed on Sundays, except for the pros when it's the last round of the Open ar another big tournament.
If you are on your own and want to play the Old Course, the best chance you have is going to the starter as early as possible in the morning. The starter will then try to join the golfer with the first available 2 or 3 ball. I was once joined by an American who had come across - he simply made up a four with the three of us, and we had a good time.
I last played the Old Course about fifteen years ago, and I wouldn't pay £130 now, although if I had never played it, then I would. It's sad that green fees have risen by so much, but I can understand that the course has to make money, and that market forces apply. The best way to get a good deal is to live in St. Andrews or be a member of the University. It's so cheap then that it's almost free! As it's a public course, then that's fair enough.
If I could travel back in time, though, I would love to go back to about 1920, before greens were watered, to have a go at playing the course when it was bone hard and the greens were like glass. Sadly, those days are unlikely to be seen again.
I have been fortunate enough to have played the Old Course at St Andrews on three occasions. This has been in near perfect conditions and also in pretty appalling windy conditions. Now first let me clear up any doubt as to the standard of golf I play. I am only a 12 handicapper. I am fairly long off the tee, but can be very wayward, and usually manage to recover from the rough reasonably. I have played golf for 25 years now and consider myself a reasonable judge of golf courses. St Andrews is just simply too difficult for anyone playing at or below my level. Tiger Woods may be able to pick out a 12ft square landing area 200 yards down the fairway, but I sure as hell cant. If you cant your fate is in the lap of the gods. The fairways are very uneven, and hitting them does not gaurantee success. I have experienced 90 degree bounces into gorse, or tiny pot bunkers which seem to be liberally sprinkled across all fairways. The greens are fast, very hilly, and extremely difficult although enjoyable if you have the temperament for a challenge and dont mind not two putting all the time. The really good thing about the Old course is the atmosphere and the History. Any visitor to St Andrews should try to get into the draw and play a round on the Old Course, just to experience this. It is hard to describe, but trust me, all true golf fans will love it. The facilities have been greatly improved recently. I remember playing on the New course around 9-10 years ago. This involved getting changed in the car park and then trying to find a local chip shop / cafe. Nowadays the facilities are excellent, with a brand new club house facility available to all visitors with a bar and restaurant as well. (Although it is best to find a seat well away from the crowds of loud Americans discussing and analysing their rounds) It you are fortunate enough to have more time on your hands some of the other local courses are really good, without being
so difficult. The New course in St Andrews is good as is the Eden. Ladybank which is only 10 miles away is a superb inland golf course if you get fed up with links courses, and Carnoustie is only 30 miles away and it is even more difficult than St Andrews and rewards good shots more than St Andrews.
Golf has been played here for approximately 600 years but the course as it now is came into being around 1850. It is a public course run by St Andrews Links Trust and has hosted various competitions over the years - ie, the Open Championship (26 times), the Walker Cup and the Alfred Dunhill Cup. The Old Course is situated in St Andrews which is about an hour’s drive from Edinburgh and 1.5 hours from Glasgow. On the first tee you will find the clubhouse of the R&A directly behind you with the North Sea situated on your right. A feeling of history surrounds you. A daunting tee shot if you don’t like playing to an audience as you are aware of people leaning on the balustrade behind you and walking along the pathway to your right. Various people had a hand in shaping the course of which Old Tom Morris was one. He was responsible for creating the first green as we know it today. St Andrews is a course which is known the world over. It has 7 very large double greens (-ie, 2 holes share one green) meaning that only 4 of the holes have a green to themselves. It has 112 bunkers of which Hell bunker, Strath bunker and the Road bunker are probably the best known. The Old Course only had 12 holes in the early days and golfers played 22 holes by playing 11 holes outwards, turning round and playing back to the same holes from the opposing direction. A hole was cut near the first tee to make 22. It was in 1764 when it was decided that the first 4 holes (and obviously the last) were too short. They were incorporated into 2 holes thereby reducing the number of holes to 18. This is where today’s standard round originated. Golf became so popular around 1850 that the Old Course became very crowded and golfers playing out were meeting golfers playing in. One can only imagine the chaos when players met each other playing to the same hole from opposing sides. This forced the decision to cut two holes on
each green. To differentiate, they played to white flags going out and red flags coming in. There is little or no walking between the greens and the next tees and on some holes you literally step off the green onto the next tee. In this regard, you have to watch out for the players approaching the green behind you. BOOKINGS Approximately 50% of the available tee times can be booked in advance by writing or faxing up to two years ahead of the date you wish to play. You have to nominate the players in your party and the non refundable green fees have to be paid in advance. They do ask for identification and handicap certificates prior to play and you are only allowed one name change per tee time which has to be notified no less than one month prior to play. The times are allocated in December for the following year and you will be advised whether or not you were successful in obtaining a time. The other 50% are allocated by ballot and a minimum of two players can enter either in person or by telephone by 2pm on the day prior to play. Results of the ballot are posted on the web, at the course and various other places by 4pm the day before play. The starter will try to put a single player out with a 2/3 ball if they turn up on the day. Tee off times are at 10 minute intervals from 7am in the summer. Fees are £85 per round in the summer (Apr-Oct) and £40 in the winter (Nov-Mar) using mats. THE COURSE 1) 370yd (339yd Ladies) par 4 sharing a fairway with the 18th. Play needs to be slightly left as there is an out of bounds on the right and do make sure you have enough club on your second shot to clear the Swilken Burn just in front of the green. 2) 411yd par 4 (375yd par 5 Ladies) Blind tee shot for the men over rocky mounds covered in gorse and partially blind for the ladies. The percentage shot is to play onto the 17th fairway which leaves a longish shot to the green partially blocked by
a mound on the left. 3) 352yd (321yd Ladies) par 4. There is a large area of gorse directly in front of the tee to carry to reach the fairway. Bunkers mostly on the right but if you are too far left the Cartgate bunker in front of the double green will come into play. 4) 419yd Par 4 (401yd par 5 Ladies) The tee shot on this hole needs to be navigated through a narrow channel to reach the fairway. There are a couple of large mounds and a fair amount of bunkers on the left with gorse etc on the right. Again you are playing to a large double very undulating green. 5) 514yd (454yd Ladies) par 5. Numerous bunkers to the right and a large ridge before the green. If the wind is with you for your second shot ...... fine, if not............you will be playing your third shot blind. The double green is 100yds deep so depending where the pin is you could have a lengthy putt. 6) 374yd (325yd Ladies) par 4. This hole has several bunkers on both sides of the fairway and a gully in front of the large double green. 7) 359yd (335yd Ladies) par 4. There is a narrow fairway through the gorse in front of the tee if you want to play the hole as a dogleg. If you are brave enough and can carry 220yds, the direct line is over the gorse. Large double green again with lots of humps and bumps and the Strath bunker awaiting any stray shots to the left. 8) 166yd (145yd Ladies) par 3. Very tricky par 3 playing to a double green with bunkers lying in wait. 9) 307yd (261yd Ladies) par 4. Fair number of bunkers on the right but otherwise straightforward. 10) 318yd (296yd Ladies) par 4. Fairly straightforward with several bunkers on the right and playing to a large undulating double green. 11) 172yd (150yd Ladies) par 3. Very deep greenside bunkers lie in wait if you are short of this forward sloping double green, the well-known Strath being one of them. 12) 316yd (304yd Ladies) par 4. Several bunkers
in the centre of the fairway at driving distance force you to aim left and there is a large ridge on the green to test the putting. 13) 398yd par 4 (377yd Ladies par 5) A group of bunkers named “The Coffins” lie at driving distance on the left hand side of the fairway. The second shot on this hole has to carry a lot of broken ground and be long enough to reach the long double green. If you are short it will not run on and a couple of deep bunkers lie in wait. 14) 523yd (487yd Ladies) par 5. Evidently a long hole and by no means easy. Numerous bunkers including the infamous “Hell” bunker (complete with steps to get in and out as it’s so deep) lie in wait. The second shot is best played on to the 5th fairway to avoid the broken ground and bunkers ahead. The large double green slopes sharply front to back so watch the approach. 15) 401yd (369yd Ladies) par 4. Lots of humps and bumps with several bunkers down the left hand side. Another double green. 16) 351yd (325yd Ladies) par 4. Out of bounds run along the right hand side of this hole with a cluster of bunkers at about 200yd distance off the tee. The double green is situated fairly close to the out of bounds. 17) 461yd par 4 (426yd Ladies par 5). This is called “The Road Hole” and is one of the most famous holes in the world of golf. It’s a long par 4 for men and doglegs right around the Hotel. Out of bounds runs up the right hand side right to the back of the double green. A carry of 180yds over the out of bounds outhouses of the hotel is required from the tee to cut the corner if you are brave enough. There are 3 bunkers on the left approaching the green of which the notorious “Road” bunker is one. A memorable hole. 18) 354yd (342yd Ladies) par 4. The tee shot plays across the Swilken Burn to the wide fairway shared with the first. Out of bounds runs up the right hand side. The green is protected
by the Valley of Sin which has some pretty severe undulations if you are not big enough with your approach shot. FACILITIES 2 public clubhouses with a full range of facilities and catering, a driving range, a short game practice area and several putting greens. Clubs, shoes, trolleys and caddies are available for hire. They will clean and store your clubs and shoes overnight in the clubhouse for £5 for the first day. Hire clubs cost £20-£30 per round depending on whether steel, graphite or hickory. Shoes are £12.50 per round BUT they will throw in a pair of NEW socks. Professional caddies are £30, trainees £20 and bag carriers £15 all plus a £5 administration charge and tips if you are inclined. Trolleys are only allowed on the course after midday April to October and can be hired for £3. If there are no caddies or bag carriers available before midday, trolleys will be permitted BUT only hired trolleys (not your own). No buggies (carts) are allowed on the Old Course.
~ ~ St. Andrew’s is the ‘home of golf’, where the game has its origins, going back as far as the 15th century. Never mind the spurious claim by the Dutch that golf was actually an adaptation of a game called “Kolf”, that they played with on ice with a stick and puck. Every true golfer knows that St. Andrew’s is ‘where it’s at’ in the world of golf, and no true golfer’s life is complete until they have made at least one pilgrimage to its hallowed turf. ~ ~ When you stand on the first tee of the Old Course at St. Andrews, in the shadow of the old imposing clubhouse, now home to the games ruling body, the ‘Royal and Ancient’, you are standing in the shadows of the greatest players this wonderful game has ever known. They have all been here. ‘Old Tom Morris’ and his son ‘Young Tom’, who died at 23 of a broken heart after losing his wife. Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur golfer the game has ever known, and who founded the Master’s Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Walter Hagen, golf’s first ‘playboy’, with as much love for the wine, women and song as he had for his beloved sport. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus. I could go on and on. ~ ~ No one person can take the credit for the design and layout of this golf course. It has simply always been there, but in more ‘modern’ times some of the people who can claim credit for its current layout are Daw Anderson (1850’s), Old Tom Morris (1860’s - 1900)and Dr Alaister Mackenzie (1930’s). The course is not hilly, and is a typical Scottish links course, built on a strip of dune land between the old town and the sea. It’s noted in particular for its 112 bunkers (sand traps), some of which are actually famous in their own right. The massive and imposing (and aptly named) ‘Hell’ bunker on the long 14th hole. <br><br>‘Strath’ bunker on the short 11th, and, off course, the ‘Road Bunker’ at the world famous 17th hole. The ‘Road Hole’, so named because the road –which you must play off if you land on it- runs tight along the right hand edge of the green. The ‘Road Bunker’ has also gained the nickname in recent times of the ‘Sands of Nakagima’, after the well known Japanese professional Tommy Nakajima took no fewer than NINE shots to extricate his golf ball from its clawing grip during a round of the British Open. This was after actually being on the putting surface in two shots, and putting his ball back into the bunker. (He didn’t win the golf tournament!) ~ ~ For someone who has never played the course before, a local caddy is a must, as many of the bunkers are totally invisible from the tee when you hit off, and you only discover they are there when you walk up and find your golf ball buried deep in their cavernous depths. Caddying is a true profession here at St. Andrew’s, to the extent that they are actually ‘graded’ by the caddymaster into three levels, with the local knowledge often being passed from father to son down through the generations. To hire one of the top caddies here will probably cost you as much as the round of golf itself. When I was there last in the mid-1990’s, the going rate was £50 per round. (plus tip, off course) No doubt it’s more now! ~ ~ Another unique feature of the Old Course is the double greens. The holes for the outward nine are cut on the same putting greens as the back nine, with the colour of the flag denoting which hole the golfer is to play to. White pins for the front nine, and red ones for the back. The putting greens are huge, and it is not uncommon to be left with a putt of well over 100 yards. A visiting American professional and former British Open winner, Mark Calcavechia, caus
ed a near revolution here a few years ago when he elected to play a pitching wedge instead of a putter from one of the greens when faced with a putt of monstrous proportions. If he had been an ordinary mortal then the golf marshals (who supervise the play) would have had him thrown of the course so fast he would have wondered what hit him! ~ ~ The Old Course is not long by present day standards at only 6,566 yards. (Most present day golf courses run to well over 7,000 yards in length.) But don’t let this fool you into thinking it’s in any way easy. Granted, on a calm day with no wind and receptive greens, very low scores are achievable, as the current course record of 63 shots proves. (jointly held by a number of players) But when the prevailing wind starts whipping in from the sea, the course really shows its teeth, as many a famous name in the world of golf has found out at great cost both to their pockets and their reputations. And St. Andrew’s is well known for its wind. ~ ~ In the past decade the facilities for golfers here have improved immensely. I can well remember as a young man having to change into my golf gear from the boot of the car, and make my way back to my hotel or guesthouse before being able to avail of a wash or shower after my round. Now St. Andrew’s boasts no fewer than two clubhouses for the use of all, with every facility you would ever require. However, entry into the ‘hallowed halls’ of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse is still by invitation only, and these are not too easy to come by. (I’ve only ever been over its portals twice in my life!) If you arrive without clubs or golf gear, then everything you require can be hired at either of the two clubhouses, as can caddies, caddy carts and golf buggies. Note however that the electric carts are only for the use of senior citizens or those with a doctor’s certificate, and can only be used on
three of St. Andrew’s six golf courses. Not even caddy carts are allowed on the Old Course, and you must either carry your own clubs or hire out one of the local caddies. (Go on, treat yourself!) There are facilities now to practice and warm up before your round, with a golf centre boasting a driving range, putting greens, and an area to practice your short game. It has 44 bays, and also a plethora of young teaching professionals to coach you in the intricacies of the game if you feel you need it. And be sure to play at least one round on St. Andrew’s famous public putting green, nicknamed the “Himilayas” because of its humps and hillocks. This is an experience not to be missed, and is as much fun for a non-golfer as it is for an aficionado of the sport. ~ ~ What is truly amazing is that all the golf courses, including the Old Course itself, are publicly owned, and not simply the preserve of the rich and famous. In recent times the St. Andrew’s Trust has ‘sold’ 50% of the available tee times to the corporate world, which has reduced drastically the opportunity for the ordinary ‘punter’ to manage to get a game. But every day there is a draw (lottery) of those who wish to play, and if you are staying in the area for a week or so then the chances are you will get lucky and ‘win’ a starting time at some point. I’ve always found the best way to get a game on the Old Course is to turn up as a single player, with no partners. What you do then is simply make this fact known to the starter, who will do his best to fit you in with a two or three ball match that have a reserved tee time. If you are adopting this ploy, then be prepared for an early start, and sometimes a very long wait, as many other players are now aware of this, and begin to queue at the starter’s hut from about 5AM!! The cost of a round is still very reasonable, considering that many g
olfers would quite literally pay any price asked for the privilege of playing here. In the summer months it will cost you £80, and during the winter this reduces to a mere £60. Beware though. Another recent ‘innovation’ during the winter is to supply every golfer with a small rubber mat, from which they are obliged to play EVERY shot. (well, not the bunker shots) This is to ‘spare’ the golf course during the winter, when the grass doesn’t grow at such a fast rate. (It’s still DIABOLICAL though.) ~ ~ Even if you aren’t lucky enough to secure a round at the Old Course itself, don’t let it put you off visiting this small town. There are no fewer than FIVE other courses for you to choose from, including the New Course, the Jubilee, and the Eden. The New Course in particular is an absolute cracker, and almost the equal of the Old lady herself, (IMHO) and is used as a qualifying course when the British Open visits St. Andrews. (it’s spiritual home) The town itself is as ancient as the course, and has one of the oldest Universities in Scotland. (Prince William goes there this year) ~ ~ The last time I played the “Old Lady” was the mid-1990’s, and the round will live in my memory forever. Playing off a handicap of four, I shot a level par round of 72. It was one of the strangest rounds I ever played (and I’ve played some weird ones in my day, let me tell you!) I had six pars, six one-over-par bogeys, and six one-under-par birdies. At one point I looked like actually breaking the par, but got over excited with a birdie putt at the famous 17th, the ‘Road Hole’, and ended up three putting for a bogey. It was during a rugby weekend, when Scotland were playing Wales, and I also had the pleasure of relieving three astounded Welshmen of a lot of their weekends beer money. (Oh, I enjoyed that!) My scorecard from that day is now fram
ed, and hangs in pride of place above all other trophies and prizes I have managed to accumulate over a golfing life that started at the age of four. The “Old Lady” will endure forever. If you ever get the chance to play her, then grab it with both hands. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ General Manager and Secretary A J R McGregor, Pilmour House, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9SF, Scotland. Tel: 01334-466666 Fax 01334-479555 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
St Andrews is the famous home of golf. It is situated on the east coast of Scotland and it is 30 - 40 miles from Edinburgh. There are many restaurants, internet cafes, shops and also the British Golf Museum , ( www.britishgolfmuseum.com ). St Andrews is a popular holiday location, especially for budding American Golfers. St Andrews hosts the Open this year which begins on Sunday, 16th July. This brings thousands of people from all over the world and I would recommend you go to St Andrews when it is quiter then you will have a chance to soak it up a bit more without the stress of thousands of people in a relatively small town. There is a small internet cafe with roughly 10 computers that is near the world famous restaurant 'Littlejohns'. You are even able to sample real Haggis ! I would recommend St Andrews to anyone who is in Scotland especially people with kids becuase surprisingly there is quite a lot to do for them. There is even a Sea Life Center and also the world famous Himalayas Putting Green, ( You have to see it ! ). Overall place rating... 9 out of 10.
The Old Course: I've been lucky enough to have played there a few times. The first time I hated it, probably something to do with the big score that I shot that day. Since then, the course has grown on me in a big way and is now my favourite of all that I have played. They make it look easy on TV; don't believe it! It's not easy to pick the lines from the tee - sometimes it looks like there is nowhere to drive the ball. A course guide is a must. The New Course: if you can't get on the Old then the don't despair. The New is not that new at all and providea a real challenge without the mystique of the Old. As a test it is probably more fair than the Old. I'd recommend that you try to play both while you're there.
Or so it often proves when the weather is not so kind. These last few days have sadly proved that when the old lady does not show her teeth (or even have them in) the power and equipment that modern players have is too much for the course. But, it is a fabulous venue, steeped in golfing history. I like to see yanks ploughing into gauze as they spend most of their tour strolling round the coiffured, manicured ponce-patches of middle America. Err, then they come over here and tear up our best course. The 17th is just great. Especially when someone like, say, David Duval plops one into the bunker and takes 4 shots to escape. I loved that 'I will scream' look he tried so poorly to mask. Just let it out son and bend the sand wedge over your knee. Throw it at your caddy and punch a photographer, then storm off down the road in a big huff. Now that's entertainment. Great course, disappointing result.
The Old Course of St Andrews is the most famous golf course in the world. Not only is it looked upon by the R&A, Royal and Accient, but it is found in one of the most beautiful towns in Britain. The courses is hair pin shaped. This means that the tee off for the 1st hole is beside the 18th hole. You play out of the town to the 7th and then you play back towards the town. The Old Course has 7 joint holes, so 14 of the holes are on the same green. The most famous hole is probable the 17th due to it's diffucult blind approach around the golf hotel. The hotels new extension has changed the line of approach and some golfers have said it has reined the hole. The British Open 2000 starts on the 20th of July.
The most amazing feeling of supreme confidence come upon you when standing upon the 1st tee at St.Andrews. It seems an impossible fairway to miss. It is enormously wide, probably why Baker-Finch is the only golfer in Open history to miss the 1st fairway (with a snap-hook), and is predominantley flat meaning the liklehood is you will be in good shape for your second shot. St. Andrews is a course full of prestige and history, and the seventeenth is one of the most famous holes in the world. The first is a truly marvelous start to a truly marvelous course, golfers don't miss out!
Having never played the old course at St. Andrews it would not be fair to pass too many comments about the challenge it represents, nor would it be fair to praise or castigate its merits for day to day play. However, one thing I do know is that this famous old course provides a spectacle like no other when the Open Championship comes back to its roots. The fantastic greens where 100ft putts are a possibility are a dimension to a course that are rarely seen elsewhere. The course has a special place in the hearts of all TV golf fanatics and I for one will be glued to the my TV any time the greatest championship in the world decides to come back to its true home. So be warned - ignore the inherent charm and fascination for St. Andrews at your peril!
It is a dream of most golfers to be able to play at the "home of golf." Most of us have watched the greatest players in the game walk over the links of St. Andrews many times, in various Open's, Dunhill Cup's etc. We will get yet another chance next month when the Millennium Open is played on the Old Course. The course (and the other 5 adjoining it) are common land of the Burgh of St. Andrews, and thus open to the public. If you get a chance, and can get yourself up to the North East corner of Fife, should you try to live your dream? Well.......maybe. The Pro's The first hole. A very ordinary golf hole made extraordinary by its location. Ancient (and occasionally Royal) members of the R&A sitting in splendour behind the tee sipping their pink gins. Locals and tourists lounging on railings waiting for you to tee off. The rest of the town spread out behind you. The links spread out in front of you. The sea shore spreading off to the right. Magic The last hole. Another very ordinary hole made extraordinary. The whole of the Burgh embracing you. The world's widest fairway. The Swilken Bridge. The Valley of Sin. Memories for ever. Three other holes. The 11th, a short hole framed by the Eden estuary and an enormous pot bunker. The 14th, a true par 5 with a tight landing area for the drive, bunkers from hell (including Hell Bunker itself) to catch the next shot, and a green that you can actually see with your approach shot. The 17th (the Road Hole), an extremely hard and great golf hole. Pars on any of these holes are bonuses even for low handicap golfers. The curiosities. Gigantic double greens where it may not be possible to reach the hole with even the most violently struck putt. Minuscule pot bunkers in the middle of fairways. Holes which cross each other. Tees which seem to point to nowhere even closely resembling a golf hole. The Burgh. St. Andrews is a great, g
reat town. Students. Pubs. History. Shops. Views. Worth the journey even if you don't play golf. The Cons. The 13 golf holes that I have not mentioned. Blind tee shots. Flat uninteresting short par-4's. Holes where you can't see the pin even with a tee shot to position A. Greens where more likely than not pins will be placed where no pro has ever seen them--on the sides of hills, virtually off the fronts, or backs or sides of the greens. No outstanding physical beauty once you leave the view of the town. The Old Course Hotel. A great hotel to stay in, but a carbuncle on the landscape for those playing golf on the Old Course. Have a drink in the penthouse bar and try to imagine what the course would be like if the hotel were not there (it is the only place on the course that the hotel is not visible!). Recent "Improvements." Tiger tees that add distance to the course but take away the flow of the links from the green to the tee. More enormous bunkers added to a course that already has too many. The Bottom Line? Play the course if you must. (I've done so a half-dozen times-most recently in February--but I do so now only when someone else is picking up the tab.) By all means play the New Course and the Eden Course--each much better tests of golf than the Old Course, IMHO (I am a low-handicap golfer who has played most of the Championship courses in the UK and Ireland). . Enjoy the town. Enjoy your memories.