St Andrews (Old) Golf Club

Fife

  • Par 72
  • 7250 Yds

For most golfers arriving on the 1st tee of the Old Course, what they are about to enjoy is a wholly new experience. Even those who have played at the likes of Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham & St Annes will not be completely prepared for the unique examination the Old Course sets.
To start with, there are those famous double greens, some of which are of the proportion of a football pitch. 
Merely finding the greens is not enough to set up pars. Three-putting is a fact of life here, especially if approach shots are less than precise. 
Find the wrong contour, or land on the wrong side of a mound, and balls can jump at right angles to the intended direction.
Nor is there any long grass at St Andrews. Instead, the course is framed on one side by gorse bushes and on the other by the course boundary. 
Hitting out of bounds is a possibility on at least six holes, while the spectre of an unplayable lie is more or less omnipresent. 
The safe line at all times is to hit to the left up the middle of the course, which travels away from the town for seven holes, then has a loop of four before the 12th through to the 18th return you back to the clubhouse.
However, in general terms, the further left you play the harder will be the second shot. On almost every instance, bunkers will then stand between the player and the flag.
Almost every one inflicts heavy punishment and an escape in any direction at the first attempt is an acceptable result. 
The problems really come when a stance and/or backswing becomes impossible due to the steep walls. 
The three most famous bunkers all come during the back nine, at the 11th, 14th and 17th respectively.
Strath bunker defends the par-three 11th, and is an evil creation that provides the hole’s sole defence. Expect to see the pin placed directly behind it on at least three of the four days – it barely moved during the entirely of the men’s event in 2005.
The 14th, one of only three par fives, is dominated by Hell bunker, a half-acre expanse of sand that demands a clear strategy when laying up.
And then is there is the 17th, the Road hole, with its eponymous bunker. Eating into the very heart of the green, it strikes fear – or at the very least the utmost respect – into the heart of every player.
Apart from the sand, St Andrews has several awkward blind shots, most notably on the 6th and 7th. 
On both occasions, players have to fire over what appears an endless expanse of gorse into oblivion. The targets are actually generous, but for a field totally unused to such a vista it can be off-putting.
Then there is the sheer history of the place. As anyone lucky enough to have tackled the Old Course will know, merely standing on the 1st tee is enough to send a shiver down the spine. 
It is possible to be overly reverential of the venue rather than just playing what is in front of you as another golf course. 
Similarly, from almost the start of the back nine the town can be seen on the horizon and it almost sucks you in. Especially in the early part of the week, the occasion will simply be too much for some players.
Not, though, the favourites. They will recognise that, given some friendly weather conditions, there are plenty of birdie opportunities if they choose the right shots. With no par four much longer than 400 yards, the longer hitters will have the luxury of short irons into many of the greens – unless playing into the wind.

Find the wrong contour, or land on the wrong side of a mound, and balls can jump at right angles to the intended direction.

It should always be remembered that St Andrews, and any other true links for that matter, is designed to be played in at least a breeze and the difficulty on any given day is almost entirely dependent on the conditions.
Of the two nines, the outward half is more likely to play downwind and therefore play the easier. But nothing can be taken for granted and it is not unheard of for players to play into the wind on the way out only to find by the time they reach the 12th tee for the homeward stretch that it has turned round.
Regardless of the weather, a clinical, methodical approach, as embodied by Tiger in 2000 and 2005, pays dividends if the hazards are to be avoided and the next shot is to be be played from an advantageous position.
And on a course designed predominantly by mother nature, with just a little help from various mortal sources over the past centuries, the winner will be someone who accepts that not every bounce will be kind, lie perfect or putt run true.
It is the essence of links golf, and the game in its purest form, that there are variables that simply cannot be taken into account.
This is a championship that will be played as much in the mind as it will be on those famous old rumpled fairways and greens.

The legend of St Andrews
“The more I studied the Old Course, the more I loved it; and the more I loved it, the more I studied it, so that I came to feel that it was for me the most favourable meeting ground for an important contest.
I felt that my knowledge of the course enabled me to play it with patience and restraint until she might exact her toll from my adversary, who might treat her with less respect and understanding.”
– Bobby Jones, upon receiving the freedom of St Andrews in 1958. Jones, an amateur, won the Grand Slam in 1930, claiming each of the US Amateur, US Open, British Amateur and Open Championship. He also won The Open at St Andrews in 1927. Legend has it that on his first visit to St Andrews he tore up his scorecard in frustration and tossed the scraps of paper into the Eden Estuary.

Address

Pilmour House
St Andrews
Fife
KY16 9SF
Top