What Messrs Woods, Nicklaus, Watson, Mickelson and Faldo really think of the Old Course
Tour pros are a notoriously cold-hearted bunch when it comes to golf courses. Their heart rate never gets above standard and all they care about is whether it ‘suits their eye’ or not. Except for probably two. Augusta National is one, and the Old Course in St Andrews is the other.
It has been criticised, but usually even these rebels fall into line eventually. In fact, there is a one-time critic among the star names that follow, as they all explain what the Home of Golf means to them.
My first time in St Andrews, I thought it was the coolest place on earth. I’ve always loved the golf course, from the first time I played it back in ‘95. I just love the creativity. You have to be able to hit all different type of shots. And the walk up 18 is the greatest walk in golf. Obviously it’s the Home of Golf, we all know that. But what is brilliant to me is how you can play it so many different ways. I want to play it backwards one time before I die.
The most important club in the bag is your head. You just have to have patience. You feel like you should be killing the course when you might be struggling to score. But you mustn’t let it wind you up, because it can and it will. Pete Coleman [caddie when he won the 2003 Dunhill Links] made me appreciate that there was another way of playing the place rather than brute force and ignorance. Sometimes you have to play away from where you might assume the best line to be. On most courses you look down the fairway and it’s all ahead of you. At St Andrews there may be three different routes.
I played the Old Course for the first time in ‘87 as a 17-year-old when I played in the Links Trust Trophy. I just fell in love with the place. I didn’t know where to go, but I loved it. I’ve seen it in different shapes and forms and obviously different conditions. You’ve just got to take what you get on the day and try and adapt to that.
If it were up to me, I would play the Open Championship there every year. As much as I love all of the other golf courses, there’s something so special about St Andrews. The other thing is that the driver is never taken out of your hands. You can hit driver on just about every hole, and there’s plenty of room on a number of holes. I feel like it gives you a much bigger option off the tee, and it’s a great second-shot golf course to where you always have a shot into the green, but sometimes it’s such a difficult shot that you’re still fighting for par or bogey from the fairway. It is a golf course that every player would love to win on, and I just love playing it.
I first came to St Andrews in 1954. It is an amazing place, historically. It’s sort of the seat of the reformation, at least in Britain, and it’s the great seat of learning, since 1412. It’s unique. I spent three months a year in St Andrews for over a decade. In that time I played about six times on the Old Course. So I wasn’t as if I was playing it every every week, but I got very familiar with the course and in that respect, I suppose as familiar as anybody that’s played professionally.
It’s a treat playing the Open Championship, and to do it at St. Andrews just makes it twice as good, I’d say. There’s always been a lot of talk over the years about how far left you can hit it but that actually closes the angles into the greens on a lot of holes. And you need good long-range putting there because when you miss a green you end up with a lot of 40, 50, 60-footers and you need to two-putt those.
Sir Nick Faldo
You’ve got to plot the shots, you’ve got to understand the wind direction, where you’re going to land it, where it’s going to release, all sorts of things. All the downslopes, all the upslopes… St Andrews has a great way of punishing you. If you miss a shot on a normal golf course, you finish 20 feet away. There, they finish 25 yards away. If you can get it in a 20-to-30-foot circle, that’s key.
It’s a beautiful place. It’s the Home of Golf. Just playing there with buddies is special, but playing in the Open Championship there is an honour and a thrill.
The Old Course to me is a very special place because of what it is, where it is, how it sits there and how it relates to the history of the game of golf. That’s what’s special. I suppose if you took St Andrews and put it somewhere else it would be another golf course. But because of what it is and what it means to golf it is something very, very special.
I don’t think there’s anything more special in golf than playing at the Home of Golf. I have fond memories from playing there when I played in the Walker Cup… vivid memories, it’s one of those courses you play where you don’t really forget much. There’s only a couple of those maybe in the world. I think the Old Course and Augusta National are my two favourite places in the world. To win the Open is special but to win it at St Andrews one day would be even more special.
You need to learn the Old Course. The more rounds you have there, you get a better idea of where the better angles are. The more you go around it, you get to know those little nuances. My strategy changes completely with different wind directions. –
It is fabulous. I was so excited to be there for our Open in 2007 – it’s just a treat to play. I love it. It was amazing to walk down the fairways and remember some of the shots you’d seen on TV, that the men played and just absorb the history. It does not get much better than the Old Course.
When I first played it I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the blindness. I learned to like it and eventually to love it. And it tests you, it really, really tests you.