David Hall was one of a lucky few to play the most famous golfing layout – the Old Course at St Andrews – in reverse this week. He tells us about his experience
Pick out the Swilcan Bridge from the 1st tee and avoid the Road Hole bunker with your approach.
Hardly the conventional way to kick-off 18 holes at the Old Course, but then this was no ordinary round for David Hall at the Home of Golf. He was one of the lucky few who played the legendary layout in reverse.
It’s one of the quirks of golf’s most famous course that it can be played both conventionally and back to front.
Once a common occurrence, the practice of going clockwise, which sees golfers start on the 1st tee and play to the 17th green, go from the 18th tee to the 16th green and so on, largely fell out of fashion.
It was revived this year to celebrate St Andrews Day and tee-time holders, of which Huddersfield 9-handicapper Hall was one, had the chance to play the Old Course with a difference.
“You’re stood on the tee, you’ve got the [reverse] course guide telling you where to hit it, but it just doesn’t look like you should hit it there,” he tells NCG.
“You’re thinking about how you should play it and it plays tricks on your mind and makes you think two or three times rather than just standing on the tee, picking a line, looking at the course guide, and hitting it.
A beautiful day for the Old Course in reverse. 17th green…..for today. pic.twitter.com/6UJ9S4XeSE
— Simon Connah (@ConnahSimon) November 29, 2019
“It’s quite interesting, stood on each tee when everything isn’t laid out in front of you like it is playing the conventional way.”
Hall secured his ballot place through friend Robin Urquhart, who is a member of the St Andrews Golf Club.
He was originally travelling up with two others but, following late pullouts from both, was able to benefit from a quirk of fate as those places went for up for grabs.
“There was a queue as long as your arm of people hoping for drop outs,” he explains. “We got paired with St Andrews caddie, Scott Bechelli, and an American, Rob Bilger. Having a caddie was an absolute stroke of luck.”
“There were a lot of occasions where you were hitting 2-iron or 4-iron off the tee to avoid the bunkers and not bring in any trouble,” Hall said of the challenge.
“[At the 7th] I played way to the right of Admiral’s Bunker and cleared the rough. Hill Bunker is then right in front of the green.
“On the 1st, you hit towards Swilcan Bridge, which was a 260 yard run out. I was aiming as far left as possible. It’s still a really simple, easy, opening drive but my ball fell off the tee about four or five times I was shaking that much.
“I think I nearly missed it. It didn’t get any higher than six feet off the ground but it was 10 yards short of the bridge.”
Hall scored a gross 80, or 37 Stableford points, and capped a memorable Old Course day with a birdie at the last – played from the 2nd tee to the 18th green.
“Coming from the 1st green (which plays as the 17th) you don’t have to worry about out of bounds right. I just hit it at the green as hard as I could, cleared the road, and left myself 70 yards. I hit half a gap wedge to about eight feet.
“We all had birdie putts between eight and 10 feet and I was the lucky one whose putt dropped. It was a really good way to finish an amazing day.”