4 St Andrews Old
Stats: 6,721 yds, par 72, SSS 73
Visitor information: No restrictions on access as the courses are public
2008 Ranking: 3 (Down 1)
Improvements since 2008 Rankings:
Gallery: St Andrews Old Course pictures
The Old Course at St Andrews is the most famous in the world and remains a site of pilgrimage for golf lovers across the globe.
It’s a unique and historic course, unlike any other in existence. Golf was first played on the land in the 1400s and today’s layout is really an example of evolution rather than creation. Daw Anderson, Old Tom Morris and Dr Alister MacKenzie have all had a hand in the design.
With crossover fairways, enormous double greens, cavernous bunkers and perplexing run-offs, it’s a course that’s difficult to understand, let alone master. It certainly takes time to get to grips with the subtleties and nuances of golf’s ‘Grand Old Lady’.
When he first played the course in the Open of 1921, Bobby Jones stormed off after just 11 holes, openly stating his dislike for the track. But, by the end of his distinguished career, he had won the Open at St Andrews in 1927 and completed the first leg of his Grand Slam on the Old Course in winning the British Amateur of 1930. Jones came to view St Andrews as a second home and was granted the freedom of the city in 1958.
On the course, the 17th hole is one of the most recognisable in golf. With the hotel, road and deadly bunker, it’s a striking example of the level of strategy demanded by the Old Course. The complexities of the 12th hole provide another – the tee shot must avoid a veritable minefield of bunkers but, even if the sand is missed, the hole then asks for a pinpoint approach to a sloping, plateau green.
The Old Course has hosted the Open Championship more times than any other, most recently this year when Louis Oosthuizen was a worthy winner. Every golfing legend from Alan Robertson onwards has competed over this great links and the history is seeped into the very turf.
Quality of test and design: If you know where the bunkers lurk, the Old is not overly difficult from the tee. From the boxes, it’s a strategic challenge rather than an examination of power hitting. It’s around the greens where the true test lies.
Presentation: The vast greens are fast and the aprons kept short to allow for the running shot. Maintaining the incredible bunkering is a non-stop task and the revetting is a thing of beauty.
Visual appeal and enjoyment: On the run for home, The R&A clubhouse looms ever larger before you pass the hotel, cross the Swilken bridge and fire up towards the Hamilton Grand. For golf lovers it’s tough to top that for visual enjoyment.
Ambience: There’s no more spine-tingling feeling than standing on the Old Course’s 1st tee. Following in the steps of every golfing great who ever lived is a fabulous experience.
Panellists’ comments: “The Old Course is canny – it makes you feel it’s not too hard, then finds cunning ways to trip you up”; “The more you play it, the more you appreciate its intricacies”