|Home of golf|
|Saturday, 01 January 2011|
Golf has been played on the Links of St Andrews for at least 500 years. The rights of the Burgess of the town to play on the Links was enshrined by Charter in 1552, which are maintained to this day through the St Andrews Links Trust, a charitable body which administers and maintains the town’s courses.
There are now seven courses, the Old, the New, the Jubilee, the Eden, Strathtyrum, Balgove, and the Castle course, which overlooks the town across St Andrews’ Bay. In addition to the Links courses, golfers benefit from the Duke’s course laid out in the grounds of the old Craigtoun Hospital, some two miles from town, and Kingsbarns golf links, which is fast establishing a reputation as one of the great seaside links courses, situated a few miles from town on the Crail road. This concentration of courses, the Links Golf Practice Centre and Golf Academy and the presence of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews justify the title ‘the home of golf’.
Visitors are well served by the facilities of the Links, Eden and Castle course clubhouses and the hospitality of the local clubs. Each course has its unique and individual characteristics, accommodating everyone from the beginner to the serious low handicap player. In a short article, it would prove impossible to do justice to all of the courses but there is only one course visitors seek to play – ‘the Old Course’ which has evolved over 400 years. Anyone who has played ‘the Old’ savours their individual memories and opinions as to what are the most challenging holes. Playing the course in any weather is an experience to be savoured and remembered.
All golfers experience considerable trepidation when standing on the first tee under the watchful eye of the public and fellow golfers. The combined fairways of the 1st and 18th holes provide a massive target, but a good drive is essential in order to play the next shot safely onto the green, which is guarded in front by the Swilcan burn. The unique character of the course then becomes apparent when it is appreciated that there are only four single greens at the 1st, 9th, 17th and 18th, the remainder are enormous double greens which provide the opportunity for excessively long putts!
The elements and the natural hazards are the course’s defence. The prevailing westerly winds provide stiff opposition on the way out, and locals warn that if the tide turns so may the wind, just in time for the homeward stretch! The gorse bushes and the many infamous bunkers are significant hazards. If you are playing the course for the first time you would be well advised to hire a caddy, for their local knowledge will make your round a far more enjoyable experience. They will advise you to keep left for safety but if you are prepared to take risks by playing to the right, this will provide the best approach shots to the green.
The two most famous holes are the 17th, the road hole, and the 14th, the long hole, both of which have provided difficulties for the world’s best players as they come to St Andrews every five years for the Open Championship.
A visit to St Andrews will always be an exciting and memorable experience. Try and play the Old Course if you come by using the ballot or through polite perseverance with the Starter! You will enjoy it even more if you come for more than a day and appreciate all that the courses have to offer.
John D Orr, Immediate Past President, RCSEd