The Old Course at St Andrews
The Old Course is located in St Andrews in Fife, on the East Coast of Scotland. The exact date when golf was first played on the grounds of the Old Course is unknown but it is certainly one of the oldest golf courses in the world, and may be the oldest golf course in Scotland.
The earliest evidence of golf being played there is a licence granted to the community by Archbishop John Hamilton in 1552, which allowed for golf and other recreational pastimes to take place. However, it was not until 1574 that the first written record of golf actually being played there was recorded. Documents do exist showing that King James IV bought golf clubs at St Andrews in 1506, which suggests the Old Course was used for golf much earlier than written records would have us believe.
The club house of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club Of St Andrews (R&A) is adjacent to the first tee. Many wrongly believe they own the course but they are only one of many clubs allowed to play on the Old Course along with the general public. The Old Course is, in fact, run by The St Andrews Links Trust; a charitable organisation established in 1974 by an Act of Parliament. The St Andrews Links Trust is also responsible for the operation and maintenance of the other five golf courses at St Andrews.
The Old Course is basically naturally formed, although some adjustments were made by Tom Morris who became custodian of the links in 1875. Originally the course consisted of 22 holes but in 1764 this number was reduced to 18. This created what has become the standard round of golf throughout the world. Golf was also originally played in a clockwise direction and for many years clockwise and anti-clockwise play took place on alternate weeks. The anti-clockwise (right hand circuit) is now the accepted direction, although it is apparent that some of the 112 bunkers are designed to catch golfers playing in the clockwise direction.
One of the many unique features of the Old Course is the double greens. Only the 1st, 9th, 17th and 18th holes have their own greens. Until the 19 century, due to the natural layout, golfers played the same holes coming out as they did going in, which led to congestion as the game increased in popularity. To alleviate the problem two holes were cut in each green, the first 9 with a white flag and the second 9 with a red flag. The course can be quite easy to play when the weather is not windy although it also contains one of the most celebrated and feared holes in golf, the par 4 17th “Road Hole”.
The Open Championship was first played on the Old Course in 1873 and it has since staged this event more than any other venue in the world. St Andrews played host to the Open for the 27th time in 2005 when Tiger Woods joined the elite list of double winners. Many other famous tournaments are also held at St Andrews including The Dunhill Cup and later the Dunhill Links Championship, The Walker Cup and The Amateur Championship.