The Old Course at St Andrews is one of the oldest golf courses in the world, a public course over common land in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. It is held in trust by The St Andrews Links Trust under an act of Parliament. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews club house sits adjacent to the first tee, although it is but one of many clubs that have playing privileges on the course, along with the general public.
The Old Course at St Andrews is considered by many to be the "home of golf" because the sport was first played on the Links at St Andrews in the early 15th century. Golf was becoming increasingly popular in Scotland until in 1457, when James II of Scotland banned golf because he felt that young men were playing too much golf instead of practicing their archery. The ban was upheld by the following kings of Scotland until 1502, when King James IV became a golfer himself and removed the ban.
In 1552, Archbishop John Hamilton gave the town people of St. Andrews the right to play on the links. In 1754, 22 noblemen, professors, and landowners founded the Society of St Andrews Golfers. This society would eventually become the precursor to the Royal and Ancient which is the governing body for golf everywhere outside of the United States and Mexico. St Andrews Links had a scare when they went bankrupt in 1797. The Town Council of St. Andrews decided to allow rabbit farming on the golf course to challenge golf for popularity. Twenty years of legal battling between the golfers and rabbit farmers ended in 1821 when a local landowner and golfer named James Cheape of Strathtyrum bought the land and is credited with saving the links for golf. The course evolved without the help of any one architect for many years, though notable contributions to its design were made by Daw Anderson in the 1850s and Old Tom Morris (1865–1908), who designed the 1st and 18th holes. Originally, it was played over the same set of fairways out and back to the same holes. As interest in the game increased, groups of golfers would often be playing the same hole, but going in different directions.
The Old Course was pivotal to the development of how the game is played today. For instance, in 1764, the course had 22 holes. The members would play the same hole going out and in with the exception of the 11th and 22nd holes. The members decided that the first four and last four holes on the course were too short and should be combined into four total holes (two in and two out). St Andrews then had 18 holes and that was how the standard of 18 holes was created. Around 1863, Old Tom Morris had the 1st green separated from the 17th green, producing the current 18-hole layout with seven double greens. The Old Course is home of The Open Championship, the oldest of golf's major championships. The Old Course has hosted this major 29 times since 1873, most recently in 2015. The 29 Open Championships that the Old Course has hosted is more than any other course, and The Open is currently played there every five years.
Bobby Jones (who later founded Augusta National) first played St Andrews in the 1921 Open Championship. During the third round, he infamously hit his ball into a bunker on the 11th hole. After he took four swings at the ball and still could not get out, he walked off the course. Six years later, when the Open Championship returned to St Andrews, Jones also returned. Not only did he win, he also became the first amateur to win back-to-back Open Championships. He won wire-to-wire, shooting a 285 (7-under-par), which was the lowest score at either a U.S. Open or Open Championship at the time. He ended up winning the tournament by a decisive six strokes.
In 1930, Jones returned to St Andrews for the British Amateur. He won, beating Roger Wethered by a score of 7 and 6 in the final match. He subsequently won the other three majors, making him the only man in the history of the sport to win the Grand Slam. Jones went on to fall in love with the Old Course for the rest of his life. Years later, he said "If I had to select one course upon which to play the match of my life, I should have selected the Old Course." In 1958 the town of St Andrews gave Jones the key to the city; he was only the second American to receive the honour (after Benjamin Franklin in 1759). After he received the key, he said "I could take out of my life everything but my experiences here in St. Andrews and I would still have had a rich and full life."
One of the unique features of the Old Course are the large double greens. Seven greens are shared by two holes each, with hole numbers adding up to 18 (2nd paired with 16th, 3rd with 15th, all the way up to 8th and 10th). The Swilcan Bridge, spanning the first and 18th holes, has become a famous icon for golf in the world. Everyone who plays the 18th hole walks over this 700-year-old bridge, and many iconic pictures of the farewells of the most iconic golfers in history have been taken on this bridge. A life-size stone replica of the Bridge is situated at the World Golf Hall of Fame museum in St. Augustine, Florida. Only the 1st, 9th, 17th and 18th holes have their own greens. Another unique feature is that the course can be played in either direction, clockwise or anti-clockwise. Along with that, the Old Course has 112 bunkers which are all individually named and have their own unique story and history behind them. The two most famous are the 10 ft deep "Hell Bunker" on the 14th hole, and the "Road Bunker" on the 17th hole. Countless professional golfers have seen their dreams of winning the Open Championship squandered by hitting their balls in those bunkers.
The Old Course is also home of The Road Hole, the par-4 17th, one of the world's most famous golf holes. Among its unique features are:Players using the back tees cannot see where their tee shots land. This is not unusual except that they must take aim over a corner of replica railway sheds which lie beyond the out of bounds wall. The original sheds were torn down when the rail line running next to the course closed, and after several Opens were played without the tee shot being blind, replicas of the sheds were created in preparation for the 1984 Open.
Other than rough, the primary hazard in front of the green is a sand trap known as the "Road Bunker."
Over the back of the green, hazards include a tarmac roadway, as well as an old stone wall. Both are in play; a wayward shot can lead a player to take their next stroke off the roadway or to hit the face of the wall and take their chances with the ensuing bounce.
The general method of play today is anti-clockwise, although clockwise play has been permitted on one day each year in recent years, and for several special one off events since. Originally, the course was reversed every week in order to let the grass recover better. One other unusual thing about the Old Course is that it is closed on Sundays to let the course rest. On some Sundays, the course turns into a park for all the townspeople who come out to stroll, picnic and otherwise enjoy the grounds. As a general rule, Sunday play is allowed on the course on only four occasions:The final day of the Dunhill Links Championship, an annual event on the European Tour.
The final day of any R&A sanctioned Open Championships – men and women, and the men over 50 when it is held at the Old Course; this happens roughly once every five years for the men; the women's championship began its turn on the rotation in 2007, and the over-50 championship began in 2018.
The final day of two top amateur events, the St Andrews Links Trophy and the St Rule Trophy.
Sunday play may also occur when the Old Course hosts other major events; for example, when it hosted the Curtis Cup in 2008.
While winning the Open Championship is a crowning achievement for any golfer, a win at St Andrews is considered particularly important due to the course's long tradition. Past winners at St Andrews include Tiger Woods (twice), John Daly, Zach Johnson (first Monday finish since 1988), Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus (twice), Tony Lema, Kel Nagle, Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, Sam Snead, Dick Burton, Denny Shute, Bobby Jones, Jock Hutchison, James Braid (twice), John Henry Taylor (twice), Hugh Kirkaldy, Jack Burns, Bob Martin (twice), Jamie Anderson, Tom Kidd, Lorena Ochoa, Louis Oosthuizen, and most recently Stacy Lewis at the 2013 Women's British Open.
In 2005 the Old Course was ranked as the greatest golf course outside the United States, by Golf Digest.
The Open Championship has been staged at the Old Course at St Andrews 29 times. The following is a list of the champions:Note: Multiple winners of The Open Championship have superscript ordinal designating which in their respective careers.
(a) denotes amateur
Winners of the Women's British Open at the Old Course at St Andrews:
Winners of the Senior Open Championship at the Old Course at St Andrews: