THE OLD COURSE AT ST. ANDREWS

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          The Old Course at St Andrews is the oldest  golf course in the world. The Old Course is a public course over common land in St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland and is held in trust by The St Andrews Links Trust under an act of Parliament. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews ( R&A ) club house sits adjacent to the first tee and although it might be imagined that they own the course, they are but one of many clubs that have playing privileges on the course, along with the general public.

History

          There is no real knowledge of when golf was first played over the grounds that now constitute the Old Course. The earliest written evidence is a license issued in 1552, which permitted the community to rear rabbits on the links and "play at golf, futball, schuteing ... with all other manner of pastimes." The first written record of golf being played at the Old Course dates to 1574, which would make the Old Course the fifth-oldest links golf site in Scotland. However, documents from the reign of King James IV show that he bought golf clubs at St Andrews in 1506, only four years after his first purchase at Perth, which may indicate that the Old Course is significantly older than the written evidence shows. The course evolved without the help of any true architect for many years. Originally, it was played over the same set of fairways out and back to the same holes. As interest in the game increased, the whins were cut back to allow for two fairways. All the greens were also increased in size and two holes were cut.

          The Old Course had 12 holes, 10 of which were played both out and in, making a total of 22 holes. As play increased, the first four holes (all of which were played twice) were combined in 1764 to make two holes, leaving a total of 18 holes. Over time, this became the standard number of holes for courses all over the world. Around 1863, Old Tom Morris had the 1st green separated from the 17th green, producing the current 18-hole layout with seven double greens.

Features

          One of the unique features of the Old Course is the huge double greens. Seven greens are shared by two holes each. 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. The general method of play today is anti-clockwise, although clockwise play has been permitted on one day each year for the past few years (in 2008, clockwise play was allowed on the Friday, Saturday and Monday of the first weekend in April). 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 The Open Championship and Ricoh Women’s British Open 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.

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, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus ( twice ), Tony Lema, Kel Nagle, Bobby Locke, Peter Thompson, Sam Snead, Richard 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 and Lorena Ochoa.

          In 2005 the Old Course was ranked as the greatest golf course in the rest of the world, i.e., outside the United States, by Golf Digest.

 

The 18th hole at St. Andrews

Bridge over the Swillken Burn at St. Andrews.