St Andrews Golf Club

St Andrews is the spiritual home of golf. You cannot discuss the history of gold without including the role St Andrews played. As such, it remains a highly sought-after golfing destination. 

We’re going to discuss three of the courses at St Andrews:

  • The Old Course

  • The New Course

  • The Castle Course

We will look at some memorable holes, some advice for playing, the history of these famous courses and some local attractions. 

If you’re interested in playing at St Andrews, check out our St Andrews golf tour packages. We offer custom golf tours around all of Scotland so you can make a visit to some more world-class courses nearby.

 

The Old Course at St Andrews

7125 yards, par 72

The St Andrews Old Course has no parallel anywhere because it evolved over several hundred years with no specific early design. It owes more to nature than to the hand of man. 

The greens and fairways essentially followed the natural lay of the land. The fairways were narrow, passing through thickets of scrubland, gorse, nettles, brambles, etc.

The greens were poor relying on sheep and rabbits to shorten the grass. 

On these cold windy links, land sheep took refuge in shallow sheltered areas. This made it difficult for grass to grow there. Golfers chose to make sand-filled bunkers from the hollows.

Players competed with sheep for space on the links and townsfolk used the space for drying fishing nets, grazing cows and goats and various domestic and other activities. 

There was no proper upkeep, no plan and no architect.

The holes just evolved and by some miracle have stood the test of time with little change except to lengthen holes to keep up with the development of better golf equipment and trained professionals.

The shape of the course has hardly changed. It runs out over slightly crumpled links land to the Eden Estuary and then swings back around the eighth and ninth holes representing the shape of a billhook.

At St Andrews, the space between the southern arable land with protective banks of gorse and more gorse on the other side was so narrow that golfers had to share the same fairways and green going out and coming back. 

Long ago the gorse has been thinned and been cut back. The total area of the Old Course links must be the smallest for a Championship course anywhere in the world.

Golf did not formally develop until the eighteenth century. The Society of St Andrews Golfers, formed in 1754, was the third golf society in Scotland and the world. 

By 1764, the Old Course was played as 22 holes, 11 out and 11 back. The golfers played the same hole going out and in, except for the 11th and 22nd holes.

In 1764, the Society of St Andrews Golfers, which later became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, decided the first four holes, therefore also the last four holes were too short and should be made into two holes, not four. 

Thus the number of holes per round dropped from 22 to 18, and that set the standard for the current round of golf throughout the world. 

In the early days, golfers were meant to play their next tee shot from the immediate vicinity of the previous hole. Before wooden tees were invented they used to build tees out of the sand within two club lengths of the previous hole, using a handful of sand scooped out from the hole. 

Due to the holes becoming so deep, the Old Course began providing sandboxes for golfers.

Later Tom Morris would lay out a separate teeing ground for each hole. The directives for playing the first competition on the links had references to some of the Old Course holes which are still in existence. 

The last winner over the old configuration was the Royal and Ancient Club Captain William St Clair of Roslin who authorised changes to the layout.

The association between The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the Old Course has often been misinterpreted; The Club does not own the Old Course. 

Archbishop Hamilton’s deed of 1552 refers to the public ownership of the links to be used for playing sports and grazing livestock. Golf was largely a winter game until the middle of the 19th Century when the availability of mechanical grass cutters allowed playing in the summer as well. 

With the increased prosperity of Victorian times and the expansion of the railways, golf tourism took hold all over Britain.

By 1857, there were second holes on the middle greens and the course became the first 18-hole golf course in the world. Other courses soon followed.

With the huge double greens, the undulations often make the flag look nearer than it actually is. Judgement of distance is critical to avoid three-putts.

 In 1863, Old Tom Morris was appointed Custodian of the Links by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. He was a St Andrews man who had studied under another great St Andrews golfer, Allan Robertson.

This was before Tom had gone to Prestwick to be appointed Keeper of the Green there. 

Robertson died in 1859, and Old Tom was persuaded to return to St Andrews to conduct extensive remodelling of the course as well as building others.

Old Tom Morris is credited with developing the manicured links that we see today. He owned a shop and workshop at 8 The Links, which still exists.

Tom improved the state of the greens he spent a great deal of time cutting back the gorse to widen the fairways and enlarging the greens to separate players going out holding up those playing back.

Until the 19th century, the Old Course was played in a clockwise direction. Old Tom Morris separated the 1st and 17th greens around 1870. From then, the course was played in an anti-clockwise direction on alternate weeks in order to let the grass recover better.

The general method of play now is anti-clockwise, although clockwise play has been permitted on one day each year in recent years. In 1899, 17 new bunkers were added.

In 1905, they added 16 more. Those 33 bunkers transformed the front nine. Many of the 112 bunkers are clearly designed to catch the wayward shots of golfers playing the course on the left-hand circuit.

The course is closed on Sundays to let the links rest. On some Sundays it is used like a park by the townspeople who walk, picnic and otherwise enjoy the grounds.

 

The New Course at St Andrews Golf Club

It may be called St Andrews New Course but this links was 100 years old in 1995 and is now well into its second century. The original course was not called the Old until the second course was built and without much foresight, they called it the New.

They did not foresee that it would later become the oldest New course in the World. St Andrews New Course has a classic out and back routing, with the eighteenth green close to the first tee.

There are shared fairways and even a double green at the 3rd and 15th holes following the tradition of the Old Course at St Andrews.

Like many courses that are relatively flat with perhaps some small dunes, its defence is slender fairways, ingenious green complexes and many bunkers, some of the deep pot bunker variety. 

St Andrews New Course is a delightfully thought-provoking course and an outstanding induction to the unique links environment at St Andrews. The course features a great compilation of par threes and some worthy long holes. 

It has been favoured by the local townsfolk for a long time. It provides an inspiring taster to links golf, habitually surpassing visitors’ expectancies. The conditioning of the course is normally faultless.

All the way through the course are masses of the characteristic St Andrews gorse-lined holes, some with scarily slender fairways, particularly on the front nine. 

There are numerous pot bunkers and quite a few problematic rippling greens. You will find several doglegs, challenging angles to the greens and excellent green sites.

After a generous start, the New has many tough driving holes, bounded closely by vast banks of yellow-flowering gorse.

The course has been created with well-designed greenside and fairway bunkers and is notorious for its exceptionally tough homeward holes. It is not so unpredictable as the Old Course with fewer deep hollows or awkward run off areas from the putting surface, off-line odd bounces or hanging lies. 

The bunkers are not quite so vast and yawning. The course has less character and charisma as with other courses where the fairways and greens are flatter.

It is however a less demanding course as a 'first play' and has some exacting holes. The fairways are fast running but tighter with fewer ripples than the Old. The bunkering is not so brutal, the greens are fast, rolling honest and true, less challenging than the Old.

The course is not exceptionally long but has a good variety of hole lengths so you will test your entire bag of clubs. It is believed by many that it’s fairer than the Old. 

It is shorter to play and is mainly less undulating than its famous neighbour, some members and visitors assert that it offers a better test of golfing ability. 

The New needs to be approached tactically, you need to plan your path and be careful to pick the most favourable line of approach. It is virtually impossible to portray without comparing the course to its legendary neighbour. 

There are unsighted drives, concealed bunkers that appear from nowhere and many mounds and depressions. Some golfers find that it is fun because it is more defined. 

The routing places a need for good course management and careful shot-making. This is the locals’ favourite course partly because it offers a distinctive challenge even though it does not have the oddity, appeal and charisma of the Old.

The rise and fall of the terrain and demanding greens make the New Course a classic links course. It uses the natural landscape to create a first-class exacting links experience and golfing challenge.

 

History of the New Course at St Andrews

Opened in April 1895, the New course was built in response to increasing demand for golf at St Andrews. This was both from locals and from the visitors who were flocking to the town in increasing numbers on the recently constructed railway. 

To build the second course at the Home of Golf, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club engaged Benjamin Hall Blyth, an Edinburgh civil engineer, to design the New Course, and entrusted the layout to Old Tom Morris.

He was one of the most influential figures in the history of golf, a four-time Open champion in the 1860s. He later did pioneering work in green keeping and design, renovating some of the Old Course but starting from scratch with the New Course, which did not stay the newest course in town for long.

The original course was then named St Andrews Old Course and the second course St Andrews New Course.

The construction of the New Course was paid for by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club as part of an arrangement under which the club was allocated the right to certain starting times on the Old Course.

These arrangements were enshrined in the first Act of Parliament concerning the Links which was passed in 1894 and was the forerunner of the current Act of 1974 which specifies how the links are to be run.

The competing uses for the St Andrews Links had created friction between the golfers and others. The Town Council's financial difficulties resulted in the links being sold in 1799 to the commercial rabbit breeders Charles and Cathcart Dempster, this appeared to contravene earlier charters.

Then in 1805, the local inhabitants won the right to kill the rabbits. For sixteen years the 'Rabbit Wars' were waged over the links and in court, until, in 1821, James Cheape of Strathtyrum bought the links for the golfers and laid the foundations of St Andrews' golfing prosperity. 

James Cheape subsequently sold the Links in 1893 to the Royal and Ancient Club, who bid £5000, which was £500 more than the Town Council.

However, the Council successfully petitioned Parliament to keep the Links in common ownership. Ultimately, after many Acts of Parliament, the Links were taken over by the Links Trust who run it today.

Members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club have considerable rights to play on the New Course at St. Andrews. They have the right to every other tee time for most of the year which is guaranteed by the 1974 Act of Parliament governing how the Links are run.

They do not use many but this is probably why you can only book a round two days ahead, or you can just turn up, first come first served and pay the starter. They have a medal on the New every third Friday of the month and will have a lot of people playing that day.

 

Six Most Memorable Holes of the New Course

It is odd that whereas the Old and Jubilee have a name for each hole the New just has a number. The opening two holes ease you into the round.

Hole 3

The 3rd presents your first big challenge, 511 yards, par 5 and index three. It has bunkers lining the fairway left and right with some unseen. The wind here is a worthy adversary all of its own. The green is narrow and well defended and it is difficult to hold a pitch.

Hole 5

The sixth is the longest par four on the front nine at 445 yards. The challenge builds, when played into the teeth of a strong wind it is one of the toughest par fours at St Andrews.

Hole 9 

The ninth is probably the most memorable hole on the New. At 225 yards it is a treacherous short hole that runs along the water’s edge to a partially sunken green. Off the tee anything left can find out of bounds. Played into the wind it will require a solid three wood. There is gorse on the right, it is tougher than any par three on the Old.  

Hole 10

The tenth is the longest par four at 464 yards and one of the most difficult on the New. It is on the highest part of the course. A tricky, blind tee shot is followed by a long approach to a well-shaped green that interestingly does not have any bunkers but is surrounded by gorse.

Hole 15

The fifteenth – The tee shot needs to get a good angle to the green. The play is long left. On the right, you are faced with gorse blocking a view of the right side of the green.

Hole 17

The seventeenth is another long par three at 229 yards, formidable when the wind blows. You could need any club from a driver to a mid-iron or hybrid from the tee. There is a cavernous bunker to the right of the green with a steep face.

 

Notes for playing the New Golf Course at St Andrews

Hole 1

336 yards, par 4, index 9

Long hitters may use a driver but need to be straight.

Conservative play is to lay up short of the mound guarding the green leaving a pitch to the small green. 

There is a good view down the left side of the fairway to the green.

Playing from the right will bring the greenside bunkers left and right into play.

On St Andrews New Course you are never out of bounds if your ball lands on St Andrews Old Course.

 

Hole 2

367 yards, par four, index 13

From the tee, it requires a straight shot between the fairway bunkers, be particularly careful of those to the left.

The best approach is to aim for the left side of the green. This should avoid the greenside bunker and the thick gorse to the right.

It is better to be a shade long rather than short so be careful with choosing the best club for the distance.

 

Hole 3

511 yards, par 5, Index 3

Take a good note of the wind direction. 

This hole provides the first big test with pot bunkers lining the fairway. 

There are bunkers to the left and many challenging on the right including some partly hidden bunkers. 

You need to make a nice straight tee shot noting the two bunkers at about 275 yards.

There is a large depression to the front left of the raised green which can deflect running shots.

The green is narrow making it hard to hold a pitch to the green.

 

Hole 4

369 yards, par 4, index 7

This is one of the toughest par fours on the course.

Play the hole as a right to left dogleg.

A well-placed tee shot down the rolling fairway with its humps and bumps is required.

The left of the green is guarded by three deep bunkers.

Any shots that draw right risk getting tangled in clumps of heather on that side.

There is gorse spreading across the whole of the back of the green.

 

Hole 5

180 yards, par 3, index 17

From the tee you need to aim between two cavernous greenside bunkers.

The fairway is flanked by gorse on both sides.

A miss on the right of the green provides the best chance of recovering.

There is a substantial hollow at the back centre of the green and a ditch to the right side of the green.

The putting surface is challenging with slopes and swales.

 

Hole 6

445 yards, par 4, index 1

This hole is a great test for every keen golfer and is the longest par four going out.

Played into the teeth of a strong wind, this hole is one of the toughest in St Andrews and difficult to make the green in two.

From an elevated tee, it requires an accurate tee shot to a narrow fairway that has gorse down most of the right side. 

The fairway is sloping to the right so it is best to aim for the left side of the fairway taking into account broken ground on the right and more gorse. The hole does not have any bunkers.

There are ridges short of the green.

You face a long approach to a tricky green. The best approach is to the right of the green where you have more chance of running on.

The green slopes down from the back and there is a difficult run off to the left.

The hole is in the opposite direction to the rest of the front nine, facing back towards the town.

 

Hole 7

356 yards, par 4, index 11

This is a short par four with a wide landing area.

The tee shot is partly blind and four fairway bunkers are within reach especially in the wind.

You need to drive short of the cross bunkers for a full shot in.

An approach shot from the right gives a better line to the green which is more flat at the back than the front.

You should not be too long as there is a bank and a road behind the green. This would make a more difficult recovery shot.

There are three bunkers protecting the green.

 

Hole 8

481 yards, par 5, index 5

The right side of the fairway is best for attempting to reach the green in two.

The approach then would be between two large bunkers that guard the entrance to the green.

The challenge is to avoid the bunkers to the right of the tee.

The tendency is to go right because of the intense gorse to the left.

There is lots of room on the twelfth fairway.

The conservative approach would be to take care of the first two shots and have a wedge or short iron to the green.

The green is in a narrow setting nestled uphill between dunes with bunkers fronting the green.

 

Hole 9

225 yards, par 3, index 15

This is a long, tough and intimidating par three particularly in the wind, when you may need a three wood off the tee.

With wind and rain, it’s a brute and a par is a great score.

Some say that it is tougher than any par three on the Old Course.

This treacherous hole plays along the water’s edge to a partially sunken green.

Anything heading left off the tee is likely to disappear onto the beach or into the sea.

There is deep gorse on the right and Eden Estuary on the left which is out of bounds.

From the tee aim towards the back edge of the tenth tee.

Only the best-struck shots get past the ridge which deflects anything short of the green.

There are no bunkers on this hole and the green is set in a hollow. Anything slightly right can feed back towards the sunken green.

 

Hole 10

464 yards, par 4, index 6

This is the highest part of the course so take note of the wind.

It is also one of the toughest on the course.

You aim over a marker post from the back tee or a little left of it from a bit forward.

This tricky and blind tee shot is down a natural fairway with humps and ridges in the fairway, particularly on the right.

The long approach is best to come from the left for the best angle to the green, but take care that you do not reach out of bounds.

The well-shaped green does not have any bunkers but is surrounded by heavy rough.

 

Hole 11

308 yards, par 4, index 14

From the tee, a straight drive will open up the green.

The approach shot needs precision because there are four cleverly placed greenside bunkers waiting to capture a pitch offline.

The green slopes from front to back and are receptive to a well-struck pitch shot.

 

Hole 12

518 yards, par 5, index 4

The wind can have a considerable effect on the apparent length of the hole.

From the tee aim for the centre of the wide fairway which is shared with the eighth hole.

Long hitters may choose to go for the green.

Choosing to lay up will leave a full shot to a rather wide and comparatively flat green.

There is less danger on the left side of the green.

If you find the back of the green it is a very dangerous downhill putt.

 

Hole 13

157 yards, par 3, index 18

Aim the tee shot between two large greenside bunkers to an elevated green.

It is best to try and leave the ball below the hole as the entire green slopes severely down from back to front.

It is a tricky uphill par three especially when the pin is at the front.

 

Hole 14

386 yards, par 4, index 8

From the tee, you need to take care with the shot to get a good angle to the green.

The best line is to the left of the fairway.

There is broken ground to the right on the fairway which can result in a poor lie or awkward stance.

The approach shot can be partially blind and has to clear a prominent ridge about 60 yards short of the green.

This gives a false impression that the green is nearer than it is.

 

Hole 15

394 yards, par 4, index 12

Again you need care with the tee shot to get a good angle to the green.

The fairway has a lot of humps and hollows which could affect your lie. 

Play long to the left to avoid bunkers and broken ground.

This will open up the front of the double green which is shared with the third perfectly.

If you inadvertently go right then gorse blocks off the right side of the green.

 

Hole 16

431 yards, par 4, index 2

The tee shot should be aimed down the left side of the fairway.

This will avoid playing the approach over the greenside bunkers.

There are some bunkers on the right side that are shared with the third fairway and cannot be seen from the tee.

The green is flat and is receptive to a running shot or a pitch.

The green is flat, making it much easier to read than many other greens.

 

Hole 17

229 yards, par 3, index 16

This long par three can require a mid-iron to a driver depending on the wind.

Drive beyond the central fairway bunker and the approach to the green is flat which will allow the ball to run onto the putting surface.

The tee shot should be slightly to the left of this hazard.

You need to keep away from the bunker to the right of the large green which has a very steep face.

 

Hole 18

408 yards, par 4, index 10

Aim the tee shot to the right of the first fairway bunker.

There is plenty of trouble off the tee to punish poor shots.

Check the pin position on the green before playing an approach.

This is because the green has ridges and you will find it difficult putting from the wrong half.

There is a bank at the back of the green with out of bounds just beyond it, so do not be too long.

 

The Castle Course at St Andrews

(6759 yards par 71)

The St Andrews Links Trust were keen to build another golf course in the town to cope with the growing demand from visitors to the historic town.

Golf has been played on the Old Course for many hundreds of years, even the ‘New’ course has passed 125 years. To build a clifftop, modern, links-style course was controversial to the links golf purists. However, it has become very popular with the majority of golfers.

The Castle Course offers golfers an excellent alternative to playing the older, more traditional courses when visiting St Andrews.

The Castle delivers a different view, different terrain and a different test.

It’s an undulating roller-coaster of a course delivering great enjoyment and terrific variety throughout. The wind plays a key part on these clifftop links, whilst the heavy undulations and fast greens will require your concentration.

The terrain has been shaped to create a natural-looking course with rolling fairways and severely undulating greens. Following the rugged coastline, the course offers stunning views out to sea and down to the historic town of St Andrews.

A major feature of the course and one that has attracted criticism is the difficulty of some of the greens. They have been eased somewhat since opening, but you will certainly face some challenging putts.

The St Andrews Castle Course is the first of the St Andrews Links Trust courses to be built outside of the town. It was designed by the highly acclaimed golf course architect David Maclay Kidd, who has showcased his talent in creating a championship style course and is a fantastic addition to the St Andrews Links portfolio.

It opened for play in 2008 becoming the seventh course at the “Home of Golf” and part of the largest public golfing complex in Europe. The course takes its name from Kinkell Castle, five hundred years ago it was located on a headland two miles southeast of the town centre where the new layout begins.

The course has been dramatically carved on cliffs around Kinkell Ness to the south and east of St Andrews, overlooking the historic town. From the rugged clifftop, it delivers fabulous views across the North Sea, Angus coast and the spectacular Grampian mountain range.

Located just two miles along the east coast from St Andrews' town centre, this extremely scenic course is creating a great deal of interest within the U.K. golf fraternity. 

The Course is situated in between St Andrews town and the popular Fairmont St Andrews resort, which provides panoramic views of the town and St Andrews Bay.

It sits on the same stretch of land as the incredible layout at Kingsbarns, presenting the perfect terrain to create an amazing golf course.

This is not a true links course, which separates it from the other St Andrews courses. It offers a different type of challenge as a clifftop layout with links-style routing.

Again it is not a natural course having been constructed on far from promising land, except for being right on the cliffs. The farmers’ fields that had been purchased consisted of dense, heavy soil and it was quite flat.

It’s a credit to the work of McLay Kidd and the shapers he used that this course certainly doesn’t feel like it has been produced from such land.

Huge amounts of earth were moved to create the impression that the land had been this way for centuries. Some new courses have an artificial look but this is not the case with the Castle Course, a modern links design, offering five sets of tees ranging from 5300 yards to 7200 yards, making it a great option for all levels of golfer.

The Castle offers a real test of golf. Bunkers are in play on every hole and shot selection from the tee and your approach shots are vital. The course divides opinion due to the sheer challenge it presents, however a precise drive and meticulous putting will prevail.

Being quite different from the other St Andrews Links courses, it provides an excellent, additional option. As a visitor, you will be given a strokesaver and a pin sheet that shows every green and the area where the pins are on any given day.

At some courses, you may not need it. At the Castle Course life will be much easier if you pay attention to every approach shot!

The closing stretch of holes at the Castle is already a legend in its own right. Together they create what's fast becoming the most memorable four-hole closing stretch in the whole of Scotland, quite a compliment in a country that offers high golfing drama as routine.

The routing is excellent. You head west, inland towards St Andrews to begin with, before turning back to the clubhouse along the coast from the spectacular sixth.

The back nine then heads inland again, away from the town, before an outstanding clifftop finish on the way back to the 18th, which shares a vast green with the 9th. The course has more elevation change than you would typically get on a links course.

 

Some Selected Holes at The Castle Course

Hole 2 - St Rule

404 yards, par 4, index 3

Do not be tempted into any shortcuts.

Stay left of the fairway bunkers off the tee.

Depending on the wind, approach shots can vary a great deal.

The green has a massive false front, a large valley running through the middle.

It slopes severely falling off the back into the tall grass.

Trust your yardage book because the pin is further than it looks.

 

Hole 3 - Cathedral

202 yards, par 3, index 15

It has a two-level green with a large false front.

The prevailing wind is behind the player.

If the wind is even slightly strong, it becomes very difficult to hold this green.

You should avoid being long with trouble beyond the green.

 

Hole 4 - Briery Hill

540 yards, par 5, index 7

The drive is downhill.

Aim right, next to the two fairway bunkers that sit in the driving zone or a well-placed tee ball down the left can roll out several extra yards and open the opportunity to reach the green in two.

A water hazard crosses the fairway about 75 yards short of the green and creates a dilemma to contend with when attacking from distance.

A lay up to the burn leaves a full shot in.

The large green is heavily undulated so be careful not to three-putt.

 

Hole 6 - Pier

421 yards, par 4, index 13

The tee shot is semi-blind, with a barber pole standing as the aiming point to this slight dogleg left.

Aim down the left side as the fairway will move your ball to the right.

Numerous bunkers and swells come into play after cresting the hill with the fairway tumbling down towards the sea with expansive views of St Andrews and the surrounding hole.

A drawing approach shot into the green that counters the terrain sloping left to right is the best shot and also takes the left greenside bunkers out of play.

The right side of the green is the safest.

 

Hole 7 - Maiden Rock

456 yards, par 4, index 5

This cliffside par four runs downhill to a green perched above the ocean.

The tee shot needs to carry, or play right of, the bunker collection on the left side of the fairway about 250 yards from the back tees.

Do not be too long. You will set up the best angle for an approach, the right side is ideal.

It should carry the various hills and fescue covered lumps along the way to the putting surface.

From distance, a drawing approach shot is a prime way to attack this green as it can avoid the bunker protecting the left side while utilizing the slope in the terrain to chase up onto the putting surface.

 

Hole 8 - Cave

141 yards, par 3, index 17

Another beautiful hole that is short but tricky and presents an excellent opportunity to achieve a green in regulation.

It is all about distance control.

The green angles away from front left to back right so if you can hit a cut shot you'll have an advantage here, but nothing is wrong with taking dead aim and going after the flag.

Avoiding the three bunkers fronting the putting surface is critical for success, but with a large green to attack and a wedge or low iron in your hand, you should be confident.

 

Hole 11 - Maiden Links

462 yards, par 4, index 4

From the tee it is uphill, stay left of the fairway bunkers for a flat lie and the best line to the biggest green on the course.

Make sure that you have enough club to yet another sloping green and use the slope on the left to help you.

A large slope on the back of the green acts as a very useful backstop.

A large false front forces any short approach shots thirty yards backwards from the front of the green. 

 

Hole 12 - Boar’s Chase

454 yards, par 4, index 8

The hole plays long uphill with a prevailing headwind.

Try to keep inside the bunker on the right of the hole and you will find a deceptively wide fairway.

A good drive will allow you to run one in from the right side.

There is plenty of distance to cover and it is uphill and terminates at a raised green with a false front.

Nearly a dozen bunkers come into play on route to the putting surface, with a half dozen of them protecting the driving zone.

With uneven lies abounding, plenty of trouble and the steepest climb on the course, the 12th hole presents the toughest green in regulation on the course.

Thankfully, David Kidd made this green large and not unreasonably difficult.

 

Hole 16 - Craigendaff

406 yards, par 4, index 16

From the tee, the fairway will feed the ball right to left.

The approach to the green can be intimidating.

The green contains a valley and features yet another massive false front.

Anything short of the pin runs back into the massive valley in front of the green.

As is the theme with many of the Castle greens, aim for the centre of the green and settle for a fairly long putt.

 

Hole 17 - Braes

184 yards, par 3, index 6 

This par three is unique, set high on a cliff edge and played over a ravine on the edge of the cliffs in the Kinkell Braes.

At high tide, the waves are crashing below the tee.

The difficulty lies in the deep and wide gorge that exists to the right of the green.

It really is an all or nothing hole where anything right is gone forever.

The safe play is to aim left toward the bunker, heading well left of the green.

The contours will hopefully funnel the ball right to the putting surface. It is splendid, challenging and extremely tough.

However, set high on the cliff edge, regardless of your shot, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of St Andrews old town.

The carry can be deceptive as the green cuts back to the right and away from the player with the only option of missing short being to the far left.

A back-right pin is just begging for trouble so take an extra club to virtually any pin in order to increase your chance of safety.

This visually remarkable hole demands your very best effort.

 

Hole 18 - Rock and Spindle

555 yards, par 5, index 10

This is a dogleg right par five ending at a massive shared double green. 

From the tee, there is more fairway beyond the diagonal ridge than you think.

The extent to which you can cut the corner depends on the wind direction. 

A safe strategy for the second shot is to lay up short of the fairway bunker.

The green is difficult but fair.

The final approach shot into the tough green requires distance control and accuracy.

 

History of Golf at St Andrews

Golf has been played on St Andrews links since about 1400 A.D. and the original Old Course is famous worldwide as the ‘Home of Golf.’ A charter in 1123 raised by King David granted St Andrews Burgh the rights to use the links land.

This set a precedent and was carried forward through time. It was further confirmed in later charters. Eventually, the rights of the people of the town to play golf on the links was officially confirmed. Originally it was just a track, worn and hacked through the bushes and heather.

Golf was banned in 1457 by King James II of Scotland. He was concerned that golf was keeping young men away from their archery practice which was compulsory for all males over 12 years of age. He needed to maintain an army sufficient to quell invaders. 

Throughout the century Scottish Kings struggled to assert their authority and quell internal divisions. There was a continuing threat from his powerful southern neighbours. Scotland was often threatened with invasion and the country was in a poor state.

At this time golf met the disapproval of the establishment. Further monarchs repeated this ban. An important factor in the development of the St Andrews Links was the Harbour. 

This was in the Estuary of the River Eden and denotes part of the northern boundary of the links. It was here that merchants came from the Netherlands to trade with the Scots.

We often refer to 600 years of golf at St Andrews but there is actually very little known about the first 300 years. St Andrews, with its great cathedral built in 1160, was the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland. 

Pilgrims flocked to the town and St Andrew became the patron Saint of Scotland. The port flourished and the town was prosperous. Later, in 1560 the Scottish Reformation rejected papal jurisdiction. 

Subsequently, the town’s importance and prosperity declined until the early 19th century. In the 16th century, the population of St Andrews reached 14,000 but in 1793 it was down to 2,854. Golf on St Andrews Old Course would eventually play a major part in the town’s revival.

Eventually, King James IV became a golfer himself and cancelled the ban in 1502. There were political reasons as he had made a peace treaty with the English King and he married the daughter of King Henry VII.

In St Andrews, the Church penalised a number of golfers for playing instead of being at Church or fasting. King James VI settled the golf versus archery conflict when he succeeded to the English throne and moved to London with his court in 1603. 

Little is recorded about the layout of the links between 1400 and 1744. St Andrews golf was played on a peninsula of ancient links land, with gorse covered dunes.

Some of the links evolved gradually by deposits from the sea. More land was reclaimed using grasses to bind the sand and stabilise the dunes. This was followed later by reclamation projects.

How and when did St Andrews become the “Home of Golf”?

An obvious answer to the question would be that in 1897 when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews became the absolute authority for the rules of Golf. From then they and others built the reputation to be the “Home of Golf”.

However, there were several events that suggest that the reputation if not the specific name was around much earlier. 

The problem can be that when considering these events, instead of thinking like a person living and educated in recent times, you need to consider them as seen by gentlemen or a weaving and golfing family would look at them.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries when the town was in decline and the links were very unkempt. Golf was a minor sport. The gentlemen and townspeople thought would not be too concerned about the state of the links because it was normal. The poor state of the town was not unusual when times were hard and sewage was primitive.

Consider this letter in 1691 written almost 200 years before the Royal and Ancient took responsibility for the rules and updated them. It was from Alexander Monro, a former lawyer and Regent at St Andrews University.

He sent the letter and a gift of 3 golf clubs and 12 golf balls to his friend John Mackenzie an Edinburgh Barrister. He says that he knows that golf equipment is available in Edinburgh but considers a present would be welcome from St Andrews: “the metropolis of golfing”. 

The dictionary says that metropolis means ‘main city’ or ‘centre of activity’. However, it also gives the translation from 16th century Greek (meter polis), literally ‘mother city’ which suggests he is considering more than quality golf equipment.

The founding statement of the 'Society of St Andrews Golfers’ in 1754 is flowery and consistent with the times. Part of it says “and at the same time having the interest and prosperity of the ancient city of St Andrews at heart, being the ‘Alma Mater’ of the Golf”. 

Today Alma Mater refers to your University, College or School. A circa 1800 translation of ‘Alma Mater’ is from Latin and translated as ‘benevolent or kind mother’. So “Mother of Golf” is how the nobles and gentlemen saw it in 1754, not far removed from “Home of Golf”.

In 1836 an artist painted St Andrews and called it “The Birthplace O Golf”. This is a pointer to how the town felt. For reasons that are not clear to us today, they saw their golf course as the spiritual birthplace or mother or home of golf.

Prestwick 1864: Tom Morris was leaving to work for the Royal and Ancient as keeper of the green (green referred to the course at that time) at St Andrews, his home town.

The club chairman said, “Tom’s departure was no shame to Prestwick, for the ties of an earlier and stronger affection drew him to his native St Andrews, known the world over as the headquarters of the grand old national pastime”.

Many early golfers in Scotland appear to have accepted from early years that St Andrews was something special. It retained its long history, perhaps helped because the course never moved from the original links. It was part of the town and produced many fine golfers. The course seems to have its own aura and mystique that has grown over the centuries.

 

The St Andrews Course Debate

The New Course, built alongside the Old Course and the Jubilee, constantly leads to comparisons. It is often said that the locals prefer the New which is not as legendary as the Old or as difficult as the Jubilee.

However, it is suspected that the popularity of the New has more to do with its good pace of play compared to the crowded Old, rather than its quality. 

The direction that the Old and New play are opposites. The Old Course generally plays anticlockwise and most hazards are to the right. The New plays clockwise and the trouble is on the left.

You can slice around the New and all you generally find is another fairway. Also, it is more like a normal traditional links golf course with normal greens and undulations.

Some say that it would be ranked higher if it was not overshadowed by the Old Course.

One reviewer pointed out that it gains from this and wondered how it can be ranked above Portstewart and Hunstanton in the GB&I rankings. It is probably correct when golfers say that it is the fairest course at St Andrew’s. 

Others say that there is not much more memorable than a round on the Old Course and they enjoy the quirk, charisma and sparkle of the Old. 

Doubtless, it will go on providing debate at the 19th hole. Think about it though! Who is ever going to travel halfway across the world just to play the New Course at St Andrews?

 

Local Attractions to St Andrews

There is plenty to see and do in the town of St Andrews when you’ve finished golfing for the day. We’ve rounded up some of the best local attractions here.

R&A World Golf Musuem

The R & A World Golf Museum was known before as the British Golf Museum. It is to be found directly opposite the clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews, Scotland.

The Museum is owned by the R&A who also own and operate it. Opened in 1990, it documents the history of golf from Medieval times to the present, including both the men's and women's games.

It covers British and International golf history, professional and amateur. The exhibits cover historic equipment, memorabilia, artwork and documentation. It traces the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, and covers the rules and terminology of the game.

Golfing enthusiasts should not miss the Museum while in St. Andrews. Visiting this fascinating tourist attraction is one of the most popular things for golfers to do in the town. 

As well as its many interesting historic exhibits the museum shows the development of the sport's equipment, in particular the golf ball and golf clubs as well as the game's techniques.

Detailed information is also provided on famous championships and golfing celebrities, including Old Tom Morris and his son Tom Morris Junior, both of whom won the Open four times each in the 1800s.

It also includes the remarkable Lady Margaret Scott, a three-time Ladies Champion in the late 19th century. Finish your visit with a stop at the museum's pleasant rooftop café, which offers great views over the Old Course.

The museum displays part of the collection of the Women Golfers' Museum, while its books, photographs etc. are housed in the special collections of University of St Andrews Library.

The museum was opened in April 1939 at the Lady Golfers' Club in London, with Issette Pearson as president and Mabel Stringer as chairman.

It had a chequered history merging with the Lady Golfers Club In 1961. Then in 1968, the museum had to find a new home. It was shown in the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh from 1982 to 1984, before moving to its current home.

The collection exhibits a comprehensive history of the ladies' game and includes material such as Rhona Adair's golf balls and Poppy Wingate's shoes.

The Wardlow Museum

The Wardlaw Museum is associated with the University of St Andrews. The museum houses a selection of the University's historic, artistic and scientific collections, which comprise over 115,000 artefacts.

They are displayed across four galleries which aim to tell the story of the University. The newly refurbished museum now has an extended temporary exhibition space as well as a new research studio.

The Museum takes visitors inside the University, with four new thematic galleries demonstrating its ground-breaking research and global impact, showcasing its extraordinary art, history, science and natural history collections.

Complemented by an exciting programme of temporary exhibitions, interactive experiences for all ages, and a beautiful sea view from the terrace and garden, the Museum is a major new cultural space for St Andrews.

University of St Andrews

The University of St Andrews is Scotland's oldest university and the smallest, founded in 1411. Like the University, its Museums are rooted in and draw inspiration from this 600-year history of research and teaching, and the pursuit of knowledge for the common good.

It makes for a pleasant walkabout thanks to its well-preserved old architecture. The Colleges of St. Salvator (1450) and St. Leonard (1511) were combined in 1747 and are devoted to Arts and Sciences, while St. Mary's College, opened by Cardinal Beaton in 1538, serves as the theology faculty.

The College Chapel in St. Salvator contains the pulpit from Holy Trinity Church, where reformer John Knox first preached. St. Leonard's Chapel houses some fine tombstones from the 16th and 17th centuries and is certainly worth a visit.

A rose bush that Mary Stuart is supposed to have planted near St. Mary's College still flowers, and the house in South Street where she stayed is now St. Leonard's College library.

St Andrews Cathedral

According to legend Saint Regulus landed at St Andrews in the 4th century with the bones of Saint Andrew. The town has played a significant part in Scottish ecclesiastical history.

This is apparent from the wealth of churches and monuments in the city. By 1200, several churches had been constructed, as well as the huge cathedral and St Andrews Castle.

In the 15th century, St Andrews Cathedral was once the core of religious and spiritual power in Scotland, and in 1472 it became the seat of the archbishop. It was built between 1160 and 1328 and was once the largest church in Scotland.

Among the most illustrious guests in its heyday were Robert I and James V. 

Now it is mostly ruined, the cathedral's stonework was plundered in 1559 and now only parts of the late Romanesque east front, a section of the west front, the southern side aisle, and a gatehouse remain.

Visitors can explore the remains of the Cathedral. Its museum houses an outstanding collection of medieval sculptures and relics which were found on the site. Make sure to climb St Rule’s Tower, which dates from the 12th century, to see amazing views across St Andrews and Fife.

St Andrews Brewing Company

The multi-award-winning craft brewery of St Andrews is just three minutes’ walk from South Street, St Andrews.

They welcome visitors who drop in as well as bookings for brewery tours and tastings. St Andrews Brewing Company returned the craft of brewing to St Andrews after an absence of 111 years in 2012 when the last of the town’s old breweries closed.

Here you can discover the history of brewing in St Andrews and enjoy the freshest possible craft beer from the on-site shop and taproom. The Company operate pre-booked brewery tours and tastings.

Kingsbarns Distillery

Kingsbarns Distillery is a first-class whiskey distillery that opened in 2014 and has been going strong since. Kingsbarns is a small distillery that punches above its weight, offering an exhibition, tasting rooms, shop and café.

Every day they run tours that take you through the fascinating history of whiskey at Kingsbarns, the method of production and end with an opportunity to taste. It’s one of the great things to do in St Andrews, this is one for the whiskey lovers.

St Andrews Castle

With a history spanning 450 years, St Andrews Castle has been a bishop’s palace, a fortress and a state prison. It was the main residence of the bishops and archbishops of St Andrews in medieval Scotland.

You can learn all about the castle’s rich past when you explore it. You can discover the 16th century underground mine and the ‘bottle dungeon’, a prison cut out of solid rock.

The dungeon is among the most infamous castle dungeons in Britain and is said to have once imprisoned John Knox.

This beautiful ruin sits perched upon a rocky promontory and overlooks a sandy beach and the glistening North Sea. Parts of this glorious old structure date as far back as the 13th century. You should also visit the tunnel. It is not for the fainthearted or the claustrophobic.

This gloomy atmospheric tunnel is a fascinating feature of the castle. Initially, it was a former bishop's palace at the time the cathedral was built. It saw numerous sieges and also spent time as a prison before falling into disrepair. The remains provide a picture of just how imposing and formidable a structure the castle once was.

In addition to its battlements are the remains of the old medieval tunnels dug during the year-long siege started after the murder of Cardinal Beaton in 1546, parts of which can be explored.

The dungeon where the Cardinal was imprisoned can also be seen. There is an interesting visitor centre with informative displays relating to the castle and the conservation efforts that have preserved its history. Audio guides are also available.

Steeped in history and tradition, eighteen holes around St Andrews is on the bucket list of every avid golfer. History aside, it is also where you can play some of the toughest and rewarding golf in the world. 

Check out our Scotland golf tours, and be sure to see our St Andrews packages. We can guarantee tee times, and we also have fantastic golf tour deals for the rest of the UK and Ireland.

See our Ireland, England, and Wales tours too.  

CONTACT us:
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Phone: +44 (0) 131 356 0771

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Phone: +34 951 120 438

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