Scottish Links Golf
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Just east of Edinburgh
Scotland's Golf Coast
Gullane, Muirfield, North Berwick...
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St. Andrews area
Crail - Balcomie
Crail - Craighead
Fairmont St Andrews
St. Andrews Old Course
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St. Andrews Jubilee Course
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What others say
The Old Course St. Andrews ©What can I say about The Old Course at St Andrews that hasn't already been said? If there were ever a "must play" golf course, here it is. A good layout but not the greatest layout in Scotland. Challenging but not the most challenging course in Scotland. Fun but not the most fun golf course in Scotland. What it is is enough--it's THE OLD COURSE AT ST. ANDREWS, and if you have even a smidgen of love for the history of the game of golf, you must play this course. It's like a pilgrimage to Mecca.
As a gplf destination, St. Andrews has it all: history, culture, tradition, and Scottish hospitality.. St. Andrews is far more than one golf course. It is a golfer's paradise, fit for a Saint.
GOLF NOOK SCOTLAND highly suggests BONNIE WEE GOLF, exclusive to golf for vacations. Scotland is the spiritual heartland of the game of golf. See them at Bonnieweegolf.co.uk
Before You Begin
The Old Course at St Andrews is a classic "out and back" links golf course. With few exceptions you play out in one direction and play back in the opposite. Standing on the first tee the course doesn't look like much and you're left wondering what all the fuss is about. There are no trees, no hills and everything looks quite flat and uninteresting. (There's even a road that runs right across the first fairway!) Don't let all this fool you. It can be a tiger. Links courses play entirely differently than parkland courses or for that matter just about any other kind of course. Don't let its looks lull you into complacency.
Because of the "out and back" layout, the greens are shared on fourteen holes, with the white flags indicating the holes going out and the red flags coming back. So you can see that if you feel the wind is hurting your play going out, it can help you coming back. Since club selection is obviously critical, I highly recommend hiring a caddie for this course the first time you play it.
Do it right and treat yourself to a caddy on St Andrews Old CourseThe fee for 18 holes plus the caddie and tip will cost a lot of money for a round of golf, but…this is the Old Course at St Andrews! Although this is not where golf in Scotland began (see Old Musselburgh) they were dabbling in the sport of golf in this area before Columbus discovered America. If there were ever a time to spring and do it first class all the way, this is it. To me it is worth every penny. I will never forget my first round here. A great golfing memory.
Anyway, how many times do you get to play such a special course, so treat yourself to a caddie. The caddie will help you with your line off the tee--believe me, you'll need it--and he (or she) will help you read the greens. I figure between helping with club selection, giving you the line off tee and green, and finding lost balls, a caddie on this course can save you at least 5 or 6 strokes. Considering the serious trouble you can get into, maybe even more. The rough is very rough and the bunkers very deep and many of them not visible from the tees. Some of the bunkers even have stairs cut into the edges to help you get in and out! (Some of the bunkers I was in should have had elevators!) Caddies can help you avoid them.
Teeing off on the Old Course at St Andrews is an experience in itself. You tee up directly in front of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club clubhouse--talk about feeling a part of history! What you may not know is that the first tee is in a very busy part of town, so you may have a large "gallery" watching you. When I teed up, two motorcoaches of Japanese tourists had just unloaded and they all ran up to the railing to take photos and watch me tee off. Of course they didn't know who I was, but I assumed that they assumed I was a hot-shot player simply because I was playing this world-renowned course. First tee nerves are bad enough when it's only your foursome watching, but this was really nerve-wracking. My only prayer was, "Please, God, don't let me wiff this ball." I got off a decent drive. (I should have kept praying for the rest of the round!)
Treat yourself to a St Andrews Old Course yardage bookWhether you have gotten yourself a caddie or not, get yourself a yardage book. The Old Course at St Andrews yardage book is one of the best I've seen, with actual aerial photos of each hole clearly showing the bunkers and also excellent advice on how to play each hole. It's outstanding and well worth the money even if you have a caddie. I always like to mark up my yardage books, indicating where each shot landed so I can replay the game in my mind any time I choose.
Tips on playing St Andrews Old CourseI won't go into details about too many holes on this course, my comments will be more general. The first piece of advice I've already given--get yourself a caddie and a yardage book. Secondly, know that links golf is different from golf the way it's played in the USA or just about anywhere else. The wind is always a factor, whether it is blowing toward you, behind you or from either side. If it's very windy and you don't know how to keep the ball low, you will not score well. It's usually better to punch a 7 iron low and run it up to the green than to hit a full 9 iron. Even short wedges are affected-as are putts. (The first time I played a links course I hit a lob shot over a bunker that only had to travel about 15 yards. But since it was a high shot, the wind blew it a full 10 feet left of where it would have landed had there been no wind. Of course on that shot I couldn't keep it low because I had to get over the bunker, but I did learn to adjust my aim if I had to hit a high shot.)
The wind tends to dry out the greens, making them very hard and fast. If you go for the pin on your approach, chances are the ball will hit the green and bounce off, so it's generally more effective to play short and let the ball roll to the pin. Speaking of rolling up to the pin, in links golf it's not unusual to putt from way off the green. As you watch players coming in on the 18th at the Old Course at St Andrews and many other links layouts, you'll see what I mean. It's often difficult to distinguish where the fairway stops and the green begins. The fairway grass is cut very short so there's little delineation between the two. In addition, many of the greens are slightly elevated or plateaued and, of course, very hard so that if you're, say, 10 or 20 yards off the green you are taking a chance hitting a wedge. First of all, since the fairways are cut so short, it's easy to hit the ground first and scuff your shot, (a "chili dip") which happens a lot. Secondly, even if you do hit the ball solidly, it's difficult to judge where to bounce it so it will roll where you want it to and not roll off the green. With so little difference between the grass close to the green and the green itself, it's usually better to take out your putter and give it a ride. It's much easier to judge than hitting a wedge and you'll scuff a putt a whole lot less often than you will a wedge.
I was watching a tournament of Scottish professionals and without exception everyone who was short of the 18th green used a putter rather than a wedge. Some were as much as 30 yards from the pin! On a typical course in the USA you may putt from the apron but for any shot beyond that you would be chipping on with anything from a wedge to a 6 iron. Not so at the Old Course at St Andrews, where putting is usually your best play. Keep this tip in mind. If you have a caddie he'll invariably give you your putter in such situations. Don't think he's crazy. He's been caddying there for a long time so he knows what works and what doesn't.
Lesson from David Duval on St Andrews Old
My final tip for the Old Course at St Andrews?
An obvious one--keep out of the bunkers.
As I said, it sounds obvious but the
at the Old Course at St. Andrews are
It's not like so many of the courses
U.S. where you can often par or birdie
of a bunker. Not here.These bunkers,
fairway bunkers and greenside bunkers,
meant to cost you a stroke. In some
you actually have to hit backwards
fairway to get out. If you are too
to the front edge you have to hit it
the side just to get a bounce to a
part of the bunker and then you can
Count two strokes more on your scorecard.
If you remember the 2000 Open Championship,
that's exactly what David Duval had
on the 17th to get out of the Road
His first attempt to get out failed.
not get out on his second shot because
ball was too close to the side, so
it into another part of the bunker.
he barely got out on his third shot.
in second place when he started the
and ended up way down the list. At
Course at St Andrews this happens in
You're going along playing well and
a good time and then you're mugged!
|Here's a view off the tee of the most famous hole in golf--the 17th at St. Andrews. The best line off the tee is the steeple you can just barely see sticking out over the top of the roof of the hotel in the center of the picture.|
|Photos by David Scott, manager of The Duke's St Andrews golf course|