The Old Course in St Andrews will host the 150th Open Championship next July. As the rush for tickets confirms, everyone’s rather excited. The Open is coming home.
I’ve been lucky enough to have an association with the ‘Auld Grey Toun’ for many years.
Family holidays, then university and countless golfing trips; each time I return it feels like a part of me is also heading home.
When I returned last time, I was fortunate to do so in style on a trip to stay in the famous Old Course Hotel that sits alongside the iconic Road Hole 17th.
Owned by Herb Kohler, who also owns Whistling Straits – the Wisconsin venue where the USA secured their emphatic Ryder Cup victory in September – it is one of Scotland’s very best hotels. From the salubrious spa to the Road Hole bar, everything is of the very highest order.
Rooms offer stirring views across the sprawling links and drawing back the curtains on a morning, all golf lovers will be inspired by the prospect of following in the footsteps of the golfing titans who have strode these famous fairways.
It was a reminder of why I love playing the Old Course, perhaps more than any other track in the world.
Best in the world
The feeling of playing the Old Course is like no other. From the daunting first tee shot in front of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse to the final putt, it feels like the eyes of golfing legends are upon you.
Largely out and back, you forge towards the Eden Estuary from the 2nd hole and play across swales and hollows past bunkers and march stones to the turn.
There you encounter the famous loop, including the magnificent par-3 11th, which is devilishly protected by Hill and Strath bunkers.
Turning for home, the 12th fairway is pockmarked by unseen bunkers and the challenge ramps up on the difficult 13th – just where are you supposed to hit it to?
The 14th features the giant ‘Hell’ bunker and, just above it, the brilliantly named ‘Pulpit’ from which you can look down into Hell.
The hairs begin to rise on your neck as you play back towards the Old Course Hotel down the 16th. The infamous 17th awaits. Drive (hopefully) over the old railway sheds, miss the Road Hole bunker (and the road) that has cost so many in the past, tap in and breathe a sigh of relief.
The final drive is to a vast fairway, with the nerves still jangling as you take a last peak at one of the great views in golf up the 18th fairway.
Try to miss Granny Clark’s Wynd and the Valley of Sin before putting out in front of the curious onlookers that are passing by. It’s an experience every golfer should have at least once.
And the town delivers so much more as there are five further courses to explore. My pick of the bunch – and one that should be viewed as a great layout in its own right – is the Old Tom Morris-designed New Course.
After a superb and sustaining burger in the characterful old Jigger Inn, the traditional hangout of the St Andrews caddies, it was to the New Course we headed next.
The holes are challenging and varied, and the flow of the layout takes the golfer on a most enjoyable journey around the central part of the St Andrews West Links. The firm, undulating fairways lead past well-placed bunkers to greens that are always true and can be fast-running.
The New is a course that demands traditional golfing skills.
Old Course Hotel and golf packages
St Andrews Links
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