A legendary figure in the world of golf, we take a look at some iconic courses designed by Old Tom Morris.
What Courses Has Old Tom Morris Designed?
The effect and influence Old Tom Morris has had on the game of golf cannot be understated. Just take a look at some of the courses below and that is all the explanation necessary.
Golf has been played at Carnoustie for hundreds of years, but the Championship course is more recent – Allan Robertson laid out 10 holes in 1850, then Tom Morris made it 18. Set over undulating and supremely firm links land, ditches thread a path through and alongside many holes, out of bounds is an intimidating presence from a number of tees and the perfectly placed bunkers have a magnetic, if unwanted, appeal. There’s a strong case for saying that Carnoustie’s Championship course presents the sternest test of golf in the country and is arguably the toughest course on the Open rota.
Cruden Bay (Championship)
In 1894 the Great North of Scotland Railway Company commissioned the building of a course at Cruden Bay to accompany the Cruden Bay Hotel that was being constructed at the same time. The course – designed by Old Tom Morris – and the hotel were opened in 1899. Old-school links charm abounds but there is a quite different feel here due to the elevation changes and dunes that throw up the most wonderful, panoramic views. Burns, bunkers and bumps will test every element of your game.
A round at Lahinch is an exciting adventure and an exacting test. A design that has evolved over 125 years, it has been shaped by Old Tom Morris, Alister MacKenzie and, more recently, Martin Hawtree. It’s a supremely natural course and one where every shot in the bag will be tested. The fairways run through huge grass-covered dunes to fast greens with devilish run-offs. There’s a great mix of holes, some asking for raw power, others for a more subtle approach
Old Tom Morris extended this famous Kintyre links from 12 to 18 holes in 1879, and in so doing created one of golf’s most iconic opening holes where you drive across the beach. Machrihanish is almost as ruggedly natural now as it was then.
Old Tom Morris laid out the original 16 holes at Muirfield before Harry Colt and Tom Simpson were brought in to add two more and make changes to the layout. For many, this is the fairest Open test of all, with everything laid out in front of you. The challenge relies on clever design rather than gimmickry, with your fate lying almost entirely in your own hands – find the right place and you will be rewarded; find the wrong spot and things get tougher by degrees.
The famous links to the west end of the seaside resort of Nairn began life in 1887 when the club’s founder Robert Finlay, later Viscount Finlay, employed Andrew Simpson of Aberdeen to design a course. The layout was greatly changed by Old Tom Morris and again by James Braid. Gorse lined, criss-crossed by burns and pockmarked by pot bunkers, Nairn delivers typical Scottish links golf. It’s an out-and-back layout with the sea visible on every hole.
North Berwick (West)
Beginning and ending in the town centre, the West Links feels a part of North Berwick. Forging out, you can glance at the sea on every hole while you find yourself negotiating walls and burns, bumps and hollows. With the club founded in 1832 and the origins of the course dating to the same year, this is traditional, characterful and historic links golf.
The original home of The Open, this exceptional course dates back to 1851 and owes its roots to Old Tom Morris. Packed with blind shots, drive-able par 4s, desert-sized bunkers and rollercoaster greens, it’s a lesson in golf course design.
Rosapenna (Old Tom Morris)
After visiting back in 1891, Morris was credited with putting together the original design of Rosapenna's Old course however Pat Ruddy in 2005 introduced nine new holes to the layout. It is a blend of old and contemporary that still seems to deliver.
Royal County Down
Now 125 years old, the course has evolved thanks to the influence of some of golf’s finest architects, including Old Tom Morris and Harry Colt. One of the game’s finest commentators, Bernard Darwin, described this classic links as one of “big and glorious carries, nestling greens, entertainingly blind shots, local knowledge and beautiful turf – the kind of golf that people play in their most ecstatic dreams”.
Old Tom Morris extended the original nine-holer to 18 in 1886, introducing the plateaued, upturned-saucer greens for which the course is famed, with none more pronounced than on the devilish par-3 2nd. There’s no layout on earth that has a more natural feel than this incredible northern links.
Royal North Devon
Founded in 1864, Royal North Devon (RND) is the oldest course in England. Covered in sea rushes and grazed upon by sheep and wild horses, it can take a couple of rounds to begin to understand the subtleties of this great links. Although RND appears to be flat there are many undulations and run-offs to deceive and perplex. It’s often difficult to see where you’re trying to go from the tee and, on a number of occasions, the only option is to trust your swing and commit.
St Andrews (Old and New)
The experience of playing golf’s “Grand Old Lady” is like no other in our sport. Almost every legend of professional golf has competed over this historic and iconic stretch of links land, and it will always be a site of pilgrimage for lovers of the game.
Additionally some commentators believe that the New is better strategically than the Old which Morris also designed and opened for play in 1895.
Other notable mentions: Crail, Dunbar, Elie, Forfar, Ladybank, Lanark, Lindrick, Lundin, Montrose, Moray (Old), Panmure, Tain, West Kilbride
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A golfer for most of his life, Sam is a Senior Staff Writer for Golf Monthly.
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