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The Old Course at St Andrews - Course Guide

Written by: Dave Tindall
Updated October 14, 2022
13 min read
The Old Course St Andrews
It is the origin of the game, golf in its purest form, and it’s still played that way on a course seemingly untouched by time.

Arnold Palmer

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There is no golf course in the world quite like the Old Course in St Andrews – a long-standing and natural layout that is often referred to as ‘The Home of Golf’.

Indeed, just yards from the final green is Old Tom Morris’ shop and golfing ghosts walk every fairway of a unique test which starts and finishes in the ‘Auld Grey Toun’.

Overlooking the first tee is the clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, one of the two organizations which run the sport around the world, and the course’s unique and exceptional history demands that it is the most frequently played on the Open rota, with the next visit planned for the 150th championship in 2022.

Golf has been played on the site since the 12th century, but Old Tom Morris created the current routing, and, despite modernizations, the Old Course is still the most old-fashioned examination in major championship golf.

Although the storied linksland is largely flat, the subtle undulations are a key defense, as are the seven double greens and the 112 bunkers which lie in wait for stray shots.

In addition to the Open, the course also plays host to two rounds of the European Tour’s annual Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Old Course Fast Facts

The Old Course at St Andrews

Par: 72

Yardage: 7,297 yards

Rating: 73.1

Slope: 132

Old Course designer: Old Tom Morris

Old Course record: 61, Ross Fisher (2017 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship)

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Past Championships at the Old Course

2015 Open

The most recently played Open on the course and a thrilling cavalry charge that was extended into Monday after high wind prompted delays on Saturday.

Jordan Spieth had won the first two majors of the year and was chasing a Grand Slam, but he fell one shot short of joining eventual winner Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman, and Louis Oosthuizen in a play-off.

2005 Open

Early in the week 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus waved goodbye to the Open from the famous Swilcan Bridge and on Sunday Tiger Woods celebrated his tenth Open appearance with a superb five-shot victory over home hero Colin Montgomerie.

2000 Open

A sensational week of Tiger dominance. He avoided the Old Course’s devilish bunkers through all 72 holes and left the field a distant eight strokes in his wake as he completed the Tiger Slam because when he lifted the Claret Jug he was the reigning champion in all four majors.

1995 Open

Tiger Wood’s first Open, Arnold Palmer’s last and a sensational conclusion witnessed Italy’s Costantino Rocca first duff his chip at the 72nd hole and then atone by draining an enormous birdie putt from the ‘Valley of Sin’ at the front of the green. Alas, he then lost the play-off to John Daly.

1990 Open

Sir Nick Faldo and Greg Norman went head-to-head and, not for the first or last time, the relentless Englishman prevailed.

1984 Open

A celebrated finish which started with Tom Watson finding trouble at the Road Hole and ended with the iconic fist pump of Severiano Ballesteros which greeted his winning birdie putt on the final green.

1970 Open

Doug Sanders left himself a two-and-a-half foot putt to win the Claret Jug on the 18th green, but he twitched in the attempt and a ruthless Jack Nicklaus defeated him the next day in extra holes.

1960 Open

Arnold Palmer was the star of the 100th anniversary of the first Open, but he finished second to Australian party-pooper Kel Nagle.

1900 Open

The ‘Great Triumvirate’ of JH Taylor, Harry Vardon, and James Braid controlled the game in the last 19th and early 20th century, but this was the first time they finished 1-2-3 in the Open.

1873 Open

The first Open at the Old Course and also the first on an 18-hole layout. Tom Kidd shot 91-88 to win £11 (approximately $15).

Key Holes

Hole 11 (High)

Par 3, 174 yards: The holes before and after the turn feature many birdie opportunities, but in the middle of that run is this fiendish short hole, one of only two par-3s on the course. The double green (shared with the seventh) is enormous but far from easy to hit at the highest and windiest point on the course.

Hole 14 (Long)

Par 5, 618 yards: With out of bounds all the way down the right-hand side of the fairway many seek safety down the left, but they need to avoid the treacherous fairways sand traps. The second shot also has to clear the fearsome Hell Bunker.

Hole 17 (Road Hole)

Par 4, 495 yards: An unlikely, but brilliant, test and possibly the best in the sport. The tee shot is blind, needing to clear both the corner of the hotel and the old railway sheds, whilst the approach to a shallow putting surface is threatened by a pot bunker short left and the famous road beyond.

Hole 18 (Tom Morris)

Par 4, 357 yards: The most iconic tee shot in golf, with its unique backdrop of the houses, hotels and shops of St Andrews. The hole is far from demanding, but players, therefore, expect to make birdie and that subsequently presents a daunting challenge in itself.

What They Say

Jack Nicklaus:

“I fell in love with it the first day I played it. There’s just no other golf course that is remotely close.”

Tiger Woods:

“Which course that can honestly say that throughout the course of history every great champion has played it? This one.”

Arnold Palmer:

“It is the origin of the game, golf in its purest form, and it’s still played that way on a course seemingly untouched by time.”

Tom Watson:

“St Andrews is a hard course to understand. You have to relearn it and relearn it and relearn it all the time.”

Ben Crenshaw:

“The reason the Road Hole at St Andrews is the most difficult par 4 in the world is that it was designed as a par 6.”

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Dave Tindall

103 Articles

Dave Tindall is former golf editor at SkySports.com and Golf365.com and has been writing betting previews for the PGA Tour and European Tour since 1997. He has also written for a range of betting companies, including William Hill and Betfair, as well as being a regular columnist for Rotoworld, The Guardian, Sporting Life and Planet Sport. His other area of speciality is football while he's also covered cricket and tennis.

Email: [email protected]

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