AN AUSTRALIAN AT ST ANDREWS
An Australian at St Andrews - Luxury Travel Magazine
An Australian at St Andrews
|By: John Digby, Issue 44 – Spring 2010|
|(St Andrews, Scotland)|
|WHAT LORD’S IS TO CRICKET AND WIMBLEDON IS TO TENNIS, ST ANDREWS IS TO GOLF. FOR GOLFERS, GOING THERE IS EITHER A PILGRIMAGE OR ON THE BUCKET LIST. JOHN DIGBY MADE HIS TRIP IN TIME FOR THE 28TH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP.|
|I fell in love with it the first day I played it. There is no other course that is even remotely close.” So said Jack Nicklaus, one of, if not the greatest golfer, of the Old Course at St Andrews.|
Tiger Woods describes it as his favourite course in the world and has won The Open twice there in 2000 and 2005. This year he gave himself the chance to become the first golfer to win the championship at St Andrews three times, but fell short.
Host of The Open Championship for the 28th time this year on its 150th anniversary, golf has been played on the links at St Andrews since around 1400 and the Old Course is famous throughout the world.
Its hallowed turf is what Lord’s is to cricket and Wimbledon to tennis. From one simple track hacked through the bushes and heather, St Andrews has developed into seven public golf courses, attracting hundreds of thousands of golfing pilgrims from around the globe.
It’s the largest golfing complex in Europe and all 18-hole courses can be booked in advance. The Castle Course, the seventh course at the home of golf, is situated on clifftops overlooking St Andrews to the east.
St Andrews Links is the most renowned golfing landscape in the world. It’s the place where the game began and has been developed and nurtured over six centuries. And behind the Royal and Ancient building that fronts the first tee is the British Golf Museum, where that history is on display.
On arriving at St Andrews, a small university town in Fife on the east coast between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay north-east of Scotland’s capital of Edinburgh, you are struck by just how close the Old Course is to the centre of town. In fact it’s probably the closest course that hosts a major to the centre of any town.
As well as the university, the oldest in Scotland, the old grey town has a medieval castle and the ruins of St Andrews cathedral.
If there are seven public courses to choose from, then there must be nearly three times as many golf shops in the town. This year probably the most sought-after items would have been wet weather clothing, umbrellas and sweaters to keep out the cold.
For after a benign opening day of this 139th Open (it wasn’t played during the two world wars) when many golfers carved it up, and we witnessed Rory McIlroy’s record round of 63, the course, thanks to the wind and rain – play was suspended for more than an hour on the second day - exacted its revenge. Here it was truly four seasons in one fairway.
That didn’t make it easy for the 201,000 spectators who visited during the week of the championship. At the best of times the Old Course is not the greatest of places to watch golf. There are few high vantage points and the ball continuously disappears behind bumps and mounds.
The best viewing is from the many stands where you can get above the greens and tees to see approach shots and the putting. A collection of stands around the seventh, eighth, 10th and 11th holes at the far end of the course are well positioned. And those by the famous 17th, the Road Hole, have great views of the green and the 18th tee.
There are only 11 greens on the Old Course, with seven holes sharing greens on the way out with holes on the way back. At just over 7,300 yards, it has two par threes and two par fives.
The famous double greens originated because as golf started to become more popular in the middle of the 19th century, the course became more crowded. The result was that golfers playing out began to meet golfers playing in, at the same hole. Not surprisingly, this led to difficulties and disputes. To solve the problem, it was decided to cut two holes on each green, with white flags for the outward and red flags for the inward holes.
While the Old Course is unrivalled for its history and prestige, the New and Jubilee courses which run close to the Old, offer true links challenges as does the Eden with a slightly lower yardage. The Strathyrum and Balgove are suitable for more relaxed rounds or beginners and families. And the Castle Course offers a new challenge, a links-like course perched on the cliffs overlooking St Andrews.
In 1754, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club was founded under its original name of the Society of St Andrews Golfers. This club, originally composed of 22 noblemen, professors and landowners, now governs the rules of golf everywhere except the USA.
And the club runs the Open smoothly. There’s a huge tented area behind the 16th fairway where spectators can enjoy refreshments while watching proceedings on giant screens. There’s also a huge marquee where souvenirs ranging from clothing to ball markers are for sale.
Being the 150th anniversary of the first Open at Prestwick, played in October 1860 over three rounds of 12 holes and won by Willie Park Snr, the merchandise tent did a roaring trade, especially from the huge number of visitors from all over the globe.
The international nature of the field that lined up for the tournament, eventually won with ease by South African Louis Oosthuizen, was reflected in the crowd. Unfortunately for the Australians, our contingent of players didn’t fare too well with Adam Scott and Robert Allenby tying for 27th.
As Oosthuizen savoured his victory on golf’s most famous 18th green with the Claret Jug and posed for photographers the next day on the Swilcan bridge over the burn on the 18th fairway, the crowds made their way home. Taking with them memorabilia, memories and many photos, they headed to parts far and wide.
Note: There are more than 40 golf courses in Fife and many more within driving distance of St Andrews, most of which are open to visitors all year round.
|The Open will be held at Royal St George’s for the 14th time in July 2011. Tours from Australia to the Open start at A$14,158 with Australian Golf Tours, visit www.teed-up.com|
|To book a round at the home of golf: www.standrews.org.uk|