Old Course

What is the definition of The Old Course in Golf?

The Old Course at St. Andrews is renowned as the birthplace of golf and holds a special place in the hearts of golf enthusiasts worldwide. With a history dating back nearly 500 years, this prestigious course has been the stage for countless memorable events and has significantly shaped the sport we know today.

Located in St. Andrews, Scotland, the Old Course’s legendary status is derived from its unique features, challenging yet rewarding layout, and historic significance. As the oldest golf course in the world, it has evolved over time while still honouring its rich traditions.

Key Takeaways

  • The Old Course at St. Andrews boasts a rich history and is regarded as the birthplace of golf
  • Its unique features and challenging layout have solidified its iconic status in the golf world
  • The Old Course continues to hold significant events, preserving its historical importance and traditions

The Origins of the Old Course

The Old Course, often referred to as the Old Lady or the Grand Old Lady, is considered the oldest golf course in the world. Located in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, this public course is situated on common land and is held in trust by the St Andrews Links Trust under an act of Parliament. The origins of the Old Course can be traced back centuries, with its unique design and history playing a significant role in the development of golf.

In its early days, the Old Course consisted of twenty-two holes, eleven out and eleven back. Golfers teed up their ball within two club lengths of the previous hole, using a handful of sand scooped out from the hole to form a tee. However, in 1764, the Society of St Andrews Golfers, which later became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, decided to reduce the number of holes to eighteen, thus establishing the standard course layout that we know today.

Golf has been played on the Old Course since as far back as the 15th century. According to some historical records, a golf-like game is documented as taking place on February 26, 1297, in Loenen aan de Vecht, the Netherlands. The Dutch played a game using a stick and a leather ball, with the objective being to hit the ball with the fewest strokes into a target several hundred yards away.

Fast forward to today, the Old Course has become an iconic symbol of golf’s rich history and has hosted numerous prestigious events, including The Open Championship. Founded in 1860, The Open Championship is one of the most revered tournaments in the golfing world and has seen the game’s greatest players compete on the hallowed grounds of the Old Course.

Throughout its illustrious history, the Old Course has evolved, witnessed countless memorable moments, and contributed significantly to the world of golf. Its unique layout, challenging design, and storied past make it an essential destination for golf enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Historical Importance

Role in Golf’s Evolution

The Old Course at St. Andrews holds significant historical importance in the world of golf. As one of the oldest golf courses, it has played a crucial role in the evolution of the game. The Old Course originally consisted of twenty-two holes, eleven out and eleven back. In 1764, the Society of St Andrews Golfers, which later became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, decided to combine four of the holes due to their short length, resulting in the now-traditional eighteen-hole golf course.

The Old Course has a lasting impact on the design and development of golf courses globally. Not only has it influenced the standardization of the number of holes in a course, but it has also served as a blueprint for many golf course designs around the world.

Unique Aspects in the Old Course History

There are several unique aspects in the Old Course’s history that make it stand out among other golf courses:

  • Teeing up the ball: In the early days of the Old Course, players teed up their ball within two club lengths of the previous hole, using a handful of sand scooped out from the hole to form a tee. This practice laid the foundation for modern tee boxes.
  • The Road Hole: The Old Course at St. Andrews is known for its famous 17th hole, nicknamed ‘The Road Hole.’ It is considered one of the most challenging and iconic holes in golf due to its unique layout, including a blind tee shot and a notorious green surrounded by a road and a stone wall.
  • Double greens: The Old Course is also famous for its double greens, where two holes share the same putting surface. This unique design element creates strategic challenges and interesting hole layouts, which contribute to the course’s overall distinctiveness.

Overall, the Old Course at St. Andrews continues to be a significant landmark in golf history, playing an essential role in shaping the game we know and love today. Its unique aspects and lasting influence on golf course design and development make it a cornerstone of the sport.

Course Features

Unique Design

The Old Course at St. Andrews is known for its unique design, which sets it apart from other golf courses. Originally featuring 22 holes, the course has evolved over time and now comprises 18 holes, each with its own unique character and history. One of the defining features of the Old Course is its large, undulating double greens that serve two holes each, making a total of 18 holes played on just 14 greens.

Famous Holes

Several holes on the Old Course have gained fame due to their challenging play and notable events in golf history. Some examples include:

  • The 1st Hole: The opening tee shot at the Old Course is iconic for its 100-yard-wide treeless, bunkerless fairway, offering an inviting yet intimidating start.
  • The 7th Hole: Known as “Bobby Jones,” this par-4 features a blind approach to a raised green surrounded by deep bunkers, named in honor of the legendary golfer.
  • The 17th Hole: Known as the “Road Hole,” this par-4 is one of the most challenging in golf, with a blind tee shot over a wall, a narrow, sloping green, and the infamous “Road Hole Bunker” guarding the pathway.

The Double Greens

A defining feature of the Old Course at St. Andrews is its double greens, which are shared by two separate holes. This unique design element contributes to the strategic play and charming character of the golf course. For instance, the large 5th and 13th green is shared, with players needing to navigate carefully to avoid interfering with golfers playing the other hole. This unusual layout adds a distinct challenge not found at many traditional golf courses, solidifying the Old Course’s place as a renowned and respected golf destination.

Significant Events at the Old Course

The Open Championship

The Old Course at St. Andrews is widely regarded as the Home of Golf and has hosted The Open Championship a record 29 times. The tournament, held at this historic venue, carries immense prestige and tradition. As the oldest of the four major championships in professional golf, it draws the world’s top golfers to compete for the Claret Jug. Notable Open Championship wins at the Old Course include Bobby Jones in 1927, Jack Nicklaus in 1970 and 1978, and most recently Zach Johnson in 2015. St. Andrews will once again host the 150th Open Championship in 2022, further cementing its legendary status in the golf world.

Amateur Championships

In addition to The Open Championship, the Old Course has also been a stage for prestigious amateur tournaments. The St. Andrews Links Trophy, an annual amateur golf event, has been held at the Old Course since 1989. This championship attracts leading amateur golfers from around the world and is part of the worldwide amateur golf circuit.

Another significant amateur event is the Walker Cup, a biennial team competition between the United States and Great Britain and Ireland. While the contest itself has only been played twice at the Old Course (1975 and 2003), it is undoubtedly an important part of the course’s rich history.

The Old Course at St. Andrews continues to be a cherished location for both professional and amateur golfers from around the globe. Its storied past and iconic layout make it a must-play for any true golf enthusiast.

Honouring Traditions

Rule of Play

The Old Course at St. Andrews, located in St. Andrews, Scotland, is known as one of the oldest and most venerable golf courses in the world. Golf was first played at this location in the 15th century. In 1754, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A) was established here, playing an essential role in setting the rules and standards of golf. The course was organized into the 18 holes known today around 1863, by Old Tom Morris. Since 1873, the Old Course has been a key venue for The Open Championship, showcasing the best in golf history and tradition.

Notable Traditions

The Old Course at St. Andrews is home to several longstanding and notable traditions that have played a significant role in shaping golf’s culture and history. Some of these traditions include:

  • The Swilcan Bridge: Found on the 18th hole, this iconic stone bridge is a symbol associated with St. Andrews and golf’s prestigious history. It offers a location for countless memorable photo opportunities and emotional farewells of professional golfers over the years.
  • Playing as a single golfer: One of the unique elements of the Old Course is the traditional lottery system, called the “ballot,” open to single golfers who wish to play the course on short notice. This opportunity allows walk-ups to have a chance at playing without a reserved tee time, keeping the spirit of golf accessible to all.

Old Course Today


The Old Course at St. Andrews is a major tourist attraction for golf enthusiasts worldwide. Its rich history, unique features, and picturesque setting make it a sought-after destination for both avid golfers and casual fans. Many travelers visit St. Andrews to simply walk the grounds, take photos, and soak in the atmosphere, while others make it a priority to play a round on the famous course. The town itself is also a charming destination, offering a wide range of accommodations, restaurants, and attractions that cater to the large number of visitors each year.

Modern Championships

In the modern era, the Old Course continues to host prestigious golf championships, most notably The Open Championship. With a history dating back to the 19th century, The Open is one of the four major championships in professional golf and draws the best players from around the world. The Old Course at St. Andrews has hosted the event more than any other venue, cementing its status as the “home of golf.” The Old Course also hosts various other tournaments, such as the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, further showcasing its enduring appeal and significance within the world of golf. These events bring a global spotlight to the Old Course and attract thousands of spectators who come to witness history being made on its legendary fairways and greens.