Researching how modern sports evolved can be pretty entertaining. And when it comes to golf, it’s quite amusing to know that this sport was banned at one point because people loved it so much that they skipped their military duties. So, how old is St Andrews golf course?
St Andrews golf course is the oldest golf course in the world. Also known as the Old Lady or the Grand Old Lady, this course was built in 1552 as a public course over common land located in the town of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
It marks the exciting history of the founding and development of golf as a sport that fascinates millions of people to this day.
In this article, we’ll talk more about the history of the St Andrews course, why it was built, and its current status. So, keep reading to learn more about it.
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How Old is St Andrews Golf Course?
In 1552, Archbishop John Hamilton allowed the townspeople of St Andrews to play golf on this land, establishing what was known as St Andrews Links, but golf had already been played and adored by the Scots for 100 years earlier.
This land was ratified by King David I in 1123 as common land that belonged to the people of St Andrews Town. Soon enough, people began heading to this land to play different games and sports to kill time.
The history of the game dates back to the early 15th century when the people of Scotland invented a game where they would hit a pebble along the sand dunes of coastal areas using a bent stick that resembles the modern-day golf club.
Quickly, this game or sport became too popular, and people would play it all the time. Golf traveled to Edinburgh, where King James II of Scotland was eventually upset by its popularity. Eventually, he ordered the Scottish Parliament to ban this game because people were practicing golf instead of archery and other military practices, and it became illegal to play golf in 1457.
In 1502, the tables turned, and golf became a royal sport when King IV of Scotland became the first royal golfer. Because he loved this sport so much, more people were interested in playing this sport.
In 1754, several landowners, professors, and noblemen who were all fond of golf founded the Society of St Andrews Golfers. This society was the predecessor to The R&A or the Royal and Ancient Golf Club when King William IV gave the foundation this honorary title in 1834.
This body governs all golf-related matters outside the US and Mexico. The body also governs the Open Championship and several amateur tournaments.
How Did the St Andrews Golf Course Evolve?
The original course was made of 12 holes, and a player would play 10 of them twice during a round, with a total of 22 holes. A golfer would play once towards the coastline and then head back towards the clubhouse to complete the course.
Once completing a hole, the player would tee up his ball within a length equal to two clubs of the previous hole. The player would scoop a handful of sand to form a tee to do this.
However, ten years after the foundation of The Society of St Andrews Golfers, the founders decided that some holes were too short to apply this rule. So, they combined the first four holes into two holes, and the course became an 18-hole course. This is the current setup of standard golf courses.
In 1797, St Andrews Links faced a dark time when the links were sold to local merchants after the Town Council went bankrupt. Those farmers turned the links into rabbit farms, and golfers got into fights with these merchants for 20 years to take control of the land that they loved and appreciated so much.
Luckily, James Cheape of Strathtyrum, a local landowner, bought the links and devoted the land to golf in 1821. Today, there are ten courses at St Andrews Links, but the original one was called the Old Course when the New Course was added in 1897. The Castle Course is the newest one, and it was completed in 2007 and opened in 2008.
What is Special About St Andrews Golf Course?
Playing on the St Andrews golf course is a dream come true for several reasons.
- It’s the oldest golf course in the world, so you get to play on the ancient ground that hosted the games that established the first golf rules.
- The course itself provides unique challenges to golfers, especially with its bunkers.
- You can cross the Swilcan Bridge on your way to the 18thhole, which is something that golfers have been doing for hundreds of years as this bridge was built 700 years ago.
Can Anyone Play on the St Andrews Golf?
St Andrews Links are open to all golfers, and you can play anytime. The Old Course is open for play as long as you present a handicap of a maximum of 36 for both men and women. You can either register to play by yourself at the Old Pavilion, and the staff will match you with other golfers.
Or, if you’re playing with a group, you can enter the lottery or ballot, which is held 48 hours prior to play. You can also book a whole package which involves a tour and accommodation options to enjoy your time in the ancient links.
St Andrews is the oldest golf course in history as it was built in 1552. However, the game was quite popular for 100 years before its construction and at one point, it was banned by the Scottish Parliament.
Today, the Old Course is one of the most popular landmarks in golf history, and playing on it is a fun and rewarding experience. In addition to the Old Course, there are currently nine more courses on the links that you can enjoy alone or with a group of friends.